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Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q) on Solar Power

 As specialists in clean energy technology and solutions, we get a lot of great questions from customers who are considering installing a Solar PV Power system. We have compile a list of the more common questions and answers in an endeavour to assist you to be more informed when making your purchase decision. Information within this FAQ has been organised into common 'Subject Segments' to make it easier for you to find the answer to your questions. Just click on one of the Subject Segments in the list below to be taken to the relevant FAQ's.

Please feel free to Contact a Clean Energy Consultant at any time to answer your questions .... We are here to help 


General Information about Solar Panels and Solar PV Power....

A solar panel converts light energy into electricity without causing pollution. Solar panels are also referred to as a photovoltaic or PV modules (photo = light, voltaic = electricity).
A Solar PV Power system uses silicon cells and light to produce electricity. A Solar Hot Water system uses black pipes, evacuated tubes and the sun’s heat to heat water.
  1. Monocrystalline: made from thin slices cut from a single crystal of silicon. This has a typical efficiency of 15 per cent. Monocrystalline cells have a high level of temperature Co-Efficient Degradation, which means output drops as the surface temperature of the cell increases.
  2. Polycrystalline: made from thin slices cut from a block of silicon crystals. This has a typical efficiency of around 12 per cent. Polycrystalline cells have a high level of temperature Co-Efficient Degradation
  3. Thin Film: made from a very thin layer of semiconductor atoms deposited on a glass or metal base. This has a typical efficiency of 7 per cent. Thin Film solar technologies have a low level of temperature co-efficient degradation, and in some applications can be deemed as effective as Monocrystalline due to the ability to maintain performance in very hot conditions. However, Thin Film Solar requires more roof space compared to Monocrystalline as more panels would be required to deliver the same base kW size.
In summary; Monocrystaline PV solar is currently the most efficient solar panel type for its price sold around the world. However, there are many other factors that implicate the efficiency and suitability of solar technologies to specific applications. If you need more advice on this, please contact a Clean Energy Consultant at the Clean Energy Centre: 1300 331 556.
A simple grid connect system consists of a few solar modules and an inverter which converts the DC electricity into AC. The inverter is connected to the power grid through the electricity meter.
When the solar panels on your roof are connected to the main electricity grid, the system is referred to as grid connected. This enables electricity generated by the solar panels to be fed through an inverter directly into your buildings power supply and into the main electricity grid if the system is providing more clean energy than the property requires.When power is supplied to the mains grid, the home owner usually receives a credit or a payment for that electricity. This is called a Feed In Tariff.
  1. It is quiet, it produces clean energy and reduces electricity bills.
  2. It avoids the impacts of fossil fuel power stations such as greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.
  3. It can add value to your house, and makes an interesting and unique architectural feature.
Inverter, Aero Sharp Inverter, Grid Connect Solar PV Power, Solar Rebates - The Clean Energy Centre The Grid Connected inverter converts the electricity from your solar panels to mains power electricity. The inverter also safely stops the solar system if there is a blackout within the Grid System.  
Several aspects will need to be evaluated to determine if your home is a good solar site, such as orientation, space available, shadows on the space available and your current electricity usage. The best site will be one with adequate unshaded northerly facing roofing. Variations on that will cut into the productivity of the system.A quick, no obligation conversation with a Clean Energy Centre consultant will help you determine the suitability of your building to Solar Power. View contact details.....
Making solar cells from silicon does use some toxic chemicals, and disposal can be controlled. However these are all contained and re-used, unlike the air pollution created by burning coal.
In terms of converting a renewable resource to energy, solar panels are less efficient (15%) than other renewable energy technologies such as wind farms (30%) or hydro generators (40%). But solar panels require the least maintenance since there are no ‘moving parts’ as in other technologies and will last longer without requiring upgrades.
kW stands for kilowatt, or 1,000 watts. It is a measure of power. Your Clean Energy Centre Solar PV Power system is rated according to the number of watts it can produce under standardised conditions.kWh stands for kilowatt hour. It is a measure of energy. If you ran a 1 kW electric heater for one hour, it would use 1 kWh of energy. Electricity companies bill you a certain amount per kWh you use. A typical Australian home will use about 14 kWh per day. A highly energy-efficient home will use about 4 kWh per day.
The short answer is “rarely”.The main influence on the output of a solar cell is the amount of light that falls on it. However, performance is also closely related to the cell's temperature. The standard test measures the output when the actual solar cell is at a temperature of 25oC and illuminated with 1,000 watts per square metre. The cells, being a dark colour, heat up in the sun. Typical operating temperatures are around 40oC, and at this temperature power output most cells produce around 5-7% less power than they generate at 25oC. On hot days cells may reach 70cC, leading to a 15- 25% drop in perfomance, depending on the cell. Also, atmospheric conditions mean that the amount of energy falling on the cells will rarely be 1,000 watts per square metre. However, for brief periods peak power may be achieved or even exceeded. On days with scattered cloud and cool breeze, for example, there will be times when bright sunshine falls upon cool cells, and power production will soar for a few minutes until the cell warms up.Small losses of power also occur at the inverter (3-6%), and any dirt on the solar panels may also lead to a small additional loss. In the real world, a 1 kW system (as measured under Standard Temperature and Conditions) is likely to have a peak output of between 700 and 800 watts.Manufacturers of solar panels rate their output under standardised conditions, often referred to as Standard Operating Conditions (SOC) or Standard Temperature and Conditions (STC). This test is designed to be a convenient method of comparing the performance of panels under laboratory conditions. In the real world, solar panels perform differently and some panel manufacturers also provide figures for panel performance under Normal Operating Temperature and Conditions, sometimes referred to as NOTC.How much electricity will my system produce and how much CO2 will it keep
  

Solar PV Power system design and costs....

Any size Grid Connect Solar PV Power system will make an impact on reducing pollution, your carbon footprint and your electricity bill.  The bigger the system, the larger the benefit. The optimal size of a Solar PV Power system depends on your objectives sought, your average yearly electricity consumption, your geographic location and your investment budget.Your objective refers to the extent of electricity bill reduction you seek and find acceptable. Many Clean Energy Centre customers seek to earn money from their solar power installation, or reduce their eletricity bill to nil.If your objective is to earn money from the electricity retailer, the electricity generated by the solar system must exceed the power consumed in your house or organisation. This is where knowing your average yearly electricity consumption becomes important.Your investment budget is the final determinant in terms of the outlay you can justify for the return.On average, a 1.5 kW system can cover between 25% to 50% of the energy consumption within a medium energy use household. A 3kW to 4kW system can exceed 100% of the energy consumption of a medium energy use household.A Clean Energy Centre Consultant has the tools and expertise to assist you calculate the optimum solar power system size to suit your objective, electricity consumption, as well as your budget. To make the most of Clean Energy Solar Power, the key is to implement simple energy efficiency strategies. It is easy to conserve energy by using appropriate lighting and efficient appliances. Running high power appliances such as electric bar heaters, electric hot water systems and air conditioners etc is really not economical. Instead of considering a very large solar system, it is advisable to invest in energy efficient heaters, solar hot water and design features such as strategically placed vents or insulation to avoid heat entering the house in the first place. In summary - all your energy can be supplied by solar power and your budget and daily energy usage will determine the size of your solar power system.
This question is best answered with a friendly, no obligation conversation with a Clean Energy Centre Consultant about your individual system requirements. The price is dependent on the system size sought, but also the current market price for Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) which can vary over time due to the laws of market supply and demand.
Inverter, Aero Sharp Inverter, Grid Connect Solar PV  Power, Solar Rebates - The Clean Energy Centre The Grid Connected Inverter converts the electricity from your solar panels to mains power electricity. The inverter also safely stops the solar system if there is a blackout on the powerlines. 
This depends on how much power you use. Even if you are a high user of electricity, you can dramatically cut your energy use by being Energy Smart, which in turn would require a smaller more affordable system for your home. Also, you don’t need to install enough panels to power the whole house if you live on grid electricity. You could, for instance, buy as many panels as you can afford (and add on later), and buy Accredited Green Power for the rest. A solar panel has an area of 1.35 square metres, and a Grid Connect System will take up a minimum roof area, starting from about 8 square metres. The Clean Energy Centre can design a system to meet 100% of your electricity needs, or to the size or budget you require.
1.0 KW system needs approximately 10m2, a 1.5KW system needs approximately 15m2 and so forth. A Clean Energy Centre Consultant will inspect your roof to determine the appropriate size of system suitable for the space available. We can even do this for you remotely over the internet using online satellite map software.
Several aspects will need to be evaluated to determine if your home is a good solar site, such as orientation, space available, shadows on the space available and your current electricity usage. The best site will be one with adequate unshaded northerly facing roofing. Variations on that will cut into the productivity of the system.A quick, no obligation conversation with a Clean Energy Centre consultant will help you determine the suitability of your building to Solar Power. View our contact details.....
The Federal Government Solar Credits Scheme awards five times more than the usual number of Renewable Energy Certificates ( RECs )to be created on systems installed after 9 June 2009, but only on the first 1.5 kW of generating capacity. Above that amount, the normal number of RECs are awarded per kW. Therefore, a 1.5 kW system provides the best overall subsidy in relation to the total cost of the system.
Greatest efficiency is achieved when panels are mounted on a sloping roof facing north. However, panels can be mounted facing anywhere from east, through north to west, and still provide excellent performance. If you don't have a suitable roof, panels can be mounted on frames in a sunnier part of the property. This is an additional cost, which needs to be quoted individually.
Electricity generation is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight falling on the panels. The longer the panels are in shade and the deeper that shade, the less electricity they will generate and the lower your savings. Around 5% of homes are unsuited to solar power installation due to shading.
The only costs are replacement of any components that fail outside of the warranty period. Solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years. Inverters may have a shorter working life.
You can add further panels to most systems up to the capacity of your inverter. If you plan on adding more panels later, we recommend you install an appropriate inverter now.
  

Grid Connect Solar PV Power....

Any size Grid Connect Solar PV Power system will make an impact on reducing pollution, your carbon footprint and your electricity bill.  The bigger the system, the larger the benefit. The optimal size of a Grid Connect Solar PV Power system depends on your objective sought, your average yearly electricity consumption, your geographic location and your investment budget.Your objective refers to the extent of electricity bill reduction you seek and find acceptable. Many Clean Energy Centre customers seek to earn money from their solar power installation, or reduce their eletricity bill to nil.If your objective is to earn money from the electricity retailer, the electricity generated by the Grid Connect Solar PV Power system must exceed the power consumed in your house or organisation. This is where knowing your average yearly electricity consumption becomes important.Your investment budget is the final determinant in terms of the outlay you can justify for the return.On average, a 1.5 kW system can cover between 25% to 50% of the energy consumption within a medium energy use household. A 3kW to 4kW system can exceed 100% of the energy consumption of a medium energy use household.A Clean Energy Centre Consultant has the tools to assist you calculate the optimum solar power system size to suit your objective, electricity consumption, as well as your budget. To make the most of Clean Energy Solar Power, the key is to implement simple energy efficiency strategies. It is easy to conserve energy by using appropriate lighting and efficient appliances. Running high power appliances such as electric bar heaters, electric hot water systems and air conditioners etc. is really not economical. Instead of considering a very large solar system it is advisable to invest in energy efficient heaters, solar hot water and design features such as strategically placed vents or insulation to avoid heat entering the house in the first place. In summary - all your energy can be supplied by solar power and your budget and daily energy usage will determine the size of your solar power system.
Inverter, Aero Sharp Inverter, Grid Connect Solar PV  Power, Solar Rebates - The Clean Energy CentreThe Grid Connected Inverter converts the electricity from your solar panels to mains power electricity. The inverter also safely stops the solar system if there is a blackout on the powerlines. 
No. Excess power you generate is sent to the power grid and used by other consumers. You will be credited for this power. When you are using more power than you generate, power is supplied by the grid. In effect, the electricity grid works a little bit like your battery.
 

Energy Generation....

An estimate can only be delivered to this question, and your location in Australia and hence, the intensity of the sun, greatly affects the power generated. The concept of ‘average sun hours’ is used, which has been calculated by CSIRO for regions within Australia.A Clean Energy Centre Consultant to help with this answer. View contact details....
Yes. Additional solar panels can be added at any time to increase generating capability but you might have to upgrade to a larger inverter. Alternatively you could purchase a larger inverter when installing the system initially and then plan to add some extra solar panels later.
Yes - the Solar PV Power System will generate power on a cloudy day. If the eletrcitiy generated is not sufficient to cover the power requirements of the building, the system is still connected to the main electricity as a source for power.
Solar panels do need light to produce electricity. A Grid Connected Solar PV Power system will direct excess electricity produced during the day back into the local electricity grid. This turns your electricity meter backwards in the process. You then receive credit for any power that you put back into the grid. At night time, you automatically use electricity straight from the grid as you would prior to the installation of a solar power system.
If you have a Grid Connected Solar PV Power system your power will go out in a blackout, as your system’s inverter automatically disconnects the electricity supply to prevent potential of a ‘brown-out’ in your home and to prevent back feeding the gridWhen this happens, you can’t get your electricity back out of the cables, and you can’t put any more in. In regional areas where the supply of electricity is not reliable, ‘uninterruptible power supply’ (UPS) solar power systems can be set up to provide power when blackouts or power surges occur. Such systems also incorporate a battery bank to store the back up power.
Yes. Solar panels will make approximately enough electricity in 4 years to cover the amount of energy that was used in manufacture.
The short answer is “rarely”.The main influence on the output of a solar cell is the amount of light that falls on it. However, performance is also closely related to the cell's temperature. The standard test measures the output when the actual solar cell is at a temperature of 25oC and illuminated with 1,000 watts per square metre. The cells, being a dark colour, heat up in the sun. Typical operating temperatures are around 40oC, and at this temperature power output most cells produce around 5-7% less power than they generate at 25oC. On hot days cells may reach 70cC, leading to a 15- 25% drop in perfomance, depending on the cell. Also, atmospheric conditions mean that the amount of energy falling on the cells will rarely be 1,000 watts per square metre. However, for brief periods peak power may be achieved or even exceeded. On days with scattered cloud and cool breeze, for example, there will be times when bright sunshine falls upon cool cells, and power production will soar for a few minutes until the cell warms up.However, there are some panel types that do not suffer from performance loss due to increased operating temperatures. Such panel types in Amorphous Thin Film Solar Panels. Small losses of power also occur at the inverter (3-6%), and any dirt on the solar panels may also lead to a small additional loss. In the real world, a 1 kW system (as measured under Standard Temperature and Conditions) is likely to have a peak output of between 700 and 800 watts. Manufacturers of solar panels rate their output under standardised conditions, often referred to as Standard Operating Conditions (SOC) or Standard Temperature and Conditions (STC). This test is designed to be a convenient method of comparing the performance of panels under laboratory conditions. In the real world, solar panels perform differently and some panel manufacturers also provide figures for panel performance under Normal Operating Temperature and Conditions, sometimes referred to as NOTC. How much electricity will my system produce and how much CO2 will it keep
It is possible to install an off-grid system, but this is usually only practical for remote areas. Off-grid systems require expensive batteries and different inverters, substantially increasing the cost.
 

Government Incentives and Rebates ( RECs, Solar Credits, Feed In Tariffs )...

When you install solar power, solar water heating and other renewable energy technologies you are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This entitles you to create environmental credits called Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs for short.The easiest way to understand Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) is to think of them as being like share certificates, representing a specific unit of value. They are electronic commodities tradable for cash or a point-of-sale discount on the purchase of a qualifying Solar PV Power or solar Hot Water system. Each REC is equal to 1 Megawatt hour of renewable energy generation, and just like a share certificate, the value of a REC can move up and down reflecting the market forces of supply and demand.RECs are part of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target which is an industry development mechanism created by the federal government in 2001. The operation of RECs is coordinated by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator and governed by the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Regulations 2001.When you have a Solar PV Power or Solar Hot Water system installed, your system will be allocated a certain number of RECs. However, only a person who is registered with the Renewable Energy Regulator can actually receive RECs. That means you have two options:
  • You can apply to be registered yourself
  • Or you can assign those RECs to a registered agent of the Office of Renewable Energy Regulation ORER; such as the Clean Energy Centre.
The Feed-In-Tariff is where the electricity retailer pays premium rate for electricity fed back into the main electricity grid from a designated small-scale renewable energy generation source; such as roof-top solar or wind turbines.
Under the Solar Credits Scheme, small generation unit customers receive 5 times the number of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for the first 1.5 kW of system capacity, then the standard quantity of RECs for each kW installed thereafter.
Home owners, small businesses and community groups are all eligible for the Australian Solar Credits program. There is no means testing under the Solar Credits Scheme. The Solar Credits Scheme also covers off grid installations. Schools are also eligible for the Solar Credits Scheme and participation in the program will not affect a school's eligibility for the next round of  $50,000 National Solar Schools Program  (NSSP) grants!
In the case of off grid solar power systems, from July 1, 2010, under the enhanced Renewable Energy Target, the Solar Credits multiplier will apply to the first 20kW of a system installed. This translates to savings of tens of thousands of dollars for maximum sized systems! There is a cap of the number of systems that can be installed each year under the scheme, so you'll need to get in quick.
The number of Solar Credits created for a system will depend on the amount of renewable energy the system generates.A solar PV system in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra will create the same number of RECs and receive the same amount of support.The same sized system installed in Melbourne or Hobart will receive fewer RECs as these areas have less sunshine so less renewable energy is produced.
 

Installation....

A simple Grid Connected Solar PV Power system consists of a few solar modules and an inverter which converts the DC electricity into AC. The inverter is connected to the power grid through the electricity meter.
  1. A Net Feed-In-Tariff (also referred to as export metering) pays the Solar PV system owner only for the surplus energy they produce and feed back into the main electricity grid.
  2. A Gross Feed-In-Tariff pays for each kilowatt hour produced by a grid connect system.
Several aspects will need to be evaluated to determine if your home is a good solar site, such as orientation, space available, shadows on the space available and your current electricity usage. The best site will be one with adequate north-facing roofs that have no shade. Variations on that will cut into the productivity of the system.
Yes. Additional solar panels can be added at any time to increase generating capability but you might have to upgrade to a larger inverter. Alternatively you could purchase a larger inverter when installing the system initially and then plan to add some extra solar panels later.
1.0 KW system needs approximately 10m2, a 1.5KW system needs approximately 15m2 and so forth. A Clean Energy Centre Consultant will inspect your roof to determine the appropriate size of system suitable for the space available. We can even do this for you remotely over the internet using a satellite mapping program.
The installers will perform a site survey and make an assessment, normally the basic structural survey carried out by our installer is sufficient.
No. Solar PV Panels and the mounting frames are designed to be mounted on top of existing roofs.
Yes .... in most situations, the Solar PV Panels can be easily removed and reinstalled, with minimal, if any, changes to your roof.
Your roof has been designed to carry a lot of weight and most roofs will hold panels without the need for reinforcement. Solar panel framing is attached to the rafters of the house so that the load is ultimately borne by the roof structure not the roof material (e.g. tiles). In addition, solar panels and the attachment frames are relatively light, placing minimal stress on a roof. A typical solar panel installation will weigh around 27 kilograms per square meter.The Clean Energy Centre Consultant and the installer will design your solar power system to take account of the roof structure. Solar panels are placed over the top of any roof penetrations, and all penetrations are thoroughly waterproofed so the roof won’t leak.
Many Australian councils consider a solar electricity system to be exempt from planning approval if it is installed at the same angle as the roof. That is to say, if the solar panels are parallel to the roof surface and don't increase the overall height of the building. Generally speaking, if your solar electricity system needs to be installed on a 'pitching frame' that will elevate the panels above the roof, we recommend you speak with your council.
You do not need permission from the Electricity Supplier/Utility to install Solar PV Panels on your building. However, electricity suppliers are not obliged to connect your system to the grid. Before you purchase a grid-connected solar power system, we will check with your local electricity supplier about connection and metering arrangements.
It depends on the council’s regulations, so it is best to check with your local council. The Clean Energy Centre can do this for you.
No, but Home and Contents insurance is a good idea if you have solar panels. As with all major household purchases, make sure that your solar power system is included.
North-facing roofs are ideal for solar power, but most systems can work up to an angle of 45 degrees off North, or a system can be designed on a side-pitch array frame for West, and West Facing roofs. Solar panels installed onto flat roofs can be tilted to face the sun.
Yes, you could take your solar power system down and re-install it at your new house provided the roof of the new house is suitable.Or, you could include it in the selling price of your house.
A typical installation typically takes one to two days depending on your property. We will inspect your site to determine the ease of installation. The installation includes connection of the solar system to mains power, installation of the inverter, and installation of the solar panels and framing. Installation does not include the changeover of the electrical meter – this performed by the electricity provider at an additional cost they deem viable. The meter normally gets changed within two weeks following the installation.
The meter must be changed so your electricity retailer can read the amount of solar electricity you export back into the grid so they can credit your account.
The cost would be about the same if the roofs were the same shape. If you are building a new house you can make sure the roof is optimally shaped and oriented for solar power. If you are building a new house, the relative cost of the solar panels compared to the overall cost of the house will be small.
The Clean Energy Centre can provide you with general information about metering schemes around Australia. For specific information on how switching to solar will affect your metering arrangement, we recommend you speak directly with your electricity retailer. In some instances, there will be a cost to you imposed by the utility company to have the meter upgraded or reprogrammed.
You will need a new bi-directional (import-export) meter if you wish to take advantage of the premium feed-in tariffs that are being introduced across Australia. These are supplied by your eletricity supplier.
It is possible to install an off-grid system, but this is usually only practical for remote areas. Off-grid systems require expensive batteries and different inverters, substantially increasing the cost.
You can add further panels to most systems up to the capacity of your inverter. If you plan on adding more panels later, we recommend you install an appropriate sized inverter now that can manage the energy load you envisage installing at the later date.
  

Maintenance and Reliability....

Solar power systems are covered by Australian standards and installed by trained professionals. The actual life of the solar panels is expected to be more than 40 years, and generally come with a manufacturers warranty of 25 years.
Yes - the Solar PV Power System will generate power on a cloudy day. If the eletrcitiy generated is not sufficient to cover the power requirements of the building, the system is still connected to the main electricity grid as a source for power.
Solar panels are designed so that they need little or no maintenance. Dust typically reduces output up to around 5%, but since solar panels are sloped, the rain keeps them clean. You may need to hose them down after long periods of little rain.
With a good quality PV system, it will easily last 30+ years and it has recently been proved that PV solar installed in the 1960's is still working.
  • Solar Panels: 20 - 25-year warranty to produce 80% of rated output (Manufacturer)
  • Inverter: 5-year warranty. Can be extended to 10 years for an additional charge (Manufacturer)
  • Mounting System: 10-year product warranty (Manufacturer)
  • Workmanship: 12-month warranty on workmanship (Installer)
Yes. Solar panels are made of toughened glass and are designed to withstand exposure to the elements including rain, hail and wind, and are generally indestructible. In addition, they are also sloped so hail tends to glance off rather than hit directly.
As the Clean Energy Centre employs only installers accredited by the Clean Energy Council. Our installations comply with the Australian Standards for Solar Electricity Grid Connect systems, and are inspected by an electrical inspector and a Certificate of Electrical Safety is issued.