“I want the cleanest water, the freshest air and wildlife in abundance… But most of all, I want a future for our children.” – Steve Irwin
About Solar Energy for Australia Zoo
In celebration of UN World Environment Day, today we can show off one of our most challenging and rewarding installations to date. In collaboration with the amazing staff at Australia Zoo, we designed and installed this incredible 638kW system on the Crocoseum, right where the Wildlife Warrior Show is held daily!
To compliment the Australia Zoo’s remarkable wildlife conservation, this system will produce clean solar energy that will power the Zoo for years to come as well and greatly contribute towards the global movement towards renewable energy.
Following meticulous research and vetting of many Australian commercial solar companies, Australia Zoo chose the team at GEM Energy to undertake this momentous project.
UN International Environment Day
World Environment Day is a great campaign that is promoted internationally by the United Nations. Their aim is to educate everyone on the importance of our sustaining our planet and this year, the theme is air pollution, a critical environmental concern.
As more and more people are becoming aware, air pollution is caused by emissions from businesses, agriculture, homes, transport and waste. All over the world, leading scientists are noting the detrimental effect on our climate as well as our health, with the World Health Organisation reporting in 2016, seven million deaths worldwide could be attributed to air pollution.
“Here at Australia Zoo, we’ve installed a 638kW solar panel system, made up of more than 1800 panels and that’s expected to reduce our emissions by 16,500 tonnes over 25 years.”
Due to the diligent efforts and influence of climate aware policy makers such as Wayne Swan, who implemented the Clean Energy Finance Company (CEFC) and has championed renewable energy policy for many years, this project was allowed such a remarkable renewable energy project such this to actualise.
How You Can Help
In Australia we are lucky enough to live on one of the cleanest and most beautiful natural places on earth, but to sustain this takes individual action. Though it can be hard to visualise the effects of inaction until it’s too late, each of us can support renewable energy champions and Wildlife Warriors alike in their journey to protect planet earth by planting native trees, minimising motor vehicle use, turning off lights and appliances when not in use and always choosing energy efficient options. Rug up or open windows instead of using cooling or heating and if you can, install solar panels.
What are the main components of a solar energy system?
3 Components of a solar system; panels, inverters and batteries.
What are the main components of a solar energy system?
When you think of solar energy, what do you immediately picture in your mind? Our guess is, you’re thinking of some of these!
But, as we all know, there is so much more to a solar energy system than simply the panels. There are multiple components to the entire system, with many brands to choose from for each. These brands can offer some very unique and advantages and often make or break a system’s ability to perform as expected. So it’s no wonder people often find the process of installing solar incredibly daunting.
But fear not, we’re here to help! We’ve created this article to help the beginners out there to better understand the investment you are looking to make for your home, whilst also helping people with existing systems to better understand all the parts and how they work in unison to power your home.
The four major components of a solar energy system are the panels, inverter(s), racking and solar battery storage unit(s) (if desired).
Solar panels are the most visible element of your system, which is why you’re likely the most familiar with it. They are, in essence, the “face” of solar. If you go out and look up and down your street right now, you will likely be able to tell who does and doesn’t have solar energy powering their home purely by looking for solar panels on their rooves.
The way that solar panels work is that the panels generate DC electricity as sunlight, or solar irradiation, stimulates electrons to move though solar cells that are in-built into the solar panels. Contrary to what some may think, it is the sunlight itself, and not heat, that generates the electricity. In fact, overheated panels can become less efficient, similar to a computer overheating. Thus, any solar panel you choose must be able to withstand the warm Australian climate for around 25 years (we’re assuming you do want your investment into solar to last that long, right!?). There are a wide variety of solar panels on the market – so knowing where to start can be tricky. We’ll delve further into this in another article on another day, but for now, let’s quickly go into the technology and products so that you can better understand the options available to you right now.
Monocrystalline panels consist of singular large crystals, are darker in colour, even in aesthetic consistancy and, as a result of the production process, the corners of cells are usually missing.
Polycrystalline panels consist of multiple smaller crystals, can be light or dark blue in colour and have variation in texture where some patches are lighter than others.
Historically, monocrystalline panels were seen to have an advantage as the superior technology in the Australian market. Historically, monocrystalline solar cells were producing higher peak efficiency as large crystal sizes tend to be more absorbent, and the technology was more readily available than polycrystalline solar cells. However, over time both technologies have matured and improved, making the difference quite negligible in most regions. In essence, both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are great for any solar energy system in Australian climates.
Instead, it has become increasingly evident that the more important aspect to focus on is the quality of the product, the reliability of the manufacturer and the performance of the product over time. These three factors alone can make all the difference in how much of your energy costs are offset, how long they will yield a return on your investment and how quickly you can receive support if things do go wrong (or even just need general maintenance – which we do recommend!).
How to choose your solar panels
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when deciding on which solar panels to install for your home or business.
Though the savings of purchasing a budget panel may seem appealing in the short-term, they often depreciate more quickly and perform worse over time. Or just flat out don’t work. Or explode.
Solar energy systems are a long-term investment (systems should last around 25 years), so your main concern should be the performance of that system over time, the quality of the installation, the longevity of the products and the warranties attached. Maximizing savings over the long term rather than minimizing the initial cost of a system is the smart move. Many companies offer very cheap systems and cut corners to get to that price – rushing installs, putting your home at risk and selling the cheapest products that will barely last 5 years on an Australian roof. The products we sell are top of their range and come with a 20-30 year product and performance warranty as standard.
There are good budget brands that perform very well at an affordable price – we often recommend Jinko, Hyundai, Canadian Solar, Phono & Trina. Then there are our premium products, made with the highest quality technology and that come with extended warranties. These products include LG, QCells and SunPower (suppliers of Apple and NASA), which are usually made and engineered in Germany or North America and are considered the best panels on the market.
Our Expert Advice:
You can likely afford the best panels with only a slight increase in up-front costs or payback period, and this will pay off in the long-term.
When you speak with one of our expert consultants, they will breakdown the best option to maximize your savings.
Inverters are a crucial part of any solar energy system. Their purpose is to convert the DC electricity that the solar panels produce into 240V AC electricity, which is what powers everything in your home. The inverter is a hardworking piece of equipment that works constantly throughout the lifetime of your system – so it tends to be the piece most likely to have faults. This means they usually only have a warranty of around 10 years. For this reason, we will always recommend that you choose a high quality inverter that is easily serviceable such as Fronius, ABB, Sungrow or SolarEdge.
Inverter Technology – String Inverters vs Microinverters
The two main types of inverters are string inverters and microinverters. A string inverter is installed onto a wall in a shaded area and will convert the energy from a string of panels (for residential systems this is usually the entire system) into AC electricity to be used in your home or business. Microinverters are installed on the back of each panel, allowing the energy from the panels to exist independently from each other. When partial shading occurs on one panel in a string inverter system, the performance of the rest of the panels are also affected (as demonstrated below). Microinverters are the solution to this, as they allow the panels to operate independently but also come with an increase in price. There are also power optimizers, which are the middle-of-the-road approach between the two, as they are cheaper than microinverters but somewhat less effective. Shading isn’t always a critical issue so microinverters aren’t always necessary. To find out, our experts will help you assess your particular situation.
The third main component of a solar energy system is the racking/mounting. This is what securely attaches your panels to your roof. Racking / mounting will not be a decision you need to lose sleep over. Any reputable solar provider will use quality racking equipment from brands like Radiant or Sunlock, which are Australian made. What is most important is that the installers of the solar energy system are CEC approved and that the company you go with has a reputation for quality installations. Many companies rely on quantity over quality, which means that they rush through multiple installations per day in a race to get as many done as possible and, ultimately, putting your home at risk! Volume-based, cheap and non-accredited installers are well known to cut corners, leave holes in rooves, leave loose live wires and other critical safety violations. While the initial cost may seem higher, companies such as ours will spend the extra time to ensure correct procedures are followed and that the performance and safety of your solar energy system and family are guaranteed.
Batteries are used to store energy generated during the day to be used throughout the night when the system is no longer generating power. Battery technology is quickly developing into a more feasible option for those who primarily use their energy in the evenings. We have installed battery systems for major clients such as PCYC Queensland and schools like Bundaberg Christian College, who operate sporting facilities and boarding colleges that require energy throughout the night.
Are batteries for you?
While battery technology has come a long way, it is still in its infancy and comes at a significant increase in cost. The value of including batteries on your solar energy system will depend on a range of factors such as your usage needs and your feed-in tarrif rate. Your feed-in tariff is the rate which the Government is prepared to pay you to send the energy you have produced into the common energy grid for all to use. If you are storing excess energy in a battery, then you are not feeding it into the grid and are not being paid for it. So when your FIT rate is high and you are not at home or working in the premises during the hours of the day to utilise the energy you produce, it does not make financial sense to store that excess energy. This is particularly the case given the relatively high up-front cost of a solar battery storage unit.
Solar energy is emerging as one of the best renewable alternatives to our diminishing gas, coal, and oil supplies. We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that emit greenhouses gases, and are the major contributors to global warming and climate change.
The general trend of increased solar installations and reduced costs will continue, with most countries in the world contributing to the production of solar energy in some way, however small.
It’s been estimated that the earth receives more than 173,000 terawatts of energy from the sun each year, which is about 10,000 times more than the entire planet can use, so there’s no concerns about running out of solar power.
The cost of photovoltaic modules is now about 200 times less in real terms than the cost in 1978, and it’s not just PV modules that are much cheaper. All components in the system are coming down in price due to increased demand and new technology that enables cheaper production.
With our increasing awareness of the need for more sustainable energy sources, the low cost of solar energy systems is one of the main reasons the industry has grown so much, as more people and businesses are adopting solar technology.
Battery Storage and Off-Grid Solutions
Out of the new solar technology in recent years have come more efficient and cheaper batteries for storing excess solar power. With battery storage, people can use only their own solar power and will no longer need to connect to the main grid in case they run out of electricity. Solar power stations are also taking advantage of new technology in battery storage to deliver more sustainable power solutions.
The Tesla Powerwall is a great example of new technology in battery storage. It’s sleek and efficient, and you can use up to ten at a time for increased storage. Another example is the Tesla Powerpack for larger commercial applications.
Silicon photovoltaic modules are the dominant solar technology, and are likely to be for at least the next ten years. However, a new type of solar cell technology has emerged. Metal halide perovskites are still in the testing phase but have the potential to be cheaper and more efficient than PV cells. Currently, scientists are finding success by piggy-backing metal halide perovskites on existing PV cells (perovskite-silicon tandems) to increase performance and output.
Keeping Up with the Latest Technology
With so much research and new technology in recent years, the future of solar power and our planet is looking bright. Gem Energy is on the cutting edge of solar energy technology, and we strive to stay up-to-date with emerging solar power solutions. We’re passionate about moving solar power forward and bringing down costs so everyone can benefit from free, clean and sustainable electricity. Call 1300 969 471, or contact us online.
You know that solar power is free, clean, environmentally-friendly, quiet, and doesn’t give off any greenhouse gases, but just how does a solar energy system work?
The sun produces a lot of energy, more than we could ever use in our life time, but to use this energy as electricity to power our homes and businesses, we first need to collect it and convert it to something useable.
Your Solar Panels
The solar panels on your roof contain photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells, made from silicon like a semiconductor; they create an electric field just like a battery does. There are many cells in one solar panel, and many panels can be joined together to create more energy. That’s why you see roofs covered in solar panels. The more sunlight you can collect, the energy you can create.
Direct Current Electricity
The solar panels create direct current (DC) electricity, the same as a battery, meaning the electrons flow in one direction around a circuit. However, we need alternating current electricity (AC), meaning electrons are pushed and pulled, and keep changing direction. It’s AC electricity that runs through your house or business when you turn on a switch or plug something in.
Your Solar Inverter
Your solar inverter does all the work of changing the DC electricity to AC electricity so we can use it. Older solar energy systems had only one inverter for the entire solar array, but new technology uses an inverter on the back of every solar panel to maximise efficiency. When one central inverter was used, a problem with just one solar panel would affect the performance of the entire array. Today, every panel has its own inverter, so if one isn’t performing efficiently, the rest will still go about creating power.
Putting it All Together
When the sun hits the solar panels they convert the energy to DC electricity, which flows to the inverter and converts it to AC electricity, powering your home or business. The entire process is clean, free, and quiet.
Storing Excess Power for Later
Once the sun’s energy has been converted into a useable energy source, it needs to be used straight away, or you won’t get the benefits of free electricity. However, if you’re not home during the day or can’t use all the power, your solar energy system creates it will just go to waste. This won’t happen if you store the excess in batteries to use at night, or on days when the sun isn’t shining.
Different solar energy systems will require different batteries. Budget, ambient temperatures, available space, and energy usage are all factors that should be taken into consideration.
Consult with the Experts
By using batteries to store excess solar power, you’re ensuring maximum efficiency of your solar energy investment, and you’ll dramatically cut your utility bills. Gem Energy is the expert when it comes to solar energy. We’ll give you the best advice on making your solar energy system work hard for you. Call us on 1300 969 471, or contact us online.
Before your solar energy system installation goes ahead, there are some things you should ask the company to make sure you’ve made the right choice.
Be sure you’re well-informed about the right system for your requirements and whether it’s enough to just reduce your energy bill, or completely replace it by becoming self-sufficient.
What Size System Do I Need?
Your solar energy installer should have already calculated the correct system size from your previous power bills by looking at your average usage statistics. Be sure the company understands your reasons for installing a solar energy system and how you intend to use it. Your installer should have a good idea of how much you’ll save on your bills.
Roof Factors to Consider
Ask about the best way to configure your solar panels for maximum sunlight. Do you have enough space for the capacity you need? Is the pitch steep enough? Will you need tilted panels? What about trees near your roof? Will you need to prune them back to maximise the amount of sun your solar panels receive?
Can I Add to the System Later?
What if you want to add more capacity at a later date, or install batteries to store excess power? Your system should be flexible enough that you can expand it if your energy needs increase. Will your current installer be able to do the work of installing more panels or batteries so your warranty isn’t voided? Will your current installer be around to support you and your solar energy system?
Ask about the brand of the components you’ll be receiving. Where are they made? Are they top quality with good warranties and will they last? What happens if something fails under warranty? Will the installation company fix it, or will you have to run around trying to find someone else to do it? Your system is brand new now, but what will happen in a few years if things go wrong?
What maintenance will you have to do, when and how? Does the installation company offer a maintenance plan? If so what does it involve, and how much extra will it cost? Can you save money by doing your own maintenance?
How Much Will it Cost and How Long Will it Take to Pay for it?
Find out exactly what your new system will cost, make sure there are no hidden charges, and get as many quotes as possible from reputable installers to see the difference in pricing. Are there any government rebates or incentives? Is financing available? How long before the system pays for itself?
Use a Professional and Reputable Installer
If your installer can’t answer any of these questions, you should think twice before proceeding with the installation. Fortunately, Gem Energy is a professional and reputable solar energy company who will gladly answer all your questions and show you how we’ve calculated everything. We’ll be to offer support and advice for the life of your system. Call 1300 969 471, or fill in the online contact form.