Solar Energy – Harvesting The Power Of The Sun

Nowadays, you would need to travel far to find a person that is unfamiliar with the term “solar energy. The term is so popular, even kids are able to explain what it is. However, if we are able to ask any primary school students in the late 1980’s on how they foresee year 2020, there is a high chance that we would get either one of these replies :-

  1. Everyone would own a jet-pack
  2. Robot-helpers will be replacing nannies
  3. Space tourism would be the norm
jetpack
The Jetpack – What we thought would be a viable mode of transportation by year 2020. Illustration by Freepik.

For some reason, the idea of using solar energy to generate electricity never seemed to come to mind.

Fast forward to 2019, with less than three months to the year 2020, flying cars and robot helpers are yet to be commercially available. Space tourism is exclusively for the elite-rich. On the other hand, renewable energy has started to become a part of our lives. The demand for a cleaner source of energy continues to grow larger than ever.

Here Comes The Age Of Renewable Energy!

In reality, we are still very far from having renewable energy as the main source of power. However, recent trends have shown that the shift towards using alternative energy sources (e.g. wind, solar and geothermal) has been steadily growing. BP plc., a British multinational oil and gas company, reported that in 2018, renewable energy consumption has grown by 14%. This constitutes about 9% of the world’s electricity. This is a significant leap from 2012, where the share of renewable energy was only 4.6% of the world’s electricity.

Primary energy consumption by source
Primary energy consumption by source across the world’s region, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh). Note that renewable energy started to come into picture circa 2010. Source – BP Statistical Review 2016.

Why Choose Solar Energy?

harvesting energy from the Sun
Solar farms. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

The issue with wind-generated electricity is noise pollution that comes from the rotating wind blades. It is also known to cause harm to migrating birds. The intermittent nature of wind flow greatly affects the continuity of electricity generation.

Geothermal, on the other hand, is location-specific. Geothermal reservoirs are not commonly found. Usually, prime sites are often far from population centres. This further increases the distribution costs.

On the other hand, these issues are not a concern with solar power generation. As long as the sun is shining, power can be generated. We can even install our own solar panel on top of our house!

Clearly, solar energy is the better option in the path to improving the share of renewable energy in the world’s power source.

Optimising Solar Energy In Malaysia

Located immediately north of the equator, Malaysia receives lots of sunlight. According to the Malaysian Meteorological Department, we receive an average of six hours of sunlight daily, with hot and sunny weather all year round. These factors show the strong potential that we have in using solar energy to generate electricity.

Solar irradiation map Malaysia
Solar irradiation map across Malaysia. Irradiation levels are higher up north, as compared to the states nearer to the equator. Reproduced with permission from © 2017 The World Bank, Solar resource data: Solargis.

However, that does not mean the solar irradiation level is the same across the whole country. Northern parts of the Peninsular Malaysia (e.g. Bayan Lepas) and Borneo (e.g Kota Kinabalu) receive more solar irradiation as opposed to the states nearer to the equator. Still, with an average annual radiation of 1643 kWh m–2, the potential to use solar energy remains high.

Generating Electricity Through Solar Farms

In 2016, the Energy Commission of Malaysia had launched the Large Scale Solar (LSS) programme. The programme awards licenses to qualified utility companies to build large scale solar farms across Malaysia. As of 2017, about 0.14% of power generation came from LSS. The target is to further improve the share by 0.5% by 2020. Earlier this year, Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin launched the LSS3. The new programme offers an increased quota of 100MW per developer. It aims to further increase electricity generation from solar energy and reducing solar tariffs.

With proper planning and execution, the LSS programme would propel our nation to be a prominent producer of solar-generated electricity. At the same time, larger solar capacity would indirectly help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Solar Panel For Residential Use – Costly Or Affordable?

By now, one may wonder, “How would the normal electricity user participate?” Bidding in the LSS3 scheme is out of the question. Not everyone has a large area to build their own solar farm. The only option is to install our own rooftop solar panels. However, the costs are quite high. Where would one find the money?

Solar panel for residential use. Photo by Vivint Solar on Unsplash.

Enter Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s “TNB Solar Solution” programme. Homeowners can now finance the installation of solar panels on their homes. GSPARX, a wholly-owned TNB subsidiary offers a complete package for interested residential owners. They will conduct a complete assessment and offer professional advice for the best set-up for your home.

With flexible payment options and ZERO (!) upfront payment, generating your own electricity from the sun has never been easier!

Now, the package price is considerably high. The lowest price, at 2kWp, is Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)13,900. However, it comes with one year free maintenance and 24/7 monitoring service.

And the system will be yours (no more monthly payment to GSPARX) after 10 years.

I would call that, a bargain!

Selling Electricity Through Net Energy Metering (NEM)

Under this scheme, homeowners are also encouraged to sign up for Net Energy Metering (NEM). By doing so, the benefits of installing solar panels can be maximised.

Under NEM:

  1. Rooftop solar panels will generate electricity for own consumption.
  2. Excess energy will be exported to TNB’s grid. This, in turn, will offset the part from the electricity bill.

Solar Energy In The Near Future

The government has been very aggressive in promoting solar energy as a secondary electricity source. Currently, the Renewable Energy Transition Roadmap (RETR) 2035 is being developed. Under this grand plan, the idea is to promote peer-to-peer energy trading. As a result, solar prosumers would be able to sell excess electricity to other consumers. Those who are unable to install solar panels on their rooftop would then enjoy the benefits of the NEM scheme.

There are still valid concerns on whether consumers would join the scheme. The availability of skilled workers in assembling and maintaining the solar panels is also being questioned.

However, FDI on setting up solar panel manufacturing plants in Malaysia has been increasing. As a result, the technology transfer to locals will generate more skilled workers. Solar panels produced domestically will also further reduce the costs.

Looking at this positive trend, it is possible that Malaysian may be enjoying cleaner energy, courtesy of the Sun, in the near future.

*Read more on how you can install solar panels from these links:

  1. Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s Solar Solution
  2. GSPARX’s homepage

Muhammad REZA

About Muhammad REZA

An avid reader, who enjoys history and personal development. Takes on everyday as a new learning experience. Dreams of opening a sanctuary for strays one day... until life threw him a curveball... fatherhood. Now all leisure is channelled to raising a happy and well learned princess.

2 Replies to “Solar Energy – Harvesting The Power Of The Sun”

  1. What a coincidence. Went to IGEM yesterday and found out more about NEM. Now it’s more affordable compared to few years ago.. in the range of RM15K

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