Unexplained drop in solar power system’s performance


So, you installed a solar power system, and everything was going well. Your electricity bills decreased, and you’ve been generating your own free energy. But recently you’ve noticed your bills have been creeping back up, and the solar power system just isn’t performing how it used to.

solar panel production

While a change of weather and gradual degradation of a system over the years can play a part, if a solar power system has had a sudden and unexplainable drop in performance it may be due to the following reasons;

Solar Inverter Failure

If your solar power system has suddenly stopped producing power, the most likely cause would be an issue with the inverter. Inverters can unexpectedly shut down due to grid faults or if the circuit breaker has tripped. If this is the case, the lights on a solar inverter will give you an indication that there is a problem.

  • Green = inverter is operating as it should
  • Blinking Green = low amount of sunlight is on the panels
  • No colour = no sunlight is on the panels (this is normal at night, but if this is occurring on a sunny day it may be a sign that there is a fault with your panels or inverter)
  • Red/Orange/Yellow = error code

If the inverter is showing an error code, you will need to contact your solar installer to troubleshoot the best solution. If a replacement inverter is recommended, be sure to look over your warranty to see if the costs can be covered.

solar panel micro-crack

Solar Panel Micro-fractures

Solar panel micro-cracks also referred to as solar cell micro-cracks or cell fractures can occur during the manufacturing, transportation or installation process of panels and in some cases may happen during extreme weather conditions.

Micro-cracks will not always result in an immediate drop in solar panel production; however, they can progressively get worse over time. Some micro-cracks aren’t easily spotted and maybe ruled out as the cause of a solar power system’s lack of performance. If the manufacturer has not packaged the solar panels correctly before shipment, micro-cracks are highly possible to occur during transportation.

The best way to avoid micro-cracks is by ensuring you select high-quality solar panels produced from reputable manufacturers.

dirty solar panels

Dirt and Shading

To get the most out of a solar power system, you will want the solar panels to have full exposure to the sun between the hours of 9 am-3 pm at the very least. Shading over the panels caused by trees, antennas or other objects between these times can profoundly affect the overall production of your solar panels.

A build-up of dirt and dust on the solar panels can also be the reason for a decrease in performance. However, this can be easily fixed by hosing down the panels once in a while on a cool evening and performing or booking in a thorough clean every few months.

If you have ruled out these scenarios as a cause for your system’s sudden drop in performance, it may be time to speak to an installer about upgrading or replacing your system.

Be put in touch with local solar providers for obligation-free quotes so you can compare and get the best deal for you!


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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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