Generate your own electricity

The sun hitting your roof can power your home. It’s just a question of gadgets.

The installation of solar panels on your home will generate a significant amount of your electricity needs and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions. A 1.5kW system will save approximately 2.7 tonnes of CO2 emissions, per annum (compared to coal powered electricity).

In addition to the environmental benefits there are other good reasons to install solar photovoltaic systems in your home including:

  • Reduced electricity bills. With solar power you could draw less electricity from the grid, because the electricity your solar panels generate helps to power your home. 
  • Insulate yourself from future electricity price rises. It is expected that electricity prices will rise substantially in coming years. If you create your own electricity you will mitigate these affect of these rises.
  • Improve the value of your home. The addition of solar photovoltaic systems in your home will increase the value of the property.

These factors make a compelling case for exploring the installation of a solar panels to your home. You may even one day know the joy of receiving a cheque from your local power company for the excess power you’ve just sold them.

How to do it now!

There are four elements involved in installing a grid-connected Solar Photovoltaic (PV) system in Australia. These are:

  1. Finding the right solar photovoltaic system installer.
  2. Selecting the right solar photovoltaic system for your household.
  3. Establishing an electricity trading agreement with your electricity retailer.

Often all of these elements will be facilitated by the solar photovoltaic system installer.

The following questions and tips may be of use:

  1. Finding the right solar photovoltaic system installer.The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has a complete list of Accredited Solar Photovoltaic system installers on their website.Use the following list of questions to guide you when you are speaking to a prospective installer for your photovoltaic system:

    • Is the installer a CEC accredited installer? When did they get their accreditation? To be eligible for existing rebates, your system must be designed and installed by a CEC accredited installer.
    • Will the installer facilitate the complete process (PV system selection, install, rebates, RECs)? Their level of experience (and hence the advice that they can offer) can be the decisive factor in choosing a solar PV system installer.
    • What experience does the company have in installing solar PV systems similar to yours? Check the following system elements have been appropriately scoped out in the proposed system design:

      • the configuration and number of solar modules.
      • an appropriate inverter.
      • PV modules that will fit on the roof or structure.
      • constraints caused by shading and orientation.
    • Can they provide some referees for recent installations that they have completed?
    • What warranty on the installation of the system does the installer provide? Ensure the installer will guarantee the quality of their installation as well as the various product warranties.
    • Does the quoted price include safety features (fusing, warning signs etc)?
    • Will the installer be working with a registered electrical contractor or licensed electrician?
    • Will they provide a Certificate of Electrical Safety?
    • Will they be providing an instruction manual that includes a diagram of the system, emergency shutdown procedures and basic maintenance requirements?
    • Ensure competing bids are in the same format. By ensuring that all of the bids you receive are made on the same basis, you’ll be able to compare the bids easily.
    • Request an itemised quote. This will allow you to evaluate the costs of labour, materials and so on. The standard PV system installation quote should provide specifications, quantity, size, capacity and output for the major components, including:

      • solar PV modules
      • mounting frames or structure
      • inverter
      • any additional metering or data-logging
      • travel and transport requirements
      • other equipment needed
      • any trench digging
      • a system-user manual
    • Have a signed contract before proceeding. In addition to the quote it is important to have a contract with your installer that includes: 

      • an estimate of the average daily electricity output – in kilowatt hours (kWh)
      • the estimated annual production.
      • the estimated production in the best and worst months
      • the responsibilities of each party.
      • warranties and guarantees, including installer workmanship.
      • a schedule of deposit and progress payments.
  2. Selecting the right solar PV system for your household.

    Ensure the solar PV system is the right size for your household – The size of your solar PV system will depend on:

    • the physical unshaded space available for the installation of your modules how much you are prepared to spend what portion of your electrical demand you wish to generate.

    If your goal is to provide enough energy to run all your electrical appliances all year round, then you need to know your household electricity use for the year. This is measured in KWh and is documented on your quarterly electricity bill. From this figure you can calculate your average daily electricity consumption: that is, the amount your PV system needs to produce (on average) to cover your electricity needs.

  3. Establishing an electricity trading agreement with your electricity retailer.

    Once you have priced the purchase and installation of your PV system, and know what the likely electricity generation will be, it’s time to select and sign up with an energy retailer who will buy your electricity. Note that not all retailers provide this service, so check carefully!

    Things to check on and compare when agreeing to sell your clean electricity to an electricity retailer are:

  • The cost of the electricity you purchase from them (in cents per kWh).
  • The price they will pay you for your electricity (in cents per kWh).
  • Whether your metering registers the total production from your solar panels or just the excess (beyond what is consumed in your home).
  • Penalty clauses (termination costs).
  • Billing/payment periods.

Check with your installer which electricity retailer offers the best deals, understand the mandatory feed-in tariffs that might apply in your state and get advice on dealing with electricity retailers.

Feed-in Tariffs

Feed-in tariffs are payments/credits from power companies to households and businesses for the renewable electricity they generate (e.g. solar photovoltaic system or wind turbine). For more details on each state’s feed-in tariff scheme visit the following websites:

Why is this action important?

Sustainable living guide