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How does solar power increase your home’s value?

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Solar power could be the best way to increase your property’s value, as well as reduce your energy bill.

For many people, their home is their biggest asset and maintaining it properly is crucial to ensure to ensure it holds its value. Maintenance and upgrades of your property can enhance your lifestyle, and hopefully help hold or improve your property’s market value.

Increasing the value of your home makes a lot of sense, but what is the best way to do this? Not all renovations or changes increase the value enough to cover the cost of having it done. This may not matter so much if you intend to stay in the home for many years and will get a lot of pleasure and value out of the renovation yourself.

Take a pool

For instance, a pool costs quite a lot to install and maintain and does not always increase the value of the home because not everyone wants a pool. By having a pool, the selling reach of the home may be limited to exclude seniors, couples with toddlers or others who may not want to bother with a pool. That said, younger couples without children and those with older children are more likely to be attracted to this addition to your property. It is also possible to overvalue the home compared to the neighbouring homes and find that it just won’t sell for the extra money in that location.

What about solar power?

Solar power is one improvement much more likely to improve the value of the home over many other more costly improvements. Why? Everyone needs electricity or some form of power in the home; if the cost of using electricity can be reduced by installing solar power, people will certainly view your home favourably when it’s offered for sale.

Solar assisted hot water systems have been around for many years, so people have become more used to solar power than other alternative forms of energy. There are many more solar panels on the roofs of residences these days than there were even five years ago. Statistics indicate that up to 19% of the Australian population now uses solar of some kind in their homes, whether it is just to assist with water heating, or a complete solar power unit that feeds excess power back into the grid.

The public favours solar panels

Since solar power is viewed so positively by most of the Australian public, it follows that this can be a selling point for the home. Research indicates that the more solar panels there are on the roof, the higher the value of the home – with an estimated increase of almost $6000 dollars per kilowatt of solar power. This indicates a rise of over $29,000 in the retail value of the home for a 5kW installation.

Since the price of electricity is expected to rise in the future, the advantages of having solar power will become even more evident.

Selling quickly is part of the equation

You will probably realise that when you put your home on the market, it is difficult to achieve other goals until it is sold. It is like putting your life on hold until the right buyer comes along and signs on the dotted line. Only then is it possible to move on with your own life and get settled in a new environment. If the home does not sell quickly, it can be very frustrating.

Having solar panels installed on a home can make it sell more quickly. Compared to other homes without solar power, your home could sell up to 20% faster. This too, is part of the value that solar power can add to your home and your life.

Staying with it

Even without selling the home, the advantages of having solar power installed can still be enjoyed. Over the years, the savings made will recoup the cost of the installation and go on to save on the cost of the power bill. So in short, one of the best ways to add value to the home is to install solar power. Not only will the resale value of the home be increased, there will be the benefit of future savings if you don’t sell.

Why public perception matters

Research and surveys indicate that the general public not only favour solar panels, but actually prefer homes with solar installation over those without in many cases. This includes renters, many of whom who would be willing to pay extra rent for a home with solar panels. Therefore, landlords looking to increase the value of their rental homes can benefit from this trend also. Not only can they charge more in rent, but because renters actually prefer solar power, such homes are more likely to be rented out all the time, instead of being left empty while all those interested in renting turn to the homes with solar panels. All landlords will recognise the value in that.

Henry Ruiz, Chief Product Officer of the REA Group states, “Having solar panels installed on your roof represents a valuable investment in your property, as this research shows.”

Hints for using solar power

The savings made when using solar will depend on the location of the home and the power of the solar unit that is installed, as well as the cost of electricity in your area. Here are some useful tips to get the most value from solar power.

  • Since power is produced during daylight, using it during the day is most beneficial. For instance, take showers and do the laundry in daylight hours.
  • Change your water heater to heat up during daylight, rather than the off-peak hours at night many are switched to.
  • Use LED lights or bulbs that save energy in the evenings.
  • Use the air-conditioner to cool the house during the day and switch it off at night.
  • Make sure the pool pump is set to run during the day, not the night.
  • Replace old appliances such as refrigerators that tend to gobble up power.

Technology

How thin can solar panels get?

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Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Remember when computers were too heavy to lift? Depending on how old you are, maybe not. Either way, now they can fit into a pocket and the weight is barely noticeable. The same thing has happened with solar technology. First presented as heavy solar panels – that needed a lot of muscle to get them onto the roof –we are now at the other end of the spectrum. Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Solar Paper fits into the pages of a book rather like a bookmark, only it’s a bit bigger than most bookmarks at 19x9cm and just 4mm thick. At the top end there is a USB charging port 11mm thick. Each ‘page’ of this solar panel device provides 2.5W of power. At 128gm you can easily stick two or three together and use them to charge up your phone, external battery, camera and other devices. In fact, four solar panels can be joined together to juice a larger device such as a laptop. And don’t worry, the devices are embedded with magnets so you won’t lose them.

Why would we want this?

Solar Paper is ideal for the person on the go who does not have time to take their phone home and wait for it to recharge. You don’t even have to find a power point to plug in your usual phone charger. Solar Paper means you can get power from the sun while you’re walking down the street, enjoying a coffee at an outdoor cafe, waiting to play tennis or riding a horse. It’s also ideal for camping, when there’s often no power available.

The best features

A nifty feature of Solar Paper is that it turns on automatically. Previous models switched off whenever a cloud hid the sun or if you walked through a shadow. They had to be rebooted manually. This could be annoying and frustrating, especially if you were busy and didn’t notice the shadow.

Another feature is the LCD screen that tells you how much power is being delivered at any one time. The advantage of this is that you can easily choose the correct angle of orientation to the sun for the best result. It also helps you understand how different kinds of weather will affect its ability to charge your device.

It’s water resistant, which is handy if a sudden shower strikes when you are out and about, or if your little brother sneaks up with a water pistol. There are also grommet holes, allowing you to attach it to things such as the outside of your backpack. So you can put it to work charging your phone while you are out on the go.

Why is it different to what is already available?

Many devices such as this that are already available don’t work because they’re too small to generate the amount of power needed. Others are too bulky to carry around easily. The new Solar Paper works well on just one panel and you can boost its power by adding up to three more panels, depending on the device you need to use it for most. These panels can still fold over for ease of transport when you are not using them; the magnets ensure that the parts will stay together.

Solar Paper solar panels are easy to carry around due to its compact size and light weight; you’ll hardly notice it. It certainly fills a niche, giving us a product we can trust to do the job we bought it for. And talking of buying – it is very affordable, given the usefulness it provides. You will no longer have to worry about your phone battery running out just when you need it most.

Upgrade by adding more

Three panels are advised for charging a Smartphone; this will be enough to charge it even in cloudy weather. The single panel will charge an external battery, iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy while four will be needed to charge an iPad Air 2.

Being able to decide on the amount of power – and therefore pages – you will need gives added versatility to this device. If you start off with the smaller size and find it is not quite enough, it is a simple matter to upgrade by adding another panel to the original. When the design of anything has obviously been well thought out, the result is something that almost everyone finds practical. Maybe one day something smaller and better will come along, but for now this has filled the niche, admirably ticking all the boxes of size, weight, affordability, ease of use and reliability.

Renewable energy

Attractive renewable energy projects

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Alternative energy sources are necessary to reduce our carbon footprint, and some forward thinking people are making renewable energy projects attractive by using art, design and innovation.

While some people seem to think renewable energy projects are intrusive or ugly and not everyone likes the look of black solar panels sitting on their rooftop. Still others consider wind farms to be a blot on the landscape. However, these innovative resources don’t have to be ugly. Thanks to the Climate Council.

How art changes things

Most of us have seen attractive murals transform plain walls into works of art. So why not apply this idea to the bland, white expanse of a wind turbine tower? A community-owned wind-farm project in Daylesford, Victoria – which has around 1900 participants, many of whom are from the area – paid an artist to paint a mural representing nature. Mountain peaks surround the bottom part, while a giant female figure soars up the main part of the wind tower, as an eye-catching picture that graces the landscape. Better still, the money from the power it generates is given to charities.

Other colourful wind turbines can be found in Germany, painted by artist Horst Glasker in a variety of beautiful hues and designs. The brightest one is reminiscent of an old time barber’s pole, but with many glowing colours for the stripes instead of just red and white.

The cost of theme parks

While everyone loves theme parks, the cost of power for rides and other attractions is enormous. In the US – theme park heaven – Disneyworld in Florida realised they can save on the cost of the power needed to run their many attractions by installing a near-by solar plant with 48,000 solar panels. This could get really ugly, except for Mickey Mouse coming to the rescue. The plan for this solar farm reportedly goes in circles – three of them, in fact. These represent the famous mouse head and ears, thus fitting in aptly to the Disneyland setting. Disney has signed a 15 year lease to purchase the energy from it for their theme park.

Since a project completed way back in 1998 saved them 46 million kwh in power, it’s obvious that they use a great deal of this commodity.  In fact, theme parks the world over could surely follow their lead and save on their costs as well as reducing their carbon footprint.

Innovative design in shape

It’s not only colour that transforms drab objects, but shape. Solar panels don’t have to be rectangular shapes on the roof of the house. In Dubai, innovative design means that solar installations look rather like palm trees. Not only can visitors enjoy the shade while resting on the bench below, they can also charge their phone or get a Wi-Fi connection from these truly ‘smart’ trees. Since it is claimed that mobile phones will charge much more quickly when plugged into the smart trees, no one should be able to complain about their devices’ batteries running out of juice. Visitors to Dubai who have not heard about this innovation may be forgiven for staring at locals who plug their devices into a man-made tree.

Another amazing design in wind power technology is the wind turbine designed to look like a street tree. Instead of a windmill type attachment with three long blades at the top, each branch of the tree contains a smallish green device meant to represent the leaves of the tree. These ‘leaves’ have tiny blades that can turn no matter what direction the wind comes from and can take advantage of even a small breath of wind. And being so small, the blades turn silently. This approximately 9 metre high, wind turbine tree is found in north-west France but will soon be installed in Paris. Even though it isn’t very shady for a street tree, it’s successful for its intended purpose; to generate power.

Innovation doesn’t stop there

Another design innovation of a different type is the solar powered garage built especially for the owners of an electric car. It makes enough electricity to power the car and contains the charging station, thus saves using power generated by fossil fuels to recharge. Who knew a garage could be so clever, as well as looking good to boot?

Solar design innovation hasn’t stopped at cars. A solar plane recently proved it could fly both day and night on solar power, without using a drop of other fuel! While it can only carry one person – and the wings are longer than a Boeing 747 – it’s a jumping off point for further research and improvement. As far as looks are concerned, its design is slender and graceful due to a long wingspan. Those wings contain 17,000 solar cells, which are used not only to power the motors, but also to charge the lithium batteries that provide power during the night hours.

Go to sea on solar

Similarly, sea-going vessels can also use solar power to reach their destinations. The largest solar powered catamaran ever built has circumnavigated the world using only solar power generated from the 512 square metres of solar panels installed on its deck, which give it a wing-like appearance that is far from unattractive. These panels also power the two batteries below deck that weigh almost 10 tonne each.

People have used wind power for many years to power sea-going craft of various kinds.  When the wind stops, however, so do the boats – unless the tide carries them forward. It’s important to have another source of energy that can be used once the wind is no longer a viable source and that’s when solar power comes into its own.

These amazingly innovative designs are the forerunners of what is sure to come in solar and wind power. Every invention has a starting point. The ordinary car could never have come to fruition without the invention of the wheel – not to mention all those other small components that are so essential to keep it running. So it is with alternative sources of energy.  The good news is it’s the ordinary person, as well as designers and artists who think outside the box, that are working to save our world from the often ugly inventions that are nevertheless so very useful.

Renewable energy

Solar power and the clouds

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The solar PV (photovoltaic) revolution has made solar energy an increasingly powerful force in the energy arena. Solar PV panels help us harvest radiant energy from the sun and convert it into electrical energy, which can be used immediately, stored in batteries for later use, or fed back into the electricity grid.

Do solar PV panels still work in cloudy or cooler weather?

While solar PV panels don’t generate as much electricity in cloudy conditions as during bright, sunny days, they still do their job, just at a reduced rate. Depending on your specific panels and the amount of cloud cover, solar panels can still produce 10-25% of their rated capacity.

Many people wrongly assume that solar PV panels don’t work in cold or cloudy places, but solar still excels, even in some of the world’s least sunny places. Germany, which ranks relatively low on the sunny scale, is recognised as a world leader in solar energy generation, with solar accounting for an estimated 7 per cent of the country’s net electricity generation in 2014.

Solar panels have been proven to operate more efficiently in lower temperatures because when solar panels are colder, they are able to better conduct electricity.

The reason that summer is still the best overall season for solar output is because the months of December, January and February tend to have more sunny days and fewer cloudy days, and have longer daylight hours.

Saving money with rooftop solar PV panels in Australia

If you are interested in using solar power to save money on your electricity bill, you need to consider the amount of sunshine you get over an entire year, rather than on any particular day.

When you feed solar power back into the electricity grid, your electricity company will look at what you’ve produced over a full year to calculate how much to pay you.

Even if you aren’t generating enough energy to feed back into the grid, harnessing solar energy to power your own home or business will still reduce your electricity bill.

Estimate your potential annual savings on your electricity bill with this solar savings calculator or find out how to go solar with Momentum Energy.

Renewable energy

Printable solar cells

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Paper thin solar cells on paper can now be produced with inkjet printing. This will allow solar cells to be much cheaper and be placed almost anywhere.

It may still seem far fetched to imagine our houses powered by solar cells in curtains, blinds and windows. But some scientists say it will eventually be possible to print photovoltaic elements on a huge range of surfaces and materials – creating cheap, printable solar cells in place of more costly silicon panels.

Printable solar cells offer exciting potential for generating electricity more flexibly and at a lower cost, wherever the sun shines. In the traditional silicon solar PV we see on people’s rooftops, the most costly component is the silicon material that holds the photovoltaic elements. Silicon is abundant and non-toxic, but it is expensive to process into wafers for traditional rooftop solar PV panels.

New developments in printed solar cells could allow solar energy to be cheaply and easily converted into electricity almost anywhere, including walls, windows, roller blinds, shade umbrellas, and even tents.

The idea of using your tent to harvest power on trips to the beach or a camping weekend could really propel glamping (glamorous camping) to the next level, with free on-site electricity powering life’s little luxuries!

towards commercially viable printable solar cells

Currently, printable solar cells have only reached about 10 per cent efficiency, whereas traditional silicon solar PV cells are closer to 25% efficient. The life span of the printed solar cells is also only six months. So researchers are working to increase their efficiency, weather-resistance and life span to reach commercial viability.

In late 2014, a consortium from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the University of Melbourne and Monash University announced that their printable solar cells were on the verge of commercialisation.

A team of 50 chemists, physicists and engineers – working together since 2007 – hope to see printed solar panels used in low-power applications within the next few years.

CSIRO photovoltaic expert Dr Fiona Scholes explained the team hoped they could achieve a similar power delivery at a significantly reduced cost.

“Silicon is falling in price, but think about how cheap plastic is. The ink is a negligible cost, so the raw materials are very cost effective. This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of. Also the consistency is better than silicon – they work well in cloudy conditions,” said Dr Scholes.

The CSIRO’s Scholes said although silicon cells are still on top of the market, she predicts printed solar cells will be “a key part of the renewable energy mix”. While the team can’t produce the cells commercially itself, a number of manufacturing companies are stepping forward.

How are printable solar cells made?

At the moment, printable solar cells are made by printing a specially developed ‘solar ink’ onto plastic film, similar to the way plastic bank notes are printed.

Whatever the method or the materials used, the solar principles remain the same:

  • Incoming photons free electrons and send them scattering through the solar cell’s material before being channelled into an electrical circuit.
  • The efficiency of the solar cell depends both on how well the material captures light to set these electrons free, as well as how effortlessly the electrons travel through the material.

Researchers such as the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium are developing processes for printing solar cells onto all manner of surfaces using various printing, dyeing and spraying techniques. The solar cells can be printed straight onto paper-thin, flexible plastic, as well as onto steel, and can be made semi-transparent for building cladding and windows.

Technology

Solar windows for sustainable power

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Solar stained-glass window marries design with sustainable science

A London-based Dutch designer has combined art, science, chemistry and solar know-how to bring beauty and energy to buildings via a power-producing stained-glass window.

Marjan van Aubel has teamed up with scientists, designers and manufacturers to create a window using coloured glass and dye-sensitised solar cells.

The window can charge small electrical devices via USB ports incorporated into its frame or ledge, and is aptly titled “Current Window”.

Mimicking photosynthesis

It all works by putting titanium dioxide particles on a piece of transparent glass that is then dyed. The dyeing allows the titanium dioxide to better absorb sunlight.

Like photosynthesis – how plants convert sunlight into energy – the dyed solar glass uses the properties of colour to harness light to create energy.

When light falls on the pattern of blue, orange, and pink dye-sensitised solar cells, electrons stored in the titanium dioxide are released, creating an electrical current.

Unlike traditional solar cells that require direct sunlight to generate a current, van Aubel’s designs can charge even in diffused light.

The solar cells are packed between two panes of toughened glass and connected to a battery. The window can sustainably generate up to 25 watts per day, and the battery provides power in low light conditions.

Not just for homes

The first “Current Window” will be installed in a London home later in 2015.

Van Aubel’s window will not only suit home-owners looking for renewable energy, but will also offer significant sustainable energy benefits when installed in schools, hospitals, libraries and offices, which can harness free, sustainable power from their larger window areas.

See de zeen magazine for more information.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy for renewable times

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As entrepreneur Richard Branson recently said, “We need to stop treating Earth like we have a Planet B. To do this we must support companies and individuals who seek innovative solutions to our most challenging problems, and in turn use business as a force for good.”

In the past, burning fossil fuels was often considered the best and cheapest way to create electricity, but such fuels are finite and when all things are considered, may not be the most economical. Most people these days realise the range of reasons why we should explore and develop alternative sources of energy.

Renewable energies such as hydro, wind and solar power use resources that are constantly replenished, and are far less damaging to human health and to the environment than using fossil fuels to create electricity. Using alternative, cleaner sources of power will provide significant health benefits for generations to come, and because renewables release far less greenhouse gases, they play an important role in limiting climate change.

Even though coal is still being used worldwide, other resources such as hydro, solar and wind power are rapidly becoming more popular as the technology improves and becomes more efficient. As these alternative energy sources become more established and widespread, they also become cheaper.

Solar power

According a report by The International Energy Agency in 2014, “since 2010, the world has added more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than in the previous four decades. Total global capacity overtook 150 gigawatts (GW) in early 2014.” This growth is driven by a number of factors, including solar power becoming become more cost-effective and efficient.

According to US analyst Ray Kurzweil, solar power will be able to supply global energy needs on its own in just two decades or less.

Naturally, solar panels produce electricity while the sun is shining and therefore rely on energy storage in other systems to be able to continue to provide electricity at other times. The development of simpler and larger home-storage battery systems, like the Tesla Powerwall can further help the uptake of solar power systems.

Wind power

Likewise, energy from the wind is also becoming more popular worldwide and is estimated to generate up to 18% of global power by 2050. In July 2014, Denmark produced enough electricity from wind to meet its domestic needs, as well as to export its excess energy to neighbouring countries. Australia has a number of wind farms built in Tasmania in the prevailing westerly winds, the roaring 40s, which are a world class wind asset.

Bluff Point Wind Farm
Bluff Point Wind Farm

How is Australia Using Wind and Solar Energy?

The notion that renewable energy will one day replace fossil-fuelled energy production is an idea that’s gaining momentum.

In Australia, wind power is currently the “cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy”. As of July 2015, Australian Government figures showed that wind energy in Australia generated around almost 4% of total primary energy consumption.

Additionally, according to ARENA “Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world.” More than 2 million Australian households have solar hot water systems or rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

According to the Clean Energy Council, approximately 40% of South Australia’s power came from renewable energy during 2014 and South Australia was completely powered by renewable energy between 9.30am and 6pm on 30 September in 2014.

King Island Clean Energy Milestone

Momentum Energy is proudly owned by Australia’s largest generator of clean energy, Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania embarked on a clean energy journey more than 100 years ago. It is now Australia’s leading producer of renewable energy.

Hydro Tasmania’s record as a leader in clean energy continues with the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project (KIREIP). KIREIP’s main goal is to increase renewable energy generation and reduce dependence on fossil fuels on King Island. KIREIP uses a range of renewable and conventional technologies to reduce diesel consumption for power generation on the island. The hybrid power system is comprised of wind, solar, battery storage, flywheels, dynamic resistor technology, dynamic load control and the use of biofuels.

This combination of technologies means KIRIEP can securely and reliably generate power for King Island, even during lulls in the wind or when the sun isn’t shining. When conditions are right, KIREIP delivers 100 per cent of King Island’s power from renewable sources, reducing the cost of providing electricity to the island.

This project gives a glimpse of the possible future of renewable energy – where renewable energy can work with enabling and storage technologies in a hybrid off-grid power system.

If you’re interested in learning more about this project, you can read more about the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project here.

 

At HomeAt Work

Solar panels only need UV light

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Do solar panels work in cold, cloudy places?

Some people think that solar panels don’t work in cold, cloudy places, but even the world’s lowest ranking plances for sunny days have excelled. In fact, solar panels are better able to conduct electricity when they are cold.

Are you thinking of installing a solar power system? Estimate your annual savings on your electricity bill with this solar savings calculator.

Learn more about how solar panels work on cloudy days.

At HomeAt Work

Do PV solar panels work in cloudy weather?

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The solar revolution has made solar energy an increasingly powerful force in the energy arena. Solar panels help us harvest this energy and convert it into usable, renewable energy that meets the everyday needs of our modern life. Solar panels convert this solar radiation into useful electrical energy, which is then stored in batteries for use or fed back into the electricity grid. Enough solar radiation strikes the earth every day to meet the earth’s energy needs for an entire year.

Do solar panels work in cloudy weather?

While solar panels aren’t as efficient in cloudy conditions as during bright, sunny days, they still do their job, just at a reduced rate. Depending on your specific panels and the amount of cloud cover, solar panels can still produce 10-25% of their rated capacity.

Do solar panels work in colder climates?

Many people have wrongly assumed that solar panels don’t work in cold or cloudy places, but even the world’s lowest ranking places for sunny days have excelled. Germany, who ranks low in sunny days, is globally recognized as the solar energy capital of the world with solar accounting for an estimated 6.2 to 6.9 percent of the country’s net-electricity generation in 2014.

There is a common misconception that solar panels are less efficient in cold weather. However, solar panels have proven to be more efficient in the lower temperatures found in autumn or spring, as when solar panels are colder, they are able to better conduct electricity. The reason summer is the best overall season is due to the consistently higher amount of sunshine and fewer cloudy days in the months of December, January and February, as well as the longer day light hours that we enjoy over the summer months.

rooftop solar panels
Rooftop solar panels in Australia

Long-term outlook

When looking to solar power to help you be more energy efficient and to help you save money on your electricity bill, you should consider the amount of sunshine you get over an entire year, and not on any particular day.

Some days will be sunnier than others, but when feeding solar power back into the electricity grid, your electric company will look at what you’ve produced over a full year as they calculate how much to pay you.

Even if you aren’t generating enough energy to feed back into the grid, you should be able to reduce your electricity bill by harnessing solar energy with solar panels on your home or business and using this power instead.

Estimate your annual savings on your electricity bill after you have installed a solar power system with this solar savings calculator.

Find out how to go solar with Momentum Energy.