FAQ

What is Solar Energy?

Solar power is by far the Earth’s most available energy source, easily capable of providing many times the total current energy demand. However, it is an intermittent energy source, meaning that solar power systems usually must be supplemented by another energy source such as grid energy (Grid Connect System) or stored energy (Stand Alone System).

A solar cell or photovoltaic cell (PV) is a device that converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect, which can be used to power equipment or to recharge a battery. The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and other spacecraft, but today the majority of photovoltaic modules are used for grid connected power generation. In this case an inverter is required to convert the DC to AC. Solar power generation is also perfect for off grid power for remote dwellings where grid power is not feasible.

Photovoltaic cells require protection from the environment and are usually packaged tightly behind a glass sheet. When more power is required than a single cell can deliver, cells are electrically connected together to form photovoltaic modules, or solar panels. A single module is enough to power an emergency telephone, but for a house or a power plant the modules must be arranged in arrays.

In Australia, up to 2% of our energy is sourced from solar power, despite the hot, dry, and sunny climate that make it ideal for utilisation on a much larger scale. This unreached grid parity is mainly due to the current higher cost per kilowatt (kW) than other power sources because of the cost of solar panels. Feed-in tariffs and mandatory renewable energy targets are designed to assist renewable energy commercialisation in Australia.

What are the advantages of Solar Power?

  • Solar power is pollution free during use and typically have a working life of approx. 30-40 years. Production of PV modules does create end wastes however emissions are manageable using existing pollution controls. End-of-use recycling technologies are under development.
  • Facilities can operate with little maintenance or intervention after initial setup.
  • When grid-connected, solar electric generation can displace the highest cost electricity during times of peak demand (in most climatic regions), can reduce grid loading.
  • Grid-connected solar electricity can be used locally thus reducing transmission/distribution losses (transmission losses from typically remote conventional power stations were approximately 7.2% in 1995).
  • Once the initial capital cost of installing a solar power system has been spent, operating costs are virtually zero.

What rebates (STCs) are available to me?

There are still government rebates and incentives available for the installation of solar power systems in all states. The government rebate is based on Small scale Technology Certificates or (STCs) which are created when a solar system is installed. STCs are similar to the now superseded Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), having replaced them on the 1st January 2011.

The number of STCs eligible to each customer is based on the zone (or latitude) in which the system will be installed and the system size in KWs.

You can refer to this link to determine the number of STC’s you are entitled to; https://www.rec-registry.gov.au/sguCalculatorInit.shtml

Trading these STCs in order to sell them can be quite a complicated and time consuming process. This is why Towards Tomorrow Energy (TTE) offer a simple Point of Sale Discount included in our system prices in exchange for the transfer of these STCs from our customer to Towards Tomorrow Energy. TTE do not profiteer from the trade of these STCs but simply pass on the total eligible rebate amount to the customer based on the value of the STCs on the day of installation.

For further information on rebates and incentives please refer to the following link or contact us today on 1300 732 224.

http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/initiatives/renewable-target/need-ret/solar-credits-faq.aspx

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels convert light from the sun into electricity. The output of the solar panels is direct current (DC) electricity. This is converted to alternating current electricity (AC) by an inverter so that electricity can be supplied to the household. In the case of a grid connect system, any excess power produced by the solar panels is fed back to the electricity grid.

What are photovoltaic (PV) modules?

Photovoltaic cells (the technical name for solar panels) were developed at Bell Laboratories in the early 1950s as a spinoff of transistor technology. Very thin layers of pure silicon are impregnated with tiny amounts of other elements. When exposed to sunlight, small amounts of electricity are produced.

What is an inverter?

An inverter is an electronic device that transforms the low-voltage DC power which is produced by the PV panels to conventional 240-volt AC power as needed by lights and appliances. The size of the Inverter required will depend on the size of the solar system installed. Usually the inverter is placed alongside your existing fuse box.

What is a Grid Connect system? (SGU)

A grid connect system supplies solar power through an inverter directly to the household, and in cases where the system provides more energy than the house needs, the remainder is supplied to the electricity grid. When power is supplied to the mains grid, the home owner receives a credit or a payment for that electricity, usually called a feed-in tariff.

What is a Stand Alone Power system? (SAPS)

Stand Alone systems are generally used when there is no access to a public electricity supply, (the grid) usually in remote areas. A Stand Alone system supplies solar power to a series of batteries where the power is stored. An inverter is still required for Stand Alone systems to convert the power to 240 volt AC when the power travels from the batteries into the household. In most cases, Stand Alone systems utilise a back up power source such as a generator.

What is a Hybrid Solar Power System? (HPS)

Hybrid Power Systems combine the benefits of both a grid connected solar system with battery back up. This enables any excess power generated by the PV array to charge a battery bank which can be used to power house loads during the night time or during periods of poor weather.

How much does a grid connect solar power setup cost roughly?

Grid Connect Solar Systems typically cost around $2000 per KW to install. Stand Alone Systems typically cost around $10,000 per KW as do Hybrid Systems if they are a complete installation.

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

A grid connect system owner is paid a feed in tariff for the electricity their system generates by an electricity company or government agency. There are two different types of tariffs, gross and net. Net metering tariffs are typically between 5-8cents per Kwh of power fed back into the grid. As an example, a 5KW system produces on average 20 kwhs per day. If the owner was away and had all loads turned off, all of this power would be fed back into the grid and potentially earn the owner between $1-$1.60 per day. A grid connect system should be designed to offset the daytime loads of the owners house and as such minimal power should ideally be fed back into the grid. Currently there are no new gross feed in tariffs available in Australia for Solar Power.

What does a typical home solar system consist of?

A simple small grid connect system consists of a 6-9 solar modules and an inverter. The inverter is connected to the power grid through your electricity meter.

How does a solar system connect into your current house power?

A grid connect system is wired into your existing fuse box via a separate AC circuit breaker.

What happens at night with a Grid Connect Solar System?

Solar panels require sunlight to produce electricity, so during the night solar panels will NOT produce any electricity.

Will the system still work on a cloudy day?

Under cloud the solar panels will not operate at full capacity. The more cloud there is the lower the output of the solar panels. If you have a grid connect system, any deficit will come from the mains grid.

Does the direction the solar panels face matter?

A northerly aspect is ideal as your panels will get maximum direct sunlight. A system with solar panels facing in a westerly direction will generate far less energy than one with a northerly aspect.

I have some large trees surrounding my house – Will this affect my solar panels?

Any trees or objects (including buildings) shading the solar panels will decrease their output. Depending on the size and placement of these objects, the decrease in output can be substantial, hence it is best to avoid shading where possible.

What size system will I need?

Any grid connect solar power system will reduce your yearly power consumption and consequently your power bill, but in general, the bigger the system, the bigger the benefit.
The size of system your household requires depends entirely on your energy usage and geographical location. A 1kW system is an entry level system for Grid Connect and attracts the most rebate per watt. It will usually cover between 15-25% of the energy consumption of a medium sized household. At the other extreme, a 4kW system will cover 100% of the energy consumption of a medium energy use household.
To make the most of solar power, the key is to implement simple energy efficiency strategies. It is easy to conserve energy by using appropriate lighting and energy efficient appliances. Running high power appliances such as electric bar heaters, electric hot water systems and air conditioners etc. is not economical, nor recommended.
Instead of considering a very large solar system to accommodate existing heavy energy appliances, it is advisable to invest in energy efficient heaters, hot water and design features to compliment your solar system and energy conscious lifestyle.

Will the system still work when there is a blackout?

NO, grid connect inverters by law must shut down if the grid fails. This is to prevent power being fed back into the grid while utility workers are repairing the electricity grid. This means that even though you have a solar system, during a blackout you will not have power available. If you want to have a continuous power supply during a blackout then you would need to have back up batteries installed and/or a backup generator.
In the case of a Stand Alone system, you should never experience a blackout unless your battery supply is depleted due to long periods of cloudy weather, in which case, you will probably have a generator backup to restore power.

How long will it take to install?

Most solar systems should only require one full day for installation.

How long do PV modules last?

PV modules last a long time, although exactly how long, we don’t yet know, as the oldest modules are barely 45 years old and still going strong. In decades-long tests, the fully developed technology of single- and polycrystal modules has shown to degrade at fairly steady rates of 0.25%-0.5% per year.
PV technology is closely related to transistor technology. Based on our experience with transistors, which just fade away after 20 years of constant use, most manufacturers have been confidently predicting 20-year or longer life spans. However, keep in mind that PV modules are seeing only six to eight hours of active use per day, so we may find that life spans of 60-80 years are normal. Most solar panels carry an output warranty of 25 years. The electronic components such as inverters, should last 10 -15 years.

I’ve heard that solar panels are very environmentally un-friendly to produce – Is this true?

In the early years of the PV industry, people said that PV modules would never produce as much power over their lifetimes as it took to manufacture them. During the early years of development, when transistors were a novelty, and handmade PV modules costing as much as $40,000 per watt were being used exclusively for spacecraft, this was true. Now however, PV modules generally pay back their manufacturing energy investment in about 1.6 to 1.8 years’ time in Australia (only a fraction of the typical warranty period), depending on module type, installation climate, and other conditions. The high demand for PV modules around the globe has led to far more efficient and safer manufacturing processes these days.

What is the maintenance is required on a solar power system?

There is virtually no maintenance required on a solar system as they have no moving parts. Really, all you need to do is keep them clean. It’s best not to clean them while they’re hot in the middle of the day as you could theoretically break the glass if you use cold water on hot panels, so try to limit cleaning to mornings or early evening. We recommend a basic scrub with a broom and rinse off with water once every 6-12 months depending on installation environment.

How much space do I need on my roof?

  • 2KW Array requires 15m2
  • 3KW Array requires 22m2
  • 4KW Array requires 30m2
  • 5KW Array requires 38m2
  • 10KW Array requires 73m2

How much will the system weigh on my roof?

A solar system will weigh approximately 20 kilograms per square meter. (For example, a 1KW system at approx 7m2 would weight approximately 80 kilograms).

What type of warranty is supplied with the system?

Solar Panels: 20 – 25-year warranty to produce 80% of rated output (manufacturer)
Inverter: 5-year warranty. Can be extended to 10 years for an additional charge (manufacturer)
Mounting System: 10-year product warranty (manufacturer)
Workmanship: 12-month warranty on workmanship (installer)

Can I insure my grid connect system?

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