Most of the renewable energies we profile in The Solar Guide can be said to be both solar and renewable. Most of our “renewable energies” get their basic energy from solar radiation. Wind is caused by the heating action of the sun; hydro relies on the hydrologic cycle (which relies on the sun); and geothermal is technically “stored solar energy.”
In a more general sense, “renewable energy” is any energy that is self-replenishing. For example, we do not need to find new ‘reservoirs’ of wind, solar or geothermal energy. The energy is always there, though critics note that these are usually “limited flow.”
Every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by a renewable energy system displaces the same amount of electricity produced by conventional power generation stations that are using fossil fuels that contribute to CO2, SO2, NOx and smog. Clean renewable energy production reduces suspended particulates we usually call smog, which are a significant health problem on the same hot sunny days when (for example) a solar energy system can produce electricity at its peak level.
The biggest disadvantage and the only truly significant one remains the cost. For example, solar energy technologies require a significant initial outlay. Still, in nearly all cases, this high initial cost is recovered through substantial fuel savings over the life of the product (15-30 years), and solar energy systems can last much longer than this. But in areas where there are no hydro wires, choosing solar is as obvious as the sun in the sky.
Yes, particularly in Belize where there is an abundance of sun light year round! Solar energy and other forms of renewable energy (such as geothermal) will become cheaper as people continue to invest in them. When people invest in them, this will drive down the cost– as it already has over the last few decades. This has a snowball effect: the technology becomes increasingly usable, cheaper and convenient.
The size of the system is usually directly proportional to the amount of power you use; if you do not know your power consumption it may be helpful to know that the average Belizean home consumes 7kwh Hours per day. Homes using air conditioning will typically require 10kwh per unit per day.
Batteries are a handy component of the power system commonly installed. They are also known as ‘accumulators’ because their function is to store energy when it isn’t being used. The stored energy is readily available on dark or cloudy days and during nights and keeps your system running even when sunlight isn’t abundant.
The size of the system is the largest determinant of the price, and the savings rise accordingly. In most cases, the payback period for the investment in a photovoltaic system is roughly 5 years with internal rates of return ranging from 15% to 25%.
In Belize, financing is available through various organizations; most commonly DFC, which engages in the distribution of green loans at reasonable interest rates.
Solar PV systems are solid-state technology, have no moving parts and require no maintenance beyond cleaning, which can typically be done with a garden hose. Most systems should be cleaned once or twice a year, concentrated in the dry season. Systems in agricultural areas will likely require 2-3 cleanings per year.
Inverters are also solid-state and require little to no maintenance beyond regularly checking the cooling fan outlets and cleaning when necessary. Mounting hardware is either aluminum or stainless steel or high-quality ASA resin (same as car side mirrors) and is rust-proof.