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This page is available to download as a Fact Sheet: Solar energy information for Tasmanian homes (PDF).
Solar panels can reduce power bills, but before you invest in solar panels or solar hot water, assess your home for energy efficiency. Consider replacing incandescent or halogen light globes with CFL (compact fluorescent) or LED (light emitting diode) globes. Install insulation in ceilings and underfloor areas, and stop draughts around windows and doors by sealing the gaps. These measures are the most cost effective ways to reduce your energy bill.
Installing a photovoltaic (PV) solar power system means you can capture the sun’s energy to generate electricity at home.
On your Aurora Energy electricity bill, there is a section telling you the average number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day that your household uses.
In Tasmania, a roof receives on average 3.5 hours of sunlight per day. Multiplying the size of a PV system by this number of hours gives you the average kWh per day the system will generate. Bear in mind this will vary considerably from winter to summer, and depend on cloud cover.
2.5kW system x 3.5 hours = 8.75kWh per day
4.5kW system x 3.5 hours = 15.75kWh per day.
To calculate the size of the PV system you will need, take the daily kWh usage from your Aurora Energy electricity bill and divide it by 3.5 hours. For example, if your bill says you use 14kWh per day then you will need a 4kW system.
The size of the solar inverter in a PV system needs to meet or exceed the output of the solar panels. It might seem like a good investment to get a large inverter with a small number of panels and add on extra panels later. However, products on the market change regularly and there is a risk that newer panels will not be compatible with an older inverter. Therefore, it is best to match the inverter size to the number of panels when you first install the system.
The solar panels should be placed on the side of your roof that receives the most direct sunlight. Where possible, this should be a north-facing roof. The panels should not be in shade at any time of the day or year. Being shaded on even a small part of a panel reduces the efficiency of the whole system.
The solar panels also need to be kept clean and free from dust or debris that could affect output.
If your roof is flat, you will need to install a frame to bring the solar panels up to the angle where they will receive the most sunlight. This angle should be equal to the latitude at which the system will operate. Tasmania sits between 40.5 and 43.5 degrees of latitude.
A commercial provider of PV's can inspect the roof of your house, either in person or using Google Earth, to establish the correct system that will fit on your roof and where it would be best placed.
The solar feed-in tariff for new installations changes from year to year and depends on when your system was installed. Current rates are available from the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator website. You only receive the feed-in tariff rate for energy that is sent back to the grid. Energy that you use onsite at your home is directly offset from your power bill. This means that you get a discount off the full retail rate for any power that you generate and use in your home. Unfortunately the amount you get paid for the electricity you generate will always be less than the amount you pay to purchase electricity.
Because you receive a different rate of return from power used on site versus power exported to the grid, the payback period is complex to determine.
Assuming that you use 70 per cent of the solar power you generate at home, and export 30 per cent to the grid, the calculations for the minimum payback period are as follows. This example uses an energy cost (what you pay for energy) of 25.20 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kWh) and a tariff rate (what you earn) of 5.500c/kWh.
This is only a rough estimate because it does not take into account things like decline in the effectiveness of the panels over time, sub-optimal placement of the panels, or periods of very cloudy weather.
The output of the solar panels will gradually decline over time and the level of decline can vary from one model to another.
Make sure that the warranty period on your inverter and panels exceeds your calculated payback period.
Important note: The standard electricity meter attached to your house will measure both the electricity you use in your home and the excess electricity you export to the grid. On your Aurora Energy electricity bill these values are added together in the ‘Billing Period Comparison’ graph instead of being shown separately, so it will look as if your electricity consumption has increased. Unless your bill has also increased, there is no need to worry.
A list of accredited solar installers is available on the Clean Energy Council website. Many suppliers offer arrangements where you can pay for your system in instalments over time.
Electricity used for hot water is metered separately on your Aurora bill as either Tariff 41 or Tariff 42. The current electricity rates are available from the Aurora Energy website. Solar hot water systems do not feed energy back into the grid, so you can use this rate to calculate the payback period.
The most effective type of solar hot water for Tasmanian homes is an evacuated tube system, rather than flat panels. The tubes magnify the amount of sun reaching the thin PV panels inside, even when the sun is low in the sky. Importantly, if one tube breaks, the rest of the system will still work.
Evacuated tubes in Tasmania should be angled to around 50 degrees. This maximises the winter sun and avoids excess supply in the summer months when it’s not needed.
Solar hot water systems will have either a gas or electric booster to keep the water hot enough when the sun is not shining.
Gas boosters are effective instantaneously whereas electric boosters can take a while to warm up. Electric boosters should be set on a timer so they do not run during the middle of the day when hot water is generally not needed.