A Guide to
understanding
solar power

Solar power is continuing to gain in popularity throughout Australia and the world, as people strive to produce clean renewable energy, and understand the environmental and potential financial benefits of going solar. There are many different ways to join in the solar power revolution, and this guide will walk you through everything you need to get started.

At its core, solar power is a fairly simple concept. However, when you start talking application and begin hearing about solar storage, inverters, roof tilt, and all of the variables that impact on solar energy, it can be overwhelming. We’ve broken it down so that you can understand the key elements of solar power and decide whether or not it’s the right choice for you.

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Solar power
definition

Solar power is the generation of electricity through the conversion of sunlight. It is generally done through a process that uses photovoltaics (PV). Using PV, solar energy is converted into direct current electricity via specially made solar panels.

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How PV Solar Power Works

Your solar panel array will sit outdoors (preferably on a rooftop), collecting sunlight that can directly power your appliances while the sun is shining; or be stored in a solar battery to provide energy at any time. Aside from the costs of set-up and infrequent maintenance, this equates to free energy that, for these purposes, is only limited to the size of your solar system.

Solar power
systems

Depending on the type of solar power system you are looking for, you may need a variety of different components. The simplest form of solar power system is a PV-direct one. This means that the solar panel array is tied directly into the load it will be powering. This method only works when the sun is shining, and so is only suitable in very specific circumstances.

Grid-tied systems are perhaps the most popular model. These systems take solar power directly to the home and also tie it in to the utility grid, allowing unused energy to be purchased by your electricity retailer. These systems can also include a battery, for optimal efficiency. This allows you to store a certain amount of solar power for use when the sun is not out, but also provides you access to the power grid as a back-up.

Off-grid systems consist of the solar panel array, a battery bank, a charge controller, and an inverter. The panel array provides electricity directly to the home, but also charges the solar battery (or batteries). As with any solar system that includes a battery, you will require a charge controller to prevent over-charging and an inverter to convert the DC electricity into usable AC electricity. These systems are 100% solar powered and offer no utility back-up.

Batteries

The solar battery is generally a deep-cycle, lead-acid battery type. It is possible to tie in an entire bank of batteries for one solar system, which may be advisable if your solar panels are capable of producing more electricity than you generally need at one time and your energy needs in the evening are relatively high. Using a solar battery allows you to store excess solar power that you would otherwise lose out on. These batteries can serve as a way to run your full electricity load on solar power, even long after the sun has set, or to provide back-up in case of service interruptions from the national grid.

Economics

Solar power systems definitely have the potential to deliver large financial savings, especially in the long-term. Although there are costs associated with the initial set-up of your system, that cost is normally offset by the energy savings you can gain through the use of solar power. The cost of installing solar has been decreasing in Australia for some time. Whilst the installation costs for smaller systems of 4.5kW or less has remained relatively flat, for larger systems, that number has dropped significantly. This means that it’s now more affordable than ever to install a solar power system capable of running an entire home.

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Where to
find help

This site explores many of the facets of solar power systems in greater detail, from the system components to the various options you have in system set-up. We will also help you discover and compare quotes for designing a unique solar power system that fits your individual needs. To learn even more about the state of solar power, you can turn to the Australian PV Institute, the Solar Energy Industry Association, or any number of other online resources and solar-centric organizations that exist today.

Is solar power
right for me?

Weighing up whether or not to convert to solar power can be complex, and there are many considerations. You have to take stock of your budget, your energy needs, your potential for financial savings, and a number of other factors including: sun exposure in your local area, feed-in tariffs, storage requirements and more. The benefits generally far outweigh the negatives though, so it is certainly worth exploring. Let us crunch the numbers for you, so you can make an informed decision about whether or not solar power is the way to go.