Solar technology is progressing rapidly. When should I look at getting a solar system installed?

Now is the best time to buy a solar power system in NSW due to generous government rebates and the simply fact that a solar system saves you more money per year compared to the falling price of a solar power system.

It is important to remember that no matter how efficient panels become in the future, a 3kW solar system is always going to output 3kWs. A common mistake many people make is to equate a panel’s efficiency with its output. A high-efficiency 250W panel produces exactly the same power as a low-efficiency panel, it just does so using a smaller surface area. Unless you are hindered by a small roof and you are looking to install a commercial size solar system (over 30kWs or so), efficiency is largely irrelevant.

You would be much better off buying a 3kW system with today’s 260W panels compared to waiting 5 years to buy a 3kW system with 300W panels for the same price, because by waiting all you are doing is buying a 10-panel array instead of a 12-panel array.

Even if you have a set roof area and you are wanting to maximise output from a set number of panels, it doesn’t make sense to wait. For example, the standard residential panel is now 265W, compared to 12 months ago when it was 250W. If you were looking to buy a 12 panel 3kW system 12 months ago, today 12 x 265W panels will get you 3.18 kW system. That additional 180W will only save you approximately $79 a year off your power bills. If you had of installed a 3kW system 12 months ago, it could have saved you up to approximately $1300 a year off your bills! It quickly becomes apparent that waiting for panel technology to improve does not make sense, especially considering on a 3kW system the current government rebate is around $2500, and this is not going to be around forever.

The other reason many people have held off on solar is to wait for prices to drop. We have now seen this happen and the solar market in Australia has now matured over the last few years. Australia has some of the cheapest solar prices in the world. A 3kW system in the USA is typically higher than $10,000, whereas here a good quality system is now well under $5000. Solar panel prices have been dropping for many years, however, we are approaching a limit to this price drop due to the fixed costs of installing a system such as the installation, cabling and mounting kit. We may see further price drops of a few hundred dollars or so at the most, but nothing compared to the money a system can save you over the course of a year.

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