The Solar Energy Information web site provides independent information for Adelaide home owners looking to reduce their electricity bills through solar panel installation. It can be difficult to get a handle on the concept of how exactly solar can be of benefit to you and the various State and Federal Government incentive schemes currently available. We review the latest incentives and look at some of the important issues to consider prior to purchasing a solar system.
There are currently over 100 solar installation companies in Adelaide and we have made the process of getting quotes from 3 of these companies very easy. Complete the form below, or click here and three Adelaide Solar Companies will quickly contact you to quote on your solar panels needs and answer any questions you may have with absolutely no obligation.
Solar Panels Guide for Adelaide Residents.
2 June 2016: The Case for Installing Solar Power in Adelaide:
1. Solar systems in South Australia make good sense when your home uses the majority of the power produced by the solar panels – meaning you no longer have to purchase that electricity from your electricity retailer = lower power bills. The S.A. solar feed in tariff available is currently the 6.8 cents/Kwh ‘Minimum Retailer Payment’ . This is a payment for electricity a solar system feeds back onto the electricity grid, that energy retailers are obliged to pay solar system owners. You can access 3 prompt quotes from Adelaide solar installers here.
2. Trend in S.A. electricity prices, long term, is up – Power bills are likely to rise in years to come. Through solar installation, you can effectively ‘insulate’ yourself from electricity bills, at least in part. The benefit of solar is determined by your electricity usage, the size of the solar system and your pattern of electricity usage. With a low(ish) feed in tariff it makes sense to use as much of the solar electricity generated in your home, reducing your electricity bill, rather than sending it back to the electricity grid for the 6.8 cents/Kwh feed in tariff credit you will receive.
3. Very Competitive market place – Fierce competition amongst Adelaide solar installers means you are in a strong position to negotiate a good price.
4. The Renewable Energy Target Review was released in November 2014. Although one of the key findings was that there is ‘a strong case for winding back the SRES (Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme) through closing the scheme immediately or accelerating its phase out’, the federal government has stated that the small scale roof top solar program will continue. This is good news if you are considering solar panels installation as prices will continue to be subsidised saving home owners thousands of dollars (the size of that subsidy being dependant on the size of the solar system installed).
Considering Solar Panels? – Adopt some Commonsense Buyer Protection Strategies..
Adelaide Solar Panels Installation – Important Issues:
1. Solar Company Quotation: Typical Terms and Conditions -Look out: – read the fine print
Like in most areas of consumer purchases, solar power installation in Adelaide is no different from buying any other high dollar item. Definitely a case of buyer beware. Ensure you read all documentation supplied with your quotation. Below is an example of ‘terms and conditions’ we saw from one Adelaide solar power company:
Quotation Subject to the following terms and conditions: Valid until 25/8/14, or while current stocks last. Our quoted prices quoted assume surrender of STC’s to our company. Quoted price based on Tiled roof, single storey Adelaide residences. Tin roofs, flat roofs, multi storey homes and locations outside 40km of Adelaide C.B.D. & other non-standard items will incur additional costs. The Export Meter is not included and is generally supplied by your utility provider at an additional cost. The quotation is not valid in conjunction with any other promotions or offers and applies to residents of Adelaide, South Australia only.
2. Before signing with an Adelaide solar installer up we suggest:
- Call your current electricity supplier before installing solar to see if there are implications for your current electricity pricing arrangement and any other issues they can advise you about.
- Ensure the company / system designers are Clean Energy Council Accredited (rebates are dependent on that)
- You need sufficient north facing roof space to accommodate installation of the solar panels – approximately 20 square meres for a 2 kw system, 25-30 square metres for a 3kw system.
- Discuss with the solar companies you talk to what the likely ongoing maintenance costs of the solar system will be for the life of the system. Several of the companies we talk to think that 10 years is a ‘reasonable’ life expectancy for a solar inverter. Given a large 5Kwatt inverter could cost over $2000 it may be worth asking what extended warranties are available and again reinforces the issue of buying ‘quality’ -some low cost inverters have very high failure rates!
- Asking if you can get an estimate as to how much electricity the solar panels system will generate , both monthly and yearly. This is very useful as you can relate this back to your old power bills.
- Be aware that as the solar power industry in South Australia has grown rapidly, that the range of panels and inverters imported has grown exponentially. There are Australian Standards that (supposedly) set guidelines and standards for all solar panels and inverters used in Australia. The applicable standards are AS4777 for the solar inverters and for the solar panels it is AS5033.
- Some local councils have regulations related to the placement of solar panels and issues around visibility of solar panels the road frontage. Worth a call to council!
- Make sure the brand and model numbers of the panels and inverter are clearly documented on any quotation supplied – in a few instances, we have heard that one brand was ‘verbally’ quoted, and another brand supplied. Again, its a case of getting everything in writing!
Obligation Free Solar Quotes Adelaide:
The Adelaide Solar Quotes Form below is quick and easy to complete and allows you to get 3 quotations from Solar Companies In Adelaide and discuss in detail your solar power needs and questions.:
3. What Experience Does The Installer Have and Are They Up To Date With Compliance Issues?
Because solar technology is constantly evolving, when getting solar quotes you should consider finding out when the Solar Installation Company last designed / installed a solar system so you can be reasonably sure that they are aware of the latest and most efficient products available. It’s also important that they’re up to date with regulatory issues that could affect you. The C.E.C. regularly puts out safety updates and installers need follow these. Another question you should ask is what is the total number of solar systems the designer / installer has completed, and how many of those were systems similar to your proposed system?
Other Commonly asked Questions and Issues around Solar Panel Installation In Adelaide:
How Exactly Do Solar Panels Work? The video below gives a good explanation of how ‘photo-voltaic’ cells (the building blocks of solar panels) work and the principal of the ‘photo-voltaic’ effect which is how light (or sunlight in a solar system), is converted into electrical energy.
What size solar system do do you need for your house? A good system designer will need to take your budget and the amount of energy you use each day into account first. The smallest system for grid connect is 1.5kW, which could supply approximately up to a quarter of a medium household’s energy needs. It also currently attracts the maximum rebate. A 4Kw system can often supply all the energy that a household with a medium consumption needs. It is very worthwhile to review your current energy usage within your home and take measures to reduce your energy consumption. By considering the possibility of investing in solar hot water, energy efficient heaters, effective window,wall and ceiling insulation and installing L.E.D. lighting systems it may be possible to install a smaller solar system.
Can the solar power from my system that i don’t use in my home be stored for later use? The ‘next big thing’ in solar systems is likely to be the use of ‘smart’ battery storage systems that store the ‘excess’ solar energy generated by your solar panels, that is not consumed in your home, for use in the evening and night time. This potentially opens the way for homeowners to becoming close to ‘independent’ from the electricity grid. Further reading here and here.
Will you need to change your electricity meter when you install solar power? Yes, normally you will have to change the meter to a digital import-export meter if you currently have either a one-way digital meter or one of the old style “rotating wheel’ type meter and are installing a grid connected solar system. This is so the power your solar system generates and exports to the grid can be offset against the energy you are consuming from the grid. You will either receive a bill for the net electricity that you consume (plus the fixed supply charge), or if you produce energy over and above what you use, then the electricity company will be paying you!
I keep hearing the term ‘monocrystalline’ with regard to solar systems but I’m not sure what it actually means? Mono-crystalline cells have been around since the early 1950’s and are what most solar panels are made of. You might also hear them referred to as crystalline silicon or single crystalline silicon. It sounds complicated, but put simply, they’re used to conduct the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity. Each cell needs the sun’s rays to hit its silicon semi-conductor, so it can absorb energy from the sun and knock its electrons loose. These free flowing electrons are then directed as electricity along a path, or circuit, within the cell’s electric field. That electricity can then power various household appliances. The power, or wattage, of each cell depends on its current and its voltage, which in turn depends on the cell’s internal electric field.
What’s the difference between Mono-crystalline Solar Panels and Polycrystalline Solar Panels? Mono-crystalline cells are made by cutting thin wafers from a single, specially grown crystal, which means each cell will be the same uniform deep blue colour. Polycrystalline cells are made by pouring melted silicon into moulds, which means the surface of each cell will be a varying shade of blue. The crystal growth phase is the main difference between how the two types of cells are made. Mono-crystalline cells are the most widely used solar photovoltaic technology because they’re the most efficient of the two types.
Can you explain the term ‘Photovoltaic” and how it Relates to Solar Power? Photovoltaic – simply put ‘photo’ refers to light and ‘voltaic’ electricity – Photovoltaic is the process of converting light energy (the suns radiation in the case of solar power) into usable electrical energy. This is most commonly used by the use of ‘semiconductors’ , generally made from silicon. Semiconductors developed in the 1950’s and 1960’s were the catalyst for the development of transistors and subsequently Integrated circuits that now power our radio’s/TV’s/computers and all of the electronics we are familiar with today. When sunlight strikes the silicon cells within solar panels the energy of that sunlight (specifically the ‘photons’ or light particles) , that energy causes electron flow within the silicon wafers – this ‘electron flow’ is what we call electricity! You may see solar systems being referred to as ‘pv’ systems, meaning photovoltaic systems.
I see Solar Systems referred to as 1.5Kw or 3Kw etc – What is a Kw? A Kw or Kilowatt is 1000 Watts. Wattage is a measure of electrical power. You have seen solar systems advertised as 1.5Kw , 3Kw 5 Kw etc etc. The ‘Kw” or kilowatt is a measure of power that the solar panels produce. Typically in Adelaide currently , 200 watt or 250 watt solar panels are the flavour of the month. So 4 250 watt solar panels, under optimum conditions (such as facing North with no shading and correct pitch during around 4 hours per day when maximum sunshine is received onto those solar panels etc) will produce around 1000 Watts or 1Kw of electrical power. A Kilowatt is roughly the same power that a larger microwave oven may use for example. So the larger Kw rating a solar panels system has, the more electrical power it will produce.
What Is Solar Panel Efficiency And Why Is It Important?
Solar panel efficiency is a measure of how much electrical energy a solar panel produces for a set area of solar panel. This can be expressed as watts per square metre for example. Every square metre of radiant sunshine generates around 1000 watts of energy. So, as an example, if we had a solar panel measuring one square metre it would produce 1000 watts of electrical energy if it had 100 percent efficiency. The history of photovoltaics and solar panel production goes back to the 1950’s and 1960’s where early solar panels had efficiencies around 10 percent. In 2015 we have commercially available solar panels (like we see on many Adelaide roof’s) that typically have an efficiency of around 16 percent. Some of the high end panels installed have efficiencies approaching 20 percent. So, going back to the above example, for one square metre of solar panels, a 20 percent efficient panel would produce approximately 200 watts of power (with bright sunlight shining on it). So even small increases in solar panel efficiency can produce significantly higher levels of solar energy production, which is why there is continual research and development into solar cells. An obvious benefit of higher efficiency solar panels is that you can produce more electricity for a set roof size by using a higher efficiency panel.
What about the Actual Solar System Installation ?
Good question – In short – Do Not Underestimate its Importance! As well as ensuring that any solar power quotation you get details exactly what brand of solar panels and solar inverter will be supplied as part of your solar installation and that the brands quoted are of high quality and well supported through strong Australian distributors (should future needs for warranty or technical support be required), it is imperative, in our opinion, to ensure that the quality of the installation is of the same high standard. This means ensuring and asking (and getting in writing!) that only Clean Energy Council accredited installers do the work and (again, in our view) that the installing electricians are employed by the Adelaide solar company you are dealing with. Many solar companies are using
sub-contract installers. The reasons for this are obvious – using subcontractors to install the system generally means that there is a lower overall cost to the solar company – when times are quiet in the solar industry (which has a history of busy and quiet times as Government rebates and fee in tariff’s change) the companies that do not employ their own electricians do not have that additional payroll cost if they have little or no work for them. Whilst many sub contract solar installers do a good job, there have been some well publicised cases of inferior installations being performed. Using a local company with in house installers could be beneficial in weighing up any Adelaide solar quotations you receive. Ask if you can talk with a number of the companies existing clients and get first hand feedback on their experiences with dealing with that particular solar company.
What is Net ‘Metering’ and How Does It Relate To The feed In Tariff?
Are There Any Insurance Implications Of Installing Solar Panels In S.A. ?
It is recommended you contact your insurance company as there can be variance in the way different insurance view a solar installation. As solar can be a significant investment, depending on the system size and quality it is important to ensure it has cover in case of fire, theft or an accidental damage that may occur to it. Some (not necessarily all – that is why it is imperative to check!) insurance companies view an installed p.v. system as part of the ‘buildings insurance’ , however it will most likely need to be noted on your current policy and a description of the brand of solar panels, quantity and possibly wattage required along with type of solar inverter installed. Regarding premiums some companies will allow up to a certain dollar value for a solar installation and above that value an additional premium may be payable. Ensure that the sum your home is ensured for will be sufficient to include the addition cost of the solar system, if not an extra premium may be payable to cover a larger value that includes your system. As noted above – ensure you get in writing from your insurance company confirmation that your newly installed solar power system is covered by your insurance policy/s.
What Is The Long Term Outlook For Solar Power In Adelaide?
Adelaide, after Canberra has the most residential solar panels installations as of April 2013. Putting aside the ups and downs of the S.A. solar industry due to the frequent changes in various Government incentives, the future for home solar power installations into the future is strong and some interesting possibilities are not too far away:
- In the medium term solar power for domestic use can match or possibly offer a lower cost base than coal fired electrical generation in S.A. Like all industries, electricity production is evolving. Burning fossil fuels (Coal / Gas etc) is a simple but antiquated method of producing electricity – the fuels are burnt and the heat generated is used to heat water, the steam of which drives a turbine, which, in turn is connected to an electricity generator. A very simple principle and has been around for over 70 years. The industry has been subsidised (in one way or another) for many years. As the emphasis on clean and ‘green’ renewable energy continues to grow, solar power will continue to evolve. The subsidies that in the past were provided for conventional ‘carbon based’ electrical generation will almost inevitably flow into the renewable energy sector, bringing the possibility of ‘parity pricing’ for solar versus coal fired energy production. Consumers will increasingly choose ‘clean energy’ over fossil fuel based power production methods as awareness of solar panels and costs of solar electricity production continue to trend down in price in real terms.
- The often touted ‘downside to solar power is that the systems produce electricity only whilst the sun shines so how can solar power potentially replace grid supplied power during hours of the day when the sun does not shine?. Off gird solar systems, that use battery banks to store excess solar electricity have been around for over 30 years, however, are seen, even in 2013, as relatively expensive and ‘in-elegant’ in their technology, in that they use large lead based battery banks that are expensive and have a limited life. However there is increasing excitement growing over the next generation of solar cell technology which may not use silicon, but instead use solar nano-technology that uses the suns energy to emulate the process of photosynthesis – the same process that plants use to split water into its constituent components of oxygen and hydrogen. Why would this be superior to the existing mono-crystalline solar panels seen installed on thousands of Adelaide roofs’? The huge benefit of the nanotechnology ‘solar cell’ is that the hydrogen produced in this ‘man made photosynthesis’ process can be stored. Therefore the possibility of storing excess solar electricity generated by your solar system emerges as a reality using this technology. The hydrogen produced and stored can be fed into a fuel cell which transforms the chemical energy of the hydrogen into usable electrical energy!
With A Low Feed In Tariff Should We Use All Of The Power The Solar System Produces?
Situations vary from installation to installation however given the minimum retailer payment is less than 6 cents per Kwh it does not make a lot of sense to ‘sell’ back to the grid electricity that your solar system produces. Instead many solar installers recommend reconfiguring your electricity usage within your home or business to ensure you use the majority of the energy produced by the solar panels. This means using washing machines, dryers and other appliances in the daylight hours when the solar panels are generating electricity to maximise the return from your system. It is possible to measure your daytime electricity usage over all seasons to get a reasonably accurate view of your electricity usage. This data can be invaluable in then ‘matching; your power consumption in the day time to the appropriate size of solar system you acquire. This means you can avoid buying a system that may be too large or small for your energy needs.
Current S.A. Solar Feed In Tariff Scheme – Update September 2013
A ‘solar feed in tariff’ is defined (by E.S.C.A.) as the amount of money that Adelaide solar panel system owners are credited on their electricity bills when their solar system generates surplus power – ie: the solar panels produce in real time more electricity than the household is consuming and that ‘excess’ electricity is then ‘fed back’ onto the E.T.S.A. Utilities’ electricity distribution network (grid).
Feed In Tariff – Now and Into The Future:
Until 30 September 2013 for Adelaide home owners the available 16 cent component of the Feed In Tariff Credits payable by ETSA Utilities will be payable until 30 June 2016. Given that the Victorian Government and Queensland Governments have recently slashed their feed tariff’s South Australia is now looking fairly generous in this regard, however note the cut off date. Read more at the Considering Solar? Keep 30th September 2013 in Mind post. Once the 16 cents is no longer available the ‘minimum retailer payment of 9.8c/kWh will be available until 31 December 2013. The 2016 payment has now been set at 6.8 cents per Kwh.
Solar Power Adelaide Update 24 January 2013
Solar Credits Scheme Phased Out – Implications?
January 9 2013. The Federal Government phased out this scheme from 31 December last year, so what does this mean if you are an Adelaide resident considering solar power for your home? Well, probably not that much. The scheme was initially designed to boost the update of solar in Australia and it has to be said, has been very successful in achieving that. The ‘subsidy’ that the scheme offered, in terms of reducing the cost of the installation of a solar system, reduced each year and was geared towards the smaller systems (like 1.5 Kilowatt). In reality, the S.A. solar market is so competitive that the few hundred dollars that the scheme offered can probably be more than made up for by doing your homework, getting competitive solar quotation and ensuring the quality of the solar panels system and integrity of the S.A. solar installation company are up to scratch..
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