There is a lot of discussion in the industry regarding exactly how the New South Wales Solar Bonus Scheme will affect properties meter boxes and connections with the grid. Solar Choice has done the preliminary research, and has an update for all NSW solar energy customers, especially those with Energy Australia.
The three network suppliers, Energy Australia, Country Energy and Integral, all have different approaches to the provision and installation of the Gross Feed-In meters that are going to be required for properties to feed their solar energy onto the grid as a part of the Solar Bonus Scheme. There are several factors that need to be considered, regarding the existing setup of metering at the property and how to go about the solar change. Remember that whilst the three network suppliers are also retailers, if you are with a different retailer, such as AGL, Origin or Tru Energy, you will need to find out who your network supplier is and take the appropriate action. Your network supplier is the company that owns the poles and wires in your area. This could be either Energy Australia (Sydney CBD, eastern, norther, southern suburbs and the Hunter), Integral Energy (Western Sydney & Blue Mountains) or Country Energy (rural NSW).
The Provision and Installation of Gross Meters
Energy Australia are supplying the gross meters for free to all of their customers. They are expecting to have the first shipment available for collection from their supply warehouses and offices across the state from the end of March, 2010. These meters can be picked up by the property owner from this time. They will need to be installed, however, by an accredited level 2 service provider (electrician). It is not clear whether the electrician engaged by the property owner to carry out this work can pick up the meters themselves from Energy Australia, but it is likely that so long as a pick-up form detailing the property where the installation is taken place is filled out this will be an option.
Now the costs of installing this meter will differ, as we have all been told previously. This range will run from $175 to $500 depending on the following situation. The meter itself is around the size of a single school lunch box, and it will need to be installed inside the casing of the existing meter box, protected from the elements. If there is not enough space to house the meter, then the existing metering will need to be partially removed, and a space-saving alternative will need to be used. This will be the more expensive end of the spectrum for obvious parts and labour reasons.
Required Changes to Various Existing Metering Setups
There are a couple of situations outside of standard residential installations where the running of additional cabling needs to be considered. Here are the facts as we know them, and this is not specific to Energy Australia customers, but to all NSW residents.
These will need to be upgraded to ‘Smart’ Meters, costing various amounts depending on the retailer, but on average approximately $350 to supply and install. It is not clear whether this charge will be in addition to the gross meter upgrade or part of it yet, so please check with your provider. Solar Choice will update this information as it becomes available. The rundown from the Victorian Government is available here.
Long Distances from Meter to Property
This issue has been brought up for good reason by rural property owners looking to install solar energy systems. The reality is that the gross meter and inverter must be installed on the main meter box for the property. This means that in the situation where people have their meter box near the fence, running cabling to sub-boards and master switch boards on the actual structures, additional cabling must be run from the solar energy system to the meter box in order to receive a Gross Feed-In Tariff. This is not negotiable. It is possible for people wanting to utilise a Net Feed-In Tariff to install the inverter on the sub-boards, avoiding this cable running. NSW residents can do this, but the clear advantages of Gross over Net Feed-In Tariffs would suggest long considerations otherwise.
What this means is that trenching or overhead cabling must be used to hook the system up to the meter, with trenching having obvious advantages aesthetically and practically. This will have to be sub contracted out to an appropriate source. Remember to ‘Dial Before You Dig!‘
Blocks of Units/Flats/Apartments
This is another tricky issue, dependent upon the location of the meter box in comparison with the installation site. Some properties have a room where all of the meter boxes are located, others have them strategically situated according to the flat they represent. Be aware that much like with rural properties, cabling running the power in DC from panels through the inverter and then to the meter will be required. This could prove tricky in a lot of situations, with cabling required to pass through public areas, walls, ceilings and various other obstacles. Be assured that the costs of running this cabling would need to be closely evaluated by the Strata Management/Body Corporate authorities to comply with their requirements, and could prove to be expensive and time consuming on behalf of the solar energy installer carrying out the job.
Solar Energy Broker
© 2010 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
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