Solar panels gain popularity after Seoul offers subsidies

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Solar panels gain popularity after Seoul offers subsidies

Heo Jung-ja, a 51-year-old resident of Dongjak District in southern Seoul, doesn’t worry about her electric bills this summer.

“I first heard this good news two years ago,” Heo says, “when I found out that Seoul city government is helping fund the installation of solar panels for residents.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been financially supporting the installation of mini-solar panels that can be installed on apartment verandas or windows since 2014. Its support for installation of large solar panels on rooftops dates to 2004.

The city subsidizes some 300,000 won($269) for one 260-watt panel, 725,000 won for one 750-watt panel, and 2.1 million won for one 3-kilowatt panel installed on rooftops of houses.

The cost including installation differs by company but ranges from some 640,000 won ($578) for a 260-watt panel to 1.95 million won for a 750-watt panel. The 3-kilowatt panel is known to cost some 7 to 8 million won.

According to the city government, installing one 260-watt mini-solar panel will reduce an average monthly electric bill by 8,320 won for a household that uses 304 kilowatts of electricity per hour. Installing a 3-kilowatt panel will reduce the bill by 104,670 won for a household that uses 500 kilowatts of electricity per hour.

In December 2014, Heo installed four 50-watt solar panels, together able to generate 200 watts of electricity per hour when fully charged.

Her electricity bill dropped by half. She paid 61,870 won to the electric company in July 2013. In July 2015, she only had to pay 32,780 won.

“I save about 10,000 won on my electricity bills due to the solar panels in the summer,” Heo says. “And I save some 20,000 won more because I changed all my lights in my house to LED light bulbs.”

Buying and installing the four 50-watt solar panels cost 650,000 won. The city government paid 300,000 won.

Because Heo’s apartment complex was designated as an official energy-saving apartment - an initiative to award towns and residential areas with more than 50 households leading efforts in saving energy - she received another 100,000 won from the city government, and another 100,000 won when 130 households in the apartment complex installed the mini-solar panels. Seoul provides the extra 100,000 won subsidy when more than 20 households in an apartment complex install panels.

After all the subsidies, Heo paid only 150,000 won for the four 50-watt panels. Each one is 1 meter wide and 35 centimeters long, and they are placed on the outside of the apartment, usually hung on outer window sills or veranda bars.

According to the city government, the number of households installing the mini-solar panels doubled in the year after it started the initiative in 2014. In the first year, 1,777 households installed them. The next year, 3,258 more households installed them.

“We already have 2,141 more households who installed them this year,” said Jeong Ji-hyun, an official of the Green Energy Division of the Climate and Environment Headquarters of the city government. “But the city can support only so much. Its budget on the program is limited to 3 billion won, half of which has been used, so I suggest interested residents apply as soon as they can.”

Applications can be made by calling a solar panel company enlisted on solarmap.seoul.go.kr.

BY CHO HAN-DAE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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