Solar FAQ

What is a solar electricity (photovoltaic or PV) system?

A solar photovoltaic (PV) system is made up of solar PV panels, an inverter, racking and wiring.

Solar PV systems work very simply to provide a household or commercial structure with usable, renewable, clean, green energy.

Flat solar PV panels are mounted to a roof and convert energy from sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. A device called an inverter then changes the DC into alternating current (AC) electricity, which can be used for a household’s electrical needs such as lighting and operation appliances.

How does a solar PV system work?

When sunlight hits a solar PV module, direct current (DC) electricity is produced and the inverter changes the current from DC to 240V alternating current (AC). This electricity can be used immediately within the home or fed into the National Electricity Grid (grid).

What is the National Electricity Grid?

The National Electricity Grid is the network of wires that delivers electricity from generators to homes and businesses. When you install a solar PV system you become a generator of clean renewable energy.

What is the difference between a solar hot water system and solar PV system?

A solar hot water system uses the sun’s warmth to directly heat water.

A solar PV system converts sunlight into electricity for use in the home or to be fed into the electricity grid. The heat output of the sun is not important for solar PV systems, but the amount of sunlight available is.

What are the different types of solar PV panels?

There are many different types of solar PV panels currently on the Australian market. The three main types are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film panels.

A range of materials can be used to produce a PV panel (the most common is silicon). But there are now newer technologies, which are proving to be effective in Australian conditions.

Does the orientation of the roof affect whether or not a home can successfully install a solar product?

Although it is optimal to install solar products on the north-facing side of a roof, it is also possible to install a solar PV system on the east or west facing side of a roof, as long as there is sufficient space. However, this will not produce the same results as a north–facing installation.

Is mains electricity still needed?

Because solar PV systems only produce electricity when they are exposed to sunlight, at other times another source, such as mains electricity or a generator, will be required. When there is no sunlight, no electricity is produced, so you will need to draw electricity from another source such as the grid.

Are batteries needed for a solar PV grid connected system?

No. Grid–connected solar systems do not store electricity – instead, any electricity you do not use in your home is ‘exported’ to or fed into the electricity grid.

Is it possible to increase the size of a solar PV system in the future?

This depends on your roof space and the size of the inverter. If you have sufficient roof space and additional capacity in the inverter you could increase the size of your system. Or you could add a second system to your roof.

Please note: At this time, the solar feed-in tariffs in each state have limits on the system size, which to they apply. Increasing the size of an existing solar power system could affect your eligibility for a feed-in tariff.

What happens at night?

As solar PV systems only produce electricity when they are exposed to sunlight, they do not produce electricity at night. At night you will need another source, such as electricity from the grid.

What happens on cloudy days?

The performance of the solar PV system is affected by cloud cover. When there is not enough light to produce electricity, you will use electricity from the grid.

What will happen during a blackout?

For safety reasons, in the event of a blackout, your solar PV system will stop producing electricity. This safety measure is mandatory and has been put in place to protect anyone working on the blacked-out grid system. As soon as the grid is back online, your solar PV system’s ability to generate will be restored.

Where do residential solar PV panels get placed?

Your installer should determine the optimal position for your solar PV system.

There are many factors to take into consideration when planning the placement – from orientation to the sun, to the area available and the distance to the meter. In an ideal situation, the panels would be oriented as close to north–facing as possible, in an area with no shading.

Is it true that solar electricity systems are more efficient inland rather than on the coast?

There are many factors affecting efficiency. Inland regions generally have fewer cloudy days than the coast. Conversely, high temperatures, smog and dirt are more prevalent inland and can also affect performance.

How much electricity does a solar PV system produce?

There are a number of factors that will affect how much electricity a system will produce. The orientation of the panels, where you live in Australia, any shading of your panels and the amount of sunlight on a given day will all affect how much energy the solar PV system produces. You should refer to the product specifications of the solar power system you are considering, or talk to your installer.

What are Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)?

RECs are part of the government’s commitment to renewable energy. Each REC represents 1 MWh (Megawatt hour) of energy able to be produced.  RECs are created when you purchase qualifying solar hot water, wind power systems or residential solar PV systems.

RECs have been devised as the means to encourage Australians to take action to help meet the government’s 20% renewable energy target by 2020.

How much are RECs worth?

The value of the RECs you are eligible for varies depending on your location and zone rating, the size of the system you install and the market for RECs. Website’s such as the Government’s Office of Renewable Energy Regulator site have solar REC calculators, providing a guide to the number of RECs your system could be worth.

What if I am not eligible for the government scheme?

In some cases, customers are not eligible for government feed–in tariffs. In these cases they are paid a rate for each kWh of electricity fed into the grid under the Buy Back scheme. This is similar to the feed–in tariff scheme in that you are paid for each kWh of electricity fed into the grid, however the Buy Back scheme rate per kWh is lower than the government scheme.

Eligible customers may be able to transfer from the Buy Back scheme to the feed–in tariff scheme.

Gross versus net feed-in tariffs

A net feed–in tariff pays the solar PV system owner only for surplus electricity they produce but haven’t used.

A gross feed–in tariff pays for each kilowatt-hour produced by the system that is directly fed into the grid. The feed–in tariff schemes are set by the state governments and vary between the states.

Will it affect my property resale value?

When you purchase a solar system, all of its benefits, including the warranties and electricity savings, are linked to the property. Even if you move, all warranties will remain with the system, meaning that the new owner will receive the benefits.

There is not yet enough data to accurately predict the effect of a solar energy system installation on property prices.