‘Why I installed a solar panel on the terrace of my apartment’

Brussels resident Tom Kenis has been at the center of attention in recent weeks when the solar panel on his terrace caught the eye of some passers-by who posted pictures of it on social media. In this contribution, he explains how and why he equipped his south balcony with a mini panel.

Although the electricity prices in my energy cooperative have not yet increased, last May I installed a so-called ‘plug-and-play’ solar panel on my balcony. I bought the panel itself, micro-inverter, mounting hooks and a WiFi plug via webshops in the Netherlands and Germany, with which I follow the production via the smartphone. With an investment of 600 Euros, half of what an iPhone costs, I roughly cover the consumption of the refrigerator (+- 200 Kilowatt-hours on an annual basis). Call it amps from that Aldi, but depending on the electricity price, a southern balcony easily saves 100 to 200 Euros a year.

Photo: Tom Kenis

A spokesman for Sibelga, the Brussels network operator, used the word ‘fraud’. geez dude. Maybe time to adapt dusty rules to an acute crisis rather than chastise citizens’ falls on the stove? The director of the Flanders Sustainable Energy Sector Federation states that it is more interesting to share energy. And look, a small school across from me has a flat, unused roof. I’m already sharpening the paper machete. To be continued

Just zoom out

At any given time of day, the nearest star is sending 174,000,000,000,000,000 Watts our way. A hypothetical area of ​​335 by 335 km of solar panels, about 1.2 percent of the Sahara, covers all human energy needs. Additionally, the solar heat swirling through the atmosphere produces many times more wind than we can ever consume.

So much for the theory. The sun doesn’t always shine. Ditto wind. And yet humans are gradually becoming particularly adept at storing energy, aided by computers that send electrons with lightning speed where they are most needed. So good, in fact, that in most places it is cheaper to install new solar or wind capacity than to keep long-depreciated coal, gas or nuclear power plants running.

The latter exists today only by virtue of government subsidies: 5.9 trillion dollars worldwide just for fossil fuels. While solar and wind become cheaper month after month. The discrepancy is rapidly bringing us to a point where the fossil and nuclear house of cards irrevocably collapses. Correction: we are in the middle of this process, with all the chaos and violence it entails.

Happiness lurks in a small corner

Solar and wind are not only cheaper than traditional sources, they work on both a large and small scale. The Economist already talked twenty years ago about ‘micro-grids’: energy production and consumption on the scale of cities, neighbourhoods, your own home. And let that be the lesson we should have learned in recent years. Long supply chains; production, processing and transportation of oil, gas, uranium or electricity in the hands of a few inevitably leads to power imbalances. Read: high prices, extortion, war.

When European officials think about cutting fossil subsidies and leveling the ground for cheap wind and solar, they still think in terms of large, centralized “providers” on the one hand and on the other: you and me, the passive consumer who pays . And pays. Is hydrogen shipping from Namibia anyone? Or actually… solar energy from the Sahara. What could go wrong?


Essential services such as food and energy are best produced as close to the consumer as possible – if possible by the consumer himself. Call it emancipation.

The lucky owners of a southern gable roof have known this for some time – no matter how much pinball regulations make their lives miserable. People without gable roofs, owners or tenants of an apartment, can pat themselves on the chin. Or not?

In the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the government has for some time allowed citizens to install so-called plug-and-play solar panels on balconies. In Germany and Austria, respectively, you don’t even have to specify them up to 600 and 800 Watts. Via a micro-inverter built into the panel directly into the socket and hopla! When you move, you just take it with you.


My mini panel and the app on my smartphone have already made me more aware. About what a Kilowatt hour is, or why some people prefer not to see citizens stand on their own two feet, step by step. Every story has winners and losers. It speaks. Speaking of legs, this Sunday I’m participating in the big climate march. Let this text be my banner. And leave a small balcony free for people with charm to do the sum themselves. A single, unsupported pen stroke is enough. A you, Tinne?

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