These days in Nigeria, one cannot skim through a newspaper without coming across an ad invitation to a solar energy seminar. These seminars as expected usually outline some advantages that the seminar organisers attribute to solar power. Some of the advantages that are most prominent include: free energy from the sun, no more blackout, zero electricity bill. Other prominent claims is that solar energy is an alternative to generator, that solar panels can last for 30 years, you can become a millionaire installing solar power systems for others, all you need to know to make it in the solar power industry is how to use a screwdriver, and so no.
Although all these claims are correct, people with no prior knowledge of solar energy systems can easily misinterpret them. It is possible that some Nigerians will attend these solar power seminars out of ignorance.
In this page, we will put these claims into perspective, so that you will determine whether these solar energy seminars are for you. So before spending (or wasting) your time and/or money in a solar energy seminar, tutorial, or manual, make sure you go through this page. This page will also recommend who should attend these seminars.
Solar Energy is free from sun, no more blackout and electric bills
This is by far the greatest attraction of solar energy and usually the most prominent in the seminar ads. While the prospect of getting energy free from the sun might tempt you to attend these seminars, it is important to note that you will need some equipment to tap this free energy and that is usually where your problem starts.
Components required in a solar power system include the solar panels, battery, inverter, and charge controller. These components can be quite quite expensive, especially if you want to enjoy the same quality and quantity of supply you receive from public power supply.
For example an 80 watt solar panel starts at about 16,500 Naira in Nigeria. You will require between four and 10 of these solar panels to power a two-bed room flat.
Then you need a power inverter, a high quality 1500-watt power inverter with one-year warranty will cost in excess of 80,000 Naira. You may require 2,500 watts (or more) to comfortably power a two bedroom flat.
You may require from 2 to 20 batteries in your battery bank. In all, the cost of a solar energy system to comfortably power a two bedroom flat may range from 550,000 Naira to up to 4.5 million Naira.
In general a solar power system for small and medium applications may cost between 150,000 Naira and 5 million Naira.
Therefore, while solar energy from the sun is free, you will have to invest a very good sum to tap this free energy. So it could be argued that solar energy is a unique form of energy where you pay for all your energy needs upfront (in advance).
Hence, before attending the seminar, make sure you can handle the cost of these systems. Note also that what you will be thought in these seminars is how to connect the system and where you can buy the components.
Government subsidise solar energy in countries were they are popular like in Germany.
You can become a millionaire installing Solar Power Systems for others
Installing solar energy systems can be a business. You can make money installing solar power systems for other people. However, like any business, you need a good business plan to succeed.
Do not expect to start making money simply because you attended a seminar. As stated earlier these seminars will only teach you how to connect a solar power system.
However, to succeed in solar energy business you need to know more than how to connect a solar panel. You need to understand the market for solar energy; you need to also know the strengths and weaknesses of the solar energy industry.
You can only become a millionaire if you can target the right market. You will also need exceptional communication and analytical skills to convince anyone to invest in a solar energy system considering the cost.
If all you know is how to use a screwdriver, forget it, you cannot make it big in the solar energy business.
A Solar Panel can last for up to 30 years
It is correct that a solar panel can last for up to 30 years. However, one may misinterpret this honest statement to mean that a solar power system can last for up to 30 years.
A solar panel can operate for up to 30 years, but is only one component of a solar energy system. As stated earlier a power inverter usually has one-year warranty.
Therefore, while a solar panel will last for up to 30 years, you will have to handle minor or major repair work for other systems of the solar power system.
It is possible that the inverter and batteries will be replaced a number of times during the lifespan of your solar panel.
Solar Energy is an alternative to an Electric Generator
Solar energy is one of a number of alternative energy systems. Some other alternative energy systems include hydro, geothermal, and wind.
Now is solar an alternative for a generator in your home, or business? The answer is may be. However, for many people on this planet, solar energy is a very expensive alternative and may not even be considered as an alternative until the economics is right.
Capital investment on generator is many times lower per watt than solar energy systems. Although solar promises zero recurrent investment the very high initial capital cost wipes out this fact.
Also in practical applications, it may be necessary to operate a solar energy system with a standby generator; this is because sometimes weather conditions may be so bad that batteries will not charge.
In such situations, you will require a generator to supply standby power, if you require reliable power.
In addition, it might not be economical to use a solar power system to power high power gadgets like electric heaters, electric cookers, and their likes. Therefore, you may need a generator to supply energy when you want to use these appliances.
Haven addressed some of the major issues, we hope by now that you understand the information that this adverts are trying to convey. Now we will tell you who should attend a solar energy seminar.
Who should attend a Solar Energy Seminar
Students: if you are a student of engineering especially electrical, electronics, computer, mechanical, civil, you should consider attending these seminars. Student of other courses who are technology savvy should also attend. If you are considering acquiring skills for self-employment after graduation, you should consider attending one of these solar energy seminars.
As a student, you require all the information you can get. Such a seminar may expose you to solar energy components. However, note that the seminar is just the first step, after the seminar you will have to research further to understand the place of solar energy in the energy mix of Nigeria and probably the world.
Entrepreneurs: if you are looking for business opportunities in Nigeria, solar energy can be a business. Attending a solar power seminar will expose you to some issues about solar energy. However, you will not get it all in a one-day seminar you will have to research a lot more after the seminar.
To succeed in any business you need a business plan, solar industry is not an exception. You need your feasibility studies; you also need to understand your market.
You can also make money teaching others about solar power, just like the resource person that thought you about solar energy. In fact, there may be more money sharing information about solar energy than the installation itself that may be the reason why these seminar ads are everywhere.
Contractors: if you are a contractor in the building or electrical installation industry, you may benefit quite a lot from these seminars. Being in the front line, you can also market solar power system to some of your clients. That makes you more versatile and can improve the value of your business.
Want energy independence: if you desire freedom, no more energy bills or reduced energy bills, then you can learn how to wire up your own solar energy system in these seminars. If you want to stop the fuel worry for your generator, a solar power system will make you power independent.
What is important is that you understand the cost implication. If you are sure, you can afford solar system then it is worth the try. However, to go solar you must think long-term. If you only consider the huge capital cost, you may never favour solar, but if you think about the silent operation, zero carbon emission, and the lower operational cost then you will seriously consider solar energy.
Note that a solar system will eventually pay for itself after several years, maybe after 10 to 15 years. What is important is not that you appreciate the benefit of solar energy, but that you can afford it. If you can, go for it.
If you are not in any of these categories, we suggest you flip the page, as you will only waste your money. There is this belief that no knowledge is a waste, but we will like to say that any knowledge that you do not have capacity to use now is a big waste.
What is the Market for Solar Power?
Who needs a solar power system? Alternatively, who can you market a solar energy system to?
people living in remote location: if you live in the middle of nowhere, solar energy might become cheaper than connection to national grid. By the time you consider the cost of transformers, electric transmission cables and poles, a solar power system will be favoured. This is why solar is used for rural electrification and in the countryside.
Therefore, you can market solar energy to such people; solar power can also be marketed to people requiring small amounts of power. Solar power can also be used on remote monitoring systems.
Other applications of solar power include telecommunication towers, streetlights, and solar pumps for boreholes.