Solar Confusion

I’ve been looking into the whole deal of installing solar energy systems in commercial buildings and, dang it, it’s pretty confusing. Not the question of whether it’s a good idea; that’s a clear yes. What I mean is, it’s confusing in terms of how to go about it in the most efficient way.

One logistical question I have about installing solar in Melbourne is this: what happens in the middle of winter? Is a couple of hours of sunlight each day enough to power a large building that uses electricity in a fairly heavy duty way? You see, I’m looking into this on behalf of my dad, who claims he wants to move the whole company towards running on renewable energy but has gaps in his schedule to research it for the next four months.

One obvious answer is that installing a solar system doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire load of electricity must come from the system. I suspect that dad feels that the system would be pointless if the grid still had to be in effect for providing some of the building’s power. I don’t see it that way, though. I mean, of course it would be ideal if the entire load of energy could be harnessed from rooftop solar, but in practice that might have to be the goal of a work in progress.

From what I understand, there are a few ways of moving closer to that goal. For starters, the company could take down their overall energy consumption by installing commercial LED lighting. Dad could also look into an AC-connected commercial energy storage system. Melbourne gets an abundance of sun in summer, right? If I’ve got this right, any excess energy can be stored in a battery for later use. The other option is to feed the excess into the grid, get paid the feed-in tariff, and then buy the energy from the grid during solar down-times, knowing that at least some of it is still coming from solar.