Solar options

Solar options

If you are thinking of joining thousands of other Queenslanders who have already installed a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, the following information may help you decide.

Is solar power right for you?

Solar power should be used during the day while it’s being made.

Currently, you get the most value out of a solar PV system by ‘self-consumption’, meaning using all the solar power yourself.

Therefore, solar power is best for households that have at least one person at home when the sun is out, and businesses that operate during daylight hours.

If you don’t use all of your solar power during the day, it might be possible to export the excess to the electricity grid (read more below).

Another option is to install a battery to store your unused solar power for later use. However, battery storage is quite a new technology and can be expensive, so do your research to see if it’s a good option for you. You can also read our Battery storage webpages.

What does ‘exporting to the grid’ mean?

Power from a solar PV system is generally used to supply your premises first. Any excess solar power that is not used by your home or business may be ‘fed-in’, to the electricity grid (if you are approved to connect and export1). This is what ‘exporting to the grid’ means.

What types of solar PV systems are there?

Grid-connected

These solar PV systems are connected to the electricity grid and are the most common in Australia. During the day, solar power is generally used first by your premises before using electricity from the grid. If you don’t use all of your solar power each day, the excess may be exported to the electricity grid (if you are approved to connect and export1).

At night when your system isn’t making solar power, you have the back-up of a safe and reliable electricity supply from the grid.

Grid-connected with battery storage

These solar PV systems are connected to the electricity grid and also have their own battery storage. Your unused solar power each day can be stored in the battery for your use at night. This helps you save even more on your power bills. And you still have the back-up support of electricity from the grid. They are also known as hybrid solar PV systems.

Stand-alone

These solar PV systems are not connected to the grid and therefore must have their own battery storage or back-up generation (eg. diesel generator) for power supply. The costs to buy and install a stand-alone system with back-up generation/battery storage are much higher than grid-connected systems2. They are usually installed in remote locations where the cost to connect to the electricity grid is much higher.

What Government schemes are available?

The Queensland Government offers a solar feed-in tariff in regional Queensland and the Australian Government the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. There’s a lot to know about these programs so check out our Government schemes webpage.

What solar PV companies should you use?

It’s very important to get several quotes from approved solar retailers and accredited solar installers. The key is to know the important questions to ask when you meet with them.

Approved solar retailers

When choosing a solar retailer, it’s important to shop around for the best value for money, not necessarily the cheapest price.

A good sales consultant should:

  • Visit your work or home and look at your electricity bills for at least the past year
  • Consider the appliances and other electrical loads you have, and the times of day you use the most power
  • Ask you what may change over the coming years with your power usage
  • Explain all the additional costs that might be involved, such as upgrading your switchboard and/or meter to allow you to connect a solar PV system.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has more helpful advice on their finding an approved solar retailer webpage.

Accredited solar installers

We and the CEC also recommend you use an accredited solar installer. Find one that is local, has been in business for some time and is happy to provide references from satisfied customers. Approved solar retailers will only use accredited solar installers.

Remember – to be eligible for Government schemes, one condition is that your system must be installed by a CEC accredited installer.

What approvals are needed?

An application must be submitted to connect your solar PV system to our electricity grid. It can be submitted by you, your solar retailer or installer, or any other third party you allow3. Applications can be completed online by you via our Network Online Services, or by your retailer/installer via our Electrical Partners Portal.

Once received, we’ll assess your connection application and make a connection offer to you.  This offer will include terms and conditions, such as the capacity of your solar PV inverter and whether it can export to the grid.

You can also use the online application form to apply to:

  • Add panels to an existing system
  • Increase the inverter capacity of an existing system
  • Add battery storage to an existing system.

What if you receive an options letter?

When we receive your connection application we will complete a technical assessment if necessary. If your application does not pass that assessment, we'll give you a number of options for your proposed system before making a connection offer to you.

There are various reasons why the system you applied for may not pass the technical assessment, such as the local transformer being too small to support the inverter capacity you wish to connect.

We will work with you to explore your options, even if you still want to proceed with your original application. Read more on our Applications that fail assessment webpage.

We support going solar

The electricity industry is changing. It’s no longer just the supply of power from traditional fossil fuels, like coal.

Renewable energy as a source of power is playing a bigger part and already produces over 11% of the electricity we supply from our main grid. We have also installed solar PV systems on some of our  buildings.

We support going solar because there are many benefits of solar power, from helping the environment to reducing your power bills.

More frequently asked questions

Check out our other FAQs for more information on going solar.

What steps do you take to convert to solar?

There's a lot to do and think about when buying and installing a solar PV system.  Check out our Buyer's checklist webpage for the steps you should take.

What does a solar PV system cost?

The price of a solar PV system can vary a lot. This depends on many things, such as:

  • The size, type and quality
  • Location and orientation on your roof
  • Type and height of your roof
  • Site preparation works
  • Installation costs
  • After sales service agreements.

The Clean Energy Council has a great guide on their Solar PV costs and savings webpage.

Can you lease a solar PV system?

Yes it’s possible to lease a system from some solar PV retailers. If you are considering this option, please remember that a connection application must still be submitted to us for assessment and approval. It’s a good idea to get connection approval before you sign the lease agreement.

Will you have to change your electricity meter?

If your premises has never had solar installed, the existing meter will need to be replaced with a new bi-directional meter. Your solar installer will notify us when your PV system is ready for inspection, and if we need to replace your meter you will be charged a fee. The costs are outlined on our Upfront meter charge webpage.

What is a net metering arrangement?

Please note that a net metering5 arrangement is required to be eligible for the regional feed-in tariff. This means that the power you generate through your solar PV system is used to supply your premises’ energy needs first. Any excess solar power that is not used in your home or business premises is exported to the grid.

What direction should solar panels face?

Because Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun shines from the north. So over a year, solar panels are most efficient when facing north and tilted at an appropriate angle. However, if you use the most power in the afternoon, west facing solar panels may best meet your electricity needs.

There are many things to consider with placement of solar panels, so you are best to discuss it with a solar retailer or installer. The most important thing is to avoid shadows from trees and other buildings.

What happens if you move?

It is possible to take your solar PV system with you if you move, but not the electricity meter. Moving a solar PV system must of course be done by an accredited solar installer, who will charge you a fee.

There are also costs if we have to replace your meter to allow a solar connection at your new place. Read more on our Upfront meter charge webpage.

You will need to apply for connection again at your new premises if you wish to connect your solar PV system to the grid.  So it’s a good idea to seek our approval to connect your solar PV system well before you move.

What should you do in a storm, cyclone or flood?

Even during a power outage on the main grid, your solar panels can keep making electricity – and if its set to export this power into the grid, it can pose a risk to anyone near the powerlines. Also, your PV system can become unsafe if it’s damaged during bad weather.

Therefore it’s very important to know what to do before and after a storm, cyclone or flood, so please read our Solar power safety webpage.

How do you insure a solar PV system?

Your home or business insurance may automatically cover your new solar PV system. Make sure you check with your insurance company if it will be covered, or if you need to update your policy.

Who should you contact if your PV system stops working?

If it’s still under warranty, contact the solar retailer you bought it from. If you cannot contact them, try to contact the manufacturer (details should be on the warranty). If it’s out of warranty, contact an approved solar retailer or accredited solar installer to get quotes for repair costs.

What should you do if you have a complaint or dispute?

If you have a complaint with your solar retailer or installer, the Clean Energy Council’s webpage on Solar PV warranties, complaints and disputes has some great information to help you.

How can you avoid solar scams?

The Clean Energy Council has a useful webpage on how to avoid solar scams.

Solar team

Our dedicated Solar Team is ready to answer your questions about connecting a solar PV system, battery storage or other micro embedded generating unit4 to our network. Please call 1300 553 924 (Mon to Fri, 7am – 6.30pm) or email solarteam@ergon.com.au.

Footnotes

  1. You must first seek approval from us to connect your solar PV system to our electricity network.  We will complete a technical assessment (if necessary) of your application and then make a connection offer to you. This offer may include an exporting or non-exporting option for your solar PV system.
  2. Read more in the Energy Networks Association article Value of the Grid; and Energy Supply Association of Australia article Going off grid: Not as straight forward as it looks.
  3. Whoever is listed as 'the applicant' on your connection application form will receive our communications. So if 'the applicant' is someone else (eg. your solar retailer), make sure you ask them for updates on your connection application.
  4. Sometimes you will see solar PV and other renewable energy systems referred to as ‘micro embedded generating units’ or ‘micro EG units’. This is the technical term used for solar PV systems, batteries, wind or other generating units rated up to 200kVA, in line with Australian Standard AS 4777.2:2015.
  5. A net meter records the amount of electricity exported to the grid, rather than the total amount of electricity generated by the solar PV system.
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