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Frequently asked questions about Solar
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight into electricity. You can use the electricity generated by your solar PV system to power your home, your business or even your car.
When sunlight hits the PV cells in a solar panel, electrons move around. These loose electrons can be captured so they move in the same direction around a circuit. An electric current is formed by this flow of electrons in the same direction.
By connecting many PV cells to each other in a panel and wiring a number of panels together (called an array), a flow of electrons is created and produces direct current (DC) electricity. The more panels in an array, the more electricity is made.
Sunlight is a renewable energy source, meaning we will never run out of it. Coal and gas are fossil fuels and will eventually run out. And in our sunny state there’s plenty of sunshine all year round.
Solar power generated during the day when the sun is shining (and even in low light when it’s cloudy) is used instead of drawing electricity from the grid.
The Australian Government offers financial incentives through the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, where you are issued with tradable certificates for eligible solar PV systems.
You may also be able to get a feed-in tariff that pays eligible customers for excess electricity generated and exported to the grid from your solar PV system.
Here’s a case study of one of our happy customers.
In Queensland, the average cost of solar is between $3,000 and $10,000 (From Canstablue “A guide to solar power in QLD”).
The cost can vary greatly due to the quality and efficiency of the panels and components installed. A good rule of thumb is to average $1,000 per kW system size installed. The average sized install in Australian homes right now is 7.7kW.
Care should be taken not to fall for the cheapest options on the market as you may find that you end up with a faulty and/or underperforming system. If you are tempted to go the super cheap option, perhaps read this first.
To size your solar panel system, you need to work out how much electricity you use and when you use it. As a guide, a typical QLD home uses 26kWh of energy a day in Summer (CSIRO – “Typical House Energy Use”).
To calculate your requirements, here are the steps:
1. Look at your electricity bills for the last 12 months and add up your total consumption. Divide by 365 to get your average daily consumption. Many people want to generate enough power to cover 100% of their consumption so they can get the feed-in tariff for excess power produced during the day to offset grid power during the evening or so they can upgrade to batteries in the future.
2. The average solar panel produces between 300 and 400 watts per hour of sunlight. In Queensland, the average number of hours recommended by the Clean Energy Council is 4.2 hours per day. This allows for seasonal and weather fluctuations. So for a home using 26kWh per day, you need a 6.2kW solar system (working at 100% efficiency, i.e. no shade and fully orientated to get optimal sunlight).
3. You can use Google maps to calculate the number of square meters of space on your roof. Enter your address into Google maps, go to satellite view and zoom in. Right click at one corner of your roof and click “Measure Distance”. Then click on each corner of the roof section (do each orientation and level of your roof individually) to get the total numbers of square meters per section.
4. A typical solar panel is 1.7m2 so for a 6.6kW system using 330W panels you will need 20 panels which will need 34m2 roof space (plus space around the edges) for installation.
Use this table as a guide:
Solar Panels will assist you with getting a good deal on energy costs as long as you live in the same house for enough time to recover the establishment costs through investment funds on your power bill.
Less power from the grid – Our solar system encourages you save since you won’t use as much power from the grid.
Cost of power – The price of electricity is rising, so the more you can produce your own energy, the more you’ll be saving.
Stored power – You probably won’t be home to utilise the power created during the day, however, this can be stored and utilised later,especially during top periods when the rate may be higher.
Feed-in tariffs – Any excess energy your system produces can be taken care of feeding into the grid to counterbalance your capacity bill. The refund or payment you get when your feed overabundance power back to the grid is determined by the feed-in tariff. This is offered by our team, and you can pick an arrangement with a relating discount level to suit your necessities and boost your rebate funds.
Property value and rental yields – Solar panels can assist you with saving and acquire back the cost of installation by adding to your property’s market estimated worth . In case you’re selling your property, purchasers may be eager to follow through on a greater price, particularly given the rising electricity costs in Australia. In case you’re a proprietor, occupants may be eager to pay more to lease a property with solar panels since they’ll save money on their power bills.
Installing an eligible system allows the creation of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) with a value that can be redeemed by selling or assigning them. The number of STCs created is based on:
1. amount of renewable electricity the system produces,
2. the climate region where it is installed.
If you buy a solar system today (July 2020), it is subsidised by a federal government scheme worth about $585 per kW installed (based on a $39 STC price). That is around $3,900 off on a typical 6.6kW system that is usually applied at the point of sale, i.e. any advertised prices you see almost certainly have the rebate already applied. Well – current legislation means the solar rebate started to reduce by one fifteenth every year from Jan 2017 until it drops to zero in 2031. At this point, there is no confirmed danger of the rebate being scrapped entirely for the foreseeable future. Below we describe the system size with the appropriate number of panels required for each system and its value of rebate.
The best type for you will vary depending on the installation application.
Monocrystalline silicon: this offers high efficiency and good heat tolerance characteristics in a small footprint. Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) silicon cell based solar panels are now the most popular choice in residential installs. Recent improvements in polycrystalline panel technology have resulted in the development of modules equal to or better than many monocrystalline brands in terms of size, efficiency, and heat tolerance.
Eco Power Market customers in fact get 4 separate product warranties with a PV system. It is usually broken up into the following:
- Panel performance warranty – 25 years (Industry standard)
The performance warranty is to warrant the degradation of the cells over 25 years. The manufacturer may state that the performance will only reduce by say 10% after the first 10 years and then another 10% over the next 15 years. You will find that this warranty is standard across most manufacturers.
- Panel product warranty – typically 5 or 10 years
It is very important that your panels’ product warranty is at least 10 years. If you were to make a claim for faulty performance or worse, no output at all, you can be assured you will be covered under the product warranty.
- Inverter warranty – usually 5 years (sometimes offered with a 10+ year optional upgrade depending on manufacturer)
The inverter warranty is probably the most important warranty you will need. Inverters generally will have a 5-year warranty. Upgrades to 10 years are available with some brands depending on the manufacturer. Reliability can vary and, in some cases, can be difficult to determine when faced with all the different brands on the market. Be sure your installer positions the inverter correctly with adequate ventilation. If it is not installed as per the manufacturer’s specifications your warranty will be void.
- Installation warranty – usually 1 or 2 years and can be up to 10 years in some cases (Provided by the installer) for Eco Power Market Customers, we offer a lifetime guarantee on all workmanship performed.
The final warranty is also very important. You need to assess what you will be charged for in case of a breakdown. It is the Company’s policy that is important here. Will you have to pay for a service call if one of the components fails? Or Does the Company take care of the entire system if there is any problem? You will find this warranty can vary significantly between installers.
Undertaking regular maintenance will ensure your solar panel system is operating safely, correctly, and efficiently. Over time dust and debris will build up on your solar panels, which may compromise the performance of your solar panel system. In addition, water and moisture seepage, vermin, hail, wind, and sunlight can all cause damage or deterioration to your system. As a rule, solar power modules installed at greater than 10 degrees angle will tend to self-clean with average rainfall in Australia, so little maintenance is required. For optimum performance we recommend keeping your panels clean and therefore we can also arrange for a regular inspection and cleaning for every 12, 18 or 24 months.
What is involved in maintenance? Maintaining your solar panel system involves much more than simply cleaning your solar panels. Regular maintenance of your solar panel system should ensure every single aspect to make a 100% maintenance.
Frequently asked questions about Inverters and Batteries
A solar inverter is one of the most important elements of the solar electric power system. It is a power electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling depend on the design of the specific device or circuitry. The electricity that is not used in your home is then either fed into the grid (electrical power lines) or into home battery storage. New hybrid inverters include an integrated battery management system.
Most solar systems sold today generate DC power. AC Electricity is used in Australia so an inverter is needed to convert the DC power into AC power that can be fed into your home or back to the grid. There are some AC solar panels on the market however, these are generally more expensive to buy than a DC system with an inverter.
A hybrid inverter can manage inputs from both your solar panels and from a battery bank. You should choose a hybrid inverter if you are planning a solar system with batteries or you are planning on getting batteries in the near future. Hybrid inverters are currently significantly more expensive than the basic solar PV inverter.
You can also choose to get a seperate solar PV inverter and a battery specific inverter for managing the charging and discharging of your battery bank.
The answer to this question changes depending on your goals. Most people want to know when the cost of batteries will reach grid parity or in other words, when it makes financial sense to buy a battery. (Grid parity is when it costs the same to produce your own power as it does to access power from the gird)
The Australian Energy Market Commission’s (AEMC) Chairman John Pierce predicted in June 2019 “Next year, in most Australian states residential solar PV with storage systems are forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to achieve ‘socket parity’ – when the average cost of grid-connected residential solar PV with a storage system is equal to that of the price a consumer can purchase energy from the grid.”
The benefits of a home battery can be big, especially if you have solar: you can use more solar energy onsite or save it to use as backup power if the grid goes down. But the level of difficulty associated with adding a battery depends on whether your solar panel system was designed with the intention of adding energy storage later. If you have a “storage ready” solar system, you already have an inverter that can easily integrate a battery into your solar panel system. In this situation, a battery is relatively simple to install, and the installation process will not require much additional equipment. If your solar panel system was not originally designed with the ability to add storage later, the installation will be slightly more complicated. In this scenario, you have two options: an “AC coupled” solution, or an inverter replacement.
The way you use power contributes significantly to determining if it makes sense to get a battery system and what size you should get. Also, understanding and monitoring your power use is integral to optimising a solar & battery system to get the best efficiency and cost savings possible.
If working out the specifics to your home is something we can support you with, contact us now and our energy experts will be happy to help.
Solar batteries range from $5,000 to $7,000+ and from $400 dollars per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $750/kWh. Note that these prices are only for the battery itself, not for the cost of installation or additional necessary equipment. Home solar batteries are a new technology. Like solar panels, the list price of solar batteries is largely dependent on the materials that they are made of and how much power they can give you. Installing a battery that can operate off-grid typically also costs more than installing a battery designed to operate while connected to the grid. Like how solar panel prices have fallen dramatically in the past few years, experts predict that solar batteries will become less expensive in the years to come as well.
There are multiple factors to consider when calculating the size battery system you should get. These include:
- What is your daily power use?
- How many days do you want to be able to power your property without using grid power? (autonomy)
- How much power can your battery discharge before it needs to be recharged and what is your batteries cycle life?
- What sized solar system do you have and is it battery ready?
Step 1 of this process, you can average your power use per day by looking at one power bill, dividing the number of kilowatt hours by the number of days charged and then multiply by 365. However, your power use will change significantly over the seasons so it is better to get your interval data from your power provider (this is your power use in 30 minute increments over 365 days) to get a more accurate picture.
On average, most homes use about 20kWh’s of electricity per day.
Step 2 involves deciding how many hours or days you want to be able to draw power from your battery system if the sun is not shining and/or there is no grid power available (think summer storms). If you just want to be able to cover your night time energy use on an average night, you would estimate the percentage power your use during the day (e.g. 70% if you are at work all day and no one is home), multiply this by your average power use, say 20kWh per day to determine that you need to have a battery system that can discharge 14kWh’s per night.
Step 3 is needed to understand how much power your battery system can discharge before it needs to be recharged. This is one reason why you should not take the price per kW of a battery to be the best measure of value. Most solar batteries cannot be discharged 100%. Also, a battery manufacturer will state the number of cycles the battery is good for. For example, a 18kW battery may have 1,200 cycles at 80% DoD (depth of discharge). If you bought a Tesla Powerwall 2 today, you have a warranty that it will still have 70% capacity after 10 years. An average home is getting 0.8 to 1.2 cycles per day from their batteries.
Step 4 is needed to understand if you are recharging your battery system from your solar system alone or will you be recharging from the grid or a generator as well. If you are recharging from the grid, it is important that this is happening at an off-peak time/rate.
If working out the specifics to your home is something we can support you with, contact us now and our energy experts will be happy to help.
A well-designed solar battery storage system that is combined with a new solar system typically takes around 6 to 12 years to pay back, before the effect of any rebates or subsidies. Of course, this does depend on things like your overall energy usage, the times of the day you use energy, and the size of the solar system you install.