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Man installs solar panel on apartment balcony to save on energy bills

06:45 19/10/2022

A Brussels man has installed a single solar panel on his balcony, saying the unconventional placement is already saving him up to €180 on his energy bills.

But it remains unclear whether such an action is technically allowed, as the solar panel is not a professionally installed one but rather a plug-and-play model that can be hooked up via any ordinary outlet.

Its owner Tom Kenis told Bruzz he is not particularly concerned either way. “I bet I'm not actually allowed, but I've only received questions from neighbours interested in potentially copying this solution,” Kenis said.

“Everyone sees their bills going up. We’re in a climate emergency. I didn't want to wait until there’s a framework for it or for the co-residents to agree to it. I've been looking at it for a few years out of ecological interest, to do my bit.”

Kenis has had the solar panel plugged in on his balcony since May.

“In Germany and the Netherlands they’ve been around for years, and are very popular,” he explained, adding that it was from these countries that he acquired the necessary materials to get the solar panel system set up.

“You do have to declare the solar panels in those countries, but the paperwork is minimal.”

The total cost for his installation was just €600, but the setup is estimated to save him about 200 kilowatt hours (kWh).

“That's about what your fridge consumes in a year,” said Kenis. “So with the current kilowatt-hour price being between €0.50 and €0.90, I could save around €100 to €180 on an annual basis. That's pretty nice.”

Consumer organisation Test Achats indicates there is indeed a legal framework for solar panel installation that makes it unlikely Kenis’s actions are completely within the confines of the law.

“Rules apply to so-called 'decentralised generation installations operating in parallel with the distribution network',” the organisation's website reads.

“These stipulate that such installations must in fact be connected with fixed cabling. It is therefore forbidden to simply connect them with a plug.”

But Kenis said these regulations are too narrowly defined and he hopes this will change: “A separate regulation could be, for example, that for one to four panels, plug-and-play wiring is allowed.”

Test Achats said plug-and-play solar panels offer far smaller financial returns, but Kenis disagrees, and cites their popularity in the Netherlands and Germany.

“I would be very surprised that price-conscious Dutch people and rational Germans would invest so massively into this system if it makes no economic sense,” he said.

While Kenis agrees with Test Achats that a conventional solar panel installation is preferable and more profitable, he argues that in his particular case, the panel he installed is the only feasible option to address both the climate crisis and the energy crisis, and he is satisfied with it.

Written by Helen Lyons