How do I save money?
There are number of ways that you save money with a solar power system.
Standard Feed-In Tariffs: Under a standard Feed-In Tariff (FiT), your rates from your retailer remain the same as they currently are. You enter an agreement with the retailer that they will buy any excess generation back from you at "a fair and reasonable rate". This is usually determined as being the same rate you buy power from them. This is a simple system and effectively equates to you saving as much power as your system can generate. i.e. if your system generates 25% of your pre-solar power, you could expect your bill to be 25% lower than previously. Under the Standard FiT, you will still incur price increases, but your export rate will also increase giving you the same net benefit.
Premium Feed-In Tariffs: Premium rates vary from state to state and retailer to retailer therefore it's best to shop around for the best deal. The Premium FiT is a contract that you enter into with a retailer that's backed by the state government. The contract will lock in the rate that you receive from the retailer and also the rates that you pay them. In some cases, you may be signing up for higher rates than you were on previously. The retailer does this because they can't move the pricing on you later and need to lock in pricing for the term of the arrangement, usually 5+ years. In some instances you may lose off-peak and other discounted tariffs. Most people only look at what they'll be receiving so be sure to check all the details before signing. The size of your system needs to be capable of exceeding your daylight usage by a significant amount to receive a real benefit.
Do I have to sign up for the Premium rates?
No you do not have to. Premium rates are designed as an added incentive for early adopters and provides the opportunity to receive a premium rate for excess power from your system. You should ask your installer if the system they are installing will generate excess based on your usage history.
What are renewable energy certificates (REC's or STC's)?
The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER) is the federal government's department for managing all renewable energy. They've created a Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20% by 2020. This means that by 2020, 20% of all our power will come from renewable sources of generation. The government has regulated that all power companies must meet the annual targets it sets which will constantly creep towards the 20% target. To meet these targets, power companies must either introduce new renewable generation themselves or purchase certificates from the public. In most cases, it's easier to purchase these certificates/credits from the public.
From the 1st of January 2011, REC's have been split into two categories. There's the domestic version which are called Small Technology Certificates (STC's) and the large scale or commercial version which are Large Generation Certificates (LGC's). Once you've installed an eligble system on your house, you can create the certificates for yourself or assign them to someone else. Whoever ends up with the certificates trades them with companies that need to comply with the RET.
In most cases, home owners trade their STC's back to the installer in exchange for a cash discount off the system install price.
Should I keep my STC's or trade them for an upfront discount?
In order to realise your financial benefit from your STC's you will need to trade them somewhere.
It is your choice who you trade these with and you are not obligated to sell them back to your installer although this is usually the simplest option. Your installer will usually offer you a price to take them off your hands at the time of install and most people elect for this as there are setup fees and transaction costs involved in doing all the paperwork yourself.
Some companies exist purely to trade STC's and will happily buy them from you but be sure to ask around if this is the way you choose to go as prices do vary.
If I generate extra power, what happens to it?
When you generate extra power it will flow back out to the grid. If you imagine that the national electricity grid is a large battery, your power is sent back out to the grid so that you can draw it back down later when you need it. If you draw back less than you generate you are running your account in credit.
If you are constantly running your account in credit, you may want to look into the options available through state government Premium Feed-In Tariffs.
Will tree's and other objects affect the performance of my system?
Definately. Solar power comes from the sun and anything that blocks the sun from hitting the panels will reduce the overall performance of the system.
A good installer will tell you how much output you can expect to generate and assist you in your evaluation of your investment according to your circumstances.
Other factors can also affect the performance of your system. Shading from antennas or evaporative coolers will have a similar effect to the shading from trees. These need to be accounted for during the design of your system.
Panels that are dirty from dust and other environmental materials need to be cleaned regularly to ensure optimal performance. Most quality panels come with a chemical coating on the glass. This coating assists in cleaning the panels during rain and prevents them from attracting dust in the first place.
What are the incentives available to offset the cost of my system?
- The federal government has introduced a scheme that rewards early investment in solar technology through it's Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Upon install your system is eleigble for credits. These credits can be sold for a financial benefit. Currently the price for these credits varys between $30 - $40 depending on the time of year and who you trade these with.
The number of certificates (STC's) you are entitled to is related to the size of your system, location and timing. Areas that receive more sun are entitled to more certificates. Early adopters are also entitled to receive more certificates under the governments Solar Credit Scheme.
What is the government's Solar Credit Scheme?
The Solar Credit Scheme is a multiplier on the first 1.5kW of a solar system. It's an incentive to adopt solar power now. Solar credits multiply the number of STC's which means you receive more certificates that you can trade. It was announced in December 2010 that the government would reduce multipliers earlier than originally schduled. Your install must occur before the relevant dates below to qualify:
|1 July 2010 - 30 June 2011||5x Eligible STC's|
|1 July 2011 - 30 June 2012||3x Eligible STC's|
|1 July 2012 - 30 June 2013||2x Eligible STC's|
|1 July 2013 - 30 June 2014||1x Eligible STC's|
Can I get my local electrician to install my system?
You can, as long as the contractor is CEC accredited. They will have a CEC accreditation card that will have their details and they must be a registered electrical contractor. If you need to check for yourself, you can look up their details on the CEC website.
If there's a blackout, will I still have power?
No, your inverter will shut down for safety. Regulations require that generation systems on the grid shut down if there is a power failure. If inverters didn't shut down it would pose a risk to the power authorities working on the lines during a power outage as surplus power would feed into the grid from all the solar installs. Therefore, if the inverter senses that there are significant variances in the grid, it will shut off until power returns.
Do I have to have my panels mounted on my roof?
You can have your panels mounted anywhere on your property so long as they will be in sufficient sunlight but there will probably be additional costs in arranging the mounting. Most mounting systems are designed to be roof mounted and out of the way. You will also get more out of your system if it can be installed facing North.
What is a Feed In Tariff (FiT)?
A Feed-In Tariff (FiT) is the rate that a power company pays you for excess generation.
Are the panels resistant to hail?
Yes. Our panels have been tested for impact resistance.
Could you explain the different panel technologies?
There are 3 main types of panel technology:
Monocrystalline cells are made from a single silicon crystal and they can be identified by their black appearance and a diamond pattern between the cells. Monocrystalline is currently the most efficient panel technology which means that it puts out more power per m2 than other technologies. This is the only panel technology that SolarSpec supplies.
Multicrystalline or "Poly" panels are made from multiple silicone crystals that are mixed together. This silicone is cheaper to source than monocrystalline but also results in a lower efficiency. This means that you will need more surface area covered in panels to achieve the same system output. Poly panels can be identified by their galvanised appearance and a bluish tint.
- Thin Film
Thin film technology is an emerging technology. Thin film currently operates at the lowest efficiency but is the best technology to deal with shading. It's output degrades less in heat but their efficiency is still a long way behind monocrystalline panels.
How can I compare panels of different sizes?
The easiest way to compare different panels that are different dimensions and technologies is to compare their module efficiencies. Module efficiency is a standardised way of comparing the output and is a measure of how much of the sun's energy can be converted per m2 of surface area. For example, a panel with a module efficiency of 15.0% will be able to generate 150W of power per m2 of panel.
Should I use fewer big panels or more small panels?
This is a personal choice. If you have a large north facing roof you can probably afford to use more space and put bigger, less efficient panels up. If you have a smaller roof or want to install a bigger system, you would likely opt for smaller panels that are higher efficiency.
Do I need to obtain special approvals to get a solar system installed?
Some states or local councils require you to notify them of a pending install and in some cases apply for a building permit. If you're planning to install a solar system on your home it's best to enquire with your local council. Typically, your installer will also know the rules and regulations in your local area.