The next big wave in the solar power industry has begun, with Solaray now installing solar battery storage solutions from a number of leading brands. There are already 1.5 million solar systems installed across Australia, and battery storage is expected to make solar power an attractive investment for millions more Australian households that have low daytime power consumption due to work and school commitments.
Australia has been identified as one of the best countries in the world for households to have solar storage due to the high cost of electricity and low feed-in tariffs for the solar power that is fed back to the grid (5 to 8 cents a kWh). With manufacturers such as Enphase and Tesla driving down the price of lithium batteries, it won’t be long until a ‘battery or two in the garage’ becomes as standard as solar power is today.
The biggest risk of jumping in too early is that you end up paying a lot of money for a product that ends up being superseded within a matter of months. It is early days, and for most people we recommend you wait until the industry (and the pricing) settles down a little. So if you are considering solar storage, let’s have a look at why you would install solar now rather than with the batteries.
We will need to accurately size up the battery bank
To maximise the benefit of your investment into battery storage we are going to have to size up the battery bank with a high level of accuracy. To do this, our technicians are going to need at least 6 months of data and preferably 12. Ideally, we want to see:
- How much power is consumed in the home
- At what time of the day do you use your power
- Home much power does your solar system generate and how much do you use
- How much power do you use at any one time (related to peak draw)
- How much does your usage vary across the year
All of this information is recorded if you install an internet-connected solar system. Both Enphase and SolarEdge offer back to base monitoring, and so when you contact us in the future to upgrade to a hybrid solar system, we will be able to login to your solar dashboard to access all the information we need to minimise the capacity of your battery bank and hence maximise the return on your investment in solar storage.
Certain Solar Systems are now ‘battery ready’
Because a battery bank will be wired directly into your meter board, the batteries and the solar system will operate separately from each other. Your home will then be managed by a central controlling unit that communicates with the solar system, the batteries and even the appliances in your home allowing for home automation. One of the most exciting products that is about to hit the market is the Envoy-S Metered from Enphase. If you install an Enphase system with Solaray in 2016 we will install the system so that it is set-up and ready for the batteries to be added without any additional hardware required.
Systems are Expandable
Enphase systems are compatible with the soon to be released Enphase AC Battery, which is great. But what makes them truly battery ready is that they are expandable, which means you will be able to add panels to your existing array if you need the additional output to charge the batteries. One of the most common strategies households have been using over the last year or so is to buy a solar system sized up to their current electricity usage, with the view that they will add more panels to charge the batteries when they are installed.
What’s even better is that you don’t need to match future panels with the existing array, allowing you to take advantage of any improvements in efficiency over time. For example in 2017 you may add 320W panels to your existing 260W panels.
Start saving money on your power bills today
Really, this is what it’s all about. With the knowledge that current systems are battery ready and expandable, you can now safely install a solar system and start saving money now! The return on investment for a quality solar power system is typically around 3 to 5 years, and a 5kW system can possibly save you over $2,000 a year. If you hold off with the solar, quite simply your power bills will be more expensive than what they could be. And no, solar power is not about to get a whole lot cheaper. In fact with the recent fall in the Australian dollar prices have actually gone up. In a best-case scenario, wholesale pricing on the panels and the inverter may take a further $300 to $500 off a 5kW system over the next 18 months. In that time, a 5kW system can save you over $3,000 off your power bills! The market has matured to the point where it no longer makes sense to hold off in the hope that prices will fall.
There are significant incentives for installing residential solar power in Australia and they won’t be around forever. With a change in Prime Minister in 2015, the Federal Government has been a lot more supportive of the solar power industry, however, if installations boom once storage becomes available (as we are expecting), maintaining the current rebate scheme will become more expensive. There is no guarantee that current rebates will be in place in 12 months time, or perhaps the rebates will reduce in value to accommodate the millions of households expected to go solar.
To lock in your rebate all you need to do is install a solar system! The larger the system, the larger the rebate and the full value is taken off the purchase price of your installation. On a 5kW system, the current rebate is around $4,000, so it is a significant price reduction when you are only paying from around $6,000 for a fully installed system.
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