Back in October 1996, the first solar electric system was connected to the grid at the Institute for Energy Technology of the University of Malta, Marsaxlokk. Eng. Charles Yousif, a researcher at the Institute has conducted several studies on the system and compared its performance to stand-alone solar systems with battery charging. More recently, the systemís performance was compared to a single-axis tracking solar plant installed at the same site.
Several scientific papers were presented and published in international conferences and journals on this topic, however one of the most important results of this hands-on research was its direct application in a local scenario. Furthermore, two privately-owned systems were designed and installed based on the Instituteís experience.
Over the past six years, the solar system has provided 60% of the Institute's electricity needs, while the electricity grid provided the remaining 40%. More quantitatively, the solar system has saved LM 450 in electricity consumption and 2.65 tonnes of fuel oil that would otherwise have been burnt at the power station. The resulting savings have contributed towards a better environment by reducing flue gas emissions by 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide as well as appreciable amounts of sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and filterable particles.
An interesting feature of this study reveals that for each 10 m sq. of flat roof-top area occupied by solar modules inclined at 36° to the horizontal, a mean annual electricity output of 1840 kWh may be produced in Malta, enough to cover over 40% of an average Maltese householdís electricity consumption.
Coupled with the installation of such applications, one also has to choose energy efficient appliances. As an example, the Institute's energy efficient lights have only accounted for 10% of the building's electricity consumption. A solar water heater would further reduce the electricity bill with a relatively short payback period.
The Institute's research concludes that based on economic measures alone and the current cost of electricity, solar photovoltaic applications in Malta could be feasible by the year 2010 and beyond. However one would definitely find better reasons for implementing solar photovoltaics today. A solar system would increase the value of the property and could be integrated in the construction of new or renovated buildings in such a way as to give an aesthetic and unique appearance, while benefiting from the sun's rays and contributing towards a better environment.