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James Martin II

Do I really need that? Also: Solar power takes many forms (Solartopia #6)

October 16, 2017
Skylights

As I write this, I am running the dryer for the first time since moving into the house; it’s only the second time we’re had rain (and even, it’s just a sprinkle). It’s interesting to note that at times like this – when it would be handy to have solar power to feed this clunky, […]

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What if you sent all of your solar into the grid? Is it worth it?

September 29, 2017
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If you’ve got solar, the way to maximise your electricity bill savings these days is to use your solar energy directly within your home (or business). From an investment point of view, the conventional wisdom is that the worst thing you could do with the solar energy that your roof produces is to send it […]

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4 interesting alternatives to the ‘Big 3’ electricity retailers

September 26, 2017
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If you want to reduce your electricity bills, the first place you should look is your choice of electricity retailer, which is the company that sells you electricity. Although some people are unaware of it, in most parts of Australia you’re not stuck with a monopolistic ‘utility’ – you can pick and choose from a […]

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Shiftable energy loads: What can you move into the ‘solar window’? (Solartopia #5)

September 21, 2017
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We here at Solar Choice harp on a lot about solar self-consumption – the idea that you need to put your solar energy to direct use within your home to maximise its value. Let’s take a look at what types of energy consumption can actually be ‘shifted around’ to other times of day – versus […]

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Our presentation to Ryde City Council (NSW) about solar & batteries

September 21, 2017
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A couple of months ago I was invited by the local council of Ryde, NSW to give a presentation about the state of the market for solar & batteries in Australia. Ryde City Council has some great sustainability initiatives, including a free Home Waste & Sustainability Advisory Service, which includes a home audit for people […]

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Solar system size limits: How much does your local network allow?

September 20, 2017
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What’s the upper limit to the amount of solar panel capacity that you can put on your roof? This is actually a multi-layered question that involves your roof area, your energy saving goals and any applicable restrictions imposed by your local electricity network company. This article touches on all these factors, but focuses mainly on […]

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Looking beyond solar feed-in tariffs: How to pick an electricity retailer

September 18, 2017
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When solar system owners shop around for an electricity retailer, the first thing they tend to look at is the solar feed-in tariff rate that the retailer offers. The fact is, however, that solar feed-in tariffs are no longer as important as they once were – so what else should solar system owners look for in […]

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Can I add more panels to my existing solar system?

September 18, 2017
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Some of the most common questions we receive at Solar Choice are about adding solar panels to an existing solar PV system. This article takes a look at the situations in which you might want to add panels, and what you need to bear in mind before making a decision. Possible reasons for adding more panels […]

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Thoughts about solar feed-in tariffs (Solartopia #4)

September 13, 2017
Checking the solar panels

Spring is here, and it finally feels like it with two consecutive warm days yesterday (high of 28C) and today (high of 32C). The main implication of this is that for the first time since moving in, we haven’t been tempted to switch on the ducted AC (or wear socks) in the morning or evening […]

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Backup power with home solar battery storage: What are your options?

September 12, 2017
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Home battery storage is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, and one of the most in-demand features is backup power, which provides electricity to a home even when the grid is down. In this article we take a look at the main approaches to battery storage that you’ll come across as you shop around for a […]

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An overview of battery storage system specifications: How to read a battery spec sheet

September 11, 2017
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Talking about home battery storage can be confusing, and if you’re confused you’re unlikely to feel confident about making a big investment like a home battery bank. There are quite a few different terms & specifications that you’ll hear when shopping around for battery products. We’ve gathered them all here in attempt to bring some clarity to […]

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Queensland regional solar feed-in tariff now available to systems up to 30kW

September 8, 2017
Ergon network in Queensland

In a stroke of very good news for solar power in the Sunshine State, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has announced that the solar feed-in tariff available to solar system owners in regional parts of the state will apply for systems up to 30 kilowatts (30kW) in capacity. Until the QCA’s decision, the limit was […]

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Energy blindness: The anxiety of not knowing (Solartopia #3)

September 7, 2017
Electricity bill

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the ‘Energy Awareness Factor‘ in household energy savings. This was prompted in part by having just moved into a house with solar panels, ducted AC, a dishwasher, time of use billing and hot water on a controlled load – things that will have a significant […]

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Solar panel reliability testing: More relevant than tier ranking for solar homes & businesses?

September 6, 2017
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Deciding whether you’re happy with a solar installers’ panel offering can be tricky business in a market flooded with different options (as is the case in Australia). Fortunately, DNV GL puts together an annual report based on physical stress testing of a wide range of popular panels brands & models that is probably a better […]

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First week in a solar house: Why do we keep running out of hot water? And other fun questions. [Solartopia #2]

August 31, 2017
Newcastle coal

It’s been just over a week since I moved into my solar-powered house in suburbs of the beautiful Newcastle, the largest coal port in the world. (You can almost taste it in the air!) Newcastle, NSW. Can you spot the coal from space? I’ve spent most of it huddled indoors hiding from the cold with […]

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Time of use vs flat rate electricity tariffs with solar & batteries

August 30, 2017
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If you’re connected to the grid and own your home, you pay for electricity. In most places, in Australia, there are basically two types of tariffs: Flat rate tariffs (aka ‘peak only’ tariffs), where you pay a fixed amount for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy that your home draws from the grid, or Time of use […]

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Retrofitting battery storage in Brisbane: Some example case studies

August 29, 2017
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We recently published an article containing a number of example case studies about retrofitting solar battery storage in Sydney. This time around we’ll be taking a look at the case for retrofitting batteries in sunny Brisbane. In addition to the fact that Brisbane gets more sun, the circumstances around retrofitting batteries in Brisbane – and […]

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The ‘energy awareness factor’ and how it helps households save money

August 17, 2017
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For most of us, for most of our lives, electricity bills and our consumption have both been something of a black box. We know that we get a bill every 1-3 months and get charged for the electricity that we use, but we don’t generally have access to data that would provide us with the […]

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I’m (finally) going to live in a solar-powered home

August 15, 2017
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After nearly a decade working in Australia’s solar industry, I’m finally getting in on the action on a personal level. From next week I’m moving to Newcastle and will be living in a home with solar panels on the roof. Moving into a house that’s already got solar is something that must happen a lot. […]

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What are the best cities for home solar battery storage? (August 2017 update)

August 7, 2017
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Having just published an article on the state of Australia’s battery storage market at the beginning of 2017 (recently updated), we decided we would endeavour to shed a bit more light on payback period differences between each capital city. Which cities have the best conditions for home solar battery storage? We’ve ranked them below (with an […]

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Is home solar battery storage worth it in 2017? (August update)

August 7, 2017
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Since 2015 Australians have been talking about home battery storage being on the cusp of financial viability. Are home batteries worth the investment in 2017? We’ve crunched the number for all of Australia’s capital cities to find out. This article was originally published in February 2017. It was last updated on 7 August 2017 to […]

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Interested in batteries? NSW Government’s Home Solar Battery Guide is a must-read – no matter which state you live in

July 27, 2017
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Earlier this year the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment commissioned Total Environment Centre, Alternative Technology Association and Zumio to produce a guidebook for state residents interested in battery storage for their home. The end product – the NSW Home Solar Battery Guide – was released earlier this month and is an essential […]

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STC prices are falling: What you need to know

July 20, 2017
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‘The federal solar rebate is falling!’ is a cry that Solar Choice has been hearing pretty loudly from our customers, website visitors and installers in and outside our network for the past few days. From a customer’s perspective, what do you need to know about what’s happening with this government solar incentive? Understanding the federal STC […]

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sonnenFlat: sonnen’s ‘free’ / flat-rate electricity plan looks great. Is it worth it?

July 6, 2017
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German battery system maker sonnen has launched its ground-breaking sonnenFlat package – a retail electricity offer available to anyone with at least a 5kW solar system and a sonnen battery system with a minimum of 8kWh of capacity. sonnenFlat customers pay only a single monthly fee (starting at $30) to sonnen instead of having a conventional […]

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Retrofitting battery storage in Sydney: Some example case studies

July 6, 2017
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You are a solar PV system owner who is now considering adding battery storage. The options you have depend on a number of factors, and there are a range of situations that warrant different approaches – and have different outcomes. In this article we take a look at some example situations that solar system owners […]

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Energy Storage Conference & Exhibition 2017: Roundup

June 20, 2017
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Every June for the last three years I’ve attended the Energy Storage Conference & Exhibition in Sydney. This year the event took place on 14-15th at Sydney’s new Convention and Exhibition Centre (ICC Sydney) in Darling Harbour. It was held concomitantly with the Renewable Cities conference. As in the style of previous years (e.g. 2015 […]

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10kW solar power systems: Price, power output, and returns

May 16, 2017
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10kW solar systems are a great investment for Australian homes with high levels of electricity consumption or businesses with relatively small electricity needs. This article takes a look at 10kW solar system pricing, energy production and returns in Australia. Related PostsIndustry responses to the Finkel Review (22 Jun, 2017) Melbourne solar panels: Compare system prices and […]

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Sizing residential solar & battery systems: A quick guide

April 26, 2017
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What size solar panel array do you need for your home? And if you’re considering battery storage, what size battery bank would be most appropriate? This article includes tables that provide an at-a-glance guide, as well as links to more comprehensive calculators. Solar system sizing table (no batteries) If you’re considering solar panels for your […]

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Microinverters: Are they right for your solar system?

April 18, 2017
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As the name suggests, microinverters are small inverters for use in solar PV systems, usually installed at a ratio of one per solar panel. By contrast, most solar PV systems in Australia have a single, centralised inverter called a string inverter. What are the advantages of having a solar PV system that uses microinverters instead of […]

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How much can you really save with ‘selective export’ of solar & battery energy?

April 7, 2017
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Now that solar feed-in tariff rates are so low across the country, there’s little reason for a solar system owner to send their energy back into the grid, as they will almost always save more money by ‘self-consuming‘ their solar energy. This is one of the reasons that the popularity of battery storage systems has grown so […]

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Is home solar battery storage a good match and your energy consumption habits?

March 16, 2017
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Each household uses different amounts of electricity in different patterns throughout the day. Some consumption patterns are more conducive to battery storage as an investment, and knowing your consumption habits can help you to decide on the best solar system and battery bank size for your home. In this article we take a look a few […]

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