BEGINNERS GUIDE TO SOLAR
WHY SHOULD YOU CHOOSE SOLAR?
Over the past five years, the cost of installing a solar system has reduced.
Solar energy used during the day, and soon with batteries supplying electricity at night can generate savings in your electricity bill.
Consumers of electricity who do not have a solar system are at the mercy of their energy retailer, when the retailer decides it is time to increase electricity prices.
In regards to electricity consumption, users are like a tenant who will keep on paying indefinitely for the accommodation. So if you invest in solar now you can get “free electricity” via solar in a few years.
By owning a solar system you own a big share of the electricity you consume, with the savings you make immediately starting to pay off the cost of your investment.
For many homes in about five to six years, your power savings will have paid off the investment you spent.
With a top LG solar system you will join the hundreds of thousands of home owners across Australia and the world who have already chosen LG solar panels. You and your family will continue to save on electricity bills for years to come.
THE BENEFITS OF GOING SOLAR
So what are the benefits of going solar ?
1. Solar Power can save you money.
Installing Solar power enables you to generate your own electricity. By using your own electricity rather than buying it from your electricity company, you will save money as every kW/h of electricity you can use from your solar system is a kW/h of electricity you do not have to buy from your electricity company.
2. Environmental Benefits.
By using electricity generated from solar panels, we reduce the need to generate electricity from fossil fuels like coal and gas which create carbon dioxide (CO2). This can reduce the potential for global warming and can create a more sustainable cleaner energy mix, as long as the solar panels will last a long time.
3. Energy Independence
By owning your own Solar system, you have the capacity to create your own electricity. This reduces your reliance on the electricity grid and electricity retailers etc and increases your control over your future electricity needs, expenses and lifestyle especially if you add batteries to your system in the future.
4. Property Value
There are increasing studies that show that installing a quality solar system on a home may increase property value. Home buyers are increasingly recognising that a home with quality solar panels installed will have lower electricity costs. http://www.realestate.com.au/news/85- of-aussies-say-solar-panels-boost-property-prices/
5. Energy reliability
High quality solar power systems are a reliable power source. The sun rises and sets every day, while the sun shines, solar panels will make electricity. While the weather and the seasons will vary, the amount of electricity that the panels make are predictable. You can also increase the financial benefits of your solar system by changing the times you operate your household appliances. For example, turning your washing machine on as you leave the home in the morning and avoiding washing your clothes at night. This allows your solar system to power your machine during the day. With the help of lithium-iron batteries, which are becoming more affordable, one can also harvest solar power during the day and use it at night.
HOW A GRID SYSTEM WORKS
A solar system is made up of multiple solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, a DC to AC power converter (inverter solution) and a framing system to hold the PV panels in place.
PV panels are generally fitted on the roof facing an northerly, easterly or westerly direction, and tilted at a particular angle to maximise the amount of sunlight that each panel receives.
Suburban homes in Australia and New Zealand are connected to the electricity grid via power lines. Our electricity system uses 240Volt alternating current (AC), but the electricity generated by solar panels consists of variable direct current (DC). To transform the DC electricity into AC electricity for ordinary household use, grid-connected solar PV systems use inverters attached to each PV panel called micro inverters or a single inverter for a string of connected PV panels called a central string inverter.
The third possible inverter solutions are power optimisers, which are a variance of the string inverter and the micro inverter. All these technical solutions can create a great solar system.
Ask NRRE, (your authorised LG dealer) for advice on which of these inverter solutions is the most suitable for your circumstances.
Today houses with grid-connected solar systems consume solar-generated electricity first, before switching to the electricity grid if more electricity is required than the solar system was able to create.
Grid-connected solar systems can also feed electricity back to the grid if too much electricity is generated via the solar system for the immediate needs of your home.
Unless you add storage batteries to your system, a grid-connected solar system is unable to store power in your home for use at night.
THE COMPONENTS OF YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM
What makes up a solar system?
A solar system is made up of a number of key components, all of which combine to generate electricity, regulate and control the flow of the electricity and to connect and mount the solar system to your building. A grid- connected solar system comprises of panels, a string inverter or micro-inverters or optimisers, a roof mounting system and electrical accessories including circuit breakers and wires. It is important that each component works together, with no component compromising the performance, safety or life expectancy of any other component.
LG SOLAR PANELS
Solar PV panels on roofs of homes and businesses generate clean electricity by converting sunlight into usable electricity.
This conversion takes place within the solar cells and is a process that requires no moving parts.
High Quality Solar Panels make prefect sense when taking into consideration, the life and performance on your investment
A solar inverter is one of the most important elements of the solar system. It converts the variable direct current (DC) output of a photovoltaic (PV)
solar panel into a 240V alternating current (AC). This AC electricity can
be fed into your home to operate your household appliances.
Depending on how your system is set-up the electricity that is not used in your home is either fed into the grid via a digital meter or stored in home batteries for later use. New hybrid inverters now include an integrated battery management system.
Long lasting solar systems for the Australian climate require high quality inverters. Unfortunately, lower quality inverters and panels have failed to perform under Australian conditions in large numbers and failed in as little as 2 years.
Since 2015 solar storage batteries have reduced steadily in cost to the point that pay back is coming down from more than 10 years towards 7 years and less. In future years most residential solar systems will include a battery as part of the solar system package. Discuss with your LG panel installer if batteries are feasible in your circumstances, or if you should get a “battery ready” system.
Solar systems are mounted to roofs with a mounting system using various railings, frames and tiles or tin feet. Most mounting systems are made of aluminium with stainless steel hardware and are designed to accept a variety of solar modules on a variety of roof types. Aluminium rails with clamps attach the solar panels to the rail and connection brackets fix the rail to the roof (see diagram below).
Superior mounting systems are manufactured with higher grades of aluminium and stainless steel, often resulting in less weight on the roof and lower levels of corrosion over longer periods of time. Quality mounting rails may also feature robust anchoring points and design solutions that speed-up the installation time of your solar system.
Purchasing a strong and well-engineered mounting system is the sensible way to protect the investment you have made in your solar system as they will be more rigid. It is also advisable to ensure that the warranties on your mounting frame match or exceed the warranties of your solar panels and their inverter. The standard mounting frame warranty is 10 years.
METERING YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM
There are two fundamental steps to take when connecting your solar system to the grid
Your electricity network company will specify what type of meter is required to measure your solar generation and energy consumption. Your LG dealer will be able to explain the details to you. You may be required to pay for the cost of the new solar meter and its installation in addition to the cost of your solar system. Prices can be a few hundred dollars, so you should make sure that the solar electricity meter supply and connection is included in the quote for your new solar system.
Negotiate a rate for off-set and exported electricity from your solar system with your electricity retailer. This is called a ‘feed-in tariff’ (FIT) and varies by retailer, location and time. Some electricity retailers may not offer a FIT. If your existing electricity retailer does not offer a solar FIT, you may wish to consider changing your retailer to
a retailer who does. Your solar system installer will be able to advise you on who offers the best FIT in your area and assist you with the process.
RATING YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM
Your LG solar system is rated according to the number of watts it can produce per hour. This rating is rarely achieved in full during real life conditions as dust particles, clouds and other natural issues will affect the quality of light that your PV panels receive.
For example 16 x 320W solar panels will create a 5,120 kW solar system. In regards to overall system output on an average day with intermittent clouds this system will produce approximately 3-4 kW per hour in the best sun irradiation hours of the day.
The system will only achieve 5kW per hour on a very sunny day, in the middle of the day and clear sky, for example after rain.
LG Panels look fantastic on your roof.
A smart looking home is a more valuable asset. Invest in LG panels for better long term outcomes.
INSTALLING PV PANELS FOR YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM
TILTING AND ORIENTATION
Solar modules can face anywhere from the East to the North and the West, while still providing good output performance.
In Australia, a grid-connected solar system will generate the most solar electricity when the LG solar panels are facing north at a tilt angle of 15 to 30 degrees. But with the introduction of time of use metering by electricity providers in Australia, a north-west or fully western facing solar system may give a more positive financial outcome.
Time of use metering is when energy retailers charge more for their electricity (approximately 45 cents per kW/h or more) in peak usage periods, for example weekdays from 2pm until 8pm. During these times Western facing panels will produce a greater amount of solar electricity, therefore creating better savings.
Discuss with your Northern Rivers Renewable Energy (Your LG Authorised Dealer) your electricity usage, so that your usage pattern can be matched with your solar panel’s installation direction.
Thinking about your daily routine and your electricity consumption will help you locate the best possible position for your solar panels. If lots of electricity is used in the morning, an Easterly roof will offer the best benefits. If lots of electricity is used during the middle of the day, we would advise a north roof and if lots of electricity is used in the early and late afternoon a north-west roof is more likely to offer the best outcome. With multi-string inverters you can also put one group of solar panels (one string) on the East and one on the West to cover a wider time-span.
The amount of electricity generated by your solar system directly relates to the amount of sunlight that your PV panels receive. The more your solar modules are covered in shade, the less electricity your system will generate.
Even a single antenna or a chimney shadow on your panels can affect performance, while the overall effectiveness of your solar system is dependent on where you live. In some areas of Australia (for example, the Blue Mountains near Sydney) over 20% of homes have reduced suitability for solar systems due to extended tree coverage close to the home.
Using micro-inverters or power optimisers on each panel, instead of one large string inverter (where multiple panels are connected to one inverter) can help with shadow issues. With each individual panel managed to achieve its maximum electricity output individually, the losses associated to shade can be reduced by as much as 25%.
If you believe that you may
have a shadow issue, talk to Northern Rivers Renewable Energy (your LG dealer) and check if power optimisers or micro- inverters are a potential solution for your solar system.
If a suitable roof area is not available at your home, LG solar panels can be fitted to a ground-mounted system in a sun-filled spot on your land.
However, you will need to allow for additional costs for a ground mounting system, including costs for running the cable safely in the ground. These options can be discussed with Northern Rivers Renewable Energy (Your local LG solar dealer)
INSTALLING PANELS FOR GREAT PERFORMANCE
Electricity bills are usually measured in units of kWh. Solar Panels are measured in Watts. E.g. LG Neon 320W
Over 520 solar installation companies have gone into liquidation since 2011*.
If you select Northern Rivers Renewable Energy ( An LG Authorised Dealer) you have an installation company that has gone thorough detailed vetting by LG.
*Source: ASIC liquidated companies register
HOW MANY PANELS DOES YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM NEED?
Northern Rivers Renewable Energy (An LG Authorised Dealer) will visit your home for a site inspection, checking the roof position, discussing your electricity usage pattern, discussing monitor options and, where applicable, conducting a shade analysis to ensure that the right quantity of the right panels are placed in the optimum position.
Buyers should insist that their installation company also undertakes a physical site inspection. Many variables require consideration, with many difficult to spot from satellite images or from photos of your home. An installer’s willingness to visit your home gives some indication as to the quality of service you will receive for your purchase. As a result, we strongly advise that you buy your solar system from a local company and not an internet-based solar sales agent.
Historically (when internet solar sales were rapidly increasing) consumers purchased solar systems without site inspections, only to have their installer highlight the need for special roof brackets or a total switchboard upgrade before the solar can be installed. These additions added unexpected costs and time delays to the consumer.
Before making your purchase decision, check who is your point of contact if you have questions after your installation.
HOW LONG SOLAR SYSTEMS LAST
The key components susceptible to failure in your solar system are the solar panels, the inverter and some components like fuses and isolators. This is often because cheap lower quality products have been sold at low prices, but have been made to look like high quality via long “warranties” and other claims.
High quality solar products overall tend to have longer life-cycles as they undertake more quality control steps, use higher quality cells and solders, have stronger UV protection on backing sheets and ensure the water sealing of panels withstands decades of weather induced deterioration. Very low cost panels with less UV stabilised backing sheets, cheaper sealants and more fragile framing can deteriorate faster and some have failed in Australia in as little as 2-3 years.
Cheap inverter solutions also have higher failure rates than quality solutions. Unfortunately often lengthy warranties on cheap products have been unobtainable as both manufacturers and installation company have avoided liability by going into liquidation e.g. Sunnyroo or Aearosharp inverters.
In Australia over 520 installation companies have liquidated their business and escaped warranty obligations since early 2011*.
The key warranty for solar panels is the Manufacturer’s Warranty. High quality panels cover transport of the replacement panel, the replacement panel and the labour to take the failed panel down and replace it. Cheaper panels often do not cover transport and replacement labour. Make sure you enquire what is covered in the warranty and ask for the detailed warranty document.
Standard Manufacturer’s Warranties are usually for 10 years, and for LG panels it is 12 years.
SOLAR PANEL SIZES
Capacity of solar power system with 20 modules (60 Cells)
330W Mono X Plus®2
260W Polly Standard Panel
WHY PANEL EFFICIENCY MATTERS
A few years ago many buyers of residential solar did not consider the efficiency of their panels. If they wanted a 5kW system they could buy 20 panels with 250W or 23 less efficient 220W panels.
Most customers never imagined they would in the future need more than 5kW of solar and in many homes around 20 to 32 panels will fit on the roof. That was the old solar.
But with the emergence of battery storage as a smart way to harvest the light during the day and then
to use this electricity at night, panel efficiency has become a very important consideration. Considering that the future of electric cars is coming fast, with Volkswagen for example announcing many electric car models in a few years; you might want to expand your solar system in the future to power the electric car.
The worldwide CO2 reduction could be enormous if we are able to utilise our roofs to generate some of the fuel for our cars. In short in the future one might want 4-5kW of solar system for day use and 1-2kW of solar for the batteries to use at night and then to fuel the car one would need another 4-6kW of solar to power the car(s) via solar.
Overall suddenly there is the need for a 10 -12kW system. With 260W panels this would mean one needs to fit at least 40 panels. On the other hand, with the highly efficient 320W LG NeON®2 one would need only 32 panels.
LG in early 2017 is releasing a 350 to 360W most high efficient 60 cell panel called NeON R, followed by
a 400W panel in future years. This means if you can save 8 spots now, with a higher efficient panel – you can have another 3.6kW solar system for your batteries or cars, which you would not be able to fit otherwise.So it is important today to buy a system with future expansion capability in mind, both for batteries and future Electric Vehicles.
Buy now with the needs of the future in mind. Choose high efficient panels and save roof space for future expansion.
INCENTIVES, REBATES AND FINANCING
ARE THERE REBATES AVAILABLE FOR YOUR SOLAR SYSTEM?
Rebates may be available for your solar system. Over the years these rebates have changed and may continue to change in the future. Talking to your nearest LG installer or visiting the Clean Energy Council website will give you updated information about the latest rebates applicable to you.
There is currently one key rebate offered for solar PV systems in Australia called Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs). As per February 2017, this rebate offered around $3600 towards a 5kW system, but the rebate amount can change from time to time. When you see advertised sales prices for solar systems, these prices usually have subtracted the rebate from the full price. The rebate will reduce every year in January, for the next few years.
WHAT ARE STC CERTIFICATES?
The savings of CO2 emissions via solar electricity generation is rewarded through tradeable certificates for small scale solar systems called Small Scale Technology certificates or STCs.
When your solar system is installed you can complete a calculation to confirm how many STCs will be created over the life of your system. This is effectively a measure of the renewable energy generation from your system.
Solar system installation companies typically offer an up-front discount equal to the value they will receive when they sell your STCs. What this means, is that the STCs for your system are handed over by you to the solar system installation company in lieu of some form of payment for your system.
The solar system installation company then trades the certificates and receives a cash return. Most customers treat their STCs like a rebate with their value deducted from the sale price of their solar system.
It is important to understand several key aspects of these STCs:
• The Government does not pay you for certificates, nor does it set the price
• As of February 2017 a 5kW solar system attracts a rebate ranging from $3200 to $3600,
but as a tradeable certificate, STC value can and does vary over time and is not fixed;
• The quantity of STCs you may receive for a system varies depending on your
location and when you create them;
• Suppliers who agree to offer you a price for STCs must comply with
certain rules and conditions set out by the Clean Energy Regulator and only approved
companies may register and trade STC’s
WHAT ARE FEED IN TARIFFS?
Feed-in tariffs (FIT) are a defined payment for the electricity you generate from your solar system that is sent back to the grid. Currently energy retailers in most States pay relatively low FIT ranging from 5-12 cents.
These FIT rates are based on state guidelines and vary between electricity retailers. We recommend shopping around between retailers to determine the best available FIT rate for you.
Some Energy Retailers sell solar systems and will tempt you with a high FIT. Please check that the overall electricity charges in such contracts are not higher than normal kWh charges, as your higher FIT income may be more than offset in higher electricity fees and charges.
Previously, Australian solar system owners have benefited from a range of generous “premium” FIT schemes. Unfortunately, these offers are no longer available with new solar installations.
The value of a FIT is an important aspect to consider as it can influence the economic outcome of owning a solar system and what the ideal size of a system should be in your individual case.
Good solar installation companies as part of their site visit should offer a detailed analysis of what they expect your self-consumption to export ratio to be, and what economic outcome you will be able to achieve.
Naturally if you install batteries with your solar system the FIT is less relevant.
TIPS TO AVOID THE SOLAR SHARKS AND POOR QUALITY SOLAR EQUIPMENT
Unfortunately, as in any industry, some unscrupulous operators can affect the reputation of professional, positive and reliable suppliers. Please see the helpful hints below to give you a positive solar experience.
1) Undertake some solar research via our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on lgenergy.com.au
2) Do your research about brands and prices. There are some very cheap offers in the market, but these cheaper deals can hide poor quality equipment that are made to appear like quality products. You are looking for a product that lasts 25 years so that your financial investment is repaid over and over. Find out about the company offering the very cheap deal.
3) For internet research try Whirlpool – the Green Tech section: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/143 or the facebook group “Crap Solar”.
4) Do not give into pressure selling and deadlines. It’s one of the oldest sales tricks in the book. If the sales person cannot give you the time to make a considered decision, then what are they fearful you will discover about the deal if you spend some time doing a bit of research? If the company has just come into town for a solar deal, they will be gone after the install and you will be left to your own devices. Please buy from reputable solar companies. In years to come you might need their solar expertise and support.
5) How big is your roof and how big a solar system can it fit? Remember to allow some reserve space for when you install a solar storage battery for night time solar power use, and then again for more battery storage capacity to charge up an electric car in future years. Your quality solar system is built to last 25+ years. Go back 25 years to the days of ‘brick’ mobile phones, dot matrix printers and ghetto blasters to consider what the next 25 years may herald and how your home power needs may grow.
6) Solar systems vary in quality and size and so does the price. Set yourself a budget. As a rule of thumb each kW of
a quality solar system will cost in the range of $1,500 to $1,700 for a residential system up to 10 kW. You will find a system for $800 to $1,000 per kW but you are looking at lower grade systems with less output productivity and shorter working life. This may cost you more in the future in repairs and replacements. Use your rebate wisely. You are making a 25 years or longer investment, so please consider quality and real warranty support over everything else. And remember a solar system with a good brand name and performance at the time you sell your home may increase your property value.
7) Panel Types & Certifications: We recommend the high efficiency mono- crystalline solar panels, as this is the technology used most often in quality solar systems in the world today. It is also the most tested technology, as mono-crystalline panels have been mass produced since the 1970s. They have a black appearance and from our point of view will aesthetically blend in more to your roof and neighbourhood than the blue multi-crystalline solar panel variety.
8) Solar systems attract government rebates if they have been registered with the Clean Energy Council. You should check with the install companies if the offered panels are registered (most are nowadays). All LG panel are registered and have completed extensive fire resistance testing, a latest requirement (introduced in mid-2013) in the Australian Solar standards.
9) Manufacturer’s Warranty: Many manufacturers will offer 10 years’ manufacturing warranty and an 80% output efficiency warranty at 25 years. For a normal consumer it becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Companies like LG offer full parts and labour warranty and a replacement warranty. Finally make sure that the manufacturer has a local legal entity in Australia. Should you have a dispute in years to come, a company with no link and contact in Australia is hard to communicate with when it comes to consumer rights.
10) Choose a quality Inverter solution to go with quality panels: An inverter is the heart of your solar system. It will have a direct impact on the efficiency of conversion from solar power to usable electric power of your system. The more efficient the inverter solution, the better the energy conversion process will be. The bigger and more established the manufacturer, the more likely warranty claims or required repairs will be dealt with smoothly.
11) Mounting & Accessories: There are building standards for every aspect of the mounting and electrical accessories used in a solar system. Quality systems are certified. Ensure that the installer uses the certified product by getting the products used in your system listed as part of the quote.
12) Quotes & Buying: Do not get pressured by sales persons to sign a deal then and there. Avoid the traveling band of solar installers hitting town and then disappearing, never to be seen again. Use reputable and established business to install your solar system.