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Solar Power in Australia – All you wanted to know about Buying Panels,Inverters Prices and Government Subsidies

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Solar Power in Australia has grown massively in 2010 and 2011 driven by state feed in tariffs also known as the solar bonus scheme or solar credits.This has resulted in the capacity limits being reached and most of the state solar subsidy schemes have been withdrawn (see the current state feed-in-tariff schemes below).However the Australian federal government is still offering the Renewable Energy Credit Scheme under which  solar power generated is eligible to get solar credits which can be solar in the open market for cash.This will still drive the use of solar energy as the falling prices of chinese solar panels has made solar energy near electricity price parity in a number of places.Australia which gets a lot of sunshine is ideal for solar energy which  promotes climate change mitigation as well besides reducing pollution.Australia has the highest average solar radiation of any continent in the world, which means solar industry has the greatest potential.

Current State of Solar Power in Australia

Solar power is installed on almost 250,000 homes across Australia. At the end of September 2010 ,300 megawatts of solar PV capacity was installed nationwide  which was stupendous 10 times increase in 2 years.Solar Power in Australia supplies both the grid and off grid systems .

Australian Government 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020 (Renewable Energy Target RET)

In 2007 the government set that  20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply would come from renewable energy sources by 2020 by establishing the national Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. Final legislation passed on August 20 2009.The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER) is the statutory authority established to oversee the implementation of the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) and the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).

Solar Thermal Power

Solar Thermal Energy is facing setbacks due to drastic fall in prices of solar panel prices.In May 2009 the federal government announced the $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program to help fund the construction and deployment of up to four large-scale solar power stations of around 250 megawatts of which two can be solar thermal. State governments and private enterprise would add to this fund to enable the deployment of the power stations.However the Floods in 2011 has put the scheme in the backburner.

In the following section you can read about guide on Solar Energy Rebates,Guide on Buying Solar Inverters and Guide on Buying Solar Panels.

GUIDE on Solar Energy Rebates

Solar Rebates are a very important decision making factor when buying solar panels for your home or office or factory.The reason is that solar energy today is still not competitive with fossil fuel energy.However the costs of solar energy have declined dramatically in the recent past.It is estimated that solar energy will be competitive with coal,gas and other fossil fuels in 2-3 years in most places around the earth.In fact it has already reached “grid parity” in a number of countries like Italy,Hawai where there is a lot of sunshine and the cost of electricity is also high.Australia too has a large number of sunny hours which makes it ideal to install solar panels.State governments in Australia have been at the forefront of giving rebates and subsidies to promote solar energy in the country.This has resulted in a large boom of solar installations among residents in the country who are taking advantage of the generous subsidies.Though recently a number of provinces like New South Vales and Victoria have stopped the solar rebates , the falling cost of solar panels in Australia has still made it attractive enough for people to put up solar panels.

Read about on how to buy Solar Panels.

Most of the state government Feed in Tariff Schemes have closed down under a deluge of applications and have reached the limit.Now the rebates for solar energy is federal in nature where you can receive a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) or Solar Credit for the solar energy generated from solar panels.Here is a list of the solar rebates and subsidies available in different states of Australia.

Basic Concepts

What is ‘Net’ feedin tariffs are where the consumer is only paid/credited for the ‘net’ generated electricity they export to the national electricity grid from their renewable energy generator (not for the proportion of generated electricity they use themselves). In order to receive a ‘net’ feed-in tariff the consumer needs to have ‘net’ metering that can measure the net amount of generated electricity exported to the national electricity grid. A ‘net’ meter measures the net amount of generated electricity exported to the national electricity grid. This means a customer uses the electricity they produce first, before sending the remainder to the grid. A net meter allows customers with solar panels to reduce their electricity bills.

What is Gross feed in tariffs  measures the ‘gross’ or total amount of electricity generated by a renewable energy generator that is exported to the grid. ‘Gross’ feed-in tariffs are where the consumer is paid/credited for all the electricity generated by their renewable energy generator (e.g. solar photovoltaic system or wind turbine). In order to receive a gross feed-in tariff the consumer needs to have gross metering that can measure the ‘gross’ or total amount of electricity generated by their renewable energy generator that is exported to the grid.

It is clear that Gross Feed in Tarffs are much better than Net feed in tariffs because the feed in tariff is generally much greater than the electricity rate.

Australian Federal Government Subsidies and Rebates for Solar Energy Installations

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)

The SRES provides a financial benefit for owners wishing to purchase eligible solar water heaters, air source heat pumps and small-scale solar photovoltaic panels, wind and hydro systems. Installation of these units permits the creation of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), which can be exchanged for financial benefit for owners.

Owners have two options for gaining a financial benefit for their certificates:

  1. Selling the right to include STCs to an Agent, in exchange for discounts or payment, or
  2. Selling the certificates themselves, either through the open STC market (pricing subject to market forces) or through the STC Clearing House (price fixed at $40 per STC, excl. GST.)

What is  Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC)

Small-scale technology certificates (STCs) are created by eligible installations of solar water heaters, air source heat pump water heaters and small generation units (small-scale solar photovoltaic panels, wind and hydro electricity systems). A STC is generally equivalent to:

  • 1 MWh of renewable electricity deemed to be generated by small generation units unless the Solar Credits REC multiplier applies; or
  • 1 MWh of electricity deemed to be displaced by the installation of solar water heaters

What are Solar Credits?

If an SGU was installed on or after 9 June 2009 it may be eligible for additional STCs under Solar Credits.  This increases the number of STCs to which your system is entitled by a set factor, depending on when the system was installed, thereby increasing the financial benefit provided back to you, to support investment in small-scale renewable energy generation.  The table below shows the current Solar Credits multiplier.

Installation Period
9 June 2009 – 30 June 2010 5 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011 5 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012 3 x [number of eligible STCs] *
1 July 2012 – 30 June 2013 2 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2013 – onwards 1 x [number of eligible STCs]
(ie no multiplier

What’s an SGU?

A small generation unit (SGU) is classified as a small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) panel, wind or hydro unit. Small generation units generate electricity and have the following requirements:

System type
System capacity and annual electricity output
Installation periods
Solar (photovoltaic) systems No more than 100 kW and a total annual electricity output less than 250 MWh On or after 14 November 2005


Solar Rebates in Victoria

1) Residential – The Solar Net  Feed-in Tariff will offer eligible properties with small-scale solar PV systems of up to five kilowatts in size a credit of at least 25 cents per kilowatt hour for excess electricity fed back into the grid. The scheme is expected to be available from 1 January 2012, replacing the Premium Feed-in Tariff.This scheme is intended to have a capacity cap of 75 megawatts of installed solar systems across the state, and provide eligible signed-up customers with guaranteed credits until the end of 2016.This new Transitional Feed-in Tariff replaces the Premium Feed-in Tariff was introduced in 2009 and offered 60 cents per kilowatt hour.


  • have a solar PV system no greater than five kilowatts in size
  • be claiming for your principal place of residence (if you are a household)
  • consume 100 megawatt hours or less of electricity per year (if you are a small business or community organisation) claim only one solar PV system per site (if you are a small business or community organisation operating across multiple sites, you can claim for one system per site)
  • have bi-directional metering in place that measures two-way electricity flows and records them on a half hourly basis

Solar Rebates in ACT

1) Residential Solar – The revised ACT Electricity Net Feed-in Tariff Scheme which commenced on 12 July 2011 closed at midnight on 13 July 2011.Overwhelming demand created a situation where the cap available was quickly taken up. This followed the earlier closure of the Micro Generator component of the same Scheme on 31 May 2011.

2) Large Scale Solar -The solar energy industry will have an opportunity to compete for establishment of 40MW of generation from large scale facilities (greater than 200kW capacity) located in the ACT.The ACT Government intends to create supporting legislation during 2011 and to open the auction by the end of 2011.

Solar Rebates in Queensland

Solar Bonus Scheme

Residential – Customers participating in the Scheme warepaid 44 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for surplus electricity fed into the grid (Tariff 11 inc GST as at 1 July 2011).


  • consume less than 100 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity a year (the average household uses approximately 7.9MWh a year)
  • purchase and install a new solar PV (photovoltaic) system (solar power system not solar hot water system) or operate an existing PV system (solar power system) that is connected to the Queensland electricity grid
  • generate surplus electricity that is fed into the Queensland electricity grid
  • have an agreement in place with their electricity distributor (Ergon Energy, ENERGEX or Essential Energy) and have appropriate metering installed
  • have solar PV systems with a combined inverter capacity of up to 5 kilowatts
  • Customers wishing to claim the solar bonus will need electricity metering that separately records electricity imports and exports.

Solar Rebates in Tasmania

There are no feed in tariffs or Subsidies for residential solar installations.The government has given grants to a small number of projects with funding of $363,000 .

Solar Rebates in Western Australia
The Western Australian residential net feed-in tariff scheme reached its quota and was suspended on 1 August 2011.

The feed-in tariff scheme used to provide the following net feed in tariff of

  • 40 cents per unit for applications made prior to 1 July 2011
  • 20 cents per unit* for applications made from 1 July 2011

It was valid for 10 years

Solar Rebates in New South Wales

The Solar Bonus Scheme provides a feed-in tariff for eligible customers with small solar or wind generators that are connected to the grid is closed. The Scheme commenced on 1 January 2010 and operates until 31 December 2016.New South Wales Electricity Supply Act 1995 started by giving a Feed in Tariff of 50 cents/ Kwh which was stopped after the scheme reached the 50 megawatt level in mid 2010 and a review has now been completed. Public submissions were invited as part of the review. In October 2010 the former NSW Government announced changes to the Solar Bonus Scheme reducing tariff payments from 60 cents to 20 cents and introducing a scheme capacity limit of 300 MW. The Scheme is now closed to new applications. This FIT also closed  by 28 April 2011

The Current Solar Rebates in NSW are

  1. Commonwealth – Renewable Energy Certificates or ‘Solar Credits’
    The Commonwealth Government administers credits and offers through renewable energy certificates.  These certificates reduce the upfront costs of purchasing solar panels
  2. Retailer feed-in offers
    Some energy retailers offer feed-in tariffs, separate to the Solar Bonus Scheme, for electricity fed into the grid. These offers vary and customers can shop around and choose the right retailer for their circumstances

GUIDE on Buying Solar Inverters

After Solar Panels,Solar Inverters are the second most  crucial component of the overall solar system accounting for around 10% of the overall costs.Solar inverters connect the solar panels to the grid converting the DC to AC which is used by the grid.Note for off grid solar installations,solar inverters are required as most electrical devices need AC for their operation.There are both grid tied and non grid tied inverters available on the market.Solar inverters have become highly sophisticated with features like optimization and monitoring etc.The efficiency of solar inverters are a major factor in their purchase as  well as the quality and reliability.Inverters comes in various sizes and can be as large as 1 MW for utility applications.Note unlike solar panels,solar inverter manufactures are much bigger in size with SMA Solar having a 40% global marketshare.

 Solar Inverter Reviews

Solar Inverters can make a huge difference in the amount of electricity generated by solar panels over the lifetime of the solar array.You should be careful of any lesser known inverter brand they are offered as part of a home solar power system before installing them. While some of these inverters may have certification this does not mean they can perform as well as the good brands.Skimping of a few dollars here and there may make you penny wise and pound foolish.

Types of Solar Inverters

  • Stand-alone Solar Inverters – They are  used in  systems without a connection to the power grid.Inverter draws Energy from Solar Energy. Many stand-alone inverters have attached batteries.These are mainly used in off grid application and in residential/commercial applications where there is no net metering available.
  • Grid Tied Solar Inverters – Many solar inverters are designed to be connected to a utility grid, and will not operate when they do not detect the presence of the grid. They contain special circuitry to precisely match the voltage and frequency of the grid. Grid-tie inverters are designed to shut down automatically upon loss of utility supply, for safety reasons. They do not provide backup power during utility outages.These are higher priced than standalone and require special laws to be used.They are always used in solar power plants connected to the grid.

Here is a list of solar inverter manufacturers in Australia

  1. SMA Solar – The Big Daddy of the Solar Inverter Market with a   40% Marketshare of the Global Market,this Germany company has become the most valued solar company in Germany beating out the old stalwarts like Q-Cells  and Solarworld. SMA Solar sells all ranges of solar inverters in various sizes which are suitable for every size and segment.SMA Solar sells for a premium as compared to the lesser known brands but its long history of quality and reliability make it the hottest selling solar inverter.
  2. Xantrex/Schneider Electric – This European Electrical Equipment Giant got into the solar inverter market by buying up Canadian Producer Xantrex.Like SMA Solar Schneider is known for its premium high quality products.
  3. Power One – The US power management company has shown the fastest growth in 2010 and has increased its marketshare to around 13% to become the No.2 global player.Power-One is mainly concentrated in Europe and is now expanding to Asia and its home market of USA.PowerOne 2kW, 3.6kW. 4.2kW, 5kW and 6kW inverters are all AS4777 and Clean Energy Council approved.Power One has very good quality and sells cheaper the European manufacturers of solar inverters.Power One meets the trade-off in quality and price and IMHO the best solar inverter.
  4. Excelsior – This is a local Australian Brand of Solar Inverters.The company sells lower priced products and has been in the business for around 20 years.The comapny sells most of its Solar Inverter after sourcing it from SMA Solar .The price range is $1800 for a 1 kw inverter to $5000 for a 5 kw inverter.
  5. RefuSol – This is also a German manufacturer of solar inverter and is sold by distributors in Australia like the other solar inverters.
  6. Selectronic – Another local Australian  manufacturer of power inverters in Australia since 1983. It sells in the range of 0.1-13 kw .
  7. Kinglong – This is a Chinese inverter manufacture with headquarters in Beijing and three
    factories throughout China which has been growing rapidly in recent year.The company’s main selling point is its price which is cheaper than the European solar inverters.However you don’t get the efficiency of the premium models with Kinglong.The company sells solar inverters in the price range of $500 for a 1.5 kw inverter to $1500 for a 5 kw inverter under the brand of SunTeams.
  8. Sharp – Sharp is not known for manufacture or sale of solar inverters.It however sells a very small range of solar inverters mostly to boost its solar panel business in Australia.It sells a JH1600 E 1.6 kw solar inverter.

Solar Inverter Prices

Solar Inverters sell for a wide range of prices depending on the quality,brand and features.In general European solar inverters from SMA,Xantrex sell for a higher price than that from Chinese makers.The Chinese solar inverters are the cheapest as you can buy a 5 kw solar inverter for $1500 compared to $5000 for a premium solar inverter from SMA.Power One falls in the middle and it gives better quality and reliability compared to the Chinese and sells at a lower price as well.

Read more about solar microinverters and differences with solar inverters .These solar microinverters are becoming the rage in USA.

GUIDE on Buying Solar Panels

Review of Solar Panels

Like other places in the globe,Chinese solar panel manufacturers have captured the lion’s share of the market with their aggressive pricing of good quality solar modules.However there are some European and Japanese companies like Sharp,REC which are present as well.These companies sell solar panels at a premium advertizing their better quality vis a vis the Asian solar panels.However the quality difference of the expensive Western solar panels is not that great for the pricing difference.So you would in general be better off buying Chinese solar panels of reputed companies like Suntech,Trina Solar,Yingli and others.Note these companies are much bigger than the Western companies and have a good track record as well.From a purely economic and cost benefit analysis you are better off buying the Chinese solar panels.

Cost of Solar Panels

Solar Panel  prices can differ widely depending on the technology,power,brand and quality.Thin Film Solar Panels are cheaper than the mainstream crystalline silicon solar panels.However they have lesser efficiency which means they take up more area to generate the same power.Solar Panels which are more efficient have a higher price.Monocrystalline Solar Cells cost more than the Multicrystalline Solar Cells.European and Japanese Brands also have a higher price tag while cheap imported Chinese panels cost less.Solar Panel prices have crashed by almost 30% in 2011 and you can get a 250 watt Solar Panel price at around $425 now.Expensive Panels might cost you more and you would have to pay $500. However for small installations ,panels can only be bought from  distributors which is more expensive and can cost you almost 50% more.Note Solar Panels form only a part of the total Solar System Cost.

List of Solar Panels Suppliers


Here is a list of the main Chinese Solar Panel companies which sell in the Australian Market

  1. Suntech – Suntech was  the world’s biggest producer of solar panels in 2010 and was one the first companies to set up operations in China.Its example was followed by a host of other Chinese companies.Suntech has been slow to expand compared to the fast growing small companies in China and has lost marketshare to them.It has started to vertically integrate in order to meet the low cost challenge from Trina and Yingli.Suntech makes one of the best quality Solar Panels in China.
  2. Yingli Green Energy – Yingli Green Energy is one of the oldest Chinese companies and is completely integrated from polysilicon.The company has been expanding rapidly and has one of the lowest cost structures in the industry.Yingli Green Energy has been sponsoring Football in Europe and has started a new line of high efficiency “Panda” Solar Panels.Yingli is the second biggest producer of Solar Panels in China
  3. Trina Solar – Trina Solar is one of the lowest cost manufacturers of Solar Panels in the World right now and also sells it at a very low price.This is the reason that the company in a span of few short years has managed to acquire a substantial  global marketshare.The prices the solar panels being sold are around $340 per 200 watt module.Trina Solar.Like Yingli and Suntech,Trina Solar Panels are one the best quality in China
  4. Hanwha Solar One – The Company which was recently acquired by South Korean Chemicals Giant Hanwha also makes one of the cheapest panels and sells it a very low price.The quality is also quite good and with strong parentage behind it,the solar panels made by the company.Again like Trina Solar,it has very low cost Chinese manufacturing capacity.The company was earlier known as Solarfun.
  5. Canadian Solar – The Company sells a wide variety of solar panels unlike other producers.The Solar Panel Selling Price is also quite cheap.The Company is headquartered in Canada with factories in China and Ontario.Canadian Solar is the 5th biggest producer of Solar Panels in China.
  6. LDK Solar – This is the biggest producer of solar wafers that are used by crystalline solar panels but is losing its No.1 position to GCL Poly.Is expanding rapidly into other parts of the solar supply chain and could break into top 10 solar panel producer in the next couple of years.LDK Solar is building a huge solar panel and cell production facility.It sells Solar Panels mostly to other Solar Panel Companies.
  7. Jinko Solar – Jinko Solar has shown the fastest growth rates in the Chinese Solar Panel Industry.The company is expanding again to become one of the Top 5 Solar Panel Producers in China.Jinko Solar like Trina and Yingli is vertically integrated and has one of the lowest cost solar panel production process.

European Solar Panel Companies

Renewable Energy Corporation – It is Norwegian manufacturer of mainly polysilicon and wafers.It suffered like other Europeans from the declines in solar panel prices.Has moved manufacturing to Singapore to lower its cost.Fell down the rankings due to tough competition.However is completely integrated.

BP Solar – This Oil and Gas Company also sells Solar Panels though it has stopped manufacturing them.The company had a factory to make solar cells and solar panels in Australia which was sold 3-4 years ago to Silex Solar.For ethical reasons and also because of cost I don’t recommend buying BP Solar Panels.

Note European companies are under huge pressure from low cost Chinese competition and some are closing their operations.So you need to be careful in buying solar panels from companies as you may lose the 25 year warranty if the company closes down.

Japanese Solar Panel Companies

Japanese Solar Panels are sold by giant Japanese conglomerates like Sharp,Panasonic and others.Unlike the Chine

1) Sharp – Sharp,the Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues.Sharp has been the solar world leader since the past 4-5 years despite stiff competition recently  from upcoming Chinese Crystalline Solar (c-Si) players and Thin Film Leader First Solar

Sharp’s c-Si division is not cost competitive with the Chinese and Taiwanese companies as its cost structure is almost 30-40% higher than the cheapest Chinese producers.Though the quality of Sharp’s crystalline silicon modules is considered much better,the cost difference has become too big in a rapidly commoditizing industry

While companies like Masdar are abandoning their Thin Film plans,Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity  plant in Sakai.With its established distribution strengths and technological abilities in LCD Technology,Sharp is one company that can survive the c-Si onslaught.

2) Sanyo-Panasonic  – Sanyo plans to invest more than  70% of its total investment over the next  3 years in its renewable energy and energy storage segments.Sanyo has never been as successful in the hyper competitive electronics market as other Japanese companies like Sony or Sharp.However its lithium batteries and solar panels possess cutting edge technology.Its solar panels with proprietary HIT technology rival the best  in terms of efficiency and quality.

Panasonic after acquiring Sanyo has completely changed its strategy to become a major Green Player targeting a Major Percentage of Sales in the future to come  from Green Products.Panasonic which is the world’s biggest Plasma TV producer is going to spend $1 Billion on Green Building investments.Panasonic will combine its Green Strengths with Sanyo’s to sell a complete Eco-Friendly Home complete with Solar Power,LED Lighting and Energy Storage and Efficiency capabilities.In Solar where Panasonic  is the No. 3 player in Japan behind Sharp and Kyocera ,it is speeding up the expansion of solar capacity.It will spend more than $500 million aiming to triple its energy solutions business in Europe to 800 Million Euros by 2016.

3) Kyocera – Kyocera is Japan’s second largest solar panel producing company.The company recently won a major contract to build a solar farm in Thailand.Unlike other companies it has been slow off the blocks and unless  it perks up its game,it is likey to become a even smaller company in the global scheme of things.

USA Solar Panel Companies

Sunpower – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels.The company bought Powerlight a few years ago to enter the solar systems market and has bolstered the business constantly to become a major global installer.Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar sytems business namely a)residential b)commercial and c) utility. It is one of the largest US installers and has recently won a number of large utility contracts for building solar farms.

Note First Solar which is the second largest supplier of solar panels has also started making solar panels for residential applications.However this solar panel supplier due to its technology remains mainly a supplier to big power plants .

Australian Solar Panel Companies

 Silex Solar – This is the largest Australian solar panel supplier buy puny by international standards.Like Western companies it is too under huge pressure and may have difficulty in surviving.It recently fired some workers and has decided to buy solar cells from outside than making them

Dyesol – The company is a startup making esoteric new generation organic solar cells and panels.The technology still has a long way to mature and is not a mainstream commercial company yet.


There a number of small companies that sell solar panels but they buy all the solar cells and panels from outside suppliers.So you would be better off buying solar panels from the companies listed above.There are some other solar panel suppliers but they are not focusing on selling at this time on Australia though that may change with time.You can read the following articles to get a better understanding of the solar panel market and how to buy.

  1. Which is the Lowest Cost Solar Panel Manufacturer in the World
  2.  Free Solar Panels – They don’t Exist and Why you should not Confuse Free with Government Subsidies
  3. Solar Panels Efficiency – Range,Technology Dependence,Companies with Highest Efficient Solar Modules



Abhishek Shah

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