Basic Solar Guide

About #

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

How does solar energy work? #

Solar Panels covert sunlight to energy. Using the photovoltaic effect, solar panels convert sunlight during the day into energy. Solar panels contain silicon cells that create free electrons when exposed to sunlight, which flow through an electrical circuit.

The quantity of solar panels you would need depends on:

  • Your energy usage
  • Your estimated savings and payback period
  • How much sunshine you receive in your location.
  • Angle and orientation of your roof, any potential shading
  • How much energy you consume in the winter/summer seasons
Installing a Solar Inverter #

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.

Switchboard Routes #

A solar inverter has to be connected to the switchboard so it can be used as a power source. If the home is grid-connected, the house will prioritise using the solar energy you generated from the array and any additional energy required would be seamlessly drawn from the grid. If you have generated more energy than used and have excess energy, that surplus can be exported to the grid through a ‘feed-in tariff’.

You could additionally connect solar batteries to the switchboard or a ‘battery-compatible’ hybrid inverter, allowing you to store energy for any future usage, more information below.

Utility meter records #

Once solar is installed in your property, your electricity retailer is required to replace your current meter with a bi-direction meter. This meter records all power that is drawn to the house and any solar energy that is exported back to the grid.

Grid-rules #

The Distributed Network Service Provider (DNSP) is the company operating the grid in your local area, they managed the poles and the wires. A small portion of your costs are paid to the DNSP for the maintenance and operational costs of the network, which is bundled into your electricity retailer bills. Each DNSP have slightly different rules on how much solar can be installed, and have different rates on how much energy you can export to the grid.

Additional Information #
  • Most DNSPs permit solar up to 5kW (inverter-size) with permission to export via a relatively automated approval process
  • For commercial projects over 30kW a network protection device is required
  • For commercial projects over 100kW a more detailed approval process usually is required meaning an engineering study will need to be completed to approve the system – and there might be some design alterations required for the install to be approved
How does solar energy work? Step by Step | Solar Choice
Image from Solar Choice: How does solar work?

Solar 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.