The Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels: 6 Factors You Need to Consider

Solar panels are sliding into mainstream consumerism—and it’s posing a challenge. For instance, when you want to buy a car, there is a surge of first-hand information from friends and family who can walk you through the ins and outs of buying a vehicle.

Putting up solar panels on your roof, on the other hand, doesn’t carry the same level of hype from the people around you. What’s worse, they cost the same as a brand new car. To make matters dicier, the number of homeowners who’ve adapted to solar infrastructure isn’t all that many, too.

That aside, the stakes are high. You are, after all, going to install this on your roof. It’s also an adaptation you can’t easily shrug off as, “I’ll do better the next time if I make a mistake now.” Present figures tell us that solar installations are rising and the costs are becoming more feasible. But how much do we know about the said technology and are we personally ready to switch to natural energy?

Here are a few factors you can consider when it comes to solar panels:

Have you tried working on energy efficiency before turning to solar panels?

The whole point of using solar panels is for you to be able to store and conserve natural energy. But apart from that, have you started doing the little things to help better your energy consumption, like turning off the lights when they’re not in use or unplug the television cord when you’re not watching?

The extent of solar energy you need to come up with equates to how much you need. That said, it’s wiser for you to begin consuming your energy much more efficiently before turning to solar panels. You can begin by looking at efficiency upgrades starting with an energy audit before whipping up a blueprint.

Is your roof sturdy enough for solar panels?

This can make or break your solar panel situation. Additionally, if, for most of the day, your roof is covered in shade, then having to splurge a hefty amount for solar panels might not be worth it. You should consider that condition before marching onward.

Also, how sturdy is your roof? Even the lightest panels can be heavy for a decaying house covering. Make sure your roof is in structurally good shape. The usual warranty for solar installations can last up to 25 years and if your roof will need renovation in the next couple of months, you might want to rethink your strategy. Having it renovated first is often the smartest route versus putting up these panels straight away.

Moving forward, another factor is ownership. Many times, house dwellers can’t call the shots because they simply rent the place. A good solution to this is resorting to a community solar. This alternative lets more clients buy a stake in these installations and receive electricity bill credits.

Do you trust your installer?

Advertising comes easy nowadays. Don’t trust the first installer who hands you a flyer or presents you an ad. You have to remember that solar projects are a combination of electrical work and home improvement. References, credentials, and certifications are important. For instance, do they have accreditation under the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t hire an electrician to come to your home and shake things around when they don’t have sufficient experience. Consider an expert’s number of years in the industry.

It also comes as no surprise that these installations call for big checks. Shop around for installers and get as many quotes as you can before inking a deal. This can be challenging, but try looking for a company that will be available for you throughout your installation. While solar cells are stationary, you’re going to want to work with an installer who will emphatically extend their services even after your warranty period is over.

Which solar-type should you go for?

There are two prevailing solar sciences: the first one is photovoltaic. This technology produces electricity sourced from sunlight. Thermal, the second one makes use of sunlight to heat air or water for your everyday needs. At the end of the day, your context and living conditions help determine what you need the most. Despite that, those who use solar thermal are rare and qualified installers for this aren’t that many.

Buy or lease?

Before diving right into the world of solar panel usage, run a cost-benefit analysis. Is buying your own solar infrastructure the wisest decision you can make? Purchasing your costs more in the beginning, but you’ll have more evident benefits in the long run. On the other hand, renting grants you access to more affordable electricity bills. On top of that, you spend little to no money upfront in this arrangement. The tradeoff, however, is that there are limited monetary benefits for you.

When you rent your system, the company who you ink a deal with owns the infrastructure and you only shell out a certain fee for the electricity. When your rental period is over, they can either take the solar infrastructure back or sell it to you. But if you own your infrastructure, you can reap its advantages long after you’ve bought it. To snag a better deal, weight the lifecycle cost of both arrangements to see where you benefit the most. Factor in how much you earn at present and how much you see yourself earning in the near future. You have to put in a lot of research before you make a decision.

What should your contract contain?

As with any other contract, your welfare should be upheld as these last for long periods. The deal you ink should break down ownership, financing, and performance expectations. You should also factor in data-collecting technology if your infrastructure contains web-enabled devices. Determine who has access to it, if this applies. When there are things or contract segments you’re unsure of, it’s best to consult a legal advisor.

After everything’s been said and done, you’re not only cutting back on costs, you’re also contributing to a healthier planet.

Financing of Solid Waste Management Projects

waste-mountainFinancing of solid waste management projects can be pretty overwhelming for the city government, especially if the government see it as a critical part of the service they should render to the citizen and if the citizen also hold it as a basis for measuring the performance of the government and using it as one of the conditions for re-election.

Solid waste management entails different aspects. Generally speaking, waste management consists of pre-collection, collection, transportation, storage, treatment, and disposal. The modern hierarchy of waste management includes prevention, minimization, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, and disposal.

All these aspects require proper funding in rendering a good waste management service to the society. As citizens, we hardly give any thought to the different aspects and what it takes to ensure it is carried out efficiently and effectively.

Financing Options for Solid Waste Management

There are four different options for financing of solid waste management projects. The option chosen will be dependent on various factors. The chief factor will be “what is the end goal of providing waste management service to citizen” and this is to be determined by the city government. Therefore, we say finance option is directly related to waste management goal of a city or State.

Public Financing

This primarily involves funding of waste management service entirely by the government through budgetary allocation. The government determines how it will generate the cash for service and this can be through taxation or redistribution of funds generated from other sources like sales of city natural resources or combination of various sources of funds.

In developing countries, this is generally inefficient due to the corruption within the government and lack of proper waste management capabilities in most instances. The government might decide to charge a service fee or not.

Private Financing

This involves infusing funds from the private sector into waste management service and also overseeing day-to-day running of the service. However, the hired company will charge a service fee which will be determined by calculating the amount of invested funds, operating cost, and profit envisaged. This will be spread over a period of time.

This financing option can deliver optimal result in providing waste management service but the private sector needs to be checked in order not to set a high fee that will end up scaring citizens which might lead to citizen abhorring the service.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP)

This is a special type of arrangement which brings together the government and private sector in providing funds and management capabilities for the delivery of waste management service.

All things being equal, this arrangement is best because the government will be able to regulate and have a say in how the service should be delivered especially as it relates to the setting of service fees which might be difficult in the solely private financing option. The PPP can equally be extended to be a Joint Venture (usually termed as Institutional PPP).

Donors and Grants

This funding mechanism is dependent on the interest of the donor organization. While it is a good way to develop a city’s waste management infrastructure, attracting and utilizing grants is solely reliant on what the donor considers as important. Hence, it might be difficult for a city government to dictate how the funds should be distributed among the various aspect of waste management.

Waste management projects based on public-private partnership (PPP) model has more chances of success in developing countries

However, this type of financing can be combined with a PPP arrangement to cater for a specific waste management aspect that is in tandem with the interest of the donor and can be part of the city government contribution to the PPP.

Conclusion

In conclusion, waste management financing is quite dynamic just like many other services and infrastructure provided by a city government and the best option for financing the provision of waste management service can only be made after appropriate due diligence and consultation with relevant stakeholders has been made and observed.

Note: The original version of the article was published on Waste Watch Africa website at this link.