The Basics of Solar Power in Australia

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Australia is meant to be the lucky country, right? But in some ways, we’re being taken for a ride. Every year our power bills increase disproportionately to the rest of the world, and so does the demand for electricity as communities grow more and more.

Solar Panels

Even worse, most of our electricity is dirty. In Australia, the bulk of our power is fuelled by coal mines that are ruining the  environment for our kids and future generations, impacting our outer  indigenous communities, our fragile wildlife,  not to mention our economy and world-class tourism industry (plus all the jobs the go along with that).

The best solution

One of the most reliable and safest solutions is right above us. Our planet receives 10,000 times more power from the sun than our population uses. That’s a LOT of power to harness, and a lot of jobs, land and communities we could improve by making a simple switch to a clean source of energy. In fact, Australia itself is the equal highest irradiated country on the planet!

Home Solar Panels

Most Australians are familiar with the idea of solar power, after all we live in one of the sunniest countries in the world. But if you’ve ever looked into  buying solar power, you will know that being familiar with the idea isn’t enough to guarantee you?ll end up with the right investment. A three second Google search will show up an overwhelming list of suppliers, products and warranties – all claiming the best for the least.

How do you choose the right supplier? What are the best panels in Australia in 2019? What sized system do I need? At MySolarDirect our mission is to provide simple, comprehensive and direct info about finding and comparing the best, genuine offers in the market from reputable sources. We want you to feel confident, empowered and ready to make the right choice from all the options. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide to solar, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re making the right investment for your wallet, your family and the environment.

The best part about going solar in Australia: Solar is a LOT cheaper than it used to be, and there are even *pay-as-you-save options so you use your own electricity bill to pay for your system without any out of pocket cost. Pretty good, right?

Top 15 Things to Ask Before Buying Solar

Watts it made of?

Rooftop solar panels are one of the most effective ways to harness the power of the sun. These panels are made up of smaller units called solar cells, which are responsible for converting solar energy into electrical energy (you know, the stuff you need to power your hair-straightener and binge-watch Netflix).

Solar panels connect to an inverter whose job it is to convert the energy captured by solar panels, transforming it from DC electricity to 240V AC electricity. There are a few types of inverters:

  • String inverters; these are installed on nice shady walls (so they don’t fry in our harsh southern sun). String inverters come in all shapes and sizes, the size of your inverter will depend on the number of panels in your solar system. Each inverter has a limit, the more panels you want to install means the bigger the inverter you will install for it to function correctly (e.g. a 5kW inverter can have 6.65kW of panels, a 10kW would be 13.3kW)
  • Micro inverters; these are installed on the back of solar panels, so that’s one micro-inverter per panel. These optimise each panel individually, ideal if there is no room for a string inverter.
  • A DC optimiser; these are similar to a micro inverter in the sense they are installed on each panel. Their job is to optimise each panel against nasty shade (trees, wires, antennas, chimneys) so the panels not in shade continue to feed your string inverter. This maximises output

While good quality solar panels (which we call “tier 1”) will easily last you 25+ years, inverters will wear out after the first 10 to 15 years (much sooner with cheap ones), so they will eventually need to be replaced. Solar panels are mounted on your roof using racks, similar to how you would mount a new TV to your living room wall. The installer will look for where your roof supports are and attach the racks accordingly.

To recap:

Solar panels capture solar power, generating DC energy that must be converted to AC energy using an inverter. You can either get a string inverter or a micro inverter depending on your property & surrounding environment. Your panels will be mounted to your roof supports using racking. Quality solar panels and inverters will last longer than cheaper versions.

(RELATED: Want to know what it costs to get solar power in 2019? Read our article on pricing and the changes you can expect on your electricity bill here.)

How to make solar work for you

Now that you know how the system works, it’s time to figure out what kind of system you need. The easiest way to do this is to look at your electricity bill. Take a moment to grab it, we’ll wait here.

Once you’ve got it, the first thing you need to do is smile because your electricity bills will never be this expensive again if you switch to solar. The second thing you need to do is look at how much electricity you use. Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh) and is always on your electricity bill. Here’s an example of where to check:

Okay, so now you know how much you use, now you need to figure out when you’re using it too. Are you away from your home 9-5, using most of your electricity in the morning and in the evening? Does your home or business use substantial electricity during the day (and we’re not talking about just the refrigerator here), such as air-conditioners, clothes dryers or water pumps?

Knowing your peak usage times will help you figure out how much power you need, and how best to maximise your investment in solar. Each specific location around the world have a different number of “peak sun hours” meaning the number of hours you’ll generate the absolute most value with, which is why it’s important to do your homework!

If you live in Victoria, you can check your smart metre to see how much energy you use every 30mins. There’s nothing sexier than using detailed data to invest in clean energy to save the planet.

The time of the day you use the bulk of your electricity will determine how much solar power you’ll need to generate, and how quickly your solar power investment will pay for itself. The electricity you use versus the electricity you feed back into the grid can be two to three times more valuable. If you’ve been listening to companies like Tesla talk about using batteries to store energy generated by solar panels for this type of consumption, this is the reason why.

Now that you know how many kilowatt hours you use and when you use it, you can calculate how many panels you should buy for your property, the type of inverter you’d like to have, and whether or not you want to include a battery to store unused energy.

These calculations will also depend on your budget and should factor in any rebates and incentives that will provide you with a discount on your purchase (which we will go into later). The cost of the right solar system should be proportional to your electricity bill. What this means is that by installing a system capable of generating enough electricity to eliminate your bill, the money you save is then used to pay-off your new solar investment. By maximising the number of panels you have in your solar system you will get a positive return on your purchase sooner rather than later. Adding additional panels down the track is possible but can be expensive, and the more panels you start with the faster the pay-off will be during cooler months and cloudier days.

Lesson here: a small system is not the best way to save with solar.

Eventually, when it comes to installation, you want to ensure the panels on your roof make the most out of the sun’s given position during the day – when efficiency is highest. That often means having panels on one side of your roof for the morning sun, and some the other side for the afternoon rays; your installer will know what will work best. The angle of the panel will also come into play here for example, Melbourne is at a different latitude to Darwin, which means that the panel angle will be different to ensure maximum exposure to the sun’s energy.

To recap:

Figure out how much electricity you use and what kind of solar system you require based on these needs and your budget. Maximise the system size with the roof space available. Installers need to position  systems in specific ways to generate the highest amount of energy possible from the sun at various times throughout the day.

You get what you pay for

Cheap solar panels aren’t necessarily good solar panels. In fact, almost all the “cheap deals” are the most expensive, even in the short term. Choosing quality and current tech panels (and inverters) is crucial to making sure your solar investment lasts as long as possible, so investing in panels with poor workmanship could end up costing you more in the long term.

The same goes for installation. Poor installation can create multiple problems, including damage to the panels, damage to your roof, not to mention the whole host of expensive issues that can come from frying your circuitry. Having a reliable, qualified and experienced technician do the installation of your solar power system will give you peace of mind that your investment is something you can enjoy and be proud of, and not one of your worst nightmares.

To recap:

If you really want to save money, quality in product and workmanship is your best friend.

Whats the Real Cost of Going Cheap

Show me the money

It has never been easier or more affordable to  get solar power, with plenty of rebates on offer to help you invest in clean energy and lower your energy bills.

As of December 2018, the Australian federal solar rebate gives customers a huge discount of $650 per kW of solar panels installed. That means if you bought a 6kWh system, that’s a whopping $3,900 off the final installation cost of your new solar system. This rebate (aka the STC scheme) does have some restrictions (such as the system must be less than 100kW in size), but for most homes and business it’s a great way of reducing the cost of your purchase. As this rebate is slowly being phased out, the sooner you use it the greater your discount will be.

In South Australia a battery subsidy was introduced, to reduce the cost of installing a battery to store your unused energy. This subsidy is currently valued at $500 per kWh, up to a maximum of $6,000.

A state-level incentive was introduced in Victoria by the Labour government for eligible recipients. You can now get an extra discount for “going solar”, up to $2,250 in ADDITION to the federal government rebate mentioned above.

As rebates can subject to change (based on time and your location) it’s worth speaking to one of our friendly MySolarDirect specialists to find out what incentives are available to you.

Suddenly doesn’t seem so expensive to invest in solar now, does it?

Going solar can even earn you money! Any solar power you don’t use from your system will go back into the grid, which your electricity provider will pay you for. This is known as the feed-in tariff. Depending on your energy provider, you could earn anything from 7c to 18c per kWh.

Solar is a reliable return for your hard-earned money. Right now you’re paying for your electricity bills using taxed income. Once your solar system has been paid for, any electricity the system generates will reduce (or completely eliminate) the amount of money you are spending on buying electricity from your energy provider. This is effectively a tax-free benefit every time you use the system to power your home or business.

You might not end up as rich as the Kardashians, but at least the you won’t be funding dirty and destructive industries.

To recap:

You can save money off your solar purchase – or maximise the number of panels in your budget – by taking advantage of any federal or state rebates available to you. You might even make money from your electricity supplier through the feed-in tariff after installation, but it might not be much (if anything at all).

The Solar Rebate is Coming Back Here's What You Need to Know

The benefits of going solar

  • Less money going towards funding companies that damage our environment, wildlife, indigenous communities and tourism industry
  • Reduce your impact on climate change
  • Reduce your electricity bill
  • Potentially earn money from your electricity supplier

Let’s make it easier

Solar Power Co is the go-to for everything to do with solar power systems. We take the guesswork out of finding quality products and reliable installers so you don’t have to.

If you’re not sure where to start, or if you have any questions about what solar system would be right for you, we’re here to help. It’s as easy as a click of a button.