3 Big Things in Solar

Solar & Battery Roadshow – Geelong region

Torquay based solar business Green Energy Options is hitting the road to talk about the latest advances in solar power and battery storage technology at their upcoming roadshow. Home and business owners will get the opportunity to see new products, learn about new technologies and have their questions answered by experts, with information sessions being held around Geelong, the Bellarine & Surfcoast.

“The solar industry is fast moving” says Green Energy Options director, Aaron Lewtas “Three big things that we’re seeing in the solar industry right now, are an upsurge in enquiries about battery storage, a steady increase in the number of businesses installing solar and a trend towards smarter, microinverter solar systems” he said.

Battery Storage

enphase-ac-battery-solar

Enphase AC Battery

Tesla grabbed everyone’s attention recently with the launch of their Powerwall battery that put a focus on home battery storage. Enphase recently launched its new AC battery which, with a low starting price of around $2,500 and the ability to be retrofitted to existing solar systems, has seen double the expected uptake in pre-orders. During the roadshow, we’ll be discussing the storage options available for grid connected and off-grid homeowners.

Commercial Solar

commercial-solar-installation-childcare-centre-torquay

25kW Torquay Commercial Solar installation

With smart businesses looking for ways to reduce their overheads and become more efficient, solar has become a favoured way to reduce electricity costs and improve margins. “Any business that’s using power during the day is in a good position to take advantage of solar” said Lewtas. Geelong business owner Mick Robertson also took advantage of the Governments $20,000 tax break, and says “Solar is already looking at being a great saver on electricity, and will pay for itself in 2-4 years”.

Microinverters

enphase-s-series-microinverters-torquay

Enphase S Series microinverters

 

When it comes to smart solar, Enphase microinverters have some advantages over traditional centralised inverter solar systems. Microinverters are installed under the solar panels and offer panel level optimisation, improving system performance, particularly in shade. They also make solar safer and give more flexibility for tricky roofs and system expansions.

Recent surveys suggest that trust is a major barrier for those wanting to go solar. “Many companies are resorting to door knocking and cold calling, and Green Energy Options would like to break down those barriers and connect with our customers” said Lewtas. Green Energy Options will be running information sessions from 7-9pm in Torquay (July 26), Ocean Grove (July 28), Belmont (Aug 3) and Winchelsea (Aug 4). For further details and RSVP go to www.tiny.cc/geo-solar

Solar & Battery Roadshow Geelong, Surfcoast & Bellarine

solar-battery-roadshow-geelong-surfcoast-bellarine

We invite you to come along to a free informative evening to learn about the latest in solar and battery technology including:
  • What incentives are available?
  • Tesla Powerwall pros and cons
  • How much does it cost?
  • What can I save?
  • How to select a reliable system?
  • Avoiding the pitfalls when selecting a solar provider
For any questions regarding the event call us on 1300 931 929 or email email aaron@greenenergyoptions.com.au

**Everyone who registers receives a $250 discount voucher

 

To register click on the link below and you’ll be redirected to the Eventbright website:

 

Torquay Event – July 26th, Grant Pavillion, 7-9pm

Ocean Grove Event – July 28th, Grove Pavillion, 7-9pm

Belmont Event – August 3rd, South Barwon Civic Centre, 7-9pm

Winchelsea Event – August 4th, Eastern Reserve, 7-9pm

Bonus event

Torquay Biz3228 Event – August 18th, RACV Resort, 6:30pm-8:30pm

geelong-solar-info-sessions

Enphase AC Battery comes to Geelong

 

Enphase storage system

Enphase solar AC battery set to shake things up

Solar Microinverter manufacturer, Enphase Energy is set to release their new AC battery to Australia in August and last week they confirmed special pricing for a limited number of units for pre-sale.

We’re pretty excited here at Green Energy Options, we think that Enphase have a unique battery storage solution that could be a game changer in the way residential battery storage is done.  Their AC battery enclosure includes a 1.2kWh Lithium Ferrite Phosphate battery and a microinverter which is AC coupled to provide 240V AC power to appliances in the home.

With a large number of solar home batteries hitting the Australian market in recent months it’s hard to know which way to look. Electric car manufacturer, Tesla have managed to capture the mainstream’s attention with their Tesla Powerwall home battery and other major electronics companies like LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic have also entered the market.

So, what’s so good about Enphase’s AC battery? I hear you ask.

Well, Enphase are making home battery storage more affordable and easier to install than ever before and here’s a few reasons why we think it’s great.

Modular

Probably the thing we like the most about the Enphase AC battery is that it’s small and modular. Each unit is 1.2kWh of total storage capacity (1.1kWh usable) meaning that you can start off small and expand the system as you go.  Most other batteries are much larger in the 3-10kWh range, meaning that the starting price is higher and the size is often larger than what’s required.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 7.04.21 am

Flexible Design

When it comes to designing a storage system to suit your circumstances, this modularity allows for flexibility that other battery systems don’t. Remember that to get the most financial benefit out of your battery storage system; you really want to be cycling the battery to its full capacity every day within the warranty period. This means you need enough excess solar to charge the battery during the day and that you want to be using enough electricity in the evenings to draw down the battery to its full capacity too.

Now as there will always be times when you are away, out for dinner or not consuming enough energy at night, the larger your battery storage system is, the more likely it will be to have battery capacity sitting there, that you’ve paid for, that’s not being used. The Enphase AC battery allows us to design the right sized system to suit you.

Affordable

Enphase’s AC battery system allows a low price point for entry that isn’t possible with other battery storage solutions. The speed and ease of installation is another factor that contributes to keeping costs down, with a single unit able to be installed in around half an hour.

People wanting to start with a small battery system and grow it are now able to enter with a price point starting at under $2,500 fully installed (for one unit), with the price reducing for additional units. This now makes it highly accessible for many homeowners around Geelong.

Retrofittable

The Enphase AC battery will be compatible with any existing solar system, it won’t matter if you have an Enphase microinverter system or a traditional string inverter system, it will work. This means you won’t need to replace your existing inverter or install a separate battery charging inverter for the batteries.

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Reliable

Enphase have shown with their microinverters that they can manufacture at scale with a very low failure rate, while maintaining a high quality product that lasts. With a 10 year warranty on their AC battery, based on cycling the battery twice a day, Enphase probably have one of the cheapest battery storage systems in cost per warranted kWh.

Safer

  • Enphase’s AC Battery system uses prismatic cells from leading Japanese battery manufacturer Eliiy Power, which are very stable over time.
  • The battery doesn’t have any high voltage DC in the system
  • Safety certified by independent German certification body TUV Rheinland

Probably a couple of things worth noting with this battery is;

  1. That it is designed to capture the main value proposition for grid connected solar customers; capturing excess solar rather than exporting it to the grid. If you are after a battery that provides backup if the grid goes down, this is not currently a solution that will be able to do this. If backup is what you’re after, give us a call, we have other solutions that will be more appropriate.
  2. You will need to install an Enphase Envoy-S-Metered, which is the smart controller that monitors and manages the energy coming from the solar and being stored in the battery, as well as when the energy is discharged. The Envoy also doubles as a solar and consumption monitor and these are normally installed in a separate switchboard or hub in a garage or near the switchboard.

 With a background in manufacturing solar microinverters, Enphase have always stated that they are an energy company, with a vision for a whole of home energy solution. This is one of the things that excites me most, as they are looking not only at solar and battery storage, but beyond this towards the smart home and the clever energy management of appliances.

With so many benefits, and the first shipment of Enphase batteries coming to Australia in August, we expect there to be a swift uptake of the Enphase AC battery. Call us now on 1300 931 929 to pre-order your own Enphase AC battery.

 

For more information on the enphase home battery storage visit the website:

https://enphase.com/en-au/products-and-services/storage

Installation of battery

 

Business to benefit from solar budget boost

Geelong-solar-for-business-tax-break

Business in Geelong and the Surfcoast can install solar and benefit from tax break. Call us on 1300 931 929 for more info.

Businesses looking to invest in solar power have been given further incentive with changes announced in the budget last week.

The Federal Government have announced an increase to the turnover threshold for businesses wanting to take advantage of immediate tax deductions for business equipment – like solar power systems- up to $20,000.

Currently businesses with a turnover of $2 Million annually can take advantage of this scheme.

Changes to the budget mean that from July 1st 2016, businesses eligible for this tax write off will be increased to $10 Million.

This could turn out to be a big help for savvy businesses who have been considering using solar to get their overheads down, increase their cash flow and bottom line.

Many businesses tend to use their electricity between the hours of 9am to 5pm – the ideal times of day for a solar system to generate electricity. With the reduction in feed in tariff rates, installing solar is all about being able to self-consume your solar energy on site and offset the cost of purchasing electricity from the grid. We’re already seeing businesses saving thousands of dollars a year on their electricity bills.

Most commercial systems that we install have a financial payback of 4-5 years, but we would expect the instant tax deduction to reduce that further. Solar power systems have an expected system life of 20-25 years, so the system will continue to provide savings well beyond the payback period.

 

In summary

Invest in a solar system up to $20,000 ex GST. You can get a good quality 10-15kW solar system.

  • Claim the entire cost of the system as an immediate tax write-off.
  • Slash your electricity costs more or less overnight – Many businesses are using a large amount of their power during the day when the sun is shining.
  • With the huge savings made, pay off the remainder of your system in 2-5 years.
  •  Gain additional savings on your power bill over the next 20-25* years therefore increasing your cash flow and your bottom line.

 

*Expected life system of most solar systems

Energy Storage and Battery Ready Solar

Off Grid Energy Australia SMA Battery system

Off Grid Energy Australia battery storage system

 

Home battery storage systems have been getting their fair share of media exposure lately, the Tesla Powerwall battery launch got everyone talking and a number of energy storage companies are targeting Australia as a key market to launch their products into. Over the past few years we’ve also seen some rather large electricity price increases and many electricity retailers have gotten away with treating their customers like dirt. Combine this with low solar feed in tariffs, a large amount of residential solar installations and a climate with its fair share of sunlight and you’ve got a recipe for a battery storage revolution. We’ve had a lot of enquiries about off-grid and hybrid grid-battery systems lately as people look for alternatives, where they can reduce their electricity bills and become more independent from the grid.

Despite all the hype around battery storage, for most people in Victoria, the economics won’t add up just yet. Off-grid systems can make a lot of sense when you’re presented with a $30,000 grid-connection charge as the alternative, but those with a reliable grid connection will find it harder to make an economic case for batteries right now.

What’s a Battery Ready Solar system?

With battery prices set to drop by 60% in the next five years, there’s a lot of talk about ‘battery ready’ or ‘battery compatible’ solar systems for those that aren’t quite ready to take the plunge. We’re hearing these terms thrown around a bit, so we thought we’d take a look at what it means and what to look out for. In this post I’ll generally be speaking about grid-battery solar systems, as this is what will be relevant for most people, but some solutions will be suitable for upgrading to going off-grid too.

There are a number of ways to make your solar system ‘battery ready’, some might even argue that just by having a grid-connect solar system installed it is ready or compatible with batteries; you just need to add the storage, an inverter, and the battery management system. Be aware that battery storage systems come in a few different forms and have lots of different features. Here are a few examples of different approaches to battery ready systems.

Battery ready retrofit for new and existing systems

 

Enphase Energy 1.2kWh AC Battery

Enphase Energy’s modular AC Battery

Enphase Energy is releasing their AC battery in mid-2016. It’s a 1.2kWh easily expandable modular solution designed specifically for solar self-consumption (no blackout proofing yet). Their plans for a home energy management platform are impressive and they have already demonstrated how their platform can deliver benefits to the electricity grid. If you’re looking to get battery ready for the Enphase solution, simply install their new ‘Envoy’ monitoring gateway (due out early 2016) with consumption and solar production monitoring and after collecting information about your scenario they will size the battery to best suit your situation. Each Enphase AC battery includes its own microinverter and can be AC Coupled with Enphase’s own solar microinverter systems or retrofitted to an existing grid-connect, string inverter solar system. The great thing about this solution is that it’s compatible with any standard grid connect solar system. Pricing is expected to be around the $2,000 mark as a starting point for their 1.2kWh battery.

Battery ready Hybrid inverter solution

 

Fronius Symo & Primo Hybrid battery storage system

Fronius Symo Hybrid battery system

 

Fronius have been making battery charging systems since 1945. The Austrian company take a different approach. If you are installing a new grid connect solar system, you can install one of their battery ready hybrid inverters. Their Hybrid inverter solution manages connections to both the solar and battery systems, this is a DC coupled solution meaning you only require one inverter in total. To be truly battery ready, we’d recommend you install the Fronius smart meter in the switchboard to monitor your consumption for accurate battery sizing later. Fronius are a Tesla partner and their inverters are compatible with the new Tesla Powerwall home battery, which is expected to be released with 7kWh of usable battery storage. Fronius also have their own modular battery solution. Please note that at the time of writing there is no single phase ‘Primo’ hybrid inverter solution available in Australia yet (due sometime in 2016), only their three phase ‘Symo’ hybrid inverter is available. It’s probably worth noting that the Fronius inverter can also be setup as an AC coupled unit, pairing with an existing Fronius grid-connect solar inverter if you have a single phase meter and don’t want to wait.

Total energy independence battery ready option

 

Off Grid Energy BMZ battery unit

Off Grid Energy’s BMZ ESS 5kWh Lithium-ion battery unit

 

If you’re looking at a system that will eventually take you off the grid, providing you with full autonomy and independence, we partner with Off-Grid Energy Australia to provide an expandable lithium-ion battery solution, using the German manufactured SMA inverter complete with smart home management system integration. The German manufactured, Off-Grid Energy Australia, BMZ battery (Sony cells) come in modular 6kWh units and can deliver up to a whopping 15kW of power to you home, making this an unrivalled solution in the Australian market. Many other Lithium-ion battery solutions will restrict the peak output from the battery meaning that you may not be able to power multiple appliances in the house at the same time. To install a battery ready SMA system we can simply install a standard SMA grid-connect solar inverter system with consumption monitoring and the battery inverter and batteries can be added later. Note that the SMA range of battery inverters offers flexibility and is expandable with 6kW & 8kW unit options that can offer power layering from the solar, the grid or generator above what’s supplied from the batteries.

Hybrid battery all in one solution

 

Samsung ESS hybrid battery storage

Samsung ESS Hybrid all in one battery

Although this is not a battery ready system, it’s a system with an actual battery included, I thought it’s worth touching base on to give an idea on the different types of systems out there. Samsung ESS (Energy Storage System) is a compact solution which includes a hybrid inverter for the solar and the battery as well as the battery and energy management system, all you need to do is add solar. Note that their smaller system has 3.6kWh of storage and does not provide emergency backup if the grid goes down, while their larger unit is scalable to 10.8kWh of storage and does have an off grid mode. The peak inverter output in these units is 4.6kW and 4.98kW respectively.

 

Probably the most important thing to know when selecting a battery ready solar system is that nearly all the options out there will lock you into using their particular product or storage system, so when you’re making a decision on a battery ready system think about the company behind the solution, what features you want, and remember choose carefully because you’re not just purchasing a battery storage system, you’re buying part of a home energy management system.

If you’re after more info here’s a few things to consider:

Solar Self-consumption & Blackout proofing

Most people installing a grid-battery system in Australia over the next few years will be looking to install batteries so they can capture excess solar for use at night rather than selling it into the grid at a low rate. Some systems are designed specifically for increasing solar self-consumption and won’t have the ability to provide power when the grid goes down. Solar self-consumption systems that don’t have blackout proofing will generally be cheaper and for many who live in areas where the grid is highly reliable will be a suitable solution.  When it comes to blackout proofing, each system will be different, the appliances that you can run when the grid goes down will be dependent on the inverter capacity, the battery size and the peak output of the battery pack. In some cases appliances will need to be split into separate circuits, with only the essential items wired for use in backup mode. Other systems will not allow you to use the solar when the grid goes down and will only give you access to what’s already stored in the battery.

Modularity & Expandability

Some storage options allow you to start off small and increase the battery storage capacity incrementally; these systems can make the initial cost of battery storage more accessible, while accommodating the needs of a growing family or changing energy usage. Return on investment can be optimised when battery storage systems are sized correctly; modular systems allow a lot of flexibility here to get the size of your battery right.

Home Energy Management System and Monitoring

It’s probably worth looking at your battery storage system as part of a home energy management system. It’s important to consider the other parts of the system like your solar array, controlling the switching of other electrical appliances (like hot water, pool pumps, washing machines, etc) and how they will interact together through a monitoring or control system. If you’re looking at a battery ready system, do some research into the brand of inverter you’re looking at and see what plans the company has for the future, are they looking at a total smart home package, that allows you to see and control things on a good online portal. If you want to manage the energy use in your home to help reduce your electricity bills, you want the monitoring platform to be easy to use.

Battery Technology

Different systems will use different battery technologies, I’m not going to go into too much depth here, but most on-grid battery systems are using some form of Lithium-ion battery technology rather than the traditional lead acid type batteries. Lithium batteries generally have a thermal cut out at around 40-45 degrees Celsius, so you’ll need to think about where you install them, hot sheds might cause some issues. There’s also a range of other new battery storage technologies at various stages of commercialisation including a number of variations of Lithium-ion technology, sodium-ion, lead acid ultrabattery, flow batteries and more. As with all new technologies, do your research and take the marketing pitches with a grain of salt.

Off-Grid Independence

If you’re looking to eventually cut the cable and take your home off-grid there are a number of products that won’t do it. It’s really an extension on blackout proofing; you need to make sure the inverter capacity and peak output of the battery bank can cater for your needs and the battery capacity can be scaled to cover your energy storage requirements. If you’re thinking about an eventual off-grid solution, you may want to consider setting up your solar array to be optimised for winter; this will help to keep your batteries topped up when they most need it and minimise any generator run time if you do eventually cut the cable.

Green Energy Options can supply a range of battery ready systems to suit your needs. Please feel free to contact us on 1300 931 929 to discuss all your solar, battery storage and battery ready needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Monitoring

There is a range of solar monitoring solutions now available for monitoring your solar power production. Most of the solar systems that we’ve been installing recently around Geelong, the Surfcoast and Bellarine have been fitted with online solar monitoring. Here we’ll explain why having real time, solar monitoring connected to the web is a great idea, also we’ll give a rundown of what’s available and some of the benefits it provides.

Most solar systems in the past (and now) have provided a screen on the inverter where you can monitor your systems performance through some basic information like instantaneous power (Wattage), daily energy produced (kilowatt hours (kWh)) and lifetime energy produced (kWh). This is great, but sometimes it can be tricky to determine if your system is working to its full capacity.

By connecting your solar system to the internet, you can get real time solar monitoring sent direct to your computer screen, smart phone or tablet. The online solar monitoring solutions that Green Energy Options have been providing have some advantages over a standard inverter screen display:

Enlighten is Enphase's online monitoring portal, it shows a fantastic graphic on how your system is performing

Enlighten is Enphase’s online monitoring portal, it shows a fantastic graphic on how your system is performing

Easy performance checking

It’s easy to access real time and historical performance information. This means you can compare system performance estimates given to you by your installer with actual performance to confirm that your system is doing what it should.

Optimise savings through better self-consumption

It can be exciting to see what’s happening up on your roof, online solar monitoring can make it easier to understand exactly when your system is producing electricity and when you should be aiming to run appliances to maximise self-consumption – maximising your savings.

Increase savings by minimising system downtime

Email alerts can be set to advise if there is a problem with your solar system. This helps you to identify issues quickly and minimise lost income from system downtime. On top of this your installer can now see what your solar system is doing from the comfort of their office. In the case of Enphase microinverters, the installer can actually see down to panel level monitoring, meaning that troubleshooting can often be done off site and problems can be resolved quicker.

Future updates and improvements

With the monitoring systems that we are installing the solar inverter manufacturer can get feedback on the environmental conditions and grid parameters that their products are operating under, helping them to refine their solution for real world conditions. They can also send software updates out to the solar inverter/s to make improvements and changes to their operating parameters, dealing with grid issues that arise and optimising their product.

Here’s a great quick explanation of how the Enphase MyEnlighten software works and what you can see.

The two main inverters that Green Energy Options install, Enphase microinverters and Fronius string inverters both have online solar monitoring capability. Enphase connects to your router via Wi-Fi or internet-over-powerline bridges, while Fronius has an inbuilt Wi-Fi connection; both make for simple connection to the web, which Green Energy Options provide as part of our package.

Efergy Energy monitoring solution

Efergy Energy monitoring solution

Other inverter manufacturers like SMA and ABB are also providing online solar monitoring solutions, some are included, and some are at an additional cost. There are also a growing number of third party monitoring options available like Efergy, that provide monitoring solutions that can be retrofitted to your existing solar system

 

If you are interested to see how some of our Enphase microinverter systems are performing around Geelong the Surfcoast and Bellarine region, check out our interactive map above.
For more information about solar monitoring or questions around installing solar around the Geelong region, please feel free to give us a call on 1300 931 929.

Solar Mounting Systems

Geelong Solar Mounting Systems

One of the least sexy and often overlooked components of a solar power system is the solar mounting system that attaches the panels to the roof or the ground. This is sometimes referred to as a racking, framing or railing system. The mounting system is a pretty important part of a solar system and all mounting systems need to be supplied with an engineering certificate showing they comply with the relevant standards.

At Green Energy Options we think there are a number of benefits that come from using a high quality mounting system, here’s a few examples:

  1. It provides peace of mind that the panels are secure and won’t be blown away in strong winds.
  2. It improves the performance of your solar system, through good airflow around the panels and/or optimising the angle of the solar array.
  3. Minimises potential for corrosion and in turn reduces maintenance costs and helps improve the return on investment of your system.
  4. If there are problems, questions or warranty issues, having a reputable, responsive, local business to deal with is important.

Green Energy Options use the Sunlock mounting systems on our solar installations. Sunlock’s documentation on installation and engineering requirements is probably the most detailed available for rooftop installations in Australia and is backed by a 10 year warranty. Best of all, its Australian made, manufactured right here in Melbourne by Ullrich aluminium. Here are some examples of Sunlock’s fixings for different roof types:

Standard corrugated tin roof

On a standard corrugated tin roof an L-foot is usually used. It attaches into the top ridge of the corrugation and is isolated from the tin by a rubber pad to stop water ingress and electrochemical corrosion between dissimilar metals.

Sunlock L Foot

Tile bracket

On a tile roof, there is no need to drill through every tile, we simply lift the tile, attach the tile bracket to the rafter and slide the top tile back into place. The tile bracket’s arm fits between the two tiles and the rail is then attached to the bracket’s upright arm.

Solar Tile Bracket

Tilt frame

Tilt frames are normally used on flat rooves or rooves with a low pitch. By tilting the panels up towards the north to a steeper angle you are able to optimise the output of your system. Note that tilt framing adds a cost to the solar system so it’s not always the best option for increasing energy harvest. Sometimes it will work out better to spend the money on adding an extra couple of panels to increase output. Green Energy Options is happy to assist you with working out what will be best for your home or business.

Soalr tilt frames geelong

EcoGeneration has also put together a guide called The Australian Mounting System Guide, this provides a great overview of what to look out for in a solar mounting system. Ecogeneration Mounting Systems Guide

For further information, please feel free to contact us on 1300 931 929

Oversizing your solar array

Oversizing your solar array

Oversizing your solar array in comparison to the size of your solar inverter can be a great way to generate the most kWh from your solar power system at the best price. It sounds counterintuitive when you first hear it; installing a 6.5kW solar array on a 5kW inverter seems like an inefficient way to design a solar system, but rather than using the term oversizing, I’d suggest it’s more like optimising or supersizing your system. There are boundaries and limits to how far you can go, but in many cases I think it can be a good idea.

Firstly I must mention that this isn’t appropriate with all solar inverters, so before you do anything, check with the inverter manufacturer (or your local solar installer) to make sure their inverters are designed to cope with oversizing your solar array. Green Energy Options has experience in oversizing solar arrays and can advise of which inverters are most appropriate.

Why Oversize?

The price of Photovoltaic (PV) solar modules has dropped dramatically over the last few years, so it is now much cheaper to add additional solar array capacity. The idea is that rather than putting money into additional inverter capacity put your dollars into extra panels and you’ll see a better energy harvest and better financial result.

To explain why, I’ll start with the nameplate rating of a solar PV panel; a 260 Watt panel for example is a power output that’s achieved in a lab under Standard Test Conditions (STC) that is at 25 degrees Celsius and 1000W/m2 of irradiance. In reality the panel will rarely put out 260W of power because of system losses. For much of the time the panel’s operating temperature will be more like 40-65 degrees and heat inhibits the panel’s output a little, cloud cover can also mean the system won’t be performing at i’s peak or the angle of the sun in relation to the panel can contribute to a reduced output. We also need to bear in mind that over time the silicon in the module will degrade and dirt and dust build up can reduce output too.  Under these circumstances where a solar panel or a solar array isn’t performing at its peak output very often, the top end of the inverter’s output range is rarely used.

Oversizing Enphase micro-inverters

Enphase Energy recommends oversizing panels in relation to their micro-inverters, they recommend using panels up to 270 Watts on their 215 Watt micro-inverter. Below they show in a graph that the losses from ‘inverter clipping’ are mostly below 0.5% (when the panel output is above the peak inverter capacity). This is by far outweighed by the additional production that you get from having a larger panel, up to 12% increased output. In essence the same theory goes for larger string inverters too; Fronius state that their Galvo range of inverters can be oversized by 100% of the inverters nameplate capacity, as long as other conditions are met and their warranty is still upheld.

Enphase Oversizing Graph

Enphase_White_Paper_Module_Rightsizing

Clean Energy Council Guidelines

One thing that needs to be kept in mind is the Clean Energy Council’s (CEC) design and installation guidelines, where they state that ‘In order to facilitate the efficient design of PV systems the inverter nominal AC power output cannot be less than 75% of the array peak power and it shall not be outside the inverter manufacturer’s maximum allowable array size specifications.’ In other words the array size cannot be more than 133% of the nominal inverter power rating.

Powercor is the electricity distributor for Western Victoria, this includes Geelong, the Surfcoast, Bellarine and some western suburbs of Melbourne. Powercor have a 5kW inverter limit for single phase connections. In a scenario, where you are a high energy consumer and would like to install a larger solar array to maximise the benefit of your solar system, we can theoretically oversize your solar array to 133% or 6.65kW and still be within the CEC guidelines.

Analysing Costs

An analysis done by our Friends at AC Solar Warehouse show that a high quality 260W solar module paired with an Enphase M215 micro-inverter (peak output 225 Watts), would see clipping of 0.01125kWh on the best day of the year. They went on to say that there was approximately 12 weeks of the year that saw some clipping and that this worked out to be about 0.987kWh of lost production. Offsetting at $0.30c/kWh it works out to be a loss of 29.6 cents per module. This amount is pretty small, particularly when you way up the alternative cost of a larger capacity inverter, there’s no benefit in selecting micro-inverters that increase the cost of the system by $30 per module, in order to harvest an extra 29.6 cents per year. That’s a 100 year payback.

Oversizing and inverter life

Just one final note, oversizing your solar array means that the inverter will be running at its peak output for a larger portion of its life. This can cause components to heat up and run hotter and in some cases have a shorter life expectancy. The good news is that many inverters have systems in place to manage excessive heat build-up and protect heat sensitive components; most will even shut themselves down in extreme cases. Good inverter placement allowing appropriate cooling and ventilation can help to optimise inverter life expectancy, talk to your solar installer about the best place to position your inverter.

For any questions about optimising, supersizing or oversizing your solar array please feel free to give us a call on 1300 931 929.

Aaron Lewtas

Green Energy Options

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Solar Self Consumption

When it comes to installing a solar power system, solar self consumption is the name of the game these days. With Victoria adjusting its Feed in Tariff (FIT) to 6.2 cents/kWh on January 1st there’s not a lot of incentive to export your freshly harvested sunshine energy back into the grid, just so your electricity retailer can mark it up and sell it to your neighbour. From an economic point of view, it’s much better to consume that sun power on site and offset the cost of you having to purchase electricity from the grid at 25-30+ cents/kWh.

If you are a home or business consuming electricity during daylight hours and can self-consume all the solar energy spilling off your roof, it’s great, you can get good value from a solar power system and you might pay your system off in 4-5 years. If not you may be exposed to exporting a larger portion of your solar electricity at a low rate, pushing out your payback period.

There are a few things that you can do to increase solar self consumption from your solar power system. They range from no-cost behavioral change to energy management options and more expensive battery storage solutions. Here’s five ways you can improve your financial return on your solar system by optimising self-consumption from your rooftop.

  1. Change the times when you use electricity

The no-cost way to maximise consumption of your solar energy generation is to change the times that you use appliances. If you are able to modify your electricity consumption patterns so that you are consuming more electricity during the middle of the day when the sun is shining, you will help to minimise your solar export. Offsetting at 30c/kWh is better than exporting at 6c/kWh. Remember this is not an exact science and it won’t work for all households or all appliances, but if you can turn your dishwasher on at lunchtime, do the washing during the middle of the day or turn the air conditioner on when the sun’s out, it will be beneficial towards the financial savings you’ll get from your solar system. What I always say to our customers is “don’t turn your life upside down for your solar system, just be aware of how it operates and take advantage of it where you can”.

  1. Use a timer

Installing a timer can be a good low cost way to co-ordinate appliances to come on during daylight hours. Obviously it won’t work for all appliances, but pool or spa pumps, water pumps, and in some cases even heaters or hot water systems can be put on a timer so that their time of operation coincides with solar production. Some appliances like dishwashers and washing machines will even have a built in timer that will allow you to program when they come on. Again this isn’t the perfect solution, because if it is overcast and your solar system isn’t producing a lot of power and your pool pump is running, you will be purchasing the excess power from the grid probably at peak rate. But if your pool pump was running on peak rate anyway, it’s going to be better to have it more closely matching with solar generation times. If an appliance was running on an off-peak rate there’s probably a deeper analysis required.

  1. Solar inverter with energy management relay

Some inverters are now incorporating smart energy management functions in them that allow for optimised solar self consumption of your solar energy. Austrian inverter manufacturer, Fronius is one company that has been leading the charge here. They have integrated an energy management relay into their new range of inverters the Fronius Glavo and Fronius Symo.

Fronius Galvo Solar inverter

Fronius Galvo Solar inverter

The energy management relay inside the Fonius inverter can divert solar power to a specific appliance and help avoid exporting at a low feed in tariff. All we need to do is set a power value of say 2000 Watts and once your solar starts generating more than the pre-set amount, it will flick a switch and turn on your pool pump to soak up the solar generation. A second pre-set amount can be set e.g. 1800 Watts and when then solar drops below that point the inverter deactivates the power to the pool pump. This can be a great feature at no additional cost, but it also has its limits, similar to the timer solution, if the solar inverter is putting out 2200 Watts and there are other electrical appliances being used in the house on top of the pool pump consumption, you may find that you have a total power consumption of 3000 Watts for example. This would mean that the additional 800 Watts that wasn’t being supplied from solar would be purchased from the grid at peak rate. Once again one thing that needs to be looked at is the benefit of reducing export at a low rate, verses, buying electricity from the grid at peak rate that may have been previously purchased at off-peak rate.

  1. Third Party Energy Management Options

There are a number of new products coming out that allow you to have a bit more control over how much electricity you are importing and exporting. We expect to see many more hardware and software solutions hitting the market over the next few years that look specifically at this area. The immerSUN and ASM SunnyMate are two products that are currently available that look mainly at dealing with your hot water requirements.

immerSUN Solar Energy Management Device

immerSUN Solar Energy Management Device

Rather than just flicking a switch when the solar output reaches a certain point, these devices measure when you start to export electricity to the grid and will turn your electric hot water heater on to soak up any excess solar power, rather than having it exported to the grid for nix. In the case of an electric hot water unit, there are a couple of important factors to consider that are a little different from most other appliances. Firstly they are normally being run on off-peak electricity commonly around 15c/kWh around the Geelong region, and secondly the elements can range from 2400W -3600W quite a high power requirement. By using the immerSUN device you maximise the amount of self-consumed electricity by diverting solar to the hot water element, offsetting the cost of paying off-peak rates (if you had powered it from the grid at night), but at the same time the device minimises the electricity you have to purchase at peak rates to supply power to the hot water service during the day. The immerSUN actually has three outputs, allowing you to control two resistive loads like heaters or hot water units and one multifunction relay, which could be used to drive a pump for example.

The cost of having these units installed is starting to get a bit more expensive than the previous solutions, probably up around the $800-$1200 mark, so this isn’t going to be for everyone. As a general rule, the larger the disparity between your off-peak rate and the solar feed in a rate the bigger your savings will be. For example, an average electric hot water service takes about 8kWh to heat. Here’s a possible scenario:

Feed in Tariff = 6.2 cents/kWh

Off-peak tariff = 15 cents/kWh

Difference = 8.8 cents/kWh

 

8.6 cents x 8kWh (energy to heat hot water) = 70.4c/day savings

70.4 cents x 365 days = $256.96 per/yr savings

This case gives a 3-5 year payback on the unit, so could be a good solution to save money. This example does assume that there is enough solar power to heat your hot water unit each day, this is quite possible with a 5kW solar array, although there may be some boosting required from off-peak mains grid required on days of low production, which may reduce the savings a little. If the difference between your off-peak tariff and feed in tariff is less, then the savings seen will also be less.

  1. Battery Storage Solutions

There has been a lot of interest in grid-battery storage solutions for grid-connect solar systems lately. There are heaps of new products coming onto the market and costs are expected to come down over the coming years. Batteries can be another way that you can increase your solar self consumption. Rather than sending that power back to the grid at a low feed-in rate, store it in your batteries and use it at night. The technology is available to do this now and more and more people are beginning to take this option up. When compared to the other options listed above, there’s a bit of a price jump. Most decent battery storage solutions will add $13,000-$20,000+ to the cost of a solar system, depending on the amount of storage capacity you are looking for and the quality of the system, but with people getting fed up with being treated badly by their electrical retailer and not getting paid much for their solar export, batteries are a solution that many Australians are looking towards to gain more energy independence.

Battery storage solutions for solar self-consumption

Battery storage solutions for solar self-consumption

As I said earlier self-consumption is important when it comes to solar power. Many people have been ill advised about the savings that they will see from their solar system, mainly due to a misunderstanding about how the feed in tariff works. That’s why it’s important to do your research and get good advice about system sizing. Oversizing your solar system may just lead to additional exports and at 6.2c/kWh it might be better to go for a slightly smaller solar array and keep some cash in your pocket. Alternately if you are able to optimise your self-consumption efficiently through the solutions described above, you’ll be able to squeeze more value out of your solar system and keep more dollars in your pocket. Smart new technologies are set to change the way we use energy into the future, whether it be solar power, energy management solutions or the integration of electric cars into our electricity network, we are in for an exciting period – I think you can expect to see our energy network revolutionised over the next 10 years.

Note that for those solar consumers that installed their systems under the Premium Feed in Tariff or Transitional Feed in Tariff for solar, the above scenarios will not be relevant. If your feed in tariff is higher than what you are paying for electricity you will see a larger savings by exporting electricity to the grid than self consuming.

For advice on solar power, energy efficiency or anything outlined in the post above, please feel free to give us a call on 1300 931 929.

Positive Quality – Australian Solar Council

In an announcement last week the Australian Solar Council advised Yingli Solar has been the first manufacturer to pass their new ‘Positive Quality’ inspection program.

Green Energy Options has been installing the high performance YGE 250W Yingli solar panel in many of our solar installations, and we’ve been extremely happy with the panel. Currently Yingli are the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world and with over 40 million panels shipped world wide, we think they are great option for households and businesses wanting to go solar.

Here’s the announcement from the Australian Solar Council:

Positive Quality Logo

Yingli Solar – First ‘Positive Quality’ Manufacturer

The Australian Solar Council – the peak body for Australia’s solar industry – is delighted to announce that Yingli Solar, the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, is the first solar PV manufacturer to successfully pass our rigorous Positive Quality™ inspection program.

Under this program, specialists from the Australian Solar Council’s Positive Quality™ Program conduct independent inspection and testing of Yingli Solar’s entire manufacturing process before their solar panels are sent to the Australian market.

Solar PV panels, widely used in Australian homes and businesses, vary considerably in their performance, particularly over the long term.

“As manufacturers compete on price there is an inevitable pressure to substitute quality components with cheaper ones” said Solar Council Chief Executive John Grimes.

“The outcome is that while all solar panels look the same they do not perform the same, and that difference in performance could cost a customer tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the system”.

It is not possible to distinguish between high quality and low quality solar panels simply by looking at them.

“That is why independent specialist inspection and oversight of the manufacturing process is so important”.

According to Grimes “Positive Quality™ inspections are intensive, and occur on a random basis every quarter”.

“By looking for the Positive Quality™ Trustmark, Australian consumers and businesses can have confidence in the quality of the solar panels they are installing”.

“We were impressed by the high level of manufacturing excellence demonstrated by Yingli Solar” said Grimes.

“We are delighted to be the founding member of the Australian Solar Council’s Positive Quality program and the first manufacturer to receive the Positive Quality certification” said Daman Cole, Managing Director of Yingli Green Energy Australia.

“This independent audit provides a level of visibility and assurance to installers and customers that they are purchasing a premium product which has been independently inspected to verify our manufacturing claims.  In short, our customers are receiving what we have promised”, said Cole.

“Yingli Solar is committed to staying at the forefront of solar panel quality standards,” said Cole.

The Australian Solar Council looks forward to announcing more successful positive quality manufacturers from those who have signed onto the program.

About the Australian Solar Council www.solar.org.au

The Australian Solar Council is the peak body of the solar industry. It has active chapters in every state and territory and provides advice to policymakers and the general community on solar issues.

About Yingli Green Energy

Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited (NYSE: YGE), known as “Yingli Solar”, is the world’s largest photovoltaic module manufacturer in terms of production capacity and shipments. Yingli Green Energy’s manufacturing covers the photovoltaic value chain from ingot casting and wafering through solar cell production and module assembly. Headquartered in Baoding, China, Yingli Green Energy has more than 30 regional subsidiaries and branch offices and has distributed more than 10,000 MW PV modules to customers worldwide. For more information please visit www.yinglisolar.com and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Weibo.