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What you Need to Know About Off Grid Solar Power

Year-round sunshine and an increasingly robust renewables infrastructure make Australia the perfect place to switch to solar. A sizeable solar power system can meet the energy needs of a household with excess to spare. In this case, why stay connected to the grid? But can the benefits of off-grid solar power outweigh the initial installation costs? Read on to find out!

What’s the Difference Between Grid-Connected and Off-Grid Solar Power?

Those who stay connected to the grid have the security of knowing their power will never go down. That’s because if for any reason their solar power system does not meet their needs the grid provides the shortage. However, their system may also create more power than they need. In this instance, the surplus power goes back into the grid and the energy company pays the owner in cash or offers a reduction on their energy bill.

So why choose off-grid solar power? Well, if your solar power system can generate enough power on-site, you needn’t be connected to the grid at all. That means no energy bills ever again!

How Does Off Grid Solar Power Work?

House with solar panels in rural Australia.

In very simple terms:

  1. Solar panels on the roof of your property absorb sunlight and convert it into DC electricity.
  2. The DC electricity passes through a regulator that controls its charge.
  3. The controlled electricity charges deep cycle batteries.
  4. The batteries pass the electricity through an inverter that converts it into AC
  5. AC electricity powers your household appliances

During the day, your solar panels can generate more electricity than you need. This electricity is stored in deep cycle batteries for use at night or during the days that are overcast. Australians living in rural communities have been using off-grid solar energy for years. Some people, especially business owners, keep a DC backup generator in case something goes wrong. Yet many Australians manage to meet their energy needs with a stand-alone system.

Off-Grid Solar Power Pros and Cons

Pro – Off-Grid Power is Not Affected by Energy Prices or Grid Outages

Australians have experienced a dramatic hike in energy prices in the last few years. Between 2015 and 2017 wholesale energy prices almost doubled leaving Australians struggling to pay for some of the most expensive energy in the world. By generating your own power off-grid, you are energy independent and unaffected by energy prices or grid-outages.

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Con – Initial Investment in Off-Grid Power can be High

The initial cost of an off-grid power system can be high. A grid-connected system capable of producing 5kWh per day costs around $15,000. An equivalent off-grid (SAP, stand-alone power) system costs around $30,000.

Pro – Government Renewable Energy Incentives are Generous

The Australian government is striving to meet renewable energy targets. Part of their strategy is to support Australian homeowners to invest in solar panel technology. Generous incentives and rebates have been introduced to make the initial investment easier to manage. As well as STCs (small-scale technology certificates) that act like discount tokens, the government can also offer no-interest loans.

Con – Your Energy Supply is Dependent on the Weather

Orange and yellow sun in space.

The main issue with off-grid supply is unpredictability. Your energy supply is entirely dependent on the weather. And while most of Australia enjoys a great deal of sunshine all year round, there are still overcast and rainy days. If your system should fail, you’re also responsible for any costs. Living without energy is a challenge and you may even find yourself saddled with a large bill to reconnect to the grid.

Pro – Off-Grid Solar Power Benefits the Environment

The power generated by solar power is clean of harmful emissions. Switching your household’s energy supply from the mains grid to solar power is one of the greatest contributions you can make to improving the environment.

Can Hail Damage my Solar Panels?

Solar is one of the world’s most inexpensive renewable energy sources. Once you have a system fitted, that is. In Australia, solar power system installation is big business. More than 20% of Australian households are now fitted with a solar power system that costs an average of AUD$5,000 for a 5kW capacity set-up.

But can something as ordinary as hail damage your solar panels and what can you do to protect your important investment?

hail damage solar panels roof

What Are Solar Panels Made From?

Solar PV (photovoltaic) panels are made up of silicon cells structured in three different forms, monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. Most solar panels have two layers of these silicon cells. The top layer contains chemicals that create a positive charge while the bottom layer has chemicals that create a negative charge. This generates a charged field. When light particles reach the charged field, electrons are knocked from their atoms creating electricity.

The whole solar panel is covered in a layer of tempered glass. This glass is a key component of the panel as it ensures as much light as possible is filtered into the silicon cells. However, extreme weather can damage the glass.

Can Hail Damage Your Solar Panels?

Solar panels are durable. Manufacturers of solar panels put their product through rigorous testing to ensure they’re fit for purpose and won’t break when exposed to normal weather conditions.

While severe hailstorms are rare in Australia, they do happen. In December 2018, New South Wales experienced a hailstorm that caused catastrophic damage. In 2017, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Denver, Colorado was able to test its solar panels under live conditions. A major hailstorm hit the lab and 2.75-inch hailstones caused $2.3 billion in damages across the state. Miraculously, the more than 3,000 panels on the roof of the lab were almost untouched. Only one panel was damaged.

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solar outside facing sun light

The quality of your solar panels comes into play here. The better the quality of the panel and its components, the less likely it is to be damaged by impact. LG panels, for example, promise to withstand hailstones of up to 28mm in width and frost of -40 degrees without cracking.

How to Check Your Solar Panels for Hail Damage

If you do experience a severe hailstorm and are concerned about your solar panels, here are a few things you should know.

  1. Before you go anywhere near your roof, check your inverter. This clever bit of kit will let you know if there is an earth fault on your system. An illuminated fault light is a clear sign you need to call a solar power electrician. No fault light? In that case, you can be tentatively sure there’s no damage to your solar panels.
  2. Most solar panel technicians advise home-owners to stay away from their roof! There’s no need to climb up there to investigate because damage to a solar panel is almost always clearly visible. The glass cover on solar panels smashes in a spider’s web of cracks, similar to a smashed windscreen.
  3. A cracked solar panel can leak voltage. Enough voltage to give you a dangerous shock if you come into contact with it. If you insist on checking out the panel, shut down your system, use an insulated ladder and wear a harness in case you fall.
  4. Always have a cracked solar panel replaced as soon as possible. Your home insurance should cover damage to your panel. If not, one panel shouldn’t cost too much to replace.

So, it seems hail can damage your solar panels. It’s unlikely but at least you know what to do if the unlikely occurs!

How Does Shade Affect Solar Panels?

Solar panels work by converting photons (or, light particles) into electricity we can use. When something blocks light from reaching solar panels, they can’t produce energy. Solar panels sitting in complete shade simply won’t work. But how much shade is too much shade for a solar panel and how can you minimize efficiency loss when the sun is weak? Today, we find out.

Can Solar Panels Work in the Shade?

The answer to this question is no, not really. Shade has a much greater impact on solar panel efficiency than people think. A standard solar photovoltaic (PV) system serving a small business or medium-sized home has a capacity of 3 or 5kW per hour. This translates to anywhere between 15 and 30 solar panels, depending on the size and shape of your roof and the system you choose.

Grass with solar panels on them

Solar panels alone cannot generate electricity that is instantly safe to use. All solar panel systems feature an inverter that converts solar electricity into AC (alternating current) electricity. AC can be used to power home appliances and can be channeled successfully back into the grid.

Shade is a big issue because of the way solar panels are connected. Rather than stand-alone panels that can work efficiently even if other panels in the system don’t, solar panels are arranged into strings. Strings consist of a number of panels working together and if one panel drops out, the electricity generated by the previous panels cannot reach the inverter.

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A bit like an old-fashioned string of Christmas lights where each bulb connected with the next on one electrical wire. For as long as one of the panels sits in shade, the entire system fails. With some older systems, even a few shaded cells can cause a power outage.

How Can You Reduce the Effect of Shade on Your Solar Panels?

Consider the effect of shade on your solar panels before installation. Shade is usually caused by trees on or near your property, or the shape of your roof. Consider these factors before the solar panels are fitted, noting how much of your roof is in shade at different times of the day.

2 men with white hard hats surrounded by solar panels.

It may be possible to simply trim foliage and plan the layout of your solar panels to avoid shade completely. If shade is unavoidable, you may need to buy a solar power system with a special type of inverter that minimizes power loss.

There are three types of inverter:

String Inverters

This inverter is part of the system described above. The most basic but also the most common type of inverter out there, a string inverter system will fail even if only one panel is in shade.

Microinverters

Microinverters are small inverters that are installed on each individual solar panel. This means each panel can work on an individual basis and maintain peak efficiency even if a neighboring panel is in shade.

Power optimizers


Power optimizers operate somewhere in between string inverters and microinverters. Power optimizers are installed at each solar panel, like microinverters, but they send the electricity generated to a single string inverter. Again, a single shaded panel cannot affect the system as a whole.

Both microinverters and power optimizers will increase the cost of your solar power system. However, if you know your roof is partially or completely in shade for part of the day, it’s can be well worth the investment. The more electricity your solar panel power system creates, the more money you save.

A Note About Clouds

“Wear sunscreen even when it’s sunny” is sound advice. UV light, known to be a leading cause of skin cancer, can harm our skin, even on a cloudy day. That’s because clouds may minimize the amount of light that reaches us but clouds have no impact on the sun’s radiation. Solar panels can still generate electricity on cloudy, overcast days!

How To Buy Solar Panels For Your Home?

Wondering How To Buy Solar Panels For Your Home? We'll Give You Some Tips

For consumers, investing in a solar system has never been easier but can still be troublesome if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. With the help of government incentives and solar system providers setting up the entire system for you, getting solar panels on your roof these days is overall a pretty simple task.

Roof of house with solar panels and sun

Choosing A Solar Installer

There are so many solar panel providers in the Australian market today, you can find one here. So, you may not know where to begin. The first thing you should do is ask a friend or neighbour that has installed solar systems for their household which provider they used. They can also give you information on their experiences, problems and thoughts when it comes to their solar system. After gathering this information, you should also do some research online about the solar providers in your area and get quotes from them. South East Queensland is a large region and there are many providers within it.

Make sure the providers you want to get a quote for a solar system are a member of the Australian Clean Energy Council. If they are not members of the council, you will not be able to receive government subsidies when purchasing panels from them. Businesses who have accreditation with the Clean Energy Council will be guaranteed to employ electricians and experts who are specialised in setting up solar systems. Providers also must sell consumers quality solar systems and provide proper installation or else they will lose their membership.

Once you have asked a solar system provider for a quote they will send a team of verified solar experts and electricians to assess your property’s physical aspects and your current power supply and network. After the analysis is finished the provider usually recommends one or two solar systems that are tailored to your household. Getting quotes from two or three solar providers is a good idea, so you can make the right choice. Here is a list of three recommendations, so you can make the correct solar system purchase:

  • Make sure that your solar system has a warranty of at least 25 years. Remember you only benefit overall from installing solar panels in the long-term, not the short-term.

  • Expect the system and installation to be costly. If a quote for a similar or same system is substantially less than all the other quotes, this system will be a dud with poor quality installation and equipment.

  • Make sure you receive the most you can get out of the government’s solar panel rebate. Make a purchase that could attract a higher subsidy.

Lastly, remember that Queensland is a cyclone prone area. The mounting system for your panels needs to be very good quality and certified. Make sure your solar provider has certifications for the mounting system in the quote document before you make the purchase. The last thing you want is your solar panels being blown off your roof in a storm.

Australian Solar Rebate – How Does It Work?

The Australian Solar Rebate – How Does It Work?

Solar panels with Australian 100 dollar notes.

In pursuit to persuade more Australian households to install solar panels as a different energy source, the government is supplying major subsidies to households that are investing in a solar systems. The rebate amount a property owner receives depends upon the size of the solar system, the location of the property and the state of the energy market. A guarantee of a rebate has attracted many household owners and business owners to make a shift towards solar energy. Right here is where you can find more on information on making the switch to solar. 

Small-Scale Technology Certificates

For residential properties, the current federal government offers what are known as Small-Scale Technology Certificates or STCs. These are rewards for properties that use renewable energy sources. So, when homeowners invest in an accredited solar power system they will receive STCs in accordance to the size of the system and the properties location.

The STCs are sold to organisations that generate electricity via fossil fuels by the homeowner or their renewable energy service provider. Therefore, residents will obtain an offset on the price on the installation of their solar system. However, the amount of the offset is hard to calculate and is not straightforward as prices can fluctuate due to supply and demand. The more STCs on the market, the less the offset will be. Less STCs on the market means the offset value is likely to be higher.

Additionally, the number of STCs the consumer receives depends on the location of their property. For this scheme, Australia is split into four “zone numbers”. If a residency is in a low zone number it means they will naturally get a great quantity of sunshine and consequently can claim more STCs. If a residency is within a high zone number it won’t receive many STCs. High zone number locations include Tasmania and Victoria, while low zone number locations include New South Wales and Queensland.

For homeowners to receive STCs the solar systems must be purchased and installed by government approved professionals.

Feed-in Tariff

Residencies may also be eligible for a feed-in tariff. This tariff is controlled by state governments. It forces electricity retailers to pay homeowners for the electricity sent into the grid that is produced by their solar system. Residential solar systems don’t store electricity, so the excess electricity that is not used by the homeowner is sent back to the electricity grid. The amount the homeowner receives depends on their baseload energy provider and the state in which they live. The size of the system and therefore the average cost will have an effect on this. 

Moreover, this scheme allows homeowners to obtain “credit” through what is called “gross metering” and “net metering”

Gross metering:

All the electricity produced by the solar panels is sent to the electrical grid. From there homeowners are given reimbursement for every kWh the system provides the grid.

Net metering:

The electricity produced by the solar panels is used by the household’s electrical equipment (such as lights, televisions, refrigerators). Any excess power produced that was not used by the household is sent to the electrical grid. The homeowner’s reimbursement depends on how much excess power was sent to the electrical grid.

What is the average cost of installing home solar power systems?

What's The Average Cost of Installing Home Solar Power Systems?

Money, home with solar and calculator

In the past decade the price of installing solar systems on residential roofs are gradually falling in Australia. There are many factors for this. The Chinese economy is producing and exporting more panels which has increased the supply. These solar cells from China are more affordable for consumers and the increase in supply has reduced the price of obtaining solar panels. 

Also, the government in recent years has offered massive subsidies to benefit residents who are installing solar panels for their household. This has caused what is known as “hypercompetition” and this has also reduced the price of installing solar cells significantly. Without these factors the price of solar panels would be very high and unaffordable for most Australians. Due to the affordability of renewable energy in Australia compared to all the other countries in the world, Australia has the highest rate of household installation of solar panels in the world.

Breaking Down The Costs

The cost of a good quality 5kW solar system that has around 15 cells in Australia will cost anywhere around $4000 to $9000. Average quality 5Kw solar system may cost about $2500. Prices vary a lot when it comes to solar panels because there are numerous different types of panels that have a different system and quality. The other thing is you aren’t just paying for the panels, there are also additional costs involved as well. These additional costs include the mounting system and the balance of the system. The mounting system is what physically attaches the panels to your roof.

Mounting The Panels

The mounting of the panels is important because they will need to withstand weather events such as hail, heavy rain and winds for at least twenty-five years. So, the mounting system needs to be high quality and resistant to corrosion as it will be exposed to rain water. For more information on getting a quote for installing solar click here. 

Then there is the balance of the system or what is usually called the “BOS.” The BOS includes all the electrical parts of the solar system. These include the switches, wires, circuit breakers, cables and the most important part the inverter. The inverter is the most expensive part of the BOS components and can cost thousands of dollars. High quality BOS components are important for the solar system to work efficiently and safely.

Getting The Right Tradesmen To Install The Solar System 

The other additional cost is having a qualified electrician to come and do the instalment. The cost of labour depends on how difficult the solar system is to install in your household. Making sure your instalment is done by an experienced electrician ensures that your solar panels function to their full extent.

Does Your Location Matter? 

The cost of solar systems also depends where you live. For example a simple 5kW solar system costs you around $6,400 to install in Hobart, Tasmania. But the same solar system will cost around $4,500 in the Gold Coast, QLD. Therefore, it is important that consumers do their research to find out the prices of a solar system.

5 Benefits Of Installing A Solar Hot Water System

5 Benefits Of Installing A Solar Hot Water System

In Australia, electricity prices are rising, so it would make sense to save money on power where possible. There is now a great opportunity with a solar hot water system to manipulate the power bill in your favour and reduce the cost of living. Heating your water with a solar hot water system is a great alternative compared to the current ways most Aussies are heating their water. Below is a list of benefits of installing a solar hot water system.

Solar hot water system on house.

Solar Hot Water systems provide reliability and security

The sun will continue to rise and set, it is very consistent. Although there are some cloudy days, there is always lots of sunshine, especially in the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. Therefore, solar power is a very reliable energy source and you will always have hot water throughout the sunny days of the year. In the event of a power outage there may not be any hot water readily available with a conventional hot water system. However, with a solar hot water system, it doesn’t matter if something goes wrong, there will always be hot water. Solar systems provide energy security and having hot water on demand in any sort of power outage or breaking down of equipment will make your neighbours jealous.

Solar Power saves you money

Although there is a large initial cost of purchase and instalment, in the long-term a solar hot water system will save you money. After instalment, if done properly, you won’t be paying money for hot water ever again. The best decision you ever made was investing in a hot water system that runs on solar power.

You are helping the Environment

There has been plenty of research done over the past decade that suggests solar power doesn’t cause any damage to the environment and if it does it is very limited. Solar electricity is very “green” renewable energy and does not release any carbon dioxide or other “pollutants.” However, the extraction of Lithium and some other materials required to build solar systems is not a very “green” practice.

Home Solar Systems of any kind provide energy independence

Solar panels present homeowners the ability to be energy independent. The sun which is the “fuel” for solar systems cannot be purchased or monopolised, it is free for everyone to use. Solar systems equate to an independent source of electricity that only you can own. Check out our solar Homepage for more information. 

Solar Hot Water System are great choice for properties in rural locations

Those who live in the bush or further away from main power lines they can have trouble getting a cheap supply of electricity. They often only have one energy retailer to choose from. Therefore, these consumers in more rural settings must bow down to the demands of the single retailer or else they will be cut from the electricity grid. However, a great thing about the bush and the outback is that the sun shines a lot. So, a solar hot water system would be perfect for those in remote locations. You can check out more information on how to buy solar panels here. 

Who is verified to install home solar systems?

Who's Verified To Install Home Solar Systems?

Businesses in Australia that supply solar panels and solar system installations to consumers should be accredited by the Clean Energy Council. Businesses who have accreditation with the Clean Energy Council will be guaranteed to employ electricians and experts who are specialised in setting up solar systems. Consumers who want a guarantee that their solar system is installed properly should only do business with organisations accredited by the Clean Energy Council.

3 Solar panel technicians putting solar on roof.

This is because retailers that are accredited by the council have signed up to what is named as the Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct. This document holds organisations in the clean energy business accountable, making sure they provide consumers quality products and services. They must provide consumers with a quality product and proper installation or else they will lose their accreditation. Accredited solar system installers by the Clean Energy Council have proved that they sell solar systems that are good quality and function safely. They have also proved that their employers install solar systems properly.

Make Sure The Installer Is Qualified 

It’s important to get accredited electricians to install a solar system as they can be very complicated and possibly dangerous to set up. You can find info on installers on this page. For solar systems to be advantageous or profitable to consumers they need to work at full efficiency for a numerous amount of years. Solar systems that are not installed properly won’t work at full efficiency and may not have any longevity. Therefore, if solar systems are not installed properly it will be disadvantageous to consumers to get solar panels in the first place. 

Most businesses that sell solar panels in Australia to consumers have a team of experts. This is because every residence is different. When consumers purchase solar panels, businesses will usually send solar experts to analyse the physical aspects of their property and the property’s power supply and network. For this reason it's a good idea to understand how solar panels work. 

For example, these experts will be analysing the size of the roof, roof shading, roof direction and the shape of the roof. They will also be analysing the consumers current power details, such as how much power is used, what time of the day it is used, the consumers position in the electricity market and how the house is connected to the baseload power grid. This analysis is done so that suppliers can provide the best possible solar system for the consumers property.

After the solar experts have scoped the property and analysed the property’s power supply and network, businesses will give a quote to the customer. They will then often get in touch with the residence’s baseload supplier to let them know that their customer is getting solar panels. This is so retailers can prepare for the property’s solar system installation. During installation the house will receive new wiring, circuit breakers, cables, an inverter and of course the solar panels. The installation process is costly but that is because setting up a solar system is a complicated process involving expensive electrical equipment.

How do solar panels work?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Each solar panel is constructed with many smaller units which are called solar cells. In most types of solar panels, the solar cells are made from silicone. Silicone is known to be a “semi-conductor” and is one of the most abundant elements on Earth.

House with sun shining on roof with solar.

Solar Cells

A solar cell is made up of crystal and silicone. The crystal and silicone is held together or “sandwiched” between conductive material such as aluminium. Each solar cell contains two different layers of silicone. One has extra electrons and the other one has extra holes for electrons. The extra electrons from one layer of silicone fill the holes of the other layer. Therefore, all the silicone atoms are connected by a strong bond, keeping the electrons steady. This also creates a positive charge on one side of the silicone and a negative on the other. The sunlight contains photons.

When one of the photons from the sun hits the solar cell, it knocks out one of the electrons leaving a hole. The knocked-out electron than navigates towards the positive charged side and the hole to the negative charged side. The knocked-out electron is then gathered and travels through the conductive material which acts as an external circuit and from there the electron can do electric work such as the powering of a light bulb. After the electron has done its electric work it returns to where it was knocked out via the other side of the external circuit. Each silicone cell only produces around 0.5 volts of power. However, you can connect many cells together and put them on a panel.

Why Are Inverters Important?

The electricity produced by the solar panel is then sent to an inverter. The electricity produced by the solar panel is DC electricity or Direct Current electricity. The inverter converts DC electricity to what is known as AC electricity or alternating current electricity. The AC electricity is then used to power your electrical products such as televisions, refrigerators and lights. Inverters do much more than convert electricity from DC to AC. They also can generate statistics about the solar panels, such as how much electricity was produced by the solar panels, what percentage of the households used electricity came from the solar panels and power point tracking. If you're need solar installed check out our homepage

During the peak daylight hours, solar panels naturally produces more energy. If there is any excess energy it is sent into the baseload electricity grid. The customer will get credit when this excess electricity is sent back to the baseload grid. During cloudy days and at night time the customer can use these credits to get discounted electricity from the baseload grid. Check out more information on the solar rebate, to see if you're eligible. 

Solar panels work best during the summer for the south east of Australia. Solar panels don’t produce that much electricity during the winter in Victoria and Tasmania. In the tropical parts of Australia, during the rainfall season solar panels produce little electricity but during the other times of the year they produce much more.