Solar Power: Learn the Basics

For those considering installing a solar power system but aren’t sure where to start, Solar Choice has put together the following ‘Solar Power 101’ series as a reference intended mainly for our residential solar PV customers. The below aims to give anyone who is interested a fundamental understanding of solar photovoltaics (PV) technology itself, as well as the incentives that Australian Federal and State governments have in place to support its uptake.

Learn about solar power in your part of Australia

Want to learn more about solar power in your state? Solar Choice operates Australia-wide. Click on the map to the right to learn more about going solar where you are. Or, to get current prices from solar system installers in your area, fill out the Solar Quote Comparison request form to the right of this page. You can also call us on 1300 78 72 73.

By contacting us directly, Solar Choice can help you make an informed decision about a solar system installer–whether you’re a residential customercommercial enterprise, or large-scale solar PV project developer. Our advice is impartial and free to our customers.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) vs Solar hot water

Solar Choice offers free and impartial advice and comparison services to our customers related to solar PV system installers, components, and incentives. Solar PV technology is the technology by which light is converted into useable electricity. A solar hot water system, on the other hand, is technology which harnesses the sun’s energy to heat water. At this point in time, in most areas of Australia, Solar Choice’s services do not cover solar hot water systems, but we may be able to introduce you to an installer who can help you.

Commercial solar PV vs Residential solar PV

Solar Choice’s commercial wing manages tenders for a wide range of large-scale solar power installations and multi-installation roll-outs. We also have a devoted team of residential solar PV system brokers, who provide our customers who are looking for smaller systems (generally 1.5 – 10 kilowatts) with free, unbiased advice about their options, as well as free and instant Solar Quote Comparisons. Our Solar Quote Comparisons will give you a snapshot of the market in your area, comparing up to 7 different installers who install residential-scale systems in that customer’s area.

Read more: Residential solar PV systems overview

Grid-connected vs Off-grid solar PV systems

The vast majority of new solar system installations in Australia these days are grid-connected systems. Grid-connected systems are for homes that are connected to the electricity grid. These systems do not require and generally do not have batteries. Off-grid (or ‘stand-alone’) systems, on the other hand, are for homes that are not connected to the electricity grid. The bulk of the articles referenced below were written with grid-connected systems in mind. If you have an off-grid enquiry, feel free to contact one of the members of our brokerage team directly to discuss your needs and your options.

Recently, interest in ‘hybrid’, grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems is growing dramatically. These kinds of systems allow households to increase their level of energy independence while still having the grid on hand as a back-up.

How does residential solar power save you money?

For the purposes of a grid-connected residential customer who is likely to be concerned first and foremost with return on investment (ROI) through electricity bill savings, the most important things to keep in mind are system yield (output over its lifetime) and the incentives that are on offer to make going solar more accessible.

Understanding solar system performance and yield

Generally speaking, the more power a solar system produces, the more money you can potentially save on your power bills. The amount of power that a solar system produces will depend on a number of factors. The following articles provide an overview of the main things to consider.

Solar system prices

Solar system prices have fallen significantly in recent years – to the point where solar panels are now affordable enough to make economic sense for most homes. Solar Choice publishes monthly articles on about pricing trends using data from our installer network. Click here to see the most recent solar system price trends in each capital city.

Solar system sizing

What size solar system do you need? Depending on whether you want to eliminate your power bill or simply reduce it, the size of the system that you need will vary.

How much solar power will your system export to the grid? If your home has access to a generous solar feed-in tariff (see below), it makes sense to try to export power to the grid by avoiding using electricity during the day. However, if your feed-in tariff rate is low (the going rate in most states these days is 6-10c/kWh), then you should focus on self-consumption of your solar power.

How to get the most of your solar PV system (Part 1: System sizing)

How to get the most of your solar PV system (Part 2: Electricity consumption patterns)

Orientation and sunlight

Tilt and orientation for solar panels in Australia: In Australia, ideally panel arrays should face north to receive optimum sunlight.

Are east- or west-facing roofs better for solar panels? If you don’t have a north-facing roof, should you site your panels so that they are facing east, west, or both?

The implications of partial shading: Shadows cast on your solar panels will reduce system output. What can you do to avoid this problem?

System components: Solar panels and inverters

Types of solar panels: An overview of the different types of solar PV technologies that are generally available for installations in Australia.

Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline silicon solar panels: Many of our customers have been told that monocrystalline panels are categorically ‘better’ than polycrystalline solar panels. This is not always the case.

Sizing your inverter for optimum system performance: Your inverter’s capacity will ideally be closely correlated to the output of your solar panel array.

Should you oversize your inverter for future expansion of your system? As efficiency and production losses can be significant, Solar Choice does not recommend oversizing inverters unless the customer plans on adding the additional panels within 6-12 months after having the system installed. However, this arrangement suits some households.

Types of inverter efficiency: “Peak efficiency” is not necessarily the most important factor in selecting your inverter.

Battery energy storage

Home energy storage is expected to become commonplace in Australia within the next few years – and the market is already taking off dramatically. Battery storage is the best way for homes with no solar feed-in tariff to ensure that they self-consume more of their solar energy – rather than ‘wasting’ it by letting it be exported into the grid at a nominal rate. Home battery storage prices are coming down rapidly, and the number of products available on the market has grown dramatically since the beginning of 2015.

Solar Choice offers free battery storage system price & product comparisons. If you are a residential customer looking for a new solar system, you will also be able to shop around for battery storage through our web portal. Simply fill your details into the Solar Quote Comparison request form to the right of this page, or call us on 1300 78 72 73.

The below articles have been written with the aim of helping households to make a decision about energy storage.

Five reasons to wait before installing a battery storage system

How much battery storage capacity do you need?

Energy storage systems: Options & benefits

Energy storage systems: List of products available in Australia

List of hybrid inverters & battery inverters

List of all-in-one, plug-and-play energy storage solutiions

A quick guide to better battery cost comparisons

Why depth of discharge (DoD) matters with battery storage

Understanding the economics of residential solar power: Incentives and how to time the usage of your solar power

-The Federal Government offers what are effectively up-front incentives for small-scale solar PV systems in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates through the Renewable Energy Target. Depending on the sunniness of your location and the size of your system, you will be entitled to a greater or lesser rebate.

Read more: Federal government incentives for solar power systems.

-Depending on your state and the size of your system, you may also be eligible to apply for a Solar Feed-in Tariff. Solar Feed-in Tariffs give an ongoing, day-to-day incentive for exporting the solar power that you generate to the electrical grid. Some states, however, no longer have or have never had such incentives–in such a case it makes more sense to try to consume as much of the solar energy while it is being generated.

Read more: Solar Feed-in Tariffs across Australia (What does your state currently offer?)

Read more: Solar Feed-in Tariffs vs 1-for-1 Solar Buyback schemes vs the absence of a feed-in incentive

More about solar PV

Interested in learning more about solar PV?

Questions to ask yourself and your installer when considering going solar

Articles about solar panels

Articles about solar inverters

The manufacturing and science behind solar panels

-Check out the Solar Choice blog for a wide range of articles on all of the above topics, plus news, and more.

-Solar Choice’s friendly and experienced team is always available for free and impartial advice regarding your solar project. You can initiate a dialogue with us by filling out the Solar Quote Comparison form to the right of this page, by calling us on 1300 78 72 73, or by contacting one of our brokers directly.

Compare Solar & Battery Quotes