I went into January €261 in credit with my electricity supplier, Electric Ireland (EI). This is not smug bragging, I’m advocating. To run an EV car and the entire house in 2022, this was a rare win, and hardly terrifying, looking ahead to 2023/2024.
We owe this bounce to the considered use of our solar-photovoltaic panels, utilising the potential of a 6.5kWh storage battery, and being disciplined around the proven advantages of time-of-use energy tariffs (T-o-U). I enjoy a steady, seasonal performance from a relatively small 4.2kWp PV-solar system c.2019, and it’s something that every family in Ireland should be assisted in adding to their domestic energy round.
All I see are useless, bald roofs bathed in sunshine all over the country as we hunker down in this energy crisis. I get asked about solar-PV every week by Irish Examiner readers, so here are a few answers for newbies, considering renewable technology in 2023.
For fuller information log on to the Irish Solar PV & Battery System Owners Group on Facebook, which boasts over 37,000 members.
You don’t need to be an owner to join, in fact, it’s an excellent place to ask all those perplexing questions of both suppliers and PV-solar users, some of whom have self-installed their systems forgoing SEAI grant aid (commissioning with a RECI-certified electrician, of course).
WHO IS THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR PV?
Some 46,500 people have taken the step to domestic solar so far in Ireland. “Rising energy prices and climate concerns have turbocharged customer interest in rooftop solar panels,” says Conall Bolger, CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).
Not only do customers save money and contribute to the fight against climate change using solar, but PV can activate people to take that further action.
Being present at home by day, you can be reactive to solar-PV energy collection as it happens. This has made PV extremely popular with retirees.
There’s a hobbyist excitement to squeezing the best from every lingering kWh off the roof.
Being present at the house, excess power can go into a battery, water heater, PHEV or BEV. In winter you can enjoy the gain contributing modestly to running a heat pump, or other electrical heating such as infra-red panels.
That said, with battery collection and the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS), even when you’re not there, your solar-PV system can be working to reduce your bill.
A TYPICAL DAY USING SOLAR-PV
Once living in the light, you will start out with an anxious eyeball trained on the software read-outs day long. Most solar-PV householders eventually stop obsessing with scudding clouds and energy spikes, and just let the system passively do its thing.
In my opinion, engaging as fully as possible with the benefits of solar-PV radically alters the bottom line. Depending on the weather, I might run several loads of laundry in a single sunny day (with machines running sequentially where possible). I’ll still see excess power going back to the national grid to be repaid via the MSS.
During the same time, a trace of kWs continues to heat my water through the water diverter, and my battery is taking in enough kWhs to get me through the evening (4kWh is plenty). My ideal is to be using my PV for my household power for most, if not all, of the day for nine months of the year, except the minute amount of grid power necessary to cycle the battery.
In winter, on even a dark day, my lighting, TV and laptop are all off-grid, even if the battery lies relatively idle.
SHOULD YOU GET A BATTERY?
The decision on whether a battery warrants the additional up-front cost is very dependent on the customer’s budget, the scale of the solar system, the suitability of their home, and their electricity demand, according to Conall Bolger.
“A good installer can work through your options. However, it is not mandatory. Many customers get value from solar panels alone, through bill savings and payments under the MSS. We always recommend that customers get a number of quotes from suitably qualified installers, and you can find providers on the members’ page of our website ( To even approach 24 hours off-grid from the second week of February in my case (a misnomer, as in Ireland, even with
the biggest array, you are generally grid-tied) — you must have a battery. The cost of batteries has soared, and their inclusion can double a quote for a solar-PV system. Still, their versatility is legendary.
I cannot imagine life without being able to seamlessly segue in and out of a stored supply. Working off the battery saves on pricey peak-hour tariffs of 50c/kWh or more and allows you to reach cheaper T-o-U prices of 20c or less after 11pm. When the battery is exhausted (at 10% charge it will stop drawing down), there’s also the ability to download power at night from the grid with cheap night-time T-o-U tariffs.
This is all easily set up on the fascia touch-screen or using the software app with any solar-PV inverter. That said, with the MSS, excess power from your array can still raise at least 21c per kWh (depending on your supplier) credited back to your bill.
WHAT ARE THE LIMITS?
There is a limit to the power your system can “drop” from a battery or inverter at any one time, and there are a few high-input appliances that will always prove a challenge, blowing through your real-time gain and your battery’s stored power.
Electric power showers can demand 9kWh. A 15-minute shower could take a large bite out of any stored power in the battery and will never run completely off a medium-sized array of say 5kWp.
Boiling the kettle — you can expect to see that real-time use peak and reach out to the grid for a 2kWh to 3kWh for a few minutes at least. This reality has made me a more conservative and careful consumer — raising my awareness and changing my energy behaviours almost entirely.
If the electric shower ran for longer than five minutes, there would be a Kya-shaped hole in the bathroom door.
DO YOU N