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Solar Power FAQ’s

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a grid connect solar power system?

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Grid connect systems, often located in built up areas, supply solar electricity through an inverter directly to the household and to the electricity grid if the system is providing more energy than the house needs. When power is supplied to the mains grid, the home owner usually receives a credit or a payment for that electricity. This is called a feed in tariff.

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What can affect the amount of solar energy received?

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The strength of the solar energy (radiation) available depends on the time of year, the time of day, and the latitude of the generation point. The amount of energy generated can be further affected by the amount of dust and water vapour in the air, the amount of cloud cover and any shading of the solar panels. You can learn more about solar radiation levels for your area in our solar power system builder.

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Does roof orientation really matter?

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Most certainly. For example, a system with solar panels facing in a westerly direction will generate approximately 12% less than one with a northerly aspect. As a general rule, any system install between north-east and north-west would be considered ideal, but this varies for every location.

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How much does a grid connect solar power setup cost?

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Prices vary according to size and location – contact us for an obligation-free quote.

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What is a feed in tariff and how much will I get paid?

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When you produce more solar power than you can use in the house, the excess power goes out to the grid. It also generates as a credit on your electricity bill. Currently, the Feed-in Tariff rate is 5c to 8c per kWh, but you can shop around for the best deal (and we’re here to help).

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What size system will I need to run my home?

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That entirely depends on your energy usage and your geographical location. The ‘average’ house in Gippsland (with no access to natural gas) will use anywhere from 15kWh to 20kWh per day. To put this into perspective, a 3kW solar power system will produce approximately 11.5 kWh’s per day. A 4.6 kW system (normally the largest you are allowed to install in Gippsland) will produce around 16 kWh’s per day. Contact us with a copy of your electricity bill, and we can tailor a system to suit your needs.

Any size grid connect solar power system will reduce your yearly power consumption and your power bill. Naturally, the bigger the system, the bigger the benefit.

To make the most of solar power, the key is to use as much of your electricity while the sun is shining. This is because the solar power will then be ‘running your appliances for free. If you send your excess solar out to the grid for 10c during the day, and use power at night for 30c, it obviously doesn’t make as much sense.

Instead of considering a very large solar system it is advisable to invest in energy efficient heaters, solar hot water and design features such as strategically placed vents or insulation to avoid heat entering the house in the first place. In summary – all your energy can be supplied by solar power and your budget and daily energy usage will determine the size of your solar power system.

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Is my building suitable for a solar power system?

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Several aspects will need to be evaluated to determine if your home is a good solar site, such as orientation, space available, shadows on the space available and your current electricity usage. The best site will be one with adequate north-facing roofs that have no shade. Variations on that will cut into the productivity of the system.

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How long will my grid connect solar power system last?

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Solar modules have been tested in the field showing small reductions in power output after 20 years, mostly because the glass surface becomes a bit dull and reflects more light. All our solar panels carry an output warranty of 25 years. There are solar panels delivering power in Australia today that were installed more that 30 years ago. The electronic components such as inverters, being the most sensitive, will have the shortest lifespan. Our solar inverters have been rated with a design life of 20 years or more.

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What type of warranty is supplied with the system?

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Solar panels: 25-year warranty to produce 80% of rated output (manufacturer)\r\nInverter: 5-year or 10-year warranty.\r\nWorkmanship: 10-year warranty on workmanship (covered by Gippsland Solar, we take full responsibility for our installers).

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Should I choose monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels?

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Between monocrystalline and polycrystalline there isn’t a lot of difference except that a polycrystalline panel is slightly larger than the equivalent size in monocrystalline. The difference in efficiency might be around 0.2% between the two types of panel, so it is not the most important decision you will have to make.

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What can affect the costs of installing a grid connect system?

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A base installation rate includes the grid-connect system being installed on a pitched metal roof facing north with appropriate surface area available. Additional costs will be incurred for a flat or tiled roof, any equipment upgrades and extended warranties.

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Can I insure my grid connect system?

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Most insurers will allow you to include the system under your home and contents insurance, but please check with your insurance company first.

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If my energy requirements increase, can I upgrade the system?

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Yes. Additional solar panels can be added at any time to increase generating capability but you might have to upgrade to a larger inverter. Alternatively you could purchase a larger inverter when installing the system initially and then plan to add some extra solar panels later.

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What happens on cloudy days?

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In a grid connect system, as you are still tied to the mains power supply, any deficit will come from the mains grid.

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How reliable will my system be?

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Gippsland Solar has a pure focus on using the highest quality components, so you can be assured that your system is designed to last well into the future. We are also extremely focused on customer service, and we will be there for you in the unlikely event that you need product support.

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What about the energy it takes to produce a solar power system?

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Although solar electricity is pollution-free, PV systems require a certain amount of energy, which must be ‘reimbursed’ before they can be considered as renewable and clean. This is known as “embodied energy”. An assessment from the International Energy Agency concluded in mid 2006 that roof-top solar PV systems recover their energy content (from manufacturing and recycling) within 1.6 to 1.8 years in Australia.

Once they have reimbursed their initial energy input, roof-top PV systems can avoid the emission of 40 tonnes of CO2, depending on their location and on the local electricity mix available. Roof-top PV systems in Australia during their 30 year lifespan are expected to produce around 17 times the amount of energy needed for manufacture, installation and dismantling.

How much of a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions will I achieve?

Using a comparison to a car, the average vehicle in Australia travels 20 000 km per annum, which is equivalent to 3.3 tons of carbon dioxide discharge annually. A 2kw grid connected system will prevent 3.3 tons of carbon dioxide being generated through coal fired power generation – so it’s the equivalent of taking a car off the road each year.

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What does a typical home solar system consist of?

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The heart of a photovoltaic solar system is the solar array. Made up of multiple panels (individually measuring roughly 1 by 1.5 meters), this array absorbs the energy of a specific range of available sunlight and converts this energy into electrical energy. The array is mounted on a frame that allows the panels to be securely mounted with minimal interference with the waterproofing and structure of the roof, as well as providing the correct aspect and elevation for the array so as that the maximum amount of available sunlight in received and converted.

A cable is run down from the array to the inverter, a device designed to efficiently convert the widely fluctuating power from the solar array into a predictable and usable energy feed. A second cable connects the inverter to your house’s switchboard, which is in turn connected to the main power grid, creating a continuous and dynamic system for the contribution of solar energy to your house. The inverter also acts as a simple data logger: an information screen on the inverter will display total energy production, daily energy production, and instantaneous power. These figures will fluctuate depending on the time of year, the cloud cover, and temperature, and will allow you to keep a record of your system’s performance.

Solar power systems can also be optionally fitted with easy-to-use remote monitors, internet enabled data loggers and even sensors to determine solar availability, panel temperature, air temperature and wind speed. Ask your sales representative for more information.

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Is there any maintenance involved?

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With a grid connected system, there is very little maintenance required. Electronic components should be maintenance free. Cleaning the panels might be necessary after every year or so, but you can check for any visible dirt/grime on the glass to see if the panels might need a clean.

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Will I need a new switchboard and/or meter?

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In order to install a grid connected solar power system at your premises, you will need to have a compatible switchboard and meter. Our team of experts can determine if your existing switchboard is compatible or if it needs to be upgraded to current standards (with safety switches etc). We can also carry out this switchboard replacement as part of the solar installation.

Once your solar power system is installed, you will need a solar compatible electricity meter. Some meters need to be replaced with a solar meter, but most can simply be ‘reprogrammed’. Either way, the cost for this solar meter installation is between $130 and $175 (more for multi-phase meters – contact us for more info).

A solar meter (also referred to as a ‘bi-directional meter’) recognises when there is excess solar electricity being fed to the grid. Your existing meter won’t see power going back into the grid. Without this solar meter, you can still use your solar power in your home at the same time, but you won’t be receiving credit for the excess solar that you feed into the grid.

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How does electricity get stored for use after the sun goes down?

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Grid-connect systems direct excess electricity produced during the day back into the local electricity grid. This turns your electricity meter backwards in the process. You then receive a credit for any power that your system supplied to the grid. During the night when your system does not produce any electricity, you draw your power from the grid and your electricity meter measures your consumption.

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What happens with grid connect systems during a blackout?

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The grid connect inverter will automatically shut itself off within a few milliseconds of a blackout to avoid the potential of a dangerous “brown-out” in your home and to prevent back feeding into the grid. Therefore even though you have a solar system during a blackout you will not have power available. If you want to keep on having electricity available during a blackout then you would need to have back up batteries installed as well, which will add to the cost of the system.

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Can you retro-fit battery backup into a grid connect system?

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Yes, however battery backup systems require additional components – which can be costly.

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How does a solar system connect into current house power?

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The solar system is wired into your existing fuse box via a 15amp circuit breaker.

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Where do you place the inverter?

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Usually the inverter is placed alongside the fuse box. The inverter is silent and has a display to show the electricity generated and other data options, such as total electricity generated since installation.

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How much roof space is needed?

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1.0 kW system needs approximately 10m2, a 1.5kW system needs approximately 15m2 and so forth.

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What is the weight of the solar system on the roof?

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The system weighs approximately 27 kilograms per square meter (a 1kW system is approximately 10 square meters).

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