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Australia Solar Power – A comprehensive Guide to Panels, Inverters, Rebates

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Australia Solar

Australia has seen a big increase in solar panel installations due to generous subsidies given by individual states in Australia, like New South Wales and others. Unlike other parts of the world where solar installations have started with large solar farms; residential rooftop installations have powered Solar Energy in Australia. The major Solar Panel Suppliers in Australia are foreign manufacturers as Australia does not have a local content policy to promote manufacturing of solar cells or solar panels. Only a few handful of companies have manufacturing operations in the country. Almost all of the solar panels sold in Australia are imported.

Australian Solar Panel Companies

 Silex Solar – This is the largest Australian solar panel supplier. Like Western companies it is too under huge Solar Powerpressure 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.

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.

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 range 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 company sells most of its Solar Inverters 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 years. The company’s main selling point is its price which is cheaper than the European solar inverters. However you do not 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 Rebates in Australia

Solar Rebates are a very important decision making factor when buying solar panels for your home or office or factory. 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.

Here is a list of the solar rebates and subsidies available in Australia:

Basic Concepts

‘Net’ feed in tariff – is 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.

Gross feed in tariff – measures the ‘gross’ or total amount of electricity generated by a renewable energy generator that is exported to the grid. ‘Gross’ feed-in tariff is 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 Tariffs 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

Solar Power Credit Scheme

What are Solar Credits?

 The Australian Government is supporting the deployment of renewable energy in Australia’s electricity supply through the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. The RET guarantees a market for additional renewable energy generation, using a mechanism of trade-able renewable energy certificates. Solar Credits is a mechanism within the RET scheme that provides additional support to households, businesses and community groups, who install small-scale solar PV, wind and hydro electricity systems; by multiplying the number of RECs, able to be created for eligible 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 permit 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 is 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) systemsNo more than 100 kW and a total annual electricity output less than 250 MWhOn or after 14 November 2005

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
Multiplier
9 June 2009 – 30 June 20105 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2010 – 30 June 20115 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2011 – 30 June 20123 x [number of eligible STCs] *
1 July 2012 – 30 June 20132 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2013 – onwards1 x [number of eligible STCs]
(ie no multiplier
)

What are Solar Multipliers

As the costs of small solar systems are higher, the Government gives a solar multiplier to solar REC being generated by small system providers. This multiplier is reduced with each passing year as the solar panels costs go down. The Solar Credits multiplier applies to the first 1.5 kilowatts (kW) of capacity of the system installed for systems connected to a main electricity grid and up to the first 20 kW of capacity for off-grid systems.

How are Solar Credits Obtained and SoldUse of System Provider

While system owners can create and sell the certificates themselves, in practice, providers of solar PV systems usually offer a discount on the price of a solar PV system, or a cash payment, in return for the right to create and sell the Solar Credits.

How much Money do you get from Solar Credits

Solar Credits are provided in the form of STCs, for people who have installed  a new and eligible solar PV system (or other small generation unit). The level of support provided by Solar Credits depends on the location and size of the system and the price of STCs. The STCs are able to be traded at $40 through a voluntary clearing house established by the ORER under the new Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Alternatively they can be sold on the STC market, usually for a lower price.Why do Solar Credits vary across cities like Sydney, Perth and HobartEach place receives a different amount of sunlight so places with more sunshine receives less STCs while places with lower amount of solar radiation get more.

  • A solar PV system in Zone 3 for which includes Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra will create the same number of STCs and potentially receive a similar level of support.
  • The same sized system installed in Zone 4 which includes Melbourne or Hobart will receive fewer STCs as these areas have less sunshine so less renewable energy is produced.

How to apply for Solar Credits – Using a Solar Contractor

Generally when installing solar PV systems, owners transfer the right to create STCs to their solar panel supplier in return for a discount on the price of the system being installed. Owners can do this directly or through an agent by applying to the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator(ORER) any time within 12 months following the date of installation. Conditions for Getting Solar Credits

  • The system must be an eligible ‘small generation unit’; being a solar PV system of up to 100 kilowatts (kW) capacity
  • The system must be installed at an eligible premises. Examples include houses, townhouses, residential apartments and shops.
  • The system must be a new and complete unit.
  • No more than one system at an eligible premises (address) is entitled to Solar Credits.
  • Solar Credits may only be created once for a particular installation, irrespective of whether the certificates are created for a 1-year, 5-year or 15 year deeming period.

Money received by typical 1.5kW solar panel system installed across Australia up until 30 June 2012:

CityApproximate maximum level of support
5x Solar Credits multiplier (systems installed up to 30 June 2011)4x Solar Credits multiplier available under transitional arrangements for pre 5 May 2011 contracts (systems installed from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012)3x Solar Credits multiplier (systems installed from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012)
Adelaide$6,200 (155 STCs)$4,960 (124 STCs)$3,720 (93 STCs)
Brisbane$6,200 (155 STCs)$4,960 (124 STCs)$3,720 (93 STCs)
Canberra$6,200 (155 STCs)$4,960 (124 STCs)$3,720 (93 STCs)
Darwin$6,880 (172 STCs)$5,520 (138 STCs)  $4,120 (103 STCs)
Hobart$5,320 (133 STCs)$4,240 (106 STCs)$3,160 (79 STCs)
Melbourne$5,320 (133 STCs)$4,240 (106 STCs)$3,160 (79 STCs)
Perth$6,200 (155 STCs)$4,960 (124 STCs)$3,720 (93 STCs)
Sydney$6,200 (155 STCs)$4,960 (124 STCs)$3,720 (93 STCs)

Summary

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 resulted in the capacity limits being reached and most of the state solar subsidy schemes have been withdrawn. However the Australian federal Government is offering the Renewable Energy Credit Scheme under which solar power generated is eligible to get solar credits which can be sold in the open market for cash. 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 than any continent in the world, which means solar industry has the greatest potential there.

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Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to greensneha@yahoo.in or call me on +913340606492.

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