PV (photovoltaic): either connected to a grid tied inverter (an inverter that generates 220V AC while grid power and solar is available) or a solar controller (used to charge batteries using PV panels)
Thermal: Thermal panels can heat the water in a geyser or a swimming pool and space heaters can heat the air in a building
A common misconception is that solar is a good solution against load shedding. Most domestic power usage unfortunately occurs at sunrise, sunset and at night. For load shedding, power has to be stored in batteries for later usage using a backup inverter.
Before you install a solar system we would advise you to optimize your power usage by installing a solar geyser. Although a regular PV system lowers your monthly electricity bill, your regular, existing geyser can cost you R400 or more in electricity per month. Solar geysers really have great returns on investment rates.
Solar power can be an expensive outlay, but with proper planning and efficient use of electricity it could be the very thing to save you much more in the longer term. There is no reason why every building cannot have its own PV power plant.
The design lifespan of an installation is usually 20 years but could last up to 30 years. In the domestic and commercial markets we have found Victron (Dutch design) and SMA (German design) to be world leaders in design, reliability and features.
A Victron backup system with 2-2.5 hours of backup power at full load will set you back +-R23 000 per Kilowatt. Adding solar will set you back another +-R20 000 per Kilowatt. With 1Kw of PC panels your system will generate about 5.5Kw/h per day on average in the Western Cape (this varies according to your location). 5.5Kw/h of electricity will cost you +-R8,25 (5.5 x R1.50) and thus a 5Kw solar system could save you +-R1278 (5.5h x 5Kw x 31d x R1.50) worth of electricity per month.