Frequently ASKED QUESTIONS
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels contain a semiconductor material (typically silicon-based) which converts sunlight into direct-current (DC) electricity. An on-site inverter converts the DC power to AC power, which can then be connected to a building’s power supply or directly to the electricity grid.
Kilowat peak or Watt peak refers to the rated maximum power output of a Solar PV module. A 480Wp module would therefore produce 480 Watts of electrical power at the optimal and standard conditions.
No, Fibon specialises in bespoke energy solutions for commerce and industry.
We aim to add value to our commercial clients by designing solar solutions to accommodate the specific requirements of our client’s site. Fibon specialises in rooftop solar, solar carports and ground mounted solutions. Our typical commercial solar systems are for shopping centres, manufacturing companies, warehousing and logistic companies and hospitals.
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- Step 1: Reach out to us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 010 590 3069. You can also DM us on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook and one of our qualified engineers (not salespersons) will understand your requirements and needs.
- Step 2: On the same day we will request further information from you. Typically, the GPS coordinates of the site and preferably 12 months of utility bills.
- Step 3: Fibon will design and engineer a bespoke commercial solution for your business and company. We will send you a high-level proposal within 3 business days.
- Step 4: If you would like to take the proposal further, Fibon will arrange a site visit at your premises. A site visit is conducted by at least two qualified engineers from the Fibon team and we will take drone footage using Fibon’s proprietary software to map measurements of your building.
- Step 5: On acceptance of the proposal, Fibon can start with the commissioning and installation of your commercial system within 3-4 weeks.
Our solar systems are engineered and designed specifically for each of our client’s. The final design depends on many factors such as the available roof space on a building, the consumption patterns of the business, power requirements and the existing cost of electricity that the client pays to the municipality/Eskom. A manufacturing company operating 5 days a week with a 24/7 operation has different requirements to a retail shopping centre operating 7 days a week during working hours. The cost of our commercial systems is informed by these parameters and the cost is relative to the value being created.
Prior to designing the solar system, we discuss the forecasted electricity requirements for the medium to long term (10 to 25 years) with our clients. Fibon engineers a solution which is modular meaning that the PV system size can be increased at any time in the future.
There is no uniform position in South Africa. However, several municipalities permit you to either resell unused energy produced by the commercial solar system or to receive a credit on your next utility bill. Reach out to us to at email@example.com to find out how your business can generate an income from excess power generated from your solar system. In 2020, we saw this was significant when businesses where not permitted to operate due to the COVID-19 “hard-lockdown” or were operating at a lower capacity due to the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions. Looking forward we have seen this become valuable for our clients in the manufacturing environment that operate 5 days a week. The ability to earn an income from the unused energy produced from the solar system on a Saturday and Sunday is significant.
A grid-tied solar system is connected to the electrical grid and requires the grid to be operational for the solar system to produce energy. This system is capable of feeding back excess power produced from solar into the electrical grid. When the energy produced by the solar system is insufficient, electricity drawn from the mains grid can make up the shortfall. Conversely when excess electricity is available, it is sent back to the mains grid. In cases where the utility or network operator restricts the amount of energy that goes into the grid, it is possible to prevent any input into the grid by installing export limiting devices or energy meters.
A microgrid is a local electrical grid network capable of operating autonomously when disconnected from the conventional grid. This system connects to the grid at a point of common coupling that maintains voltage at the same level as the main grid unless there is some sort of problem on the grid or other reason to disconnect.
This is a microgrid that is fully interconnected to a local utility grid and capable of both consuming power from, and supplying power to, the utility grid. They can maintain some level of service during a utility outage. A switch can separate the microgrid from the main grid automatically or manually, and it then functions as an island.
A microgrid not only provides backup for the grid in case of emergencies, but can also be used to cut costs, or connect to a local resource that is too small or unreliable for traditional grid use. A microgrid allows communities to be more energy independent and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly.
Well, we have good news and bad news. If the sun shines the solar system will produce power. However, this does not mean that a commercial solar system will prevent load shedding or intermittent power. There are different types of solar PV systems: (i) grid-tied, (ii) off-grid (microgrids), and (iii) islandable on-grid microgrids. In South Africa, grid-tied solar PV systems are most common, as these are the most affordable and provide a good business case. Most grid tied commercial systems are programmed to switch off during load shedding. Solar modules generate DC electricity, but this needs to be converted into AC to be used in buildings. As such, solar inverters are used to convert the electricity. During a grid outage (such as Eskom’s load shedding), the solar inverters are designed to switch off. This serves as protection for grid personnel that might be working on transmission lines during outages.
Now for the good news. Fibon can design the client’s commercial solar system to operate during load shedding by using our proprietary integrated controllers. We isolate the solar system from the grid to prevent the export of power and install a voltage forming device to provide a reference voltage and frequency to the solar inverter. After all, what is the point of not being able to use the electricity generated from the solar system when your business does not have power from the grid?
A power inverter, or inverter, is an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling depend on the design of the specific device or circuitry.
A solar system typically has a life span of up to 25 years. This duration is dependant on regular maintenance of the system.
The owner of the asset (solar system) is responsible for the maintenance of the system. Typically with a PPA the ownership of the asset remains with Fibon and therefore the maintenance would remain the responsibility of Fibon until such time that ownership of the asset is transferred from Fibon to the customer.
Typically O&M responsibilities would include regular remote monitoring of the system to ensure that it is operating optimally, Bi-annual inspections and cleaning of panels and repairs and fault finding would form part of the O&M responsibilities.
At Fibon we offer various solutions from grid-tied only solutions with no battery backup to hybrid and standalone solutions that incorporate battery storage. Battery storage allows a solar system to operate when the utility grid is down and autonomously in areas when there is no grid connection.
Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels are generally are the three most common type of solar panels.
Mono refers to one and poly refers many.
In terms of solar panels, the difference starts during the creation process. Monocrystalline silicon is created by pulling a monocrystalline silicon seed crystal out of melted monocrystalline silicon.
Polycrystalline silicon is manufactured through a much simpler method. Instead of going through the slow and more costly process of creating a single crystal, molten silicon is just put into a cast and cooled with a seed crystal. By using the casting method, the crystal surrounding the seed is not uniform and branches into many, smaller crystals, thus the term “polycrystalline”.
Thin film solar cells are manufactured by depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate and they are also known as thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV). The different types of thin-film solar cells can be characterised by the photovoltaic material that is deposited onto the substrate i.e: Amorphous silicon (a-Si),Cadmium telluride (CdTe), Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS), Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC).
Depending on the technology, thin-film module efficiencies vary between 10–16%. Although thin film has advantages for flexibility the major advantage of poly or mono is the ability to function in high heat and they are less affected by partial shadowing. A major disadvantage is however their size for equivalent output power.
Fibon does not manufacture components in South Africa. We procure and purchase components on a global basis directly from manufacturers. We use Tier 1 equipment on our Solar Systems, Tier 1 being the highest ranking. This can be verified from Bloomberg New Energy Finance which tracks the solar manufacturers globally.
In cloudy and rainy conditions solar modules generate less power. Fortunately, in South Africa we enjoy on average over 2500 hours of sunshine per year.
Monocrystalline solar cells cost significantly more than polycrystalline for the same size due to higher productions costs. Thin film is cheaper than mono or poly.
Monocrystalline cells have a higher efficiency than polycrystalline cells due to the structure being made from one large crystal as opposed to many small ones. In addition to having an overall better efficiency, monocrystalline panels can perform up to 10% better than polycrystalline panels in high ambient temperatures.
Thin film is less efficient in terms of power production but very efficient in materials required to produce the same power.
Since monocrystalline panels are more efficient per area, the size of the solar panel is less than a polycrystalline solar panel at the same wattage. If you are limited on area size and wish to achieve the most energy possible, monocrystalline panels are the better choice. Thin film requires more space to produce the same power as mono or poly.
Mono modules have a dark uniform colour. Poly modules have visible differences in shade caused by the various crystal structure.
As thin film is diffused onto a substrate and the layers are very thin, the panel looks almost solid with thin vehicle lines. These lines are formed by the chemical etching process that produce each cell.
Even though a monocrystalline panel has the potential to last up to 50 years, most warranties endure for 25 years which is like those warranties for polycrystalline panels.
Thin film is rather new in terms of more modern process and therefore the life expectancy is unproven, however 20 years is the design expectation.