There are roughly 150,000 households in New South Wales who receive solar feed-in tariff payments under the state’s Solar Bonus Scheme. As the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out recently, before the payments cease at the end of 2016, these households will be looking for ways to make the most of the solar energy that their systems produce. Many of them are expected to install an energy storage system to maximise their solar usage.
Installing battery storage is not yet at the point of being an economic ‘no brainer’ for most situations in Australia. One of the situations where storage is already starting to make sense, however, is the case of NSW homes coming of the Solar Bonus Scheme.
Not interested in battery storage? Check out our article about other options for homes coming off the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme this December
The Solar Bonus Scheme, which has been closed to new applicants for several years, pays households either 60¢ or 20¢ (depending on when they signed up) for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar electricity that they generate.
These are very generous rates, and there are two major implications for when they are cut off:
- Almost all systems that were installed under the incentive will have paid themselves off by the time the payments end on 31 December 2016; and
- There will be strong feelings of loss among those who experience the step-down in rates – the exported solar power once worth so much will then be worth only 6-8¢/kWh.
How to get the most out of your solar system after the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme ends
Net metering, self-consumption & energy storage
Solar Bonus Scheme customers, with their systems already paid off, will be looking to minimise the losses associated with the reduction in feed-in tariff payments. There are three steps they can take to do this:
- Switch from a gross solar metering setup (where all solar is automatically exported to the grid) onto a net solar metering setup (where only the excess solar power not used by the house is exported to the grid).
- Where possible, endeavour to use more of your electricity during daylight hours. ‘Self-consumption’ is the name of the game for anyone who goes solar without a feed-in tariff; you’ll save more money on your power bill by consuming the electricity that you generate at home than by sending it into the grid.
- Install a battery storage system to help increase self-consumption. Not all households can shift their electricity usage to daylight hours – energy storage lets them instead shift their solar power usage later into the afternoon and evening.
What sort of energy storage system will you need?
There are a number of considerations you should keep in mind when selecting the best energy storage system for you; many of them will depend on your personal preferences. They include:
- Can the energy storage system be retro-fitted onto an existing solar system? Your installer or the manufacturer should be able to answer this question for you, but generally speaking most systems can be retrofitted.
- Will you need to replace your inverter in order to add on batteries? Depending on the energy storage system type and your existing inverter, you may or may not need a new inverter.
- How much storage capacity do you need? You should try to understand how much excess solar power you have on a daily basis once you switch to net metering. Your battery bank should be large enough to collect the excess solar power – but not larger. Because most systems installed under the Solar Bonus Scheme were in the range of 1.5 kilowatts (kW) to 3kW in capacity, a storage capacity of 5-7kWh should be sufficient to capture all of the excess solar in most cases.
- Do you want your batteries to give you back-up power in the event of a blackout? Not all energy storage systems have this functionality – you will need to ask for it.
Energy storage for non Solar Bonus Scheme customers
If you installed your solar system after the Solar Bonus Scheme closed to new entrants or are considering a brand new solar-plus-storage system in NSW your selection criteria may be different from those mentioned above. We have published a few articles on the topic of energy storage which you may find useful:
Compare solar & battery storage quotes for NSW
In August 2015, Solar Choice launched Australia’s first Battery Storage Comparison service, which will allow you to compare installer offerings at a glance in an apples-to-apples format.
If you are a residential customer interested in a new solar-plus-storage system, fill out your details in our Solar Quote Comparison request form to compare your options now. Potential commercial clients are also invited to register their interest. (If you have a pre-existing solar system, select ‘Battery Only’.)
© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.
James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
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