Despite over 1.5 million homes in Australia having a solar PV system installed on their roof, many people are still unsure if solar is really worth it.
This page will explore the advantages and disadvantages of installing a solar PV system, and how to decide if it’s the right choice for your home.
One of the main advantages of solar, and one of the chief motivators behind installing a system, is the significant financial savings it can bring your household. Rather than purchasing electricity from the grid for around 24 cents a kWh/unit, your home can instead be powered by the free solar electricity your system generates via the sun.
As we investigated in a previous blog, utilising a high percentage of the electricity your solar system generates can save you well over $1000 every year for a four person home. This means if your system is sized to your home and consumption correctly, payback periods can be just a few years in Australia.
Plus, your electricity retailer may offer a feed-in tariff for any excess solar electricity you export to the grid. Prices differ from state to state, although they are usually around the 5 to 10 cents per unit/kWh. This is added as a credit to your electricity bill, and will help your bills reduce even further.
Requiring zero fuel, solar energy is a great alternative to traditional fossil fuels. Utilising the free light energy created by the sun, solar does not release any harmful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are all present after coal has been burnt, and thus are associated with traditional coal fire power stations.
Plus, unlike nuclear energy, solar energy does not produce radioactive waste, is renewable, and freely available.
Electricity prices are expected to increase for most of the country over the next few years, according to the Australian Energy Market Commission’s annual report. Rises of 2.4 and 9.3% are expected, mainly due to the closures of South Australian and Victorian based coal-fired power stations.
Installing a solar PV system on your roof limits the amount of energy you’ll have to buy at increased prices from the grid.
While there are several alternative renewable energy sources available like wind and hydropower, solar is much more affordable and easily accessible to the average Australian homeowner.
In addition, due to an oversupply of Chinese solar panels, wattage prices for panels have recently hit an all-time low, and are expected to dip even further in 2017. Bloomberg New Energy Finance Head of Americas, Ethan Zindler, estimating prices as low as $US0.30 per Watt (wholesale).
A Federal Government Policy, The Renewable Energy Target (RET), was created to ensure 33,000GWh of energy will be generated by renewable sources by 2020. To help achieve this target, the two schemes have been set up, including the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), which applies to small scale renewable installations.
To encourage homeowners to install renewable energy sources like solar power, the SRES issues Small-scale Technology Certificates, otherwise known as STCs.
Homeowners who purchase a solar system will receive 1 STC for every MWh (megawatt hour) of electricity their system will generate until 2030. STCs are traded and bought on the open market which means their value can fluctuate, although they currently trade for around $38 each.
STCs can take thousands of dollars off the upfront cost of a brand new solar pv system, making them much more affordable for the average Australian family.
Solar energy will be freely available for as long as the sun exists (another 5 billion years), regardless of location or socioeconomic situation.
This is particular important in third world countries where electricity is not yet widespread, including Africa, where it’s estimated 585 million people lack access to electricity. New solar companies have begun tackling this problem, providing solar electricity to hundreds of thousands of households every day.
Thanks to no moving parts, solar PV systems require very little to no maintenance. Most solar panels have a guaranteed life of 25 years, and in this time, all the maintenance they’ll require will be a clean every now and again (although rain usually does an adequate job).
While the price of solar has hit an all-time low, it can still be too much of an expense for some home owners. Thankfully, there are other options including financing and Power Purchase Agreements, otherwise known as PPAs.
With a PPA, a solar provider will install a system on your roof, and instead of paying for the system outright, you only pay for the electricity it produces. This is typically substantially less than what you would pay for electricity from the grid. At the end of the agreed upon term, ownership of the system passes onto you, the homeowner.
As your panels only produce electricity when the sun is shining, your system will not generate electricity during the night. This leaves a substantial part of the day where you cannot use your system and must instead purchase electricity from the grid.
To combat this, you could invest in a solar battery system, although their high price is still a barrier for many homeowners.
To ensure investing in a solar PV system is a fiscally sound decision, one of the things you’ll need to consider is your system’s payback period. This means the amount of time it will take until the savings your system generates equals the initial cost of the system.
To determine your system’s payback period, visit our handy Solar Savings Calculator.
If no one in your household is home during the day, solar is probably not the best choice for your home, as no one will be there to utilise your system’s free electricity. However, if your home has a stay-at-home parent, or if you work from home, are retired, or are willing to adapt your energy usage and time appliances (washing machine, dish washer etc) to operate during the day, solar is most likely a great fit.
However, as every home is different, the best way to determine if solar is right for your lifestyle is to get personalised quotes from different local solar providers, which you can get by clicking here.
In our opinion, the benefits of installing solar far outweigh the negatives, and with 1.5 million homes in Australia having solar already installed, many homeowners agree.