The Pros & Cons of Solar Panels in Australia

Technology is constantly evolving – and as it does, we’re all becoming more focused on how we can use it to ensure the sustainability of our planet. Solar power is one example of how we’re starting to achieve this. In 2016, the aircraft industry made history with an entirely solar-powered aircraft completing a round-the-world trip. Only a year before in 2015, India opened the world’s first completely solar-powered airport.

Closer to home in Australia, our solar power industry is still comparatively in its infancy. Our focus solely remains on property, predominantly residential homes, although some commercial businesses also take part. In this blog, we take a look at the pros and cons of solar panels in Victoria and what we think the future might look like.

 

Budget or premium – which is worth the money?

Some companies have been selling ‘budget’ solar panels for as little as $2000 after the government rebate. There are also others offering more premium versions with an extensive warranty period. While each version has their pros and cons it’s difficult to say for certain which option is better.

While you will get a quicker ROI when choosing the cheaper option, it will only take you so far. Based on online reviews, there may be a lot of issues and it could lead to you having to dismantle it to replace it with a new, more expensive system.

If you choose the premium model, it will take longer for you to receive a ROI, but you should receive more benefit and definitely a better warranty. The risk is we don’t know for certain if they will perform as well as promised. Only time will tell.

 

How much power are you using?

It’s important to consider how much power your household is using before investing in solar power as this will determine the size of the system you require. For example, if you install a really small system it will help reduce your bills, but it won’t put any kW back into the grid. If you install a really large a system, you may end up only using half of its power and most likely it will perform way less than a smaller system due to the imbalanced set up.

In some regions of Australia (for example regional Queensland and Western Australia), the network company is also the company that sells you electricity but in most cases it’s not like in NSW, Victoria, and southeast Queensland. In Victoria’s western suburbs, Powercor currently only allow 5kW per phase back into the grid.

The original architects of our electricity infrastructure did not intend for electricity to move in the other direction. This doesn’t make it impossible, but it can potentially be tricky for the networks to manage on a technological level – especially when there are a lot of distributed systems all feeding back to the grid in the same area. This is the main reason why networks put limits on system sizes, at least until such a time as the grid gets a lot ‘smarter’ and better at handling bidirectional electricity flow.

 

What about the feed-in tariff?

While some people think the feed-in tariff is a great way to make an ROI quickly, it’s not a long-term solution and the offers are only decreasing every year. It’s also important to note that some energy providers will offer a high feed-in tariff as part of a marketing ploy. If you look closely you’ll see their electricity prices are significantly higher than more common energy plans.

Ultimately, we think you’re better off with a well-balanced size system and a smaller feed-in tariff plan that comes with higher discounts on used electricity.

 

The future

In 10-15 years, we expect there will be new solar panel systems available, capable of creating energy in extreme low light conditions, with better and smarter inverters. Ideally, packages will include compact battery storage as well.

Whatever the case may be, we think it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re picking the right solar panel for your home. By being savvy consumers, we’ll continue to make the energy providers more competitive, leading to a more sustainable Australia.

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