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. 

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. 

Jack Hooper’s Insightful Visit to Hanwha Q CELLS in Korea

Jack Hooper’s Insightful Visit to Hanwha Q CELLS in Korea

Jack Hooper’s Insightful Visit to Hanwha Q CELLS in Korea

Jack Hooper at Hanwha Q CELLS Manufacturing in Korea

We’re serious about delivering quality products to our clients.

As an award-winning company and one of the largest producers of solar panels in the world, you may have heard of or even own Hanwha Q CELLS solar panels. The company is world-renowned for their dedication to quality, a trait which GEM Energy shares and that has fostered a great partnership over the years. After all, the Q in Q CELLS stands for quality.

In October 2018, our CEO, Jack Hooper, visited the company’s new state of the art manufacturing facility in Seoul, Korea and we’ve decided to transparently share his process, feedback and the conclusions he drew post-inspection of the facility.

 

The History of Q CELLS

Q CELLS have long been a leader in the solar panel manufacturing industry, this year winning the Top Brand PV Seal in Australia for the third consecutive year in a row, and due to their high-quality bill of materials and best in class manufacturing facilities, Q CELLS products have continued to be some of GEM Energy’s preferred products. Historically, Q CELLS products have been renowned for their exceptional German manufacturing process, leading technological breakthroughs and proven performance in the field. When Q CELLS were acquired by the Hanwha corporation in 2012 it was announced that manufacturing would begin in Korea and China. Many expected a decline in the prestige and quality of the product, which is simply not the case.

Hanwha and Q CELLS held an event in Seoul, Korea for their top customers globally and as GEM Energy are among these companies, we had the privilege of being invited to inspect the manufacturing process and technology behind the new Q CELLS Q PEAK DUO 325w solar panel.

 

Our Demonstrable Dedication to Quality

GEM Energy takes quality assurance very seriously and this inspection of the facility and the new technologies behind the Q PEAK DUO demonstrates our dedication to ensuring that we supply our customers with only the best products on the market. We go further than looking at spec sheets, we visually inspect the manufacturing and R&D centres of our major partners.

In 2018, the GEM management staff conducted inspections for the Inverter manufacturing facilities of SolarEdge in Israel, Fronius in Austria and Huawei in China. We’ve also inspected Solar Panel manufacturing plants of Q CELLS in Korea, the Sumec Phono Solar facility in China and will be visiting the Canadian Solar factory in China in November 2018 to spend 2 days inspecting the solar cell manufacturing, module manufacturing and to spend time with the Canadian Solar engineers to discuss key product differences and the roadmap for future technologies.

Jack’s Visit To The New Facility

This trip provided Jack with an opportunity to inspect the new Q CELLS manufacturing site where he was able to assess the latest Q CELLS solar modules and the manufacturing process behind them. He was able to see and understand what goes into the creation of these products very closely, constantly evaluating the products to ensure they meet GEM Energy’s high standards. The state of the art technology and excellent personnel at the new facility left a great impression on Jack, thus his feedback from the visit was incredibly positive.

Jack is obviously limited to exactly what he can share with about the factory but the precision, cleanliness and efficiency of the plant has been most impressive.

Hanwha Q CELLS Module Production Plant

The Conclusion?

Jacks conclusion is that Q CELLS continue to set the benchmark for other manufacturers on delivering leading-edge technology and value for money. Our confidence in the brand has absolutely been maintained if not strengthened by the visit and we’re delighted by the fact that we can trust these panels on Aussie homes and businesses. This confidence is furthered by the fact that Hanwha is one of Korea’s biggest and financially strong companies, which confirms that they are a bankable brand that is here to support warranties in the long term.

If you have any questions about the Q CELLS solar panels or would like more information, please contact us at info@gemenergy.com.au

Look No Further. Get Started Today. 

VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme: New Policy Set To Save Victorians Up To 50% On A New Solar Energy System

VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme: New Policy Set To Save Victorians Up To 50% On A New Solar Energy System

Victoria Solar Energy Rebate

Victorian Government Solar Homes Scheme – It’s Here

VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme: New Policy Set To Save Victorians Up To 50% On A New Solar Energy System

Victorians – you have just hit the solar jackpot! The Victoria Government ‘Solar Homes’ Scheme, a new policy set to save your household up to $2,225 on a 4kW solar energy system, has now been released following an exciting media release from the Victorian Government just a few days ago. The aim of the scheme is to put solar panels on 650,000 rooves over 10 years, which is an estimated renewable energy investment of $1.24 billion. Consequently, there will be a tremendous rush for solar installation in Victoria as citizens look to claim on this incredible incentive. The document claims that an average 4kW system could save around $890 a year on energy costs which will represent an incredible easement of the energy costs for Victorian households. At an average cost of $4,450 (after STCs) for a 4kW solar system, the payback period (the time it takes for your savings on electricity to pay off the cost of your system) is just 3 years. Though the rebate equals a 50% copayment for a 4kW system, that certainly won’t (and shouldn’t!) stop you from getting a bigger system. From our experience installing hundreds of systems across Victoria, most families benefit more from a 6.5kW system. For a larger system under the VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme, you would still receive the full $2,225 Solar Homes subsidy, keeping your total power bill lower AND only increasing your payback period minutely.

Adding In The Federal Rebate And Reduced Solar Cost Even Further!

Currently in Australia, the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES – widely known as ‘The Solar Rebate‘) provides Small-scale Technology Certificates (or STCs), which lowers the total cost of a rooftop solar installation for your home. At the moment in Melbourne, this reduces the cost of solar by around $560 per kilowatt of solar panels. The figure from the Victorian Government of $4,450 for a 4-kilowatt system, is after STCs have reduced the system price. This means the Government have essentially paid TWO-THIRDS of your solar system and installation for you (1/3 from the Federal Government and 1/3 from the Victorian Government).

Read more about rebates

Victorian Solar Energy Savings Rebate Graph

System cost after STCs and the VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme Rebate (Credit: Solar Quotes)

And the best news yet – many of you will be eligible RIGHT NOW

Victorian households are eligible to receive a Solar Homes Scheme rebate if the applicant:

  • has a combined household income of less than $180,000 per annum before tax (the based on the most recent tax assessment notices for the home owners will suffice)
  • is an owner-occupier of a home valued at under $3,000,000 (a copy of a recent Council rates notice will be required)
  • the household does not already have a solar panel system installed
  • chooses a Clean Energy Council (CEC) Approved Product (for solar panels) and uses a CEC Accredited Installer
  • chooses a product that is on the Clean Energy Regulator’s “Register of approved solar hot water heaters” (for Solar hot water)
  • has had an eligible solar panel system installed on or after 19 August 2018, and
  • engages an installer who can provide a statement that they have not received a WorkSafe infringement notice in the past three years.”

A Wise Decision

The Victorian Government policy requires that rebates under the VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme can only be claimed when the system is installed by accredited solar installers who use approved hardware and have a clean history. In doing this, the Victorian Government is protecting the citizens who are rushing to pick their installer, ensuring that the work is done by professionals and to the highest standards – not the cheapest cost. Here at GEM Energy, we are CEC Approved Retailers AND Installers – with a stellar record for quality and system life. We have a dedicated in-house engineering team, system monitoring expert and Quality Assurance Officer. We have ISO 9001:2015 Certification, which is a voluntary certification that demonstrates our commitment to quality and performance of your system at all times.

Look no further than GEM Energy’s award-winning team for your install under the VIC Govt Solar Homes Scheme and get in quick while this incredible policy is active. Give us a call on 1300 969 471 or click below to get a quote today.

 

Interested in solar for your home or business?

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. 

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.