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Wholesale Solar Panel Installation

Solar installers and households/businesses on Queensland’s legacy 44c solar feed in tariff (Solar Bonus Scheme) should be aware of pending changes to the scheme.

Queenslanders that applied to install rooftop solar power systems before the 10th of July 2012 were eligible for a 44 cent feed-in tariff1. This generous rate is locked in until the 1st of July 2028 – assuming nothing is done to make a system ineligible.

Queensland’s Energex originally sent an explainer to solar installers about the consequence of a Bill concerning the legacy FiT in September last year.

Last week, the Queensland Parliament re-introduced a Bill to change the Electricity Act 1994 (Qld) that Energex says provides clearer rules. If passed in its current form, 15 February 2018 will be the date that the changes came into effect rather than the previously advised date of 15 June 2017.

Summarising the pending 44c feed-in tariff changes:

Solar Array Upgrades And Oversizing

Array upgrades on 44c feed-in tariff-eligible systems must not result in a solar panel array capacity that exceeds the total inverter capacity – so no more oversizing. For those who entered a contract to purchase additional panels that take the total array capacity above inverter capacity before 15 February 2018, eligibility will remain assuming the upgrade occurs within a reasonable timeframe and there is a current financial commitment that can be proven if requested.

Replacing Solar Panels

When replacing failed panels, every effort must be made to match the wattage of the panels being replaced. Where this is not possible, an increase in wattage of up to 5% across the entire array is allowable without impacting 44c feed-in tariff eligibility and without requiring Energex consent.

Above 5% will require consent, a new connection application lodged2 and will jeopardise 44c feed in tariff eligibility. Energex advises that in cases where multiple solar panels need to be replaced, it may be necessary to reduce the number of panels to stay within the 5% limit.

Adding Batteries

While battery storage can be added, the system cannot be configured in a way that could result in the battery discharging while the solar power system is operating or more electricity being exported than would otherwise be possible. A schematic will need to be included with applications demonstrating compliance with the rule.

Adding Another System

Any type of generating system added to the same tariff circuit and operating at the same time as the qualifying PV system (except during blackouts), or one that is able to export to the grid will result in the 44c feed-in tariff being forfeited. This is a clarification rather than a change to current policy.

Assuming the Bill is passed, Energex warns it will be actively monitoring to ensure compliance with the above.

The Electricity and Other Legislation (Batteries and Premium Feed-in Tariff) Amendment Bill 2018 can be viewed here.

Other Premium FiT Conditions

The following actions also make a system ineligible for the 44c feed-in tariff:

  • moving house
  • selling or renting your house where this results in a new electricity account holder for the premises
  • increasing the capacity of your inverter
  • closing your electricity account
  • getting disconnected

More do’s and don’ts regarding maintaining 44c feed-in tariff eligibility can be found here.

Footnotes

  1. Current feed in tariff rates in Queensland range from 10c – 12c 
  2. Energex says a new connection application also needs to be lodged in these cases where a system is not on the 44c FiT

SOLAR TRENDS 2019

7 Solar Trends And Technologies To Watch For IN 2019

Indeed, it is an exciting time for the solar PV industry. From growing support from federal and labor government to better quality and more efficient solar components, it is expected that the future of solar is brighter than the sun. With all the technological advancements and solar trends that we have witnessed last year, what more can we expect in 2019?
Emerging Solar Panel Technology

1. Mono PERC’s popularity

Industry predicts that 2019 will be the year of mono PERC (passivated emitter rear contact) products. According to PV InfoLink, mono PERC panels are becoming a mainstream product this year, as many facilities are using this technology for production capacity. This can be inferred on higher than expected total PERC capacity, rising from 33.6 GW at the end of 2018, to 66.7 GW in late 2018.

Generally speaking, it will represent a 46% share of the market next year. PV InfoLink anticipated that if, as expected, mono PERC items achieve 310 W – 35 W more than multicrystalline modules – in 2019, more global manufacturers will swing to this technology.

www.wholesale-solar.com.au

 

 

2. Bifacial Solar Panels

Though bifacial solar panels have been around the corner for the past year, it is predicted that this technology will comes around anytime sooner. As their name proposes, bifacial solar panels are solar panels that capture sunlight from both sides. This implies that if installed correctly in right angle, the top of a panel could absorb light like normal while the bottom could absorb light reflected from other close-by surfaces— radically increasing the power output of the solar cells.

3. Clear Solar Panels

Researchers are developing solar windows through clear films, put on conventional window glass, that produce power by absorbing UV light. It’s a forward innovation that offers some interesting potential outcomes for buildings that need to decrease dependence on fossil fuels while keeping up a streamlined aesthetic.

So, don’t be surprise to see a building or house totally powered by clean energy, without any mounting or solar panel system attached. It may sound impossible but trust the technology – you will see this very soon.

4. Split Cell Solar Panels

Hitting the racks anytime sooner is another exciting advancement to solar technology called split solar panels. These panels are about half the size of traditional panels and have a new type of silicon chip design.

With the help of this technology, split cell panels provide the following advantages:

Enhances module life span through decades of thermal cycling, eliminating hot spots.
Cutting the standard cell in half and bus-barring it, therefore increasing efficiency, lowering voltage, and lowering operating temperature.
Bolsters stability on the back sheet of the panel and lowers cost.
Promotes higher absorption in the P-type layer.
Split cell panels are stronger than traditional modules.

Other Solar Trends To Watch For

5. Maxim Integrated Technology in Solar Panels

You might be hearing of Maxim Integrated soon. This technology might be one of the best solar advancements we’ll see this year and might shake up and disrupt the solar a huge portion of the solar industry.

Currently, most solar systems use technologies called microinverters or power optimizers to enhance the efficiency of individual solar panels in the grid. Basically, these technologies improve the performance of each panel and help it generate its maximum power output in situations where panel power may be decreased particularly cloudy days or when your panels get covered by leaves, or if they’re placed incorrectly that prevent them to capture sunlight.

Let’s look at those leaves as a quick example. A little leaf falling on your solar panel can cause a problem. Considering the way PV cells work, these kinds of obstructions don’t just affect the output where the blockage happens. They create energy transfer disruptions that swell through the panel’s entire frame and limit the panel’s ability to work. This is when Maxim Integrated Technology acts a vital role.

Maxim Integrated gets around this issue with another bit of tech that upgrades the solar panel at the cell level. At the point when obstruction occurs, power will not be lost—it’s efficiently rerouted through the rest of the cells to streamline output as much as possible. As a result, the overall cellular grid isn’t disrupted and there’s no risk of losing power to any other cells in the panel. This might be an approach to accomplishing efficiency where shading is present.

6. Tracking Solar Mounts

Albeit solar tracking mounts have been in the market since 2016, they are still under improvement. Their popularity has grown. In fact, Green Tech Media (GTM) confirms that the popularity of solar tracking mounts has increased by 254%.

The efficiency of solar panels is dependent on the sun rays hitting each solar cell. However, the sun’s position moves during the day, which impacts the frequency of solar radiation on the solar system. Tracking mounts intend to change this by following the sun’s direction and moving the solar panels accordingly. This increases the efficiency of solar panels that, thus, boost power generation. Most recent advancements in design and creation of the solar track mounts have graced last year.

7. Floating Solar Farms

It makes sense that a solar system can be on water surfaces since about 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Consequently, efforts to erect solar farms on water are seeing the light of the day in past years in Australia.

A year ago, the northern New South Wales city of Lismore on Tuesday formally opened the nation’s biggest solar farm, and flagged plans to increase its size five-fold or more and to add battery storage. The 100kW floating solar farm is installed on the East Lismore sewage treatment plant, and along with a 100kW solar installation at a local aquatic center forms a key part of the local council’s plan to source 100 % of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2023.

This could be a start of another solar trend in the industry, while encouraging manufacturers to create more sturdy panels that can withstand floods.

There are endless possibilities and plenty to look forward for solar technologies this year and the years to come. The solar trends mentioned above will be available in the market and disrupt the solar industry anytime sooner. We are confident that these products will even more enhance the lives of all Aussies who love clean energy and continuously support solar products.

 

Tasmania to reach 120% renewable electricity in five years

Tasmania to reach 120% renewable electricity in five years

Labor pledge

An election policy from the state opposition would provide a boost to rooftop solar and see more clean energy shipped to the mainland

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The Tasmanian Labor party has pledged to take the state to “120% renewables”, with an energy strategy that aims to lock in lower electricity prices and secure the island’s status as a clean power exporter.

In a statement released on Friday, ahead of the March 3 state election, Labor leader Rebecca White said her party would – if elected – “restore” and capitalise on the Australian state’s renewable electricity advantage, with a range of new policy measures and targets.

Chief among these are a target of “more than 120% renewables” within five years, and a “Distributed Energy Target” to boost on-site installations like rooftop solar by more than 80% by 2022.

Of course, for Tasmania, a 120% target is not as impressive as it sounds – the state regularly generates 100% renewable electricity from its ample hydropower resources, and also exports to Victoria.

But White said the 120% target was designed to make Tasmania the renewable energy “powerhouse” of Australia, allowing it to sell its excess hydro, wind and solar energy interstate – and in this way boosting the case for a second Bass Strait interconnector to Victoria.

The 80% boost to distributed renewables is perhaps a more significant number, particularly in light of the state’s recent energy crisis, in which drought and a broken interconnector exposed its heavy dependence on hydro, and lack of back-up resources or plans.

In the end, the crisis left the state-owned utility little choice but to resort to diesel generator sets to make up the generation supply shortfall – a dirty and expensive venture that cost a total of $64 million.

Labor’s White said the current state Liberal government – which presided over this crisis – had failed to seize energy opportunities and, in doing so, had put energy security at risk.

“Not one major renewable energy project has been completed in the past four years,” White said on Friday. “Private investors have been left frustrated by a lack of urgency from the Hodgman government.

“In contrast, Labor would create a more diverse energy generation system to reduce power bills, protect our energy intensive industries, provide energy security in times of drought and enhance the case for a second Bass Strait interconnector.”

Labor’s policy plan also promises to reinvest $25 million in dividends from TasNetworks to fund a range of initiatives to take advantage of technological advances in renewable energy generation and storage – presumably including battery storage and internet of things solutions to load shifting and peak shaving.

Another key initiative targets the state’s agriculture sector, with a scheme designed to help farmers generate and use their own power.

“Farms are producing their own electricity through solar and wind installations, but as it stands their generation can only be used to offset costs behind one meter,” White said on Friday.

“A majority Labor government will work with TasNetworks to change the policy so that energy generated at one site can be used across all meters on the same property, provided it is used in real time.

“It is estimated the policy change could unlock more than $20m in direct on-farm investment.”

The Labor policy also pledges to install solar and battery storage at every new public housing property built – up to 1000 installations over six years; and to create a virtual power plant of connected homes, businesses and government buildings that would contribute to the state’s energy security.

This last pledge bodes well for the solar and battery storage microgrid pilot project proposed for two towns in the state’s south east, which the Liberal government has promised to help fund if it is re-elected.

The Liberal party has also pledged it will withdraw Tasmania from the National Electricity Market, cutting all ties with mainland pricing mechanisms even though it will still export and import power over its sub-sea cable.

Labor, meanwhile, promises to commit $7.5m to a staged roll-out of electric and alternative fuel vehicles in the state, if it is elected.

Increased uptake of EVs in the state would also be a great way to use up that extra 20% of renewable energy generation, other than exporting it to the mainland.

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy.

The Six Biggest Myths About Battery Storage

I’ve been publishing thoughts on the solar industry since 2009. And since Tesla announced their Powerwall battery to great media hype in May 2015, a lot of those thoughts have concerned batteries.

Unfortunately, a lot of the facts I’ve published about batteries, their economics and their environmental impacts have not gone down well with some parts of the solar industry, generally the parts that have bet their future on selling lots of batteries in the short to medium term.

The reason they don’t like what I say (and one battery reseller has even threatened to ‘destroy’ me and my company) is that I (or Ronald) simply point out that home batteries do not currently pay for themselves financially or environmentally. These are not opinions – these are facts based on impartially looking at the numbers and engineering.

So I do have a reputation among some as being ‘anti-battery’. I am not. I have a big-ass battery installed at home (see picture above). I am simply pro-truth.

We have reached a point where big, centralised batteries like the Tesla Big Battery™ can make sense in grids with lots of renewables.  At some point in the nearish future, individual home batteries should make economic and environmental sense (as solar panels do now). When that happens, I’ll be the first to shout about it from the rooftops.

Until then, if you are considering buying a battery to go with your solar power system, here’s what you need to know.

The top 6 battery myths

Myth #1: Batteries improve the economics of solar power

For most homes in Australia, the return on investment from solar is going to vary from good to bloody fantastic.

Unfortunately, many people still look at solar, then look at the feed-in tariff, and mistakenly say:

“8 cents for exported electricity! What a rip-off. Solar can’t pay for itself without a battery; I refuse to virtually give my electricity away to the grid!”

This attitude is stoked by:

  • The mainstream media, who are either too lazy to do the sums or innumerate.
  • Much of the ‘green’ media, who have decided that batteries, and specifically Elon Musk, are the silver bullet that will solve all the world’s energy and CO2 problems.
  • The battery manufacturers who relentlessly gild the lily of battery payback.
  • A psychological condition called ‘inequity bias’ or ‘inequality aversion’. This is a powerful condition where humans hate inequality and will often act in a way that causes them to lose out if it means that it prevents another person (or company) getting what they perceive to be an unfair gain. The result of this very human condition is that people will often buy batteries that will never pay for themselves simply to avoid selling electricity cheaply to the grid, which the ‘evil’ electricity companies can then on-sell to your neighbours at a profit. I would go so far as to say that this is the biggest driver of battery sales at the time of writing.

The truth is that at current prices, for the vast majority of Australian homeowners, batteries will not pay for themselves before the warranty expires. And when buying a solar power system, if you add batteries, you’ll make the payback of the system as a whole worse – not better.

Further reading: Beware of Blended Payback: Solar Pays For Itself But Batteries Don’t Yet.

Myth #2: Grid-connected batteries save you the full cost of buying grid electricity

I occasionally get emails from people who claim I don’t know what I’m talking about when I advise that batteries don’t pay for themselves yet. They then helpfully do the maths for me. And they almost always make the same mistakes in their calculations. The chief one being that they don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘opportunity cost’.

Q. How much do you save, per kWh, if you store your solar energy in a battery and then use it at night?

A. Although you save 30c (or whatever your usage tariff is), by not drawing a kWh from the grid, you are, obviously, not now exporting that kWh to the grid. So you are losing the feed-in tariff on that kWh. Most people, if they shop around, can get at least a 10c per kWh feed-in tariff. So if you are saving 30c per kWh, but losing 10c per kWh. Your net benefit is 20c per kWh. In fact, it’s a bit worse because every time you charge and discharge the battery, you lose ten to thirty per cent of your energy to battery inefficiencies1 .

Further reading: Why Feed In Tariffs Hurt The Economics Of Batteries

But not everyone wants a battery for economic reasons. Many want a battery to reduce the carbon footprint of their home. That brings us onto our third battery myth:

Myth #3: Batteries reduce your carbon footprint

If you have a grid-connected solar power system that exports surplus solar electricity to the grid and you add batteries, you actually increase your home’s carbon footprint. Sound crazy? Bear with me.

If you don’t have batteries, any excess solar energy gets exported to the grid. While you may be disappointed with the feed-in tariff this pays you, the environmental benefits of your exported solar electricity are very real. Each kWh you export means that the grid has to generate a kWh less from fossil fuels. You should feel good about that.

However, if you have batteries on your home, every kWh you put into the battery is one less that goes into the grid. So although your stored solar means that you have to import one less kWh, it also means that you’ve exported one less kWh. So there is no net environmental benefit.

In fact, because a battery system is only seventy to ninety per cent efficient2, you are offsetting ten to thirty per cent less CO2. And you also have to repay the large amount of CO2 emitted in the manufacture, delivery and installation of the battery and battery inverter.

Further Reading: Peer Reviewed Study: Grid Connect Solar Helps Environment But Batteries Harm It

But there is another, non-environmental, non-financial reason for buying batteries: energy security. Which brings us onto myth number 4:

Myth #4: All batteries can provide blackout protection

No one likes losing power to their home. Batteries can power your home during a blackout. So perhaps you are thinking of buying batteries for blackout protection.

There are a few things you need to know if that is the case.

Firstly, many solar battery systems will not work when the grid goes down unless you pay extra for the engineering and electronics to allow this. Running a home without the grid is quite a complicated task, because you need to:

  • Isolate the house safely from the grid, so you don’t send electricity into the grid and kill lineworkers trying to fix it.
  • Balance all the generation and loads so that you match supply and demand at all times.
  • Ensure that the battery is never overloaded by the house loads.
  • Ensure that the battery is never overcharged from the solar.

All this functionality comes at a cost. So if you are buying a battery and want blackout protection, be sure you are getting a system that will actually do that3.

Before you do that, however, you should have a think about how big a problem blackouts are for you, and consider other, much cheaper, solutions.

If blackouts are a major issue for you, the cheapest form of blackout protection is a petrol generator. You can buy one that pushes out 3 kW for about $1,000 at Bunnings. Three kilowatts will power most of your home most of the time, unless you have a particularly large air conditioner, in which case you may want to spend more on your generator. The generator will last as long as you have petrol.

A suitable battery-based solution will cost you about $12,000 at the time of writing.

So, although the generator requires a jerry can of fuel and is noisy and creates exhaust fumes, it is 12 times cheaper. And if it is only used once or twice per year, the overall carbon footprint is likely to be less than a big battery that sits idle ninety-nine per cent of the year.

At some point in the next three to ten years, batteries will become so cheap that it will be crazy not to have them on your home. And if you have batteries on your home, you may as well configure them to back up your home in emergencies. Especially as climate change sends more extreme weather our way.

Further Reading: Does your hybrid solar system really need backup?

So it is important to be able to add batteries to your solar power system in the future. Which brings us onto our last battery myth:

Myth #5: You need a specially designed solar system to add batteries in the future

If you are thinking that a ‘battery ready’ solar system might be a good idea – I agree. That is a great idea. And the good news is that every grid-connect solar power system ever sold in Australia is ‘battery ready’.

Batteries can be added to any existing solar power system using a technique called AC coupling. The batteries’ power simply goes into your home through the standard 230V AC wires. Simple as that.

So don’t worry about buying a special ‘battery ready’ system. Batteries can be fitted to any solar system you buy. The only thing you need to bear in mind is that you have enough panels to charge a future battery. Generally, if you think you’ll add batteries (or an electric car) to your home in the future, I’d err on the large side for your system and buy at least 6kW of solar capacity.

Now, there’s one more myth…

Myth #6: Adding batteries to your solar is sticking one finger up to the electricity companies

Hands up if you like your electricity company?

 

 

Thought so. But before we get into the reasons why electricity companies are so hated (the only country that hates them more is the UK), you may not realise there are actually up to four companies that are responsible for getting electricity to your house and they all get paid from your bill. Let’s explore who they are and see which ones we really have the bad feelings for.

The 4 companies that you pay through your electricity bill. Image credit: SAPN

Generators own the power generation fleet, be they coal-fired power stations, wind farms, gas power stations or hydroelectric systems.

Examples are AGL Energy (who are also a retailer), who own lots of coal, gas and wind, Origin (also a retailer), TRUenergy, Macquarie Generation, Snowy Hydro and a handful of others.

For every $100 you pay on your electricity bill, these guys get an average of $22 for generating the electricity. Yes – that’s right – only twenty-two per cent of your bill is paying for electricity to be generated.

When you buy grid electricity, you can have some control of whom you buy your electricity from. If clean energy is important to you (and I personally believe it should be), you can pay more for green power, and the part of your bill that pays the generators will only go to people who have generated enough renewable energy to cover your usage. This is a good thing because it increases demand for green energy, which means more renewable generation will get built.

But bear in mind that many of the largest fossil fuel generators also have the largest fleets of wind and solar, e.g. AGL Energy. So if you really want to ‘stick it to the man’, understand that, even with green power, you may still be lining the man’s pockets.

Transmission networks get about eight per cent of your bill. They are the companies that build and maintain those big pylons that carry electricity from the big generators to the big substations near population centres.4

Their formal name is transmission network service providers or TNSPs to their friends.

Below are the details of local TNSPs:

 

 

Are you angry with any of these companies? You may well be – I don’t know. They are a large part of ‘the grid’. They enable coal-fired power stations to distribute their power. But they also make wind and solar farms and the snowy hydro scheme viable. Being angry is your call.

If you decide that a deep dislike of your local transmission network is a reason you want to get batteries, just be aware that they only get eight per cent of your bill. And some of that will come from the fixed ‘service charge’ part. So even if you get your grid imports down to almost zero, as long as you are connected to the grid, you will be giving money to the network companies.

Once the electricity leaves the transmission network, it uses the distribution network to get to your home. The companies that own and operate the distribution network are called the distribution network service providers (DNSPs). These guys get about thirty per cent of your bill.

Below are the details of your local DNSPs:

 

 

Again, part of the DNSPs’ income comes from the fixed service charge, so even if you import almost nothing from the grid, these guys will still get paid. Also, they are responsible for administering the premium feed-in tariffs, which are no longer open for new customers, but are still paying really good rates to customers that invested in solar energy many years ago. That was a big part of building the solar industry and a major reason that it became so efficient, meaning Australia now has the cheapest residential solar in the world.

The last company in the line for your cash is the Electricity retailer.

Electricity retailers collect all your money and typically keep thirty per cent of your bill to cover their overheads and profit (these are the guys you can switch easily). These are the brands you probably think of when you think of ‘electricity companies’.

So here are your potential positions:

  1. You hate them all. Then you must go off grid. Even if you draw no energy from the grid, if you are connected, you will still pay the service charge5 of 70c – $2 per day, and every type of company in the list above will get a cut.
  2. You hate the TNSPs or the DNSPs. It’s off grid for you as you can’t avoid paying them.
  3. You hate some of the generators (usually people hate the coal burners or frackers). You can pay extra and specify ‘green power’ with many electricity retailers. The good news is that this will prevent your money going to the generators that don’t have any renewables. The bad news that if you hate the biggest coal generator in Australia (and fan of fracking): AGL, much of your money is still likely to head their way because, ironically, they are also one of the largest renewable generators in Australia thanks to their wind and solar farms. It’s worth noting that any ‘green power’ payment they do get from you has to be for renewable generation, though – so you are encouraging them to mend their ways.
  4. You hate the retailers. Really? All of them? There are some quite nice ones out there who are very pro solar. Two that spring to mind are Diamond Energy and Powershop. You can see how their rates compare with this tool. But again, if you really hate the retailers, you must go off grid to avoid giving them your cash.

So if you have a strong emotional need to stop giving cash to the four types of companies that make up the electricity market, you need to not only get batteries, but disconnect from the grid altogether. This is a much, much more expensive option than adding batteries and staying on the grid. In fact, it is so expensive that you may reconsider quite how much you need to ‘stick it to the power companies’ altogether.

Conclusion: Should you add batteries?

For financial reasons? No. Not for a few years anyway. Don’t worry – I’ll update this post as soon as they make financial sense.

For emotional reasons (sticking it to the man)? No. Batteries only reduce your kWh usage from the grid, you will still be supporting 4 big electricity companies with the daily service charge. If you really don’t want to be part of the grid, then the only rational choice is to go off grid. If you have an average Australian home, a suitable system will start at about $50k6

For green reasons? Hell no. It is better for the environment to reduce your remaining post-solar impact with green power from a friendly retailer like Diamond Energy.

For security? Absolutely. But be aware it adds to the cost, and as I’ve mentioned – many batteries do not come with backup by default, strange as that may seem. So buyer beware.

For nerdy reasons? Go for it. You like new technology and have the cash to spare? Then you can get a big box of batteries and watch the monitoring software to your heart’s content.

Here’s what I tell my friends when they ask for advice on solar and batteries: Unless you need generator-free backup or really, really want a battery for technology’s sake, conserve your cash. Batteries will make sense in a few years, both environmentally and economically. Until then, a big solar power system is a much cheaper way to get tiny bills.  The worst thing you can do is put off getting solar panels because you have an emotional aversion to exporting solar electricity back into the grid at far less than the retail rate. You’ll just be subjecting yourself to more years of high electricity bills and boosting the profits of those electricity companies you dislike so intensely.

Statutory Voltage Limits Change In Queensland To Benefit Solar Power

Statutory Voltage Limits Change In Queensland To Benefit Solar Power

Voltage limits for Queensland’s electricity networks are set to change, bringing the state into line with Australian Standard (AS) 60038 and international best practice. This will enable more solar power systems to be installed – and with less red tape.

Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy announced last week voltage limits in Queensland will change from 240 volts +/-6% to 230 volts +10/-6% this year. The new “preferred” operating range will 230 volts +6/-2%.

The major reason for the change has to do with solar power. More than 546,000 solar power systems are installed in Queensland and self-consumption/exports have resulted in issues with network voltage levels rising in some areas, accompanied by the risk of problems with appliance performance or damage.

Voltage Issues Costly, Restrict Solar

In 2016, Energex and Ergon Energy reported around 1,000 complaints from customers related to solar panels and high network voltage. Aside from the frustration to customers, it was costing $2,200 on average to deal with each complaint, plus insurance claims for appliance damage. These and associated network upgrade costs are ultimately passed on to electricity customers.

“To control voltage rise in the past, electricity distributors Energex and Ergon Energy invested significant resources upgrading the network and tightened their solar photovoltaic (PV) connection requirements,” says the Department. “This made it harder, and in some cases more expensive, for customers to connect an exporting solar PV system to the grid.”

Continuing a business-as-usual approach would have resulted in 10 per cent of new applications for new rooftop generation (around 200 per month) requiring modification or being refused. Some applicants would be required to pay an additional cost of between $10,000 and $60,000 toward a network upgrade before a system is installed; effectively making solar a no-go. The situation would have also seen a continued practice of restricting electricity feed-in for some system owners.

More Wiggle Room = 200,000 More Solar Systems

The flexibility for distributors to operate at a lower voltage “floor” limit and decreased incidence of bumping up against the ceiling level will enable more solar power systems to be connected and without so many hoops to jump through says the Department.

It’s a significant number – an estimated additional 200,000 systems or 960 megawatts of capacity could be added as a result of the change. It should also mean less tripping of inverters in existing systems in areas where high voltage issues have been occurring, plus less expenditure on network upgrades.

Status Quo “No Longer Appropriate”

The nominal voltage in Australia was set at 240V nearly a hundred years ago. However, most of the world’s appliances are designed to operate optimally at 230V as a result of the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) deciding on 230V as nominal in the early 1980’s. This difference, according to a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) published last year, has been costing $400,000 per year in reduced appliance life in Queensland and was considered no longer appropriate for a contemporary electricity network.

“The narrow 12 per cent operating range is inconsistent with the more progressive uniform standard of 230 volts +10 per cent/-6 per cent accepted elsewhere in Australia and overseas, and its permitted 16 per cent range,” said the RIS (PDF).

The Clean Energy Council said the change was “sensible reform”; one it had been advocating for many years.

“Western Australia is now the only state that still relies on the outdated 240V limit,” says the CEC.

If you’ve had problems in the past in getting solar panels installed in Queensland due to network voltage issues and given up in despair, it might be time to start re-examining going solar. Energex and Ergon Energy must comply fully with the new voltage limits from 27 October 2018.