What are the main components of a solar energy system?

What are the main components of a solar energy system?

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. So read on, enjoy – and let us know if you have any feedback by emailing info@gemenergy.com.au.

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.

Technology – Polycrystalline or Monocrystalline Panels?

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 LGQCells 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 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.
Racking 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 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. Our experts will analyze your usage to determine if battery technology is the right move for you.

Tesla Powerwall 2

GEM Energy are preferred installers of Tesla Powerwalls and Powerpacks (suitable for large-scale commercial use) here in Australia and are experts in the field of battery technology.
Tesla Powerwall

Look No Further. Get Started Today. 

O’Brien Group Arena – 463kW Commercial Solar Installation

O’Brien Group Arena – 463kW Commercial Solar Installation

O’Brien Group Arena – 463kW Commercial Solar Installation

O’Brien Group Arena – 463kW Commercial Solar Installation Drone Footage

One of Australia’s Largest CBD Solar Installs

We’re proud to present our installation of this massive 463kW solar energy system at the O’Brien Group Arena, a beloved ice-skating rink in the heart of Melbourne.

Generating more than 600,000kWh of solar energy production per year, this system will add 10 per cent to the total annual solar energy production of the entire Melbourne CBD.

The system consists of 1330 x 355W Canadian solar panels with 15 Fronius Eco 27kW inverters.


Look No Further. Get Started Today. 

The NEG is coming. Here is what you can do to future proof your home or business.

The NEG is coming. Here is what you can do to future proof your home or business.

Residential Solar Roof

The NEG is coming. Here is what you can do to future proof your home or business.

You may have noticed an increased amount of solar installations in your neighborhood over the past few months. That’s because the solar industry is booming and producing record numbers. But with the proposed National Energy Guarantee policy, set to to succeed the Renewable Energy Target (RET) policy, some uncertainty as to the future of the renewable energy industry has struck the market. Here is our take on renewable energy supply projections, new policies and what you can do to guarantee your home or business is future proofed.

According to the latest information from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), renewable energy is forecast to supply one-third of Australians’ energy requirements by 2020. This represents rapid growth in the industry as only half that amount was supplied by renewable energy in 2015. May was a record month for rooftop solar installation with almost 19,000 rooftop solar PV systems being installed, which produced 19.9 per cent of consumed energy and saved 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 pollution over the month (the equivalent of taking 9.2 million cars off the road). Now 2 million Australian families have reduced their energy bills and shown their support for the renewable energy movement by installing solar energy systems on their homes.

Solar advocates from organizations such as Solar Citizens, the Clean Energy Council & the Smart Energy Council have recently expressed concern for the impact that the proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy will have on this thriving movement. Green Energy Markets Director Tristan Edis & Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes have both declared their dissatisfaction for the NEG’s emissions targets, which, while they are in line with international commitments, are seen to be unambitious. The aforementioned 2020 renewable energy supply target stands strong despite this as it is based on solar and wind farms already under construction or contracted and stable residential installation rates.

Claims have been made that the NEG overlooks the extent to which the RET is responsible for the solar industry’s growth and may impact household’s rate of installation – The government have said that subsidies for renewable energy systems are no longer necessary as the industry is thriving. But this seems to overlook the extent to which the RET is responsible for that growth, as it has supported Australians to install renewable energy systems, the benefits of which are felt by individuals and communities. It’s becoming clearer that the proposed NEG will not include the RET’s system of what amounts to a rebate on renewable energy installations for households and businesses.

Learn more about the RET rebates.

The exact impacts of the NEG are unforeseeable at this stage, though there are signs that solar installation incentives may change and impact Australian’s ability to go solar. Our hopes are that Australians will still be seen as renewable energy leaders, reaching record emissions and supply targets and continuing to reap the benefits that solar energy systems produce. The best thing you can do to future proof your home or business is to claim the RET rebate with us while it still lasts.


See GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions or enquire now.

GEM Energy To Deliver 648kW Of Solar To Australia Zoo

GEM Energy To Deliver 648kW Of Solar To Australia Zoo

The Crocoseum at Australia Zoo in Beerwah, QLD Image: Core Architecture


We are pleased to announce the delivery of a 648kW solar power plant to Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland.

The project will take place in 2018 and will include over 1800 Canadian Solar solar panels brought together with a SolarEdge DC to DC optimizer system. The system is to be installed at the world-famous Crocoseum facility.

The state of the art, world renowned wildlife facility has complex energy needs, with heating pumps and pools, kitchens, retail shops and more, spread out over hundreds of acres. The commercial solar array will absorb energy from the sun and is expected to yield 21GWh, or 21 billion-watt hours over 25 years. It’s expected to reduce emissions by 16,500 tonnes.

You can view more of our recent projects here or read in-depth case studies on our commercial work here.

Wes Mannion, Director of Australia Zoo, said the investment long term would allow them to put even more resources into conservation.

“Our ultimate goal here at Australia Zoo is to have a world class facility and reinvest our proceeds into saving wildlife and wild places around the world. By installing solar, it helps us two-fold – we’re contributing to the reduction of emissions in our own environment, and we’re also saving a substantial amount on electricity long term”.

National Sales Manager at GEM Energy, Aaron Hilton commented:

“Australia Zoo was paying a significant amount for their power and it’s a real honor to be able to help them operate more efficiently and reach conservation goals through renewable energy. We are extremely proud of our in-house engineers as they have been able to satisfy stringent network requirements in an area of limited infrastructure and bring this project to fruition”.

The installation is a major investment by Australia Zoo into its long-term sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint, in line with its global conservation mission. The project is set to kick off in late April, 2018.

Look No Further. Get Started Today. 

Elon Musk’s “World’s Biggest Battery” Completed Ahead Of Schedule

Elon Musk’s “World’s Biggest Battery” Completed Ahead Of Schedule

Tesla Battery System South Australia

He bet it all on his reputation and his ability to meet a deadline.

And today, Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of Tesla, has seen a return on his $65.5M dollar bet, as Tesla completed the installation of the energy storage system in South Australia one week ahead of schedule.

Dubbed by many as the “world’s largest lithium ion battery”, Musk (think electric cars and living on Mars), French renewable energy firm Neoen and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherilll collaborated to bring the battery storage system from concept to completion in record time. The system is made up of Tesla Powerpacks, which have the capacity to store 100MW of energy produced by the nearby Hornsdale Wind Farm (privately owned by Neoen).

To put that into perspective – the battery system can power 30, 000 homes for an hour, or 100 homes for an entire 24 hours.

The project was awarded to Telsa in July, 2017, after South Australians suffered through a number of major blackouts in 2016/17. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had warned of further blackouts for South Australia and Victoria in 2017, reporting that without current mitigation strategies, “the balance of supply and demand in these two regions is sufficiently tight that there is a material risk the reliability standard could be exceeded this summer”.

The project gained a lot of attention in the media, as Musk and well known Australian entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes (Atlassian) engaged in Twitter banter that saw Musk commit to the delivery of the project within 100 days “or it is free”.

Tesla Bet

The SA Government’s stake in the game comes in the form of significant government investment, including approximately $50M in taxpayer money. But don’t worry – in exchange, the Government and the residents of South Australia will be able to use some of the output of the battery to provide stability for the grid. The battery will also present a cheaper option for purchasing energy when supply-demand pressures and price hikes become unsustainable

The battery is just one of several measures announced in the Premier Weatherill’s broader $550 million energy plan, seeking to address supply shortfalls, soaring prices and concerns over security of the electricity grid.

Testing is expected to be conducted over the coming days, as the battery is scheduled to be completely operational by the December 1 deadline.


Tesla isn’t just for big players like Neoen and the South Australian Government. You too can go hybrid or off-grid for your home or business. Check out GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions today.