5 Steps to going Solar

August 11, 2021
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P4B Solar
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5 Steps to Going Solar

Solar energy is clean, limitless, and cost-effective. Using it can significantly reduce electricity bills and lead to greater self-sufficiency. This guide has been created to assist South Australians who are interested in going solar.

Our goal is to provide you with the tools and information you need to get started with your solar energy system installation. The decision to go solar is a long-term one, so it is important to be well informed. 

Step 1: Assess the size and potential of your system

There are a variety of factors to consider, including total energy consumption, subsidy options, roof size and budget, when determining the size of a solar energy system.

Choosing the Right Sized Solar Energy System

Understanding your energy consumption is the first step towards choosing the right solar energy system. Analyze your energy bills throughout the year to see how your average energy usage changes with the seasons. Daily consumption is clearly displayed on electricity bills in the form of a graph or chart. If daily consumption is not clearly represented, you can use the monthly total to calculate averages. An average household with a reasonable amount of use of air conditioning or heating uses 15kWh to 25kWh on a daily basis. Usually, the size of a solar energy system is determined by the average daily energy usage. As an example, a home that uses 20-25kWh of energy daily would require a system that generates 5-6kW.

By evaluating your energy usage, you are able to determine what proportion of that consumption you desire to offset with solar power. Our solar energy systems produce less energy in the early morning and afternoon and evening, when we spend most of our time at work, school, or outside. To get the most from your solar energy and to maximize your savings, you may need to install a home battery, which allows you to store surplus power and use it in the evening. The size of your battery should match your evening needs. Once you have assessed your energy needs, it is crucial that you look at your rooftop to determine how big your PV system should be.

Step 2: Check your eligibility for government subsidies

Small businesses and households that install solar energy systems may be eligible for government incentives in the form of interest-free loans, rebates, grants, and subsidies.

Solar energy subsidies from the government

Check to see if you are eligible for government-subsidized financial assistance if you intend to install a solar energy system on your rooftop. The Australian government provides a variety of incentives to businesses and households for solar energy installations, including improved payment terms, grants, subsidies, and rebates.

Examples include:

  • Solar PV systems produce excess electricity that can be fed into the electrical grid through feed-in tariffs.
  • Discounts are available on battery storage units, and loans are available for the installation of home battery systems.
  • Pensioners in the Australian Capital Territory can invest in rooftop PV systems to reduce their electricity bills through the Solar for Low-Income program.
  • Programs such as small-scale technology certificates (STCs) offer rebates to households and small businesses for the installation of solar energy systems, panels, and batteries.
  • The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) may offer benefits to households across Australia that purchase a PV energy system.
  • On-farm Energy Audit and Capital Grant Program provides grants to help farmers reduce their energy use and electricity bills by going solar.
  • The type of subsidy, level of support, and limits to the type of system vary across government schemes. Details can be found on the respective government websites.

Step 3: Determine the best way to finance your solar energy system

Solar offers many benefits, but people aren’t used to paying for their energy upfront. The initial costs and entry barriers for solar energy systems can be reduced by financial options like leasing, PPAs, and green loans.

Finance options for solar energy systems

The investment in a properly sized and properly financed solar energy system pays for itself. There are several ways to reduce the upfront costs of procurement and installation:

Extending a Home Loan

It is relatively inexpensive to finance the purchase and installation of a home solar energy system through an extension of a mortgage. Your home loan can be extended to potentially avoid incurring substantial fees that come with taking out a new loan.

Additionally, interest rates can be almost 50% lower than those of personal loans. However, extending your mortgage plan for a solar energy system may be too expensive if you want to accommodate the added cost. If your payments were spread out over a 25-year period, you may end up paying almost twice as much as you would have paid otherwise due to long-term interest. In other words, this solution is usually most appropriate for homeowners who are able to increase their monthly payments rather than extending the length of their mortgage payment plan.

Solar Leasing

Solar Leasing eliminates the upfront costs of installing a solar energy system by establishing monthly payments for the electricity it produces.

As a result, you agree to a set monthly rent or lease payment, which is calculated based on the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce. In exchange, you receive the right to fully utilize the installed solar energy system on your property. While the lease includes interest, the monthly fee is usually less than what you would pay for electricity. It is recommended for installing large solar energy systems and is often used with commercial PV projects.

Green Loans

Green Loans are unsecured personal loans normally used to purchase approved green products, such as home solar panels installed by an accredited installer. Green loans usually have lower interest rates than similar unsecured loans. Due to the fact that financial institutions generally consider solar energy systems to be credible, interest rates tend to be reasonable.

Anyone with a good enough credit score can qualify for this option, which is suitable for solar energy systems of all sizes.

Power Purchase Arrangements (PPAs)

Power Purchase Arrangements (PPAs) allow you to purchase the power generated by your rooftop solar energy system at a set price per kilowatt-hour.

With time, the cost of the system is covered by the amount of energy the system generates each month. Even though PPA tariffs are generally lower than standard electricity bills, you are almost always obligated to purchase a set amount of electricity every month.

PPAs may be appropriate for home businesses that use considerable electricity but are typically used by factories with high levels of energy consumption.

Step 4: Choose a Certified PV Installer

Your PV installer is responsible for helping you find the right path to solar power. Their experience with solar energy ensures that they guide you from beginning to end.

How to Choose the Right Solar Energy System Installer

The installer helps you decide the appropriate size and design of the system, selects the right components, and ensures that each is installed correctly. Many installers also offer maintenance services throughout the life of the PV system.

The installation of a solar energy system is a long-term investment. You should, therefore, make sure your system is made of the best components, built to fit your needs, and installed with care and precision by a reputable, accredited, and experienced installer. Several factors should be considered when choosing a solar energy installer.

As a first step, make sure the installer has been certified by the Clean Energy Council (CEC).

Get references from your potential installer by reviewing their website. References and personal recommendations are always an indication of a professional and high-quality installer. An installer with a good reputation is probably worth meeting if someone you know and respect can vouch for them.

It is important that the installer you choose is certified by CEC, reliable, experienced, and recommended by people who you trust.

Step 5: Choosing Your System Components

Choosing quality components for your solar energy system will likely result in a reliable system that reduces your electricity bills for years to come.

Choosing the Right Solar Energy System Components

There are several factors to consider when choosing solar energy system components. The most important ones are as follows:

High-quality solar panels

Ensure that the panels are manufactured by a reputable, well-established company, and that their warranties are handled in Australia. The general recommendation is to choose panels with a positive power tolerance, which means they produce at or above their rated output. Smart panels with advanced energy management options, such as panel-level MPPT and monitoring, will increase the power output of your solar energy system.

Find the right inverter for your rooftop

There are three types of inverters: traditional string inverters, DC-optimized inverters, and micro-inverters.

  1. String inverters do maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and energy inversion centrally. Although they were the most common type of inverter, they have several drawbacks. Due to their connection to a series of panels, they suffer from energy losses due to mismatched panel sizes, a lack of design flexibility, low-resolution monitoring, and limited safety.
  2. DC-optimized inverters move the MPPT to the panel while keeping the inversion central. In order to achieve this, they deploy power optimisers on the panels and use a simplified inverter. The panels are connected individually to the power optimisers, making them smart and enabling real-time adjustment of current and voltage to maximize energy output. As a result, panel-level mismatch losses are eliminated. The simplified inverter then converts AC to DC and provides grid connection. By reducing the cost of energy produced by the PV system, the DC-optimised inverter maximizes power generation while lowering the ROI. Additionally, this inverter provides extra safety features, increased design flexibility, and advanced monitoring that tracks and reports the performance of every solar panel.
  3. Micro-inverters bring all the functionality of an inverter to the panel level through the reduction of size. Each control panel is mounted on its own panel control and is individually controlled. Although micro-inverters solve many of the challenges of string inverters, this topology can be more expensive than a traditional string inverter. Additionally, there may be some reliability issues associated with putting the hardware behind the roof panel.
Consider a solar energy system with advanced monitoring capabilities

The solar energy system you choose should offer advanced monitoring solutions at the panel and system levels. Your solar energy system’s performance can be monitored in real time by an advanced monitoring system that tracks the performance of each panel individually. Installers can even troubleshoot and identify certain problems remotely with some advanced monitoring systems.

Consider a system that can be easily adapted to future solar energy applications

Ideally, your solar energy system will provide you with electricity for many years to come. The importance of future-proofing can therefore not be understated. Select a system that is future-ready so that energy storage, smart energy management, and EV charging can all be seamlessly added to it.

Safety must be considered

PV systems are generally safe, but some offer enhanced safety features. Selecting a system with improved safety features is crucial. A safe solar power system will de-energize the DC wires automatically when the AC power is switched off. The property and anyone who comes in contact with the PV system will be protected.

Choose equipment with a long warranty

Identify components that are designed to work together. A complete package from one vendor can lead to increased energy efficiency and even simplified warranty processes. 

After reading the 5 steps to going solar, hopefully, the distance between you and energy independence seems much shorter.

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