Advanced Solar Guide

Q Cells expands premium range in Australia – pv magazine Australia
Q.cells panels on roof

Getting started: Solar in Australia #

The three most common types of solar systems in Australia are:

Grid-connected systems #

The majority of residential solar PV systems installed in Australia are grid-connected. Anytime your system is unable to produce sufficient electricity like at night-time or when it is cloudy, you can draw power from the grid once you have used up your generated solar power. Via a feed-in tariff you can sell your power back to the grid.

Off-grid systems #

Off-grid systems are standalone solar PV systems connected with a battery to provide 24-hour solar. These power solutions are common in more rural parts of Australia as it is costly for those in the outback to connect to the grid, in which case off-grid systems are a good power source as it is more economically and environmentally viable. Although it generally has a high upfront cost, it will pay itself and from there-on power will be free through its lifetime.

Hybrid solar systems #

Hybrid solar systems are grid-connected systems with a battery, giving you the ability to store solar energy to reuse whenever there is no solar power. They can serve as an excellent back-up power source, although batteries come at a high upfront cost and require installing a hybrid inverter,

Solar Power is an Investment #

Solar Power is not only for saving the environment, it could be an investment where along with reducing your electricity bill it could even make a profit.

Offsetting your energy consumption #

The primary method a solar system can reduce your energy costs is reducing the total amount of electricity you draw in from the grid. A grid-connected system prioritises using solar energy first and supply’s the rest from your electricity retailer. Commonly households offset 30 to 70% of their energy usage with solar depending on how much of their electricity is consumed during daylight hours. You can maximise this off-set percentage to 100% with a battery storage system

Feed in tariff for excess energy #

The amount of solar energy generated by your solar panel system is proportionate to the amount of sunlight that hits the panels, there will be times when there is a surplus of energy created which can be sold back to the grid at a rate called a ‘feed-in tariff’. Feed-in tariff rates are dependent on which state and which energy retailer you are with. Your possible feed-in tariff rate may also be limited to a maximum solar system size

Orientation | YourHome
Orient your panels to face north to get most sunlight

Orientation and Sunlight #

Ideally to have the maximum amount of sunlight, the panel arrays should face north as the sun is coming from the north facing direction as we are in the southern hemisphere. If north isn’t an option generally it recommended to do north-east or north-west followed by west and due east. Shadows may also pose a problem as shading reduces the amount of sunlight, it is bad enough if it is cloudy which why make sure there are no obstacles such as trees.

Solar Hot Water #

A solar hot water system is slightly different from a solar PV system. Whilst a solar pv system converts sunlight into useable energy, a solar hot water system harnesses the sun’s energy to heat water. Through the use of a panel and a water tank, heat is absorbed by the panels heating the water underneath in pipes which circulates to the tank, storing hot water.

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image from sa.gov

Calculating Your Energy Bill and how much you can save #

The first step you have to do is to look at your energy bill, it lets you determine what the right system size is for your needs. Talk to a solar installer so you can get an idea of how much you want to save depending on the size of install, generally a larger sized system would have a lower pay-back period which is the amount of time estimated for a system to pay itself off. You save money by offsetting the amount of energy that is drawn from the grid and by selling energy for a feed-in tariff. To maximize savings, you would have to understand how much solar energy you will be self-consuming to estimate your savings.

Increasing self-consumption of Solar Energy #

An efficient method of reducing your energy bills is increasing your reliance on solar energy, this can be done by using appliances during day-time as much as possible. The following are common household appliances that you can consider applying a timer to. These are easily obtainable from a hardware store or an electrician can install one for you. We have a guide here for how much electricity do house-hold appliances use.

  • Electric hot water system
  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Swimming pool pump
  • Underfloor heating system

Cheap Solar Brands #

Cheap solar is mighty tempting, there many companies that will offer a deal such as ‘One Time Offer $2500 for 6.6 kW’ which is a very low price for a system of that size. It is recommended to treat such companies with caution as usually there may be major sacrifices made to bring the price that low, things such as customer servicing, product quality and shoddy installation procedures.

It is recommended to do your research on solar companies first, their company history and reputation. Ultimately if it is too cheap, you may encounter many problems and a too cheap solution will cost you more long-term than a good quality well-priced system. Nowadays there is alot of solar equipment being manufactured in china, read our post on solar panels made in china.

Extra costs to consider #

Additional costs may be incurred depending on the situation of your property, our installers would outline to you what extras may come up. Below are some examples of common items that may apply to your property.

Extra CostPriceReason
2 Storied Building Need to use edge protection and hire a scissor lift
Tile Roof Extra work required for installers as they need to remove many tiles to fasten mounting structure to roof battens
Kliplok Roof Sheeting Specialised non-penetrative clamps required which are not required for other roof materials
Tilt Frames Usually only required if your roof is south-facing or completely flat to correct tilt or prevent dirt build up
Switchboard upgrade No electrical contractor can install solar on a switchboard that isn’t to code without replacing it first
3-phase properties Properties with a three-phase power supply require compatible solar inverters that are more expensive than single-phase inverters

Australia’s Solar Rebate #

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) was introduced in 2011 to encourage people to buy solar. The SRES issues Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) to homes and businesses that install systems under 100 kW, in terms of number of solar panels. The STC’s are created once you have commissioned a system from us and will take a certain amount off your upfront costs.

Prices effective from 9th February 2021 (9am EDT)

Choosing Quality Equipment #

Solar is a long-term investment; it is highly recommended to go with good quality products to maximize the life-span of your system. We can recommend certain brands and tailor your system specifications to suit your needs, however, it is advised to do some research to determine if a brand is ‘good’.  Some brands offer different warranties and some have offices based in Australia, making it easier for you to seek after-sale support and get replacements easily. Rest assured we do not offer any brands that have shoddy customer support, making it difficult to service your system. Some good indicators of products are Bloomberg Tier 1 solar panels ranking. You could also check out brands mentioned as a ‘top performer’ in PV Evolution Labs independent testing which is completed every year.

Inverters #

A Solar Inverter converts DC energy to AC energy. Once you have energy from the panels, you can’t use it in your homes yet. Direct Current (DC) electricity is generated by the panels which is then connected by an electrical cable to a Solar Inverter, installed near the switchboard. Most appliances in the home use Alternating Current (AC) electricity, the amount of energy you can use depends on the inverter, make sure the you buy an inverter that suits your solar panel array (consider future-proofing, and batteries)

Does the quality of the Inverter matter? #

The solar inverter is a box, that converts solar panel output from DC to AC electricity, which is suitable for use by home appliances and feeding into the mains grid. The problem with solar inverters is that while they are arguably the most crucial component of any solar power system, as without a functioning inverter your panels won’t work. They are subject to high and varying voltage levels, high temperature ranges and moisture and dust. The inverter is the component that is most likely to fail and thus typically have lesser warranty periods than solar panels.

So the quality of the inverter does matter a little, as not all inverters are equal. Moisture and dust exposure can impact the seal of the inverter, causing shoddy circuitry and may heat up the inverter, which then impacts the efficiency and the serviceable life of the unit.

Batteries #

Solar batteries can be added to your solar PV array, to store solar energy when there is a surplus created, this energy can be used in the evening when there is no sunlight to generate energy or can be stored and exported back to the grid via feed-in tariff.

Solar batteries can also be used to generate additional income if you were to participate in a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) scheme.

A solar battery can either be connected to a hybrid inverter or to the switchboard . Batteries store energy in direct current, so when a battery is connected to a hybrid solar inverter, DC electricity generated directly from the solar panels charge the battery. Once a battery is charged, discharge energy can be converted by the hybrid solar inverter into Alternating Current. When a battery is connected to the switchboard, it is ‘AC Coupled’ which means it receives AC power. These types of batteries have an internal inverter which converts AC power to DC to store it. Despite this method being more inefficient, it is more compatible with basically all solar inverters and can be used without any solar panels.

Off-Grid #

The majority of solar system installations in Australia are grid-connected systems. Grid-connected systems are for homes connected to the electricity grid. Off-grid or ‘stand-alone’ systems are for properties not connected to the electricity grid. Off-grid has many applications, they are connected batteries and many in rural Australia resort to Off-grid due to the high costs of connecting to the grid.

There are also hybrid solar systems, in which properties have a higher level of energy independence due to having batteries connected, this does involve having a hybrid inverter but allows you to simultaneously have back-up storage whilst being connected to the grid as additional back-up.

Solar Power is much safer #

Solar power is a safer method of generating electricity as it does not involve combustion of any material to produce power. Solar power utilizes voltaic cells to convert solar radiation into energy. Maintenance is minimal compared to a diesel power generator; you leave your solar power system running at all times.

Off-Grid Solar Is a Space Saver #

Retrofit your boat or caravan with solar power, panels come in all shapes sizes to suit most motorhome installation areas, only solar panels and a battery pack would be needed, saving you lots of space without having to rely on bulky, heavy off-grid power generation methods.

Fewer Power Interruptions #

Wherever you may be, as long as you have enough electricity in your battery, you wouldn’t be worrying about power outages as you can always generate energy from the sun. Also, with less moving parts compared to a generator, there is a lesser chance of malfunction and thus fewer power interruptions.

Commercial Solar #

Commercial Solar systems are meant for industrial use and are much larger in scale in terms of kW of energy produced, we offer a myriad of services that will help you with your commercial solar needs.

Solar on the roof of factory

Solar for Business #

Cost Effectiveness #

Before investing in any solar system in Bundaberg, make sure to check for cost effectiveness. Depending upon your particular need and area, there are various components that influence the cost viability for your business, including:

Solar Power System Size #

Bigger solar power system can cost less money per watt than small systems due to economies of scale.

Operation and Maintenance #

In contrast with other power generation methods, O&M expenses of solar-powered systems are generally low. Expenses may incorporate infrequent cleaning of solar modules, customary visual examinations and repair, and conceivable substitution of inverters or other components.

Solar System Production #

Installing your system at the correct orientation and pitch will ensure that you are getting the best possible results. Overall system production will also depend on the location of the installation.

Installation Complexity #

More complex installations include ground-mounted systems. Working around deterrents, such as funnels and HVAC gear, and building-coordinated custom establishments can be more extravagant in price.

Tax Benefits #

Natural Technology can provide you details to take advantage of this, complying with ATO requirements; Small businesses (under $2 million revenue) can apply for accelerated depreciation for purchases under $20,000.