FAQ – Solar Water Heaters
FAQ – Wind Energy
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This section is dedicated to providing accurate information relating to renewable energy and other products/services that Solar Solutions Ltd provides in Malta and Gozo. Information is based on data gathered from systems installed by Solar Solutions Ltd.
1. Domestic grants administered by the Regulator for Energy and Water Services (REWS):
These grants are unfortunately sporadic and will normally consist of a subsidy on solar water heating and photovoltaic systems for installation in Malta and Gozo. This is the link to the REWS website; however, Solar Solutions Ltd will gladly inform you with the current subsidies available.
There is also a support mechanism by ARMS/Enemalta on the application of a new electricity meter; Enemalta will subsidise the installation of a solar water heater in Malta and Gozo with a rebate of €163.
2. Commercial/Industrial grants administered by other entities:
The grants for this sector are slightly more complex and this will involve meeting to determine the power needs for customers and also the area available for installation of photovoltaic or solar thermal systems. The feasibility of the project will then be proposed to customers allowing them to base their decision on data which has been gathered from installed photovoltaic systems in Malta and Gozo.
There are a number of grants and tax credits available from entities and we will be glad to provide more information:firstname.lastname@example.org or call:21/27 424750, 77424750.
1. How can I ‘choose’ a good solar heater?
A solar heater can be purchased on three critical points; the certification of the system (EN12976 will certify both the solar boiler and the panels), the efficiency of the system and the customer service offered. Certification of a solar water heater can make all the difference in quality and performance due to the extreme heat conditions we have in Malta in summer.
People looking for a good quality solar water heater would therefore be better off with an EN12976 certified model.
2. What savings should I expect from a solar water heater?
In Malta we are blessed with very high levels of sunshine and this contributes to a high level of performance from solar water heaters. Malta is right in the centre of the Mediterranean and therefore we experience adequate sunlight for around 80% of the year. A good comparison is that a user of solar water heaters will save over 80% of the cost of running an electric boiler. For an average family of 4 this will translate in savings of €350-€800 annually (at current prices ).
3. Is it only families that can benefit from solar water heaters?
No – the larger the user the bigger the gains. Our customers include schools, commercial establishments, factories, etc, who have made the investment on a solar water heater in Malta.
4. What is the difference between the Siemens solar panels and (vacuum) tubes?
Panels similar to the Siemens solar panels (flat plate collectors) in Malta are the right panels to use for our climatic conditions and there are specific reasons for this. We have to find a balance between adequate heating in winter and avoiding overheating in summer. If a solar water heater using flat plate collectors is sized correctly (depending on the number of users and their consumption pattern) then the user will be supplied with an adequate supply of hot water.
The difference in design is mainly due to the insulation used from one type of solar panel to another; Siemens (flat plate collector) uses polyurethane to insulate their panels whereas the vacuum tubes will use the vacuum itself (thermos effect) to insulate the tubes. The problems start when the vacuum tubes keep collecting heat in summer without being able to lose that heat – until the heat in the boiler goes over 100 degrees Celsius. The first thing that will happen is that the vacuum tube boiler might not be able to withstand the pressure created by the now boiling water and develops a leak. The second is that the vacuum tube boiler will start spurting water from the safety valve on top of the boiler to release the pressure. If the water over 100 degrees Celsius goes into pipework or any other water fitting that cannot handle the heat (steam fittings must be used for this application), the pipe or fittings could give way, fail and the whole bathroom tiles might need to be removed to rectify the fault.
There are a few ways that retailers of vacuum tubes are using to control the heat; the most obvious one is to cover the solar heater in summer. Some installers are also piping the safety valve overflow water to a tank!Solar Solutions Ltd will not risk its customers’ property and therefore does not supply products not designed for our climatic conditions. We therefore only supply and install solar panels (flat plate collectors) in Malta unless there is a specific application. In fact, only 10% of solar panels in Europe are vacuum tubes as against 90% in China. Most vacuum tubes manufactures are actually based in China and also supply European manufacturers of solar thermal equipment. Siemens also supply heat pipe evacuated tube solar water heaters if customers request this type of technology.
5. Will a solar water heater in Malta supply us with all our hot water?
The answer is yes, however it is unrealistic to expect that all that hot water will be supplied from the sun for free! There are actually two reasons for this; the first is that if one uses all the stored hot water at night or late evening, there is no sun to reheat the water. The second is that there will be days in winter where the light intensity is too low to heat the water up to a level used for washing. The electrical backup element will therefore have to be used sparingly in winter.
6. Does a solar heater use UV to heat water?
UV (ultraviolet light) is often mistakenly thought to be the magical part of the sun’s radiation which heats water! UV is only a small part of the whole light spectrum and will not heat water on its own. It is the intensity of the whole spectrum of the light which will heat water – the more intense, the more hot water from your solar heater!
1. What is ‘photovoltaic’?
Photovoltaic refers to what is commonly known as ‘solar panels or PV panels’ that generate electricity from sunlight.
2. Is photovoltaic used in Malta?
Yes, the first photovoltaic installations were carried out by the University of Malta and have been used for collecting relevant data over a number of years. Solar Solutions Ltd is the first commercial organisation in Malta to install photovoltaic panels on a commercial and domestic scale and have installed over 20000kWp of PV making Solar Solutions Ltd the largest renewable energy company in Malta. For a sample list of installations please click here.
3. Is it suitable for my home?
You can use PV systems for a building with a roof or wall that faces South, as long as no other buildings or large trees overshadow it. If the roof surface is in shadow for parts of the day, the output of the system decreases dramatically and it may not be recommended to install a photovoltaic system.
Solar Solutions Ltd will guide customers towards inverter choice. We can offer SMA string inverters for systems which are unshaded and micro-inverters or DC optimisers for slightly shaded systems.
4. Can I generate all the electricity that I need for my home?
Yes, the only limitations are that the roof must be large enough and the area must have no shade within the area where the solar panels would be installed.
5. Are the systems in Malta connected to Enemalta?
Yes, these are called ‘grid-tied’ systems, which means that any unused electricity will be ‘given’ to Enemalta. These units of electricity are metered and refunded by Enemalta on a net basis.
Solar Solutions Ltd also offer ‘off grid’ systems; these are PV systems which are not connected to the Enemalta grid and are suitable for remote locations. The systems would feed a battery bank and the electricity can be supplied at 12, 24 or 48V or else ‘inverted’ to 230V/50Hz – similar to the Enemalta grid.
6. How much electricity does the PV generate?
This depends on the size and type of system installed. For example, Kyocera and Hyundai solar panels within our PV systems designed for Malta and Gozo’s specific climate, are producing around 5% more electricity than other brands of solar panels are producing in Malta. The amount of electricity provided by the solar panels is determined by the type of consumption that a user would have. This can be assessed by Solar Solutions Ltd at no charge and Solar Solutions Ltd would then advise on what system size would be appropriate. An important consideration is how long will the solar panels last as this will have an effect on the total electricity generated over the lifetime of the solar panels. This is why we recommend going for quality panels.
7. Does PV need a Planning Authority permit or any other permit?
All PV installations require approval or notification from Enemalta Corporation and the REWS. PA permits can be requested in certain types of installations – the height and visibility can be requested criteria for a PA application. Solar Solutions Ltd can also give professional advice for installations of solar panels in Malta and Gozo. Planning Authority DG 2015 is to be referred to for installations.
8. Do Solar Solutions Ltd assist in permits, applications etc?
Yes, Solar Solutions Ltd will assist and guide customers from the first enquiry through to choosing the right system size and will also assist in analysing electricity consumption to determine a suitable system. A professional architect or engineer should always be consulted by the customer for any planning or technical support.
9. How does the Feed in Tariff (FIT) for solar energy in Malta and Gozo work in practice?
For 2016 REWS has announced that electricity generated from photovoltaic installations in Malta and Gozo will be purchased at €0.15c5 per unit or kWhr for installations equal to or less than 40kWp and will be guaranteed for 20 years.
Domestic grants and feed in tariff will be are now available.
10. What are monocrystalline and polycrystalline modules?
As the name already suggests, the monocrystalline photovoltaic modules consist of one single crystal whereas polycrystalline are made up of ‘many’ crystals. A particularly high efficiency is achieved by precisely aligning the crystal structure, however polycrystalline modules have also reached high levels of efficiency (depending on the module brand and type). In Malta, tests on measurement of output (electricity generated) made by Solar Solutions Ltd are showing that within quality modules the generation of electricity is similar. Solar panels by Hyundai are either supplied as mono or poly modules whereas Kyocera supply is made of poly modules. AUO Solar are specialists in high efficiency modules with a 22% efficiency on the 330W modules, at 1M x 1.65M size. Larger modules (2M) high are also higher wattage but the efficiency is much lower.
11. What are the IEC 61215 and IEC 61646 standards and are they relevant to Malta?
They are certificates indicating the quality, mechanical stability and compliance with electrical parameters. The Malta Resources Authority requires that solar panels which are to be sold in Malta are certified to these standards.
12. What does STC stand for?
STC is the abbreviation for standard test conditions. If you compare various solar modules with one another, for example, to determine which one works the most effectively, standard test conditions are established that apply worldwide. These conditions include:a radiation of 1000 W/m², a module temperature of 25°C and an air mass of 1.5. In Malta we reach around and sometimes more than, 1000 W/m² in certain times of the year, normally around the spring/summer period.
13. What is a performance guarantee?
A guarantee from the manufacturer on a module’s minimum performance. Generally, this applies over a longer period of time. You should make sure to read the fine print. Here, you will find the maximum permitted deviation from the minimum rated output after using over 10, 20 or even 25 operating years. Hyundai offer a 25 year warranty whereas Kyocera offer a 25 year warranty for all modules sold in Malta by Solar Solutions Ltd as their exclusive representatives. The strength of this guarantee depends entirely on the financial standing of the manufacturer. This is another strong reason for customers to check what they are purchasing and also read up on the manufacturer.
14. Should I insure my system?
Solar Solutions Ltd recommends insuring the system (photovoltaic or solar heaters) against natural hazards, such as storms and hail. In general, such hazards are already covered in the building insurance. Broad coverage provides all-risk insurance that also insures the system against theft, lightning protection, surge voltage or yield loss. Customers should inform their insurer upon installation of a system to ensure that it is covered from day 1.
15. Can lightning destroy the system?
Lightning is unpredictable and has the potential to destroy anything in its path. Photovoltaic systems are technologically highly sensitive and a direct lightning strike would definitely destroy it. There is also yet another hazard, as a lightning strike could create surge voltage near the solar power system and these surge voltages can also destroy the system. SMA inverters integrate surge-voltage protectors into their inverters. However, since these components only discharge small voltage peaks, you should consider using protective devices in individual cases. The probability that lightning will directly strike your house is not increased by a solar power system. Solar Solutions Ltd always create an earth link from the PV system to the customer’s earthing system as per IEE standard procedures.
16. Can hailstones damage the modules?
The probability that the modules will be destroyed by hailstones is relatively low. Kyocera and Hyundai Solar both use hardened special glass for the solar panels which are used and installed in Malta. These must withstand ice balls in a shot test with a diameter of 75 mm and projected at a speed of 140 km/h. In 2013, the hailstorm that hit Malta and Gozo did not damage any of our products, however many other systems were damaged.
17. Does the photovoltaic system require regular cleaning?
Rain automatically cleans the modules and the rainfall in winter in Malta is sufficient to keep the modules clean. In areas with heavy air contamination however, the modules may require additional cleaning from time to time. A system installed below the minimum angle of 15° can mean that the rainfall will not be sufficient to permanently keep the system clean. In the dry summer months in Malta Solar Solutions Ltd recommends that modules are cleaned with clean water. This ensures that electricity generation is kept at the maximum possible.
1. How does a wind turbine create electricity?
A wind turbine uses wind to rotate the blades that turn a generator at the top of the wind turbine. The electricity is fed into an inverter to be able to supply a residence or commercial building.
2. Can I generate all the electricity I need from the wind turbine?
Yes. The conditions for a wind turbine in Malta are particular and Solar Solutions Ltd would therefore have to make a site assessment to determine the viability for a wind turbine.
3. How much electricity can I generate from the wind turbine?
There is no limit from the wind turbine, however careful consideration of the site must be made to ensure maximum safety and to be within PA permits.
4. So does that mean that a PA permit is required?
Yes, the PA must be consulted before installing a wind turbine in Malta as a full development permit is required. Solar Solutions Ltd can also assist is permits and/or any notifications from the relevant authorities.
5. Does a wind turbine make noise?
Every moving or rotating object will create ‘noise’, e.g. air conditioners, fans etc. Different brands of wind turbines will create different noise levels. Kingspan Wind turbines, represented by Solar Solutions Ltd in Malta are among the most silent (and toughest) small scale wind turbines in the world.
1. How long have you been established?
Solar Solutions Ltd was formed in 2005 and invested heavily in research. The next step was to physically test our products; namely Siemens solar water heaters, Kyocera solar panels and SMA inverters in the conditions that Malta offers. Malta has a very high level of irradiance and also very high levels of UV and in summer Malta has also high ambient temperatures. This was part of our research and testing.
2. What are your specialisations?
Solar Solutions Ltd specialise in solar and wind energy within the Maltese islands; that is Malta and Gozo. Our subsidiary Brighter Solutions Ltd specialises in LED lighting representing Philips Architectural Lighting.
3. Is it worth investing in solar and wind energy in Malta?
Investments in solar energy will offer a very good return on investment. However, an investment should be carefully thought out. The first step is to invest in an efficient and quality built solar heater for heating water. Malta has very good conditions for solar heaters and this can save between 80-90% of the cost to heat water using electricity – this quite clearly makes financial sense! The next step is to invest in photovoltaic (PV). Although the cost of PV is higher than solar water heaters (not just in Malta) the government of Malta has started grant and incentives schemes that make the investment in PV systems in Malta much more attractive. As with all investments, care must be taken as to where you put your money; ideally with a professional company.