It is spring time again in the Land of the Pure! With summer just around the bend and the mercury hitting a searing 34 degrees Celsius in the national capital, Pakistanis are bracing for a long and hot summer. Time to break out those charpais and spread them out on the roof to catch that cool summer night air! With summer fast approaching and with a looming gas shortage (even in the summer, yes! That is how poorly the international market is acting, courtesy of our trigger-happy friends in Russia) this might just be the year you decide to take matters into your own hands and finally fix the darned electricity issue. If it is not a power shortfall, then it is the faulty transmission. For one reason or another, many Pakistanis spend countless sweltering hours in the baking heat without power. But, with great crises, come great opportunities! (Thank you, Spiderman, for that wonderfully quotable line) What is the one thing that you have plenty of in the summer and is available for free? Sunlight! Pakistan is a sunny country blessed with ample sunlight exposure. It is about time we began to put this ubiquitous natural gift to good use!
Over the last ten years, solar power has begun to take off in a big way, and not just in Pakistan. As far as renewable energy goes, solar is all the rage from Australia to Germany and from north America to Africa. Solar panels check off all the main necessities for sustainable energy:
- They cause zero emissions.
- They have zero operating costs.
- Maintenance is a breeze.
- They help combat climate change.
- They can act as supplementary sources of income.
In the future, solar panels are going to become increasingly common sights across the Pakistani urban landscape, and it is about time too! Just ask a resident of Lahore what the smog was like last year, and you will probably get a vivid and colorful description. There are a number of reasons behind this global boom of the solar industry. Foremost among those are the increasing affordability of solar power, the alluring return on investments that solar panels offer and the fact that they help combat climate change. In short, solar power is both eco-friendly and also wallet friendly. Think of it as a win-win situation.
Solar, Solar Everywhere
Renewable energy is Pakistan’s best bet to combat climate change and the dreaded load shedding in the long run. The earth receives enough sunlight in one hour to be able to theoretically fulfil the energy needs of the entire global population for one year. Too bad we cannot harvest it all at once! Not yet anyway, but who knows what the future holds. Solar energy is cheaper in the long run, easier to set up and operate and safer as well. Fossil fuels are the biggest contributors towards the global climate crisis and solar power is our best bet at pushing back.
Not All Roses and Sunshine
So, we would be amiss if we said that it was all roses and sunshine. Solar power does have a rather high upfront cost. Compared to a grid connection, solar energy can seem like a cumbersome investment and an expensive one too! However, it is about time homeowners stop seeing this as a cost and more as a one-time investment. Buying a home solar system kit and letting it go to work for you will undoubtedly save you hundreds of thousands of rupees in energy bills over the course of its thirty-year lifespan and not just that, it will serve as a buffer from the pesky load shedding that has many a Pakistani fuming in the sweltering summer heat.
It is All in the Geography
You are going to be wishing that you paid more attention to geography class right about now. Pakistan’s love-affair with solar energy is all about our nation’s geography. Like all things, sunlight is not evenly or equitably distributed. Not all over the world, and not all over Pakistan. However, most of Pakistan receives ample sunlight to comfortably power our household and even commercial needs. Your mileage may vary, but the average Pakistani house can expect from six to eight hours of direct sunlight in an urban centre. These are excellent numbers. And this equation becomes even more pleasant when we factor in panel quality.
Smaller, Lighter, Cheaper, Sturdier, Prettier and Just Plain Better
Gone are the days when solar panels were only marginally efficient in direct sunlight. Modern solar panels like the ones offered by Integra Solar Pakistan are not only excellent in direct sunlight, but they can also operate at high degrees of efficiency in indirect sunlight. Solar panels are only getting better and better wit time. Innovations from our friends in China are really pushing the boundaries of what solar technology is capable of doing. Wit time, this technology will not only see drastic improvements, but it will consistently become more and more affordable. The future Pakistani citizen will have access to smaller, lighter, more affordable, stronger, more durable, better looking and just downright better solar panels.
Wit all the COVID-19 scares we had to endure last year, many industries that nations rely on, like tourism, hospitality, construction and business suffered tremendous setbacks as the workforce went remote or was just put on hold. I think everyone will agree with me when I say that taking a virtual tour of Naran Kaghan is just not the same as going there in person and experiencing the beauty of our wonderful country for yourself. Many industries saw themselves cutting costs and/or relying on government bailouts to keep afloat. The same is not true for the solar industry. The solar industry is one of the only industries that actually recorded profits during the pandemic. This is because there is inherent safety in solar power. Not only does it afford customers a degree of independence, it can act as a form of supplementary income (more on that later). Both of these things were considered worth the investment in the pandemic crisis. Think of it this way: if solar panels are good enough in a crisis, you should probably have them around. They will serve you well in everyday life as well. And it was not just the global solar industry that witnessed a slowed down but nevertheless steady pace of growth during the lockdowns. The Pakistani solar industry also recorded profits, albeit lower than what they would have seen in had all gone to plan, and this unknown virus of unspecified origins not taken the world by storm. The point is: solar panels are pandemic proof, and they afford you and your family a degree of protection from the uncertainties that come with, well, being human in the 21st century.
Taxes, Taxes, Oh and Look! More Taxes!
Leave it to the government to throw a wrench in a perfectly laid plan! The government of Pakistan just puled a 180 degree about face (some might call it a U-Turn) and slapped the Pakistani solar industry with a hefty import and sales tax. All told, the price of solar projects (at the time of writing) has gone up by 30%. Does this complicate the situation? Yes. Does it make solar energy unfeasible? Certainly not. Think of it as an increase in the price of admission, or better yet, as an increase in the investment. This is not ideal, far from it, but such is the way of the world. The price may have gone up, but the aforementioned benefits remain unchanged. Also, there is no shortage of financing options available. Just give us a call and we will find something that works for you!
Is Solar Power in Pakistan Worth the Investment?
The 30% bump in prices of a solar home system notwithstanding, there is no reason for you to be deterred from considering a solar PV system. Sure, it’s more expensive than it ought to have been, but even so, you have to ask yourself, is a solar PV system too expensive to be worth the purchase? Has the price passed the point where solar panels have just stopped being useful? Well, the answer is a firm no. Nut there are some things you should consider before making a purchase. As with most people, you probably have a budget to consider. Purchases do not occur in vacuum, and so, we are going to be handing out our purchasing advice with a reasonable budget in mind.
But before you do start contacting your local suppliers, here are a few good things to consider:
- Will the location of your residence allow your solar panels to have optimal southern exposure? Solar panels that face south tend to have the best exposure to sunlight during the day in the northern hemisphere. You might want to call up a professional to get them to evaluate your location and ascertain whether you do or do not have a good southern exposure. Now, if you do not, then this is not a death sentence for your solar dreams. You will just have to take some more factors into consideration. Namely, you might need ore panels to achieve an optimal output, or then you might need better or larger panels. This is not a problem you cannot solve; all you have to do is throw money at it! Remember the budget? That is where it comes in. Do you have the budget to consider such options? Remember: You can always get some of the world’s finest solar panels through instalments using Integra Solar Pakistan’s very friendly instalment plans!
- Does your residence have ample access to sunlight? This might seem like a silly question to ask, but remember: solar panels work best with direct sunlight exposure. Are there tall trees, buildings or any other natural or man-made obstacles that will block your sunlight? Does your residence have direct sun exposure? If not, then we cannot, in good conscience, recommend that you buy solar panels. But remember, it is often a good idea to get a professional to do a shade analysis before making any decision. At worst, you will be told that solar power just is not feasible for your location. At best, you will get the best location and angle and tilt for your panels sorted out.
- What are the chances that your panels will be obstructed over time? Even if you have ample exposure to direct sunlight, other factors may play a role in hampering your solar panel’s output over time. This might lead you to wondering why your panels are not performing as advertised. Has your supplier swindled you? Is your equipment defective? A hundred questions will start popping up and they will all make for a very grumpy customer. You can get ahead of this by taking a look at your surroundings. Do you live in an area that is prone to dust? Is there any debris that might end up on your panels? Are there trees nearby that, while they do not disrupt your panels directly, may be a source of loose leaves blowing onto your property and disrupting your solar panels? They may be home to birds that may end up depositing droppings on your PV system. None of these problems are unsolvable or deal breakers. All they require is a bit of forethought and planning on how to deal with them. You might want to adjust your maintenance cycles accordingly and closely monitor your power output to ensure that your solar panels are not being hindered. This way if something goes wrong, you will know where to start troubleshooting, and it will save you and your supplier a lot of uncomfortable phone calls and heated conversations.
- Does your rooftop design allow for maximum sunlight exposure? Most Pakistani roofs should not have any such problems, but you might want to take the shape of your roof, particularly the parts that face south, into consideration. Most Pakistani roofs are flat, so you should not have any problems fitting and installing solar panels into them. Just remember that roofs with a slope greater than 60 degrees become difficult to install panels on.
Depending on how you answered the above questions, you may want to move to the next step: choosing the best panels. As with the “should” the “what” is no simple question either.
Choosing the Right Solar Panels
Buying solar panels is a bit like getting married. You are party to a contract that will last you (hopefully) many decades and it will hopefully be a fruitful endeavor. Choosing your solar panels is, therefore, a major consideration. You are going to be stuck with the panels you choose for a long time, and trying to get rid of them early is going to be troublesome, costly and is guaranteed to cost you no small amount of pain, both emotional and financial. But enough with the lazy analogies. You can clearly see why solar panels are a big investment. They cost a lot and they last over thee decades. Most modern solar panels today will outlast their owners. Whether you choose to replace them early based on dwindling performance is another matter, but the average middle-class Pakistani is probably not thinking of replacing their panels in a few decades. Nor should you be, unless you have money to burn and the will to do it. Modern solar panels will in fact, retain 80% of their output capacity for close to 30 years. After that, while the capacity will drop, it will not nearly drop enough to become obsolete and warrant a replacement.
Nevertheless, choosing the right solar panels is arguably the most important step in this process. Make no mistake, as with all other technology, solar panels are not created equal. Some are better than others. For example, you may not need the best, most expensive and highest rated solar panels in the market. You will probably want something that suits your particular needs and fits your budget. There is always a compromise to be made between cost, longevity and quality when it comes to solar panels. Nevertheless, here are some things to consider;
- Try not to skimp on quality. Remember: your panels are going to last. Better to pay a little more up front than to replace the entire system later because of drops in performance.
- Evaluate your needs: What do you need solar panels for? Are you aiming to be energy independent, or do you just want to reduce your energy bill? Your solar panels, the size of your solar system and the addition of a battery storage system will all depend on the aforementioned question. Be sure you know what you need and purchase accordingly. Do not let some sleazy salesman convince you to buy something that will not suit you well.
- Do your research: At Integra Solar Pakistan, we believe strongly in consumer education. We believe that consumers should have all the information available to make the best choices available. This will not only make for a successful market, but also for a happy and repeat customer. Be sure to do your research as much as possible. Word of mouth is often the best way to go. Ask around, get in touch with people who have installed solar panels and get their feedback. Start a social media group! Do everything you can to inform your decision, because it is a big and expensive one.
What We Recommend:
Integra Solar Pakistan, in conjunction with our partners in Europe and Australia, are bringing RECOM’s finest panels to the Pakistani market for the first time. Our Australian office was the first to introduce these panels in Australia, and they have since seen widespread acceptance. Part of what makes RECOM panels so appealing is their excellent cost to benefit ratio. They are affordable, yet they do not skimp on quality. They truly provide the best of both worlds and represent the best mix of quality and quantity you could ask for. But you do not need to take our word for it. As we said earlier, feel free to do your own research. We encourage it! but we are also supremely confident in RECOM and their ability to deliver top-of-the-line panels. This is also reflected in RECOM’s industry leading warranty. We are confident that once you have done your research you will ascertain that RECOM is indeed the best choice.
But that is not the only reason we recommend RECOM. RECOM is a company whose goals align well with ours. We have a shared sense of responsibility in helping spread the solar revolution and improve green energy in not just Pakistan but the world. This alignment of ideals, the top-notch quality of RECOM’s panels and their absolutely stunning all-black design makes them an easy win. RECOM panels are also net metering compliant, which brings us to our next point.
Be Sure to Understand Net Metering
In Pakistan, net metering is a billing mechanism approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority. Net metering allows electricity distribution companies to purchase excessive electricity produced by consumers and to provide them credit against electricity units consumed from the national grid.
To put it simply, homeowners with solar PV systems installed can feed their surplus electricity back into the grid. In exchange, the electricity distributor will provide the homeowner with a reduction in their utility bill. The reduction is based on the number of units that the homeowner feeds into the grid.
Be warned, however, the process is a bit tedious. We have outlined it for you below.
- After you have successfully installed your solar PV system, you will want to prepare an application for net metering. This will need to be done in accordance with the 2015 Net Metering Regulations.
- Once the application is approved, a team of inspectors from the energy department will pay your residence a visit and ensure that everything is up to specifications. If they are satisfied, they will issue a No Objection Certificate.
- Once you have your No Objection Certificate, you will then need to sign a net metering agreement wit your local energy distributor. The distributor will vary from place to place. In Lahore, for example, LESCO is the energy distributor. Once the agreement is signed, the energy distributor will hand over the agreement to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.
- Once the staff at the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority goes through the agreement and verifies that it is all in order, you will be given your Renewable Energy Generation License. This license is valid for a time period of no more than three years. After which time you will have to undergo the whole process again, minus the installation of solar panels.
Education is Key: Learn About Solar Energy
When we say education is key, we do not intend for you to open up those massive Physics textbooks and begin brushing up on your particle physics. You do not need to know how p-n junctions work or the finer points of superconductivity. No, we mean that it helps to know enough about solar energy and solar panels to make an informed decision about your purchase. So, what should you know about? Here’s a list:
- A working knowledge of which companies make solar panels and which are considered industry leaders. Does that sound like a lot? Here’s a challenge can you name at least five smartphone companies? And can you name the top three brands (this is subjective of course, but we are willing to bet good money that you have some rather strong preferences) of smartphones? You probably can! There is no reason you should not be able to do the same for solar panels, especially when they are going to be sticking around for over thirty years.
- Learning about the types of panels installed by companies in residential areas is usually a good idea.
- You should be aware of the installation process, what materials and equipment will be used.
- You should be aware of the various components of a home solar energy system. For instance, you should be aware of the uses and types of inverters that you will need to purchase along with solar panels, their function and potential shortcomings. Briefly, there are two components of a home solar setup. One is the solar panel itself, and the other is the inverter. The solar panels will harvest sunlight in the form of Direct Current and the inverter will convert it into Alternating Current, which is the type of current your appliances can use.
- It is a good idea to know about the two types of solar panels: Monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels have higher efficiency ratings because of the way they are made. They make use of uniform crystalline silicon. Monocrystalline panels tend to last longer and deliver the best results when exposed to direct sunlight. They are, however, more expensive. Polycrystalline panels on the other hand, are made of purified and molded silicon. Their heat tolerance is lower compared to monocrystalline panels, and so, they do not work best in direct sunlight. Before making a purchase, be sure to consider the exposure that your panels will have. If you have a lot of direct sunlight exposure, then monocrystalline panels are hands down the best option. If not, then you may want to consider polycrystalline panels. Bear in mind that polycrystalline panels have shorter lifespans yet they are also more affordable.
Do Not Be Afraid to Splurge!
Installing solar panels at your residence can be an expensive affair. At Integra Solar, we do our best to help mitigate the effects of price hikes, both seen and unforeseen (looking at you, Mr. Finance Minister) but you should be ready to spend some money. Solar PV systems are not cheap, and the process of getting net metering approvals can be (as with all things related to government bureaucracy in Pakistan) tedious. Accept this beforehand and it will make your life easier. Also, remember that while this may be expensive, you should think in terms of a financial investment and not as an expense. Think of it like this; as long as the sun shines, you will get a return on your investment. And I the sun stops shining, well then, we will all have much, much bigger problems to deal with.
On the bright side, once you cough up the cost of admission and enter the solar club, you can look forward to having substantially reduced electricity bills. The money saved can go towards running a generator, which can essentially make you load-shedding proof! Or, if you want to go full solar, you can invest in battery systems, larger solar panels and use the power of the sun even at night! This is admittedly much more expensive and maybe not entirely worth it for most people, but the option is there, and solar energy systems are nothing is not modular. You can always expand and upgrade your system as your needs evolve.
Just remember to contact a licensed seller and installer (like Integra Solar) to do the heavy lifting for you. We cannot state this enough: You should not tempt fate and install panels yourself. This is a good way to get zapped and/or waste away tens of thousands of rupees worth of equipment. Solar PV systems involve live wires with high voltage Direct Currents and powerful batteries. There are protocols in place that need to be followed and procedures to avoid hazardous situations. Please do not try DIY installations.
How to Position Solar Panels
We touched upon this briefly before, so just to reiterate: solar panels should ideally be south facing. This will ensure that they begin to receive sunlight as soon as the sun pops up above the horizon and will continue to bask in its yellow glow until it finally sets. The roof is the best place to install solar panels in urban areas, as they are both out of the way and not occupying space that can be used elsewhere. Carparking sheds are another place if your home happens to have some. That said, if you live in a rural space with lots of open land, you might want to consider installing your panels on the ground. It is not usual for home installations, but it can be done and is also cheaper. This is also a sure way to ensure that there will be no obstructions blocking your panels. Just be sure to check your local meteorological department and make sure that the mounting brackets can withstand the strongest winds in your area. You do NOT want airborne solar panels. As cool as that sounds, it is counterproductive to have your panels flying about like Aladdin’s carpet. Trust us, we know.
Certifications and Warranties: The Best Measure of Solar Quality
Certifications are usually a good way to go about determining which company to do business with and which sellers are usually reliable. Please note that this is not always the case, yet it is a good practice to always look for certifications. Also, be sure that your solar providers are licensed to provide services and conduct installations in your local area.
As far as warranties are concerned, you should keep in mind that longer warranties are usually better, but this is not always the case. Be sure to check the specifications of the solar panels and keep the things we told you above about their make and type in mind. It is best not to buy a substandard solar panel only because it had an extended warranty.
The average warranty is 25 years for solar panels and up to five years for inverters. Now, it makes sense to look for lower cost and affordable options when choosing a home solar system, but you should make it a rule to avoid dirt cheap solar PV systems like the plague. Ridiculously cheap panels tend to have ridiculously low performance and the hassle of claiming your warranty after every few years is just not worth it. The same holds true for second-hand panels. If you do not know the kind of use or even abuse that they have been through, you might want to just avoid them altogether. Look for new products that are on offer from reliable companies and provide the best value for your money. Feel free to visit our website for the best solar panels that you can buy. RECOM is not only one of the most well recognized and well-established companies in the world, but it is also among the most affordable. The warranty offered by RECOM is unmatched in the industry among high-quality solar panels. Give us a call today, with no prior commitment and ask us about our panels, services and financing options. We have something for everyone and we do our best to accommodate our customers as best as we are able.