The recently inked exclusive partnership between sustainable energy and demand management solutions company PowerOptimal and Electrolux SA is set to meet the ever increasing demand for cost-effective and sustainable solar photovoltaic (PV) water heating solutions in the local market.

The high cost of inverter based solar PV systems makes them unaffordable for many South Africans, leaving them no reliable alternative to being dependent on unreliable, ever more expensive Eskom grid energy. The PowerOptimal Elon range does not require an inverter or battery giving the customer the ability to conveniently add solar capability to their standard electric geyser.

Essentially, the PowerOptimal Elon intelligent PV controller enables the direct connection of solar PV panels to a standard electric geyser. And because there is no maintenance required over the long lifespan of the product, it is one of the lowest cost per unit energy (kWh) solutions for water heating available today. While it runs entirely off the grid during daylight, the system can use AC power to supplement solar ensuring the household always has access to hot water.

“The country has an abundance of solar, so it makes sense to capture and store it as cost-effectively as possible to enable South Africans to enjoy the financial benefit of being off the grid,” says Richard Fearon, CEO of PowerOptimal.

“The significance of our partnership with Electrolux highlights the opportunity for innovative technology to transform the way people view and use solar PV systems. In fact, when compared to a traditional solar PV grid-tied system, the PowerOptimal Elon solution delivers significant cost-savings not only on implementation but usage as well.”

For example, when comparing the energy cost of a six-minute shower using 15 litres of water per minute at a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius across all available systems today, the PowerOptimal Elon is the most affordable. Grid electricity will set you back R5.58, a heat pump system will be R3.94, typical gas heating system works out to R5.05, a low cost solar geyser system is R2.40, a solar PV grid-tied system comes in at R2.35, while the PowerOptimal Elon solution costs R2.06.

Unlike gas or grid-tied systems that are still impacted by price increases on the resources they use, the cost of the PowerOptimal Elon offering remains fixed for the lifetime of the hardware.

“Some argue that solar thermal collectors are more efficient; the lifetime of such a system ranges from seven to fifteen years depending on quality. It is simply not realistic to expect consumers to make large financial investments every few years. For their part, solar PV modules are routinely guaranteed at 80% performance after 25 years with the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory using a lifetime of 133 years in its solar PV calculations PV is the clear value and cost leader,” concludes Fearon.