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Retirees are turning to solar power

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Renewable choice: Solar energy systems are increasing in popularity with retirees and those planning their retirement, according to Nick Duffy, of Bermuda Alternative Energy (Photograph by Scott Neil)

Retirees and those preparing for retirement are increasingly looking to the sky for a way to bring a degree of certainty about some of their future household expenses.

Many are installing solar panels at their properties to generate electricity that they can use in their home, and sell any excess to the Bermuda Electric Light Company.

It is a trend that has been noticed by Nick Duffy, divisional manager at Bermuda Alternative Energy, which is part of the BAC group.

He explained how households can reduce their monthly energy bill by generating some their electricity needs through solar panels. He said the attraction is even greater for those who are retired or soon to retire.

Being at home during the daytime means a retiree can make full use of the energy being produced by a solar energy system in the peak daytime hours.

Appliances such as air conditioning units, washing machines and cookers can be used, making the most use of the solar-produced electricity.

Because storage battery technology has not reached a price point where electricity produced by solar panels can be easily and economically saved for use during the hours of darkness, most residents put any excess electricity from their panels into the Bermuda energy grid at a set price that is below what they pay to use Belco’s electricity.

However, retirees and those who are home during daytime hours can make better use of solar energy their panels are capturing.

Mr Duffy said: “Having solar makes sense for those who are entering retirement or setting things up for retirement.”

He said most people in that position are looking for ways to stabilise and fix their future household costs and expenses.

“In Bermuda one of the big unknowns is the Belco bill. It’s not something that’s easy to manage as it fluctuates.”

Energy rates can change and the fuel adjustment regularly fluctuates due to the impact of factors beyond Bermuda’s shores.

Mr Duffy said: “The key to solar energy is that peak solar production comes during the main daylight hours. The panels are producing the most during the hours when many people are not at home as they are out working.

“But for a retiree, they are going to be in their domicile during the day and when the solar system is going to be producing the most electricity.”

He said the issue was not so much how much energy they are using, but when they use it. Being at home when solar panels are working at their peak means a retiree can gently cool or warm their home so that it is already near or at their requirements when the evening arrives and they have to switch to using electricity from the grid.

As storage battery technology evolves it will increasingly possible for excess electricity from solar panels to be cleanly and efficiently stored for later use when the sun goes down.

“Storage is imminent. Once the price is at the right level that will be a game changer,” said Mr Duffy.

“In terms of the retiree, the really great thing is if you buy solar it is not like you are buying a product. You are investing. It’s a long-term investment. The nice thing about solar for a retiree is the relatively good payback. After it has been set up it will pay for itself within seven or eight years.

“You could start at 58 and then when you reach 65 it [the solar energy system] has paid for itself. Then you have an asset that can last for 25 years or longer.”

Mr Duffy said some customers were adding solar panels incrementally as they see the benefits and want to make more use of renewable energy.

He added: “It’s attractive to someone who is retiring. It is something that you can manage in the run-up to retirement.

“We have people saying they are doing it as they prepare for retirement. It stabilises one of the big unknown costs.

“And it adds to the value of your home. You can show your Belco bills that are all zeros to a potential buyer — that’s attractive.”

BAE has a website at www.bae.bm

Renewable choice: Solar energy systems are increasing in popularity with retirees and those planning their retirement, according to Nick Duffy, of Bermuda Alternative Energy (Photograph by Scott Neil)