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.

 

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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.

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.

Commercial Solar self-consumption and why it makes business sense

 

More and more Australian businesses are looking at solar power as a way of reducing their ever increasing electricity costs. Over one million Australian homes have now installed solar power systems, with the majority doing so over the past 5 years; this has been largely linked to a rapid reduction in the price of photovoltaic solar panels. People are now discovering it’s cheaper to install solar and generate their own electricity than what it is to buy from the grid.

Solar Incentives

Solar installations have been subject to many policy changes over this period, both by state and federal governments; the word “solarcoaster” gets bandied about a bit in reference to the ebb and flow of policy adjustments. Both the federal government Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs) incentives, which reduce the upfront cost of installing a solar system and the state government Feed in Tariffs (FIT), which set a price you get paid for exported solar energy have been reduced over the last few years.

Commercial solar PV

Currently the federal government still has the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which facilitates solar incentives in the form of Small-scale Technology Certificates (known as STCs or RECS) to installations up to 100kW (400 panels) and Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) for systems above 100kW. This normally results in a point of sale discount of $1,000-$3,000 on the average residential install and $3,000-$60,000 on a small to medium commercial installation. But the RET appears to be under threat with the Abbott government appointing a climate change sceptic to review the RET and pressure from large fossil fuel generators like Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to wind it back.

The current Victorian FIT sits at 8 cents p/kWh, down from a high of 60+ cents at its peak in 2010-11. Other states currently have lower FIT’s and the essential services commission have Victoria’s FIT earmarked to go down to 6.2-7.4 cents in 2015. With a low FIT in place there is not much incentive for customers to export electricity into the grid. If the return on investment or payback period are important considerations for you when installing a solar system, our recommendation is to size your system to minimise export to the grid and forget about trying to export. If you can self-consume the solar energy directly from your rooftop, you can offset the cost of paying 20-30c+/kWh if you had to buy that energy from your electricity retailer. Here’s where the niche for businesses comes into play.

Solar for business

Most businesses use electricity during the day. This just so happens to coincide with the hours the sun is out delivering electricity to millions of solar systems around Australia. There are a lot of empty roof spaces out there on commercial and industrial premises that are missing out on a real opportunity to take advantage of solar.

Here’s an example of a potential scenario. Take a small business like an office, retail store, supermarket, petrol station or gym. These businesses will tend to have a high consumption during daylight hours, they can be paying up to 30c/kWh or more for their peak electricity and they often have roof space available for solar panels. If their daytime consumption was high enough and a solar system was designed to minimise export to say 10%, there is the potential that by investing $45,000 in a 30kW solar system for their roof they could be saving around $10,000 a year on their electricity bills. Considering a good quality solar system can last up to 25 years or more with little maintenance costs, commercial solar systems like this can provide a hefty ongoing savings to businesses looking to take the solar leap. Ask Green Energy Options about doing a detailed financial summary for your business.

Financial Summary

Soalr Financial Summary Example

The upfront cost associated with going solar can sometimes be a reason to defer the decision, but there are now many solar financing options available to business and homeowners. Green Energy Options can offer different types of financing or leasing products through our business partner network. Contact us for more info.

With innovative new solar monitoring options now being offered, businesses can show their customers what their solar system has been doing. This opens up opportunities for companies with solar installed to use their green credentials to market themselves to customers and go above and beyond what their competitors are doing. If you throw the environmental benefits of reduced CO2 and greenhouse gases into the equation, there are many incentives for business to look at solar power and take a leadership role in their communities.

So, even though the Feed in Tariff is low, just forget about exporting electricity and optimise your system for self-consumption. And even though the current government appears hostile towards the Renewable Energy Target, it is still in place and probably will be for at least another six months (in my opinion and depending on Clive Palmer’s position). There are still good reasons to consider solar for businesses, now is a great time to take advantage of the sun, own your own power station and move your business into the future of energy.

For commercial solar enquiries, please contact Green Energy Options on 1300 931 929 or aaron@greenenergyoptions.com.au

Solar Panel Ingredients

What makes a good quality solar panel?

What makes a high quality solar panel? Aren’t all solar panels the same? They all look pretty similar if you‘re on the ground looking up at panels on a roof and even close up it can be difficult to tell the difference. We thought we’d take a closer look and provide a few tips, if you’re looking to buy a good quality solar panel.

If you ask a chef what the key is to making a great meal, they’re going to tell you that it starts with the quality of the ingredients. It’s the same with solar panels, if you cut costs on the inputs, the end product will probably be compromised. Whether this results in a shortened life, lower performance, safety concerns or aesthetic issues, there are good reasons to be careful about the solar panel that you select to put on your roof.

When you first start looking at solar panels it can be pretty mind boggling. There are over 20,000 solar panels accredited for use in Australia, and every solar company is going to tell you that their panels are the best. So how can you tell the difference? Here’s a bit of an overview of what ingredients go into a solar panel, a few things to look for and some questions to ask when purchasing a solar system.

Solar panels are made up of a number of different materials and components. Below, Yingli Solar have provided a great breakdown of a solar panel’s different parts.

 

Yingli Anatomy of a solar panel

 

 

Yingli also have a more detailed overview of what goes into their panels here – yingli-solar-components.

Some of the Tier 1 panel manufacturers are now becoming more transparent and providing information about what ingredients go into their panels, innovative Australian panel manufacturer Tindo solar have provided also provided details here.

Some examples of problems that can arise from inferior quality components include:

  • Panel delamination

This can happen if an inferior quality of EVA laminate is used or if the wrong curing times or temperatures have been used in the manufacturing process. Delamination can lead to corrosion, moisture ingress and loss of performance.

  • EVA discolouration or browning

Again if the EVA laminate is inferior or the wrong manufacturing processes are followed, the panels can take on a yellow or brown colour, this can lead to a loss of output and aesthetic issues.

  • Defective or mismatched connectors

Multi Contact AG is a Swiss company that pioneered the current MC4 connector type used on most solar panels in Australia. Many cheaper solar panels are using “MC4 compatible” connectors, which are copies of the original. The Australian standards now require connectors to be the same make and model. If there is a bad or loose connection between connectors this can lead to DC arcing and burning resulting in a serious safety issue.

  • Micro-cracks in cells

Silicon solar cells are very thin and fragile. If the cell or the panel is not handled carefully in the manufacturing or installation process, it can result in micro cracking of the cells. Micro-cracks are hard to see with the naked eye and lead to a loss in power output.

  • Hotspots

On a solar cell, there are solder joints where the busbars are connected. If the quality of this connection is not good, it can lead to a high resistance in that spot, heating up and causing a “hot spot”. This generally will show as a discoloured yellow or brown spot and can potentially be a fire hazard. An inferior quality or scratched panel back sheet can also lead to resistance and heat causing hot spots.

An issue that Green Energy Options has become aware of recently is that some solar panels on the Australian market appear to be underperforming. For example, when a 250 Watt panel is tested in a flash test, to determine its rated output, normally the panel manufacturer will have an expected tolerance. High quality panels tend to have a positive tolerance stating the panel will perform at say 0/+5W, meaning that you get a panel rated at 250-255W. Some cheaper modules might have a -5/+5% tolerance meaning that they may produce less than their nameplate rating. An issue that appears to be coming up is that some panels are performing below their tolerance range.

Green Energy Options recommend sticking with well-known solar brands that are using high quality components and are transparent about the components and processes they use. We look at a number of other factors when selecting a panel manufacturer:

  • Build quality of the panel
  • Independent performance results in the field
  • Business’s financial position
  • Manufacturer’s track record
  • Highly automated manufacturing process
  • Technical specifications
  • Australian support
  • Warranty conditions

When we supply a solar system we aim to give you a great product, minimising the chances of having problems. Hopefully this gives a good insight in what to look for in a solar panel and some questions to ask if you are comparing different options. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about solar panels 1300 931 929.

Protect the RET

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) has been the major driver of renewable energy investment in Australia since 2001 when the Howard government introduced the scheme. But with the announcement last month by the Abbott Government, to appoint “man made climate change denier”, Dick Warburton to head the review, sends a worrying message about where support for renewable energy in Australia might be heading. Particularly because there is strong support from the Australian public who prefer Wind & Solar technologies over Fossil Fuels, as a recent Climate Institute poll shows.

Public support for different energy technologies

Public support for different energy technologies

 

The RET currently mandates that 20% of Australia’s energy needs to come from renewable energy by 2020. We are currently on track to exceed that target, largely due to an unexpected reduction in demand, which an increased uptake of rooftop solar PV and energy efficiency measures is partly responsible for. Origin Energy and Energy Australia have been calling for a reduction in the fixed target of 48,150GWh. This has been backed up by words from the prime minister Tony Abbott and some media suggesting that the RET is responsible for an increase in the cost of electricity bills.

The Australian Energy Market Commission, recently found that the RET costs just 3-5% of power bills, with that percentage projected to further decline in coming years. By 2015 it is estimated that the RET would cost the average household around $1 a week. When this is compared to other pressures pushing the price of electricity up, it’s the thin edge of the wedge. If we are really serious about trying to keep the cost of electricity for consumers down, we’d be looking at wholesale and retail costs, which make up around 52% of the average household bills, or network costs, like poles and wires, which account for about 40%.

This isn’t the whole story when you look at the cost of the RET though. Some commentators who are pointing out the cost of the RET on electricity bills, are forgetting to look at the benefits that having more renewables on the grid brings. Having more wind and solar generation is actually helping to drive down wholesale electricity costs. A recent study shows that over a 7 day period, wind power helped to reduce wholesale prices in South Australia and Victoria by 40%. Solar PV is another example of this, where solar production often correlates to times of peak demand from air conditioners, helping to cut out expensive spikes in electricity demand and costly blackouts on hot days. If these benefits are taken into account the cost of the RET is reduced even further.

Beyond the benefits the RET brings to the electricity network, there have been new industries created along with tens of thousands of jobs. There’s been a huge economic injection of billions of dollars of private investment, it’s helping to reduce the health impact of air pollution (just think about the recent fires in the Hazelwood mine). Then there’s the general long term climate benefits of less CO2 in the atmosphere that having more renewables contributes towards, including the protection of biodiversity, a reduction in the risk of severe weather events and the reduced insurance premiums and higher clean-up costs that come with it. There are also the long lasting mental health impacts of people affected by increased drought and bushfire, the higher number of climate refugees seeking a new place to live due to sea level rise, drought and wars over natural resources.

Between now and 2031 the RET is expected to cost an average of $15 a year on your electricity bill. Given the benefits that renewable energy can bring us, you’d think we are getting good value for money. What do you think, is this really too much to pay?

 

To find out more on how you can support keeping the Renewable Energy Target check out

http://yes2renewables.org  #ProtectThe RET

or to donate to supporting the Small Scale RET go to the Australian Solar Council’s Website (they’ve also got some great infographics below).

http://solar.org.au/renewable-energy-targets-ret-review

Australian Solar Council - RET Jobs Infographic

Australian Solar Council – RET Jobs Infographic

Australian Solar Council Infographic - Solar Saves Money

Australian Solar Council Infographic – Solar Saves Money