Hate Brownouts? Try Solar Panels
Posted by butalidnl on 4 April 2010
Brownout again! Sheesh! Now, you have to spend two hours not doing productive things, since these need to be done indoors, or even on the computer. When you come to think of it, brownouts cost some people money, especially for those of us who work at home (or from home), and whose time is precious – in the sense that time lost might mean deadlines not met, or a deal not made. So, what can you do about it?
It may be a good idea to consider setting up some solar panels to deal with these brownouts. Solar panels as an alternative to grid electricity is rather expensive if used fulltime, i.e. if they are supposed to replace grid electricity completely. However, if they were to be used when there are brownouts, then they will be much, much cheaper; and, if there are no brownouts, the solar energy generated could go into lowering your electricity bills.
Let’s look into this a bit closer.
Brownouts last from 1 to 2 hours a day these days in many places in the Philippines. Thus, one would need to generate electricity that is needed in these 1 to 2 hours. How much electricity is that?
Lights (if using CFLs) – less than 100 w
Electric Fans (@ 2 fans) – about 120 w
Refrigerator – 120 to 160 w
TV – 160 w
Computer – 200 w
So, if you put these together, let’s say you would use about 500 w (maybe the TV OR the computer would be on but not both at the same time, and during the day you would need fewer lights) for each of 2 hours. This would make 1 kilowatthour (KwH) the amount of electricity you would need for the 2 hours a day when the current gets turned off. (Make sure you check your actual electricity usage, which is of course unique to your case.)
Things like flatiron (1000w) or Airconditioner (1000-1500 w) should not be used during this “down” time, since they would be way above what the solar panel can generate.
How much solar energy?
Now, let’s take a look at how much a solar panel needs to generate to make this amount of electricity. Sunlight? Let’s assume an average of 6 hours a day of sunlight. In order to generate 1 KwH, you would need approximately 160 w of solar electricity per hour.
I took a look at some solar energy companies’ prices in the Philippines, and found out that a solar module that could produce 160w would cost about Php 48000. The set would include the solar panels (4 pieces), regulator, inverter, and battery; and the price includes installation costs. Of course, you could shop around to try to find even cheaper prices for this – but remember to get quotes that include installation, because you would not want to install them yourself.
Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be too expensive, especially if you really hate it when brownouts happen, and when brownouts cost you not only inconvenience but also lost income.
What if there are no more brownouts?
And what happens when there are no brownouts anymore? Well, you would then be able to turn off your electricity for about 2 hours every day, and just enjoy the stored electricity from your solar panels. Or, you could save up your electricity for a rainy day – when there are typhoons that hit the country, and when the electricity gets cut off. At the Meralco price of about Php 9/KwH, this would mean that you would be able to recover your “investment” in about 14 years time. Of course, if Meralco raises the electricity price, the recovery time would be shorter.
The trend is for brownouts to continue for the next months/years, and the price of electricity can only rise. So, this might turn out to be quite a good investment indeed.