How to buy the best Solar panels for your home.

The average price across Australian capital cities for a 5kW system is $5100, and solar technology is only getting cheaper.

What size solar panel system do I need?

To size your solar panel system you need to work out how much electricity you use and when you use it.

As a guide, a typical home uses 20kWh of energy a day. A 5kW solar system would meet most of the daytime power needs of such a home.

How many solar panels do I need?

  • The power output of your whole solar system matters more than the size or number of panels.
  • The higher each panel’s nominal power rating (and actual power output), the fewer panels you’ll need (or the more power you’ll generate).
  • If you have plenty of roof space, you might find it more economical to buy cheaper panels with lower efficiency and just use more of them.
  • The panels in our solar panel reviews are each about 1.6 square metres in area, but they vary in length, width and power output.
  • CHOICE Tip: Fewer panels can mean a quicker installation.

An example: You could use four 250W Jinko panels, taking up 6.5m2 of roof space, to make a 1000W array. But four 327W Sunpower panels would take up the same overall area and form a more powerful 1308W array (although the Sunpower panels would cost you more).

How much do solar panels cost?

The average price across Australian capital cities for a 5kW system is $5100, and solar technology is only getting cheaper.

  • CHOICE Tip: Compare prices for whole systems, not just individual panels.

How much money will I save using solar power?

It takes anywhere from two to seven years for a solar system to pay for itself – after that is when you can start counting the savings.

Payback times vary depending on where you live in Australia. The infographic below shows averages for capital cities.

Solar incentives

There are two main incentives that can help you make money off your solar PV system: small-scale technology certificates (STCs) and feed-in tariffs (FiTs).

Nowadays you don’t make much money from feed-in tariffs, so it’s best to maximise your own use of your solar PV and minimise your export to the grid.

Do I need a solar storage battery?

A home storage battery lets you store the electricity generated by your solar panels to use at night or on a cloudy day.

You may want to consider a system that includes battery storage; the Tesla Powerwall is the best-known solar battery but there are many other brands in the market.

Video: CHOICE visits the CSIRO’s solar ground station where our tests are carried out

Use your mouse to explore a 360 degree view of this video or watch it through your virtual reality headset.

Solar panel buying guide checklist

  • Assess what energy you currently use and the system capacity you need (and can afford).
  • Check if your roof faces the right direction. Only north-facing panels will produce their full capacity.
  • Ensure there are no trees, power lines or other structures shading your roof.
  • Find out what local council approval is needed. Increasingly, local councils have staff on hand to help people make the best decisions on solar.
  • Try to figure out your system’s payback time.
  • The inverter (which converts DC power from the panels into AC power for your home) is a key part of the system. See our guide to buying a solar inverter for all the details.
  • If you’re considering adding a battery, see our buying guide to solar storage batteries to understand the pros and cons of these.
  • Get multiple quotes from installers to ensure you’re getting a good deal, and make sure your installer is CEC-accredited.
  • Make sure your solar panels meet the required standards.
  • Check your solar panels’ warranty (and know the difference between product warranty and a performance warranty).

Solar panel installation

If you want to be eligible for small-scale technology certificates (STCs), your system must be installed by a CEC-accredited installer. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) is Australia’s peak body representing the clean energy sector. It accredits both installers and systems that meet certain standards.

Look for a CEC-accredited company:

  • that is a signatory to the CEC’s code of conduct
  • has been in business for a while
  • has an established track record
  • relevant experience
  • specialist expertise, and
  • a good reputation.

Retailers can also sign up to the CEC’s voluntary code of conduct, which demonstrates a commitment to best-practice installation.

How do solar panels work?

  • Some materials can be made to produce electricity when light falls on them; this is called the photovoltaic effect. Solar panels use this to convert energy from sunlight into direct current (DC) electrical energy.
  • An inverter unit then changes this into alternating current (AC) for your home’s electrical circuits.
  • Any excess energy can be fed back to the electricity grid or to your own battery storage system.

What are solar panels made of?

Most solar cells are made of silicon. Solar panels, also called modules, are each made of several solar cells (most in our test have 60 cells), connected together and sandwiched between protective glass and a backing plate. The whole panel is usually surrounded with an aluminium frame. A typical installation includes several panels connected together in an array.

Types of solar panels

Almost all panels used in home solar systems are mono- or multi-crystalline. While there are technical differences between these types, don’t put too much consideration into this; it’s much more important to consider other aspects such as price, rated power output, and warranties.

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Clean energy set to provide 35% of Australia’s electricity within two years

Clean energy will be providing 35% of Australia’s total electricity needs within two years, analysts say, as new data underlines the pace at which solar power is transforming the national energy market.

A report by consultants Green Energy Markets found rooftop solar systems and new large-scale farms regularly pushed renewable energy to beyond 30% of generation at midday during June, one of the least sunny months.

Wind, hydro and solar power made up 22.3% of electricity used across the month. The level of clean energy in the system at one time peaked at 39.2% in the middle of the day on 30 June.

Tristan Edis, a Green Energy Markets director and analyst, said clean energy growth would continue in the short term as a number of projects were in development and yet to come online. But he said the boom was expected to end in the absence of a policy to encourage further investments.

The new electricity boom: renewable energy makes staggering leap but can it last?

He said he expected clean energy would provide on average 35% electricity by 2021.

“What we are seeing now is just a glimpse of what’s ahead because you’ve still got a substantial number of solar farms coming through,” Edis said. “We’re going to be regularly having 50% of renewables – solar, wind and hydro – across the national electricity market in the middle of the day in the next 12 months. But it is also soon going to get hard to get new stuff built.”

A report by the Clean Energy Regulator last week found enough projects were committed to meet the 2020 renewable energy target, roughly equivalent to 23% of electricity. While most recent investment has been driven by incentives attached to the target, and to a lesser extent a state target in Victoria, recent large-scale clean plants have been funded on a commercial basis by businesses wanting to lock in cheap solar and wind deals while wholesale electricity prices were high.

But Edis said this would end as abundant free solar power during the day reduced wholesale prices to a level where investment in any type of new large-scale generation was not financially attractive. In the absence of federal policy to drive grid transformation, he said investment was likely to slow until the circumstances in the market changed – for example, a coal-fired power plant closed, reducing supply.

He said the tumbling price of wholesale electricity in the middle of the day, in some cases to $0, would make life harder for coal-fired power plants that could not compete on price around the clock but by design usually could not be turned off and on. Those coal plants that could be turned off and on would increasingly be used in a similar way to gas peaking plants, which sell electricity only when they are needed.

“It just shows how crazy this idea is that we should go and build another coal-fired generator to run as baseload,” Edis said. “If we do that it just means another coal-fired power plant is going to shut down because nothing can outcompete solar and wind.”

Liberal states in talks to revive Turnbull’s dumped energy police

Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity are expected to continue to be reduced in the short-term, but at a slower pace than experts say is possible or necessary for Australia its part under the Paris climate agreement. While federal data released last month found emissions from electricity were down, national emissions continue to rise due to increased carbon pollution from the resources industry, mostly liquefied natural gas production for export, and transport.

‘Any of them could do the job’

At an Australian clean energy summit in Sydney on Tuesday, the Clean Energy Council chief executive, Kane Thornton, said it had been a record-breaking two years, with more than $24bn worth of large-scale renewable energy projects, solar panels on 2m homes and the world’s biggest battery based in South Australia.

But he said a survey of 75 chief executives showed industry confidence had fallen since December due to policy uncertainty, growing constraints on the grid and the pace at which regulations and markets that had been designed for last century were having to be changed. The survey found energy bosses believed the single greatest challenge facing the industry was getting new farms and plants connected to the grid. A lack of energy and climate policy was the second biggest challenge.

Australia’s energy future: the real power is not where you’d think

“The economics of clean energy continues to improve and we no longer require subsidy,” Thornton said. “But the wholesale market is riddled with uncertainty.”

He said collaboration on energy between the commonwealth and the states was near non-existent, noting federal and state ministers energy ministers had not met for eight months and no meeting was planned.

Thornton said a sensible energy policy could accelerate investment, drive down power prices and deliver jobs in rural areas. The industry did not mind whether the policy was the abandoned national energy guarantee, an extended renewable energy target, the clean energy target proposed by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, or a baseline-and-credit trading scheme. “Any of them could do the job,” he said.

NSW threatens to go it alone

Matt Kean, the New South Wales energy and environment minister, repeated his warning that the Berejiklian government would introduce its own climate and energy policy if the federal government did not act.

“The NSW government still supports the national energy guarantee and will continue to support a national mechanism that integrates climate and energy policy,” he told the summit. “As I’ve said before, if the commonwealth won’t get on board NSW will consider going it alone.”

‘Just a matter of when’: the $20bn plan to power Singapore with Australian solar

Kean said NSW wanted to be known as the easiest jurisdiction in the OECD for energy construction.

Thornton said the industry was still on track for 50% clean energy before 2030 and a fully renewable energy system was now inevitable and could be achieved well before mid-century. He said the next stage would be decarbonising other sectors such as transport and building a renewable export industry selling green hydrogen and clean energy via undersea cable.

“It’s now time we started debating when Australia should target 200% renewable energy generation,” he said.

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Reasons to get Solar Installed

Reasons to get Solar Installed

Generous subsidies and other incentives are currently available to install solar power. But how long will they be around for? For example, the Solar Credits multiplier aspect has disappeared.

Various governments throughout Australia have slashed, changed or reduced rebates and incentives with little or no warning on numerous occasions. When these support mechanisms are changed, the trend has been to less generous arrangements.

Currently Solar VIctoria is offering rebates through the Solar Homes program for those in Melbourne and the rest of the state who wish to buy solar panels.

Today you can get thousands in rebates on a residential solar power system. In the future? Who knows.

Don’t suffer the uncertainty; get a quick solar power quote for your home and business today!

Fluctuating REC/STC values

Renewable Energy Certificates – Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) – form the basis of the major remaining financial support for solar and are currently based on market forces; meaning their value can fluctuate.

A difference of even a dollar can have a significant impact on the price you pay for a solar power system – and prices have fluctuated by as much as $10 per REC.

Like currency exchange, trying to forecast REC values can be very hit and miss. Currently, REC values are quite high – so grab this opportunity.

Feed in tariffs – secure a higher rate

Feed in tariffs are in place in most states and territories of Australia. Programs vary from state to state and most have changed; some on several occasions. Ongoing reviews may recommend a reduction; following the trend of the past.

By starting on your solar power system now by getting a quote,  you can possibly secure a more generous feed in tariff rate for a period – every bit helps!

Save on electricity sooner

How much is your electricity bill each month? Solar panels will give you the potential to reduce it.

Why go solar tomorrow when you can do it today? Get a quick quote for home solar power now or grab your electricity bill, contact our team and they will let you know how much you could possibly save using different system configurations.

Beat looming electricity price rises

While electricity price rises have eased off in recent times, it’s unlikely the situation will remain this way. We’ve noticed just prior to major electricity price hikes, there can be a lot of interest in home solar – beat the rush!

Improve your home – a real investment

Considering selling your home soon? The Australian real estate market is increasingly leaning towards green and home buyers will pay more for good quality energy saving features.

Picture two similar properties; the difference being one, yours, has a solar power system that you’ve purchased – this could give you an edge in a competitive market.

Unlike home improvements such as a pool, a solar power system is very low maintenance and it can provide you generous, ongoing financial benefits. In fact, solar can provide one of the best returns on investment in Australia!

Even if you don’t intend on selling soon, a solar power system has a long life. This means when you are ready to sell, a differentiating feature will be ready for the listing and in the meantime you’ll reap the benefits of having clean power generated from your rooftop.

Create green jobs now

What sort of future would you prefer for your children – or other children? One working in old industries facing major upheaval, or one working in the growing renewable energy sector? Acquiring a system today contributes to more green jobs for tomorrow!

The environment needs our help

Most governments around the world agree that climate change is a clear and present danger. What they haven’t been able to do is to plot a really solid course of action – we’re still frittering around the edges of solutions. Nature may not be able to wait that long.

Don’t wait for governments and science to come up with a magic bullet solution; which is unlikely! By installing a solar power system now, you can immediately substantially lessen your carbon footprint. For example, a good quality 4kW solar power system installed in Melbourne can avoid more than 7 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

Every kilowatt hour of clean energy produced is one less kilowatt hour that needs to be generated through coal fired generation!

Setting an example in your local community

Have a look around your street. Are solar panels a common feature yet? We find that once one household installs a solar power system, other households soon follow! Through your action, you could set off a clean energy revolution in your neighbourhood; a trend that could otherwise take far longer to happen!

Help put the final nails in the coal industry’s coffin

The coal industry knows it is in trouble. Practically every aspect of coal mining, processing and burning is bad for humans and for the wider environment. Clean coal, even if achievable (which is questionable), is going to be a long way off and terribly expensive.

Coal is not the answer – clean, renewable energy is. At some point the coal industry will realise it is no longer relevant when it comes to domestic power generation and will quickly switch to exploiting green energy. But will it be too late?

An orderly phase out needs to start now, to protect the environment and allow for a smooth transition for workers in the industry to migrate to green tech and other industries with the proper support. You can help force the fossil fuel industry to become a fossil itself sooner rather than later by installing a solar power system now!

Avoid the currency exchange roller coaster

As technology improves and production costs become less with scale, an external force that can impact negatively on the cost of a solar power system is the currency market.

For a good part of 2009, a crash in the value of the Australian dollar saw prices for solar power rise dramatically, overwhelming cost savings through manufacturing improvements.

The Australian dollar is again on a downward trend and may be for quite some time. This is putting upward pressure on pricing – so go solar now!

The above are 11 compelling reasons solar power is the way to go now rather than later.

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