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).

 

Panels

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.

Brands

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. 

Do You Need Battery Storage?

Do You Need Battery Storage?

Absolyte Batteries

Generating electricity from the sun is a cost effective alternative to electricity generated from fossil fuels. However, what about when the sun goes down at the end of each day? Can you still generate electricity, or do you have to rely on power from the main grid?

Without solar batteries to store excess power generated during the day, the excess is usually fed back into the main electricity grid. By doing this, you receive a credit on your next power bill from your power company. However, this credit most often paid to you at a far lower rate than the saving you could have made if you’d used the energy yourself. So wouldn’t it be better to cut out the main grid altogether and store your solar power for use at night or cloudy days?

Storing Excess Solar Power for Later Use

Many people aren’t home when most of their solar power is generated – during the day. They come home at the end of a long day at work, and that’s when electricity usage increases. By storing all that solar power in batteries, you’re able to take advantage of all the free electricity your solar panels generate. Once the sun goes down and solar energy production stops, your home will switch to using the power stored in the batteries, making your solar energy system much more efficient and cost-effective.

The Best Reason to Use Battery Storage

When your solar energy system generates more power than you use, it feeds back into the main grid, and you’re paid for it in the form of a credit on your power bill. At night, you’ll need to use power from the main grid, but you’ll pay much more for it than what you were paid for your excess solar power. This means you’re buying back your own energy at inflated prices. A much better way is to store your own solar power in batteries and use it at night.

Reduce Your Dependence on the Grid

If you have a solar energy system installed, it makes no sense to have your excess solar energy fed back into the grid. After all, you switched to solar power to save money. By using batteries to store your excess power, you can drastically reduce your power bills and become almost independent from the main grid, which, let’s face it, can be overpriced and unreliable.

What Size Battery Do You Need?

When considering battery storage for your solar power, you need to speak to an expert who can work out the best size for your needs. It’s not a case of buying the biggest battery; the best battery for you is one that stores just enough solar power without overflow. Both residential and commercial solar energy systems can benefit from battery storage, with commercial batteries needing to be much bigger for increased energy storage.

Expert Advice from the Solar Energy Professionals

No matter what your energy needs are, battery storage is becoming the most efficient way to take advantage of free energy from the sun. Talk to GEM Energy about all your solar power needs. Call 1300 969 471 or contact us online.

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. 

GEM Energy sponsor Brisbane-based renewable energy start-up PowerWells

GEM Energy sponsor Brisbane-based renewable energy start-up PowerWells

PowerWells in papua and indonesia

Scrapped solar panels and laptop batteries combine into power generation microsystems to bring energy independence to remote locations.

 

For PowerWells co-founders Brad, Nick, and Amatus, it has been a busy three months. The three guys from very different backgrounds (a former town planner, an e-waste specialist, and a West-Papuan tinkerer) met at a Hackathon at Substation 33, an e-waste recycling facility near Logan in Brisbane’s south, in late November. They quickly realised their mutual desire to come up with something that could make a difference to the lives of those in developing communities. Here in Australia, they saw e-waste all around them – major battery dumps, technology and devices merely three years old constantly becoming landfill, and in one of those lightbulb moments – the PowerWells concept was born.

The PowerWells story sounds like a start-up fairytale, which is not to say that it hasn’t been a lot of hard work. In just three months, the three entrepreneurs have formed a partnership, designed a fully recycled power generation kit, tested and finalised the microsystem’s design on-site in an Indonesian village, raised over $12 000 through their crowdfunding campaign to finance the first 100 kits, and – tadaaaaa – secured GEM Energy’s sponsorship for their upcoming community consultation tour to rural Indonesia!

It may come as a surprise to some, but villagers in regions like remote Indonesia use their mobile phones a lot. Just like the rest of us, they like to stay in touch with each other and the world and take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities provided by global interconnectivity. They also use these devices as a convenient way for providing lighting at night – a cheaper option than kerosene, small batteries or candles. In the absence of mains power, people often travel long distances to the nearest town to charge their phones.

 

PowerWells Installation in rural Indonesia

PowerWells Installation in rural Indonesia

 

PowerWells are set to change that energy poverty dynamic, unlocking valuable time and resources for remote villagers.

One full charge of a PowerWells microsystem can charge a single iPhone up to 100 times, or up to 50 devices at once. The idea is that a village’s PowerWell will become a similar central point for the community, just like a village well – a place where people come to charge their device and socialise, before taking their charged device and using the power where they need it. The power will also be valuable for lighting up communal spaces at night.

 

PowerWells lighting up communcal spaces at night

PowerWells lighting up communal spaces at night

 

The cost for one PowerWell (and yes, the name was inspired by the Tesla Powerwall) is just $120, made up of a single solar panel, a battery pack made from 25 upcycled laptop batteries, and a few other, easily sourced recycled materials.

 

 
kids charging phones with PowerWell

Kids in rural Indonesia charging phones with a PowerWell

 

If you think a PowerWell might even be an ideal addition to your home, so you can say bye-bye to the grid, you might need to think again though. The amount of electricity produced by the kit is comparably small for what we Westerners are used to consuming. PowerWells won’t (yet) be powering fridges or air conditioners. But for remote villagers all around the world, PowerWells will make a huge difference.

The PowerWells concept is a powerful example of energy independence and GEM Energy are excited at the opportunity to support these gamechangers on their mission. For us here at GEM, solar energy is not just a way to make a living, it’s our way of life – we are passionate about renewable energy, and we want more people to have access to it – not just in Australia, but throughout the rest of the world as well.

 

We are proud to support PowerWells on their Indonesian Community Consultation Trip to ascertain how the power generation kits can best serve local villages.

 

Stay tuned for our weekly PowerWells updates!

 

PowerWells Research and Development

 

Australians all around the country are going solar with their homes or businesses

Check out GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions today.

South Australia and Tesla to build world’s biggest virtual power plant

South Australia and Tesla to build world’s biggest virtual power plant

It seems like the South Australian Government really is serious about increasing its constituents’ energy security and affordability. Just a few months after delivering the world’s biggest battery at Hornsdale windfarm using Tesla Powerpack batteries, the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has unveiled plans for the world’s biggest virtual power plant propelled by solar PV and Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries.

How virtual power plants work – Image credit: Government of South Australia

The virtual power plant will be a state-wide network of solar panels and battery systems with the capacity to power about 20% of South Australia’s average daily electricity requirements, or about 75,000 homes. The virtual power plant will offer 250MW capacity and 650MWh of storage, adding competition to the market and thereby reducing electricity bills for consumers.

 

Private homeowners signing up for the program are set to save about 30% on electricity bills while also getting some protection from blackouts. A major benefit of this new home energy technology is the Powerwall 2’s ability to keep powering your home even when the grid is down – as long as the battery is charged.

 

At least 50,000 South Australian homes, about half of them public housing, will be fitted with solar PV + storage systems by 2022. A trial has already started with several hundred public housing properties having the systems installed at no cost to the tenants. The solar systems consist of one 5kW solar PV system with one 13.5kW Tesla Powerwall 2 battery per household. The intention with this early rollout is to lower costs for those who need it most while benefiting the wider community through the generation of more renewable energy to shoulder the daily power demand.

From the FAQ on the South Australian Government’s Energy Plan website:

“Although 1100 homes will have the home energy systems installed as a part of the trial phases of the program, their power will be aggregated through the virtual power plant software and the benefits distributed to all Housing Trust tenants that sign up. This will model and demonstrate the expected operation and value of the broader system and provide data to stakeholders and investors about how the virtual power plant will work.”

Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery system installed

Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery system

Main objectives of the project:

  • Provide significant cost savings to consumers participating in the program
  • Demonstrate the ability of a virtual power plant to deliver savings to households and improve grid resilience
  • Introduce competition into the South Australian energy market, putting downward pressure on energy prices
  • Establish a new, dispatchable renewable energy power plant, providing energy when it is most required
  • Provide significant employment opportunities for installers and opportunities for involvement by South Australian manufacturers

 

The $800 million virtual power plant will be financed in stages, with an initial $2 million to be provided by the SA government as a grant, and a further $30 million as a loan from the SA government’s Renewable Technology Fund. The rest of the cost will be covered by private investors.

 

The independent solar electricity network will be privately owned and operated, with a variety of ownership and financing structures available to private households. Tesla will be responsible for the installations, while a suitable retailer to handle customer liaison and billing will be found after the initial trial stages.

 

You too can get solar + storage for your home or businessCheck out GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions 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.