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Choosing a Grid Connected Solar Power System

So you want to do your bit for the environment? Perhaps you've heard that government rebates & incentives apply when you install a grid connected solar power system in your area? Continue reading to help you get started with solar power...

What is a Grid Connected Solar Power System?

There are a number of different kinds of solar power systems & solar heating systems available on the market. These include solar power systems with battery storage capacity (often used in rural areas), grid connected solar power systems (typically used in cities) and solar water heaters (these do not produce electricity and instead use the sun only to heat your water)

This article deals mainly with grid connected solar power systems. These are connected to the public electricity grid. When you produce more power than you use at any given time, the excess power is sold back to your electricity provider. On the other hand when you use more power than you are producing (or at night time), you purchase power from your electricity provider. Government incentive programmes may apply to help reduce the initial purchase cost of such a system. There are some variations to these arrangements in different states & territories so check with your local electricity provider for more information.

Things to Consider when Purchasing a Solar Power System

  • Where are you located? Did you know that the efficiency of a solar power system varies according to your location? Places like Western Australia receive a lot of sunlight over the year and are ideal for maximising your solar power production. Places which have less sunlight and higher rainfall are typically less suited to solar power. However don't despair if you are not in an ideal location, you can still install a larger system to achieve significant power production. Do your research online and also ask your local solar providers for advice.
  • Is your roof suitable? Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of your premises. The angle of your roof and direction it faces both affect how well your solar panels will perform. If your roof is at the wrong angle or faces a less than ideal direction (North is best in Australia) your solar panels may operate at a reduced capacity due to receiving less direct sunlight. The amount of suitable roof space available will affect how many solar panels you can install and therefore your maximum power production capacity.
  • What's your budget? Solar power systems come in many different sizes to meet different people's requirements. Cost increases with size and quality of the components. If your budget is limited then this may be the main factor in your final decision. Systems can often be upgraded at a later date but you may wish to investigate the cost of this before making your initial purchase.
  • What capacity do you require? What capacity system do you need - 1.5 kwh, 3.0 kwh or larger? This affects what size inverter and how many solar panels you will require. You need to ask yourself whether you are simply trying to reduce your power bill, or whether you want to completely eliminate your bill. A smaller system will help with the former whilst a larger system is more likely to completely eliminate your whole power bill. Be realistic in your expectations!
  • Quality of components? Components such as solar panels and inverters are manufactured by many different companies and some are of higher quality than others. Solar panels normally degrade over time and after 25 years their power output may be significantly lower than when they were first installed. A higher quality solar panel will degrade more slowly over time. Inverters can also vary significantly in quality - ask what models are available and search for reviews on the internet. A transformerless inverter is typically slightly more efficient than one which contains a transformer. Check these details before purchasing a system.
  • What's the warranty? Check what warranty is offered by the provider of your solar power system. Check whether the warranty is provided by the company who sold you the system or the manufacturer. Before purchasing a system ask who will cover the warranty if the supplier goes out of business.
  • How soon can it be installed? When you purchase a solar power system you naturally want it installed as soon as possible so that you can start to reap the rewards. However, some companies have long waiting lists due to a shortage of stock or qualified installers. Ask how long it will take before you sign the contract!
  • Qualified installer? Check that the company you purchase your solar power system from use qualified installers. This ensures that the job is done safely and without damaging your home or business. In Australia installers of solar power systems must be licensed both as Electricians and as solar installers.

Where can I find more information?

Wikipedia Solar Power Article

Synergy (Western Australia)

Clean Energy Council

Clean Energy Regulator - Renewable Energy Target

How do I find an installer?

Once you have done your preliminary research and know what you need, sign up and post your job on QuoteSeek to receive obligation free quotes for purchasing and installing a solar power system.