How does solar energy work

There are more than a million residential solar systems installed in Australia and the number is only increasing. Are you itching for a solar switch but don’t know where to start? The concept is quite simple - you generate electricity from the sun, which provides clean power for your house and the extra unused energy is pumped back into the grid making you eligible for an energy credit. Sounds like a win-win. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.

How can solar energy be generated at home?

To generate solar energy at home, you need to instal solar panels to your roof. This solar photovoltaic (PV) system works during the day to convert sunlight into DC electricity. This electricity then flows into an inverter, which converts the DC power into 240V AC power that can be used at your home.

Does this mean I won’t need an energy provider anymore?

No, you will still need to be connected with an energy provider, which offers a solar plan.

The provider can then take care of any electricity requirements in case you can’t generate sufficient solar power for your home. In the instance that you end up generating excess electricity, it will be fed into the grid for a full value credit by your provider.

How can I install solar panels to my home?

Before you start sizing up solar systems, it is important to understand that not all houses are suited for generating solar energy. A lot depends on the location, size and type of your house, especially the roof. If your roof doesn’t get sufficient supply of sunlight, it will be difficult to generate solar energy. Ideally you need a roof facing north or north-west and the roof should not have too many trees or buildings blocking the sun rays from reaching your home.

If your home isn’t suitable for solar, you can still support solar and renewable energy by choosing a plan or energy provider that generates its electricity from renewable sources.

How expensive is it to instal solar panels?

The total cost of your solar infrastructure depends on the type of and size of solar panels and inverter that needs to get installed in your home. You might also need to get a new energy meter. According to the Clean Energy Council, a rough estimate of getting a solar system installed can vary from $2,500 for a small 1.5kW system to $11,500 for a top-of-the-line 5kW system. Solar panels are generally expected to last around 25 years so it’s not a cost you’re likely to incur at regular intervals, though there are maintenance costs you should factor in.

Get your panels installed professionally from an accredited installer. See the Clean Energy Council website for information on its code of conduct for installers.

Are there any government subsidies for installing solar panels?

Yes, the government does provide incentives in the form of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) to help reduce the up-front cost of solar infrastructure. The exact amount of rebate that you can receive depends on multiple things such as the size and location of your PV system and the price of the certificates when your system is installed. In order to be eligible for STCs, your solar system needs to be installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer.

What about my energy bills?

The sun is a free source of energy so the good news is once you have your solar panels installed you don’t need to pay for the electricity that is generated by the panels. The savings will of course depend on whether your solar panels can fulfil all your household’s electricity needs or if you still need to buy energy from your provider.

What happens if I generate excess electricity?

If your solar panels end up generating more energy than what is required by your home, you can supply it back to the grid and earn extra credit for it. Depending on your energy provider, you should be able to either add these credits to your electricity bill or get a refund to a nominated bank account. The rate at which you are paid for pumping excess electricity to the grid is called a feed-in tariff and it varies between states as well as providers.

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