QLD Solar Rebate - Guide 2021

If you’re sick of rising electricity prices and feeling like a slave to energy companies, then you’ve probably given solar energy more than a passing thought. However, without the right kind of research, it can be difficult to know where to start. You’ve probably even had salespeople visit your door and leave you more confused – and that’s because they’re only telling you what they want you to know.

Here at Halcol Energy, we’re experts in the field of solar energy, and we want our customers to make informed decisions about whether solar is right for them. That’s why we’ve put together this easy-to-read guide on solar energy without the jargon and the sales pitch. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to make the right decision for your family, and you’ll know exactly how to go about it.

solar

The Benefits of Solar Energy

For most people, the benefits of solar energy are obvious. In a global sense, harnessing the power of the sun’s rays to power our home is certainly better for the environment than other coal-generated forms of electricity. But we understand not everybody can focus 100% on the environment – we’ve got families to feed and that’s why the hip pocket makes a lot of our decisions for us.

From a financial perspective, solar energy needs to be thought of as an investment. There’s certainly an upfront cost involved, but the long-term benefits are clear. By using solar energy to power your home for all the sunlit hours of the day, you’re not drawing energy from the main grid. Depending on electricity costs in your state, this can save you around 30c per kWh. If your home is producing excess energy, it gets sent back to the main grid and you receive a little kick back from the energy company (called a feed-in tariff).

You won’t be completely wiping out your energy bill, but you’ll be reducing it considerably and over time (approx. 3-7 years), the system pays for itself. We’ll touch more on the financial benefits of solar energy further on.

How On-Grid Solar Energy Works – The Basics

A common mistake people make when choosing solar energy is believing they’ll be completely free from the energy company’s clutches. While you’ll certainly become far less reliant on them, you’ll still be connected to the energy grid and draw some power from your energy company. Let’s break that down.

On-grid solar means powering your home with solar energy for the hours in the day when the sun is shining. Without more expensive battery technology (which we’ll talk about later), an on-grid solar installation can only power your home while it is actually producing energy from the sun. Think of it like riding a bicycle on a flat stretch of road: while your legs are pedalling to produce energy, you keep on moving. If you stop producing that energy, you come to a stop.

Fortunately, unlike a bicycle with no backup system, your home is still connected to the main energy grid. So, at night time, or other times when your solar system isn’t producing energy, you can still power everything in your home. This is the energy consumption you’re still charged for by your energy provider. However, this sort of solar set up also comes with a feed-in tariff, which means your energy provider will actually pay you for the excess energy you produce and don’t use. This helps to off-set the cost of power you use when your solar system isn’t producing energy.

solar panels

Understanding the Parts of a Solar Energy Installation

We’re trying to stay away from the jargon here, but your standard Australian setup is known as a solar PV system. This stands for photovoltaic, and essentially describes the process of capturing solar energy using panels, and converting that energy into the type that you can use to power your home. Let’s take a look at the main components of a solar energy installation.

solar panel

Panels

Solar panels come in two forms – monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Both are perfectly fine for Australian conditions, but the quality can certainly vary between manufacturers. The solar panels are installed, generally on your roof, and are used to capture the solar energy you’re going to use in your home. Since they’re out in the weather, you’re going to want to look for quality products rather than getting bogged down in the prices.

Solar panel manufacturers are measured in ‘tiers’, and while this refers to the reliability and bankability of the company itself, it can be a good measure of the product. The manufacturer wouldn’t be successful if they were selling dodgy equipment.

Do a bit of research before purchasing, because there’s good and bad in every budget range. Just because you’re paying top-dollar doesn’t mean you’re getting top quality, and by the same token, you can find some good quality budget solar panels too.

inverter

The Inverter

Your solar inverter is the device that converts the DC solar energy from your panels into 240V AC electricity. This is the type of electricity everything in your home uses, so without the inverter, your solar system wouldn’t be able to power your home.

There’s typically three types of inverter:

String Inverter: These inverters are mounted on a wall, and every solar panel on your roof connects to it.

Micro Inverter: Micro inverters are installed to the back of every single solar panel.

Power Optimisers: These devices are basically a hybrid of string and micro inverters.

Ask your solar installation company which option is best for you, but be wary of where a string inverter is placed. You want to keep them away from direct sunlight, and while your installer should know this, it pays to make sure you’re happy with where they’re going.

racking

The Mounting/Racking

The mounting is what holds your solar panels in place on your roof. There’s a whole host of brands out there, and most installers will have a product they recommend for you. Hiring a local solar installer who understands the weather conditions should ensure you’re getting the right products for your home.

How to Work Out Your Energy Consumption

Energy is measured in kWh, and as a reference point, the average home uses approximately 16-20 kWh per day. The best way to check your current energy consumption is to check your previous bills. It may vary throughout the year, so make sure you consider the peak times as well as the low-use times of the year. This will help you to understand what size solar package you need.

When Do You Use the Most Power?

Knowing when you use the most power is a key part of working out whether solar energy is for you. While the feed-in tariff (the amount your energy company pays you for unused solar energy) can range anywhere from 7c – 20c per kWh, it’s far more beneficial to use the power you’re producing.

If the energy retailer charges you around 30c per kWh to use their energy, but only gives you 7-20c per kWh for the energy you export to the grid, it makes sense to use what you generate. We call this ‘self-consumption’.

If you’re at home during the day, or you have appliances running through the day, your self-consumption is higher than say, a 9-5 worker who is home more in the evening. For example, if you had a self-consumption of around 65% of the energy you produce, your system is effectively paying for itself more quickly than someone who only uses around 30% of the energy their system produces.

family photo

What Size Solar System Do You Need?

Since solar installation prices have decreased drastically in the last 5 years, you’re far better off installing more panels than you need rather than coming up short. This doesn’t mean you need to cover your entire roof, but if you can afford more panels, it’s worth doing. That’s because you’ll produce more energy, and even if you don’t use it, your feed-in tariff will ensure you’re making more money back from the energy provider.

We should note that the Distributed Network Service Provider may have limitations on how many panels you’re allowed to install, and you should always check this first.

When you’ve checked what kind of kWh usage you have, you’ll have a good idea of what size system you need to make the installation viable. But as we say, if you can afford a bigger system up front, it’s worth doing.

The number of panels you install will often be referred to in kW, as will the inverter. We always recommend installing more panels than your inverter is rated at. For example, for a 5kW inverter, go for 6.6kWh in panels. You’ll get a better rebate (which we’ll touch on later), and you’ll be able to get more power in winter, morning and nights.

Maximise Energy with The Right Solar Panel Direction

While we would expert all solar installers to understand this concept and advise you accordingly, it’s important for you to know so that you get the most efficiency from your system.

The direction of your solar panels is largely determined by your roof structure; however, it certainly matters where you choose to put them. This is another part where understanding your own energy usage comes in.

East facing panels: The sun rises in the east, so these panels will produce more energy in the morning.

West facing panels: The sun sets in the west, giving you more solar energy production in the afternoons.

North facing panels: These will produce the most energy overall, peaking around midday.

So, which is best? Every household will be different. If people are never at home during the day, north facing panels aren’t going to be your best option. Where possible, it’s a great idea to install both east and west facing panels if your roof structure allows it. This gives you the best chance of generating plenty of solar energy before people leave for school or work, and when they arrive back home in the afternoon.

In every state there’s also a recommended angle to maximise your panel’s efficiency, however in reality this often dictated by your roof angle and actually makes very little difference overall.

solar panels on the roof
man holding a phone

Understanding the Feed-In Tariff

Now we’re getting into the dollars and cents of solar energy. The feed-in tariff is the amount of money your electricity retailer pays you for any energy you export back to the main grid. This occurs when your solar power system is producing energy that your home doesn’t use.

The rate will vary, so it pays to shop around, but we’ve seen rates between 7c-20c per kWh on offer. It will all depend on your state and the energy retailers available. Getting the best feed-in tariff on offer is important, because it essentially decreases the time it takes for your system to pay for itself.

For example, let’s say you had a 5KW system and your self-consumption was only 50%. The remaining 50% is returned to the grid which results in a credit on your power bill. This would represent savings of approx. $1300 per year – or a massive 27% Return on Investment.

Essentially, the time frame in which your solar power system pays for itself is dependent on a number of factors, mostly how efficiently you use the energy you produce. Obviously, the size of your system will be a deciding factor too, but most systems will pay for themselves in 3 years.

Incentives and Rebates

The Australian government has a federal rebate for homeowners who install a solar power system. It can work a couple of different ways, however the most popular way to use the rebate is to have it taken off the sale price at the time of purchase. While the rebate is slowly being phased out (it’s being reduced by about 7% each year), it’s still very much available for all Australians who choose to install solar.

As of September 2019, the rate is approximately $650 per KW of solar panels installed, however note that this does vary slightly by region. On a 3kW system, this means you’re getting a rebate of around $1,950. If you recall, we mentioned getting a higher rebate if you have more panels than your inverter is rated for. That’s because the rebate goes by the number of panels, not the size of your inverter.

Like anything, there’s some conditions to be aware of:

  • System must be less than 100kW
  • Must be installed by a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited installer
  • Your panels and inverters must be CEC approved.

For Victorian customers, you’re in luck, because you could also access an additional rebate worth around $2,250 for installing solar. It always pays to check local state rebates to see how you can benefit!

How Much Does a Quality Solar Installation Cost?

Much like anything, pricing will vary considerably between installers, and a lot of this has to do with the quality of components being used. As a guide, these are the average price ranges for a quality solar power system using tier 1 panels and a quality string inverter:

3kW: $3,500 – $5,000
5kW: $4,500 – $8,000
6kW: $5,000 – $9,000
10kW: $8,000 – $12,000

These prices have already had the federal solar rebate deducted.

It’s important to note that not every installation will be the same. For example, if you have a difficult roof structure, or your home requires extensive electrical work in order to handle solar energy, your costs will increase. Most reputable installers will offer free consultations and quotes, so you can get a full picture of your costs before you sign on the dotted line.

What is On-Grid Solar with Battery Technology

Due to the cost involved, obtaining on-grid solar with battery technology has for a long time been out of reach for many Australians. As its name suggests, on-grid solar with battery technology means you actually have the ability to store the excess power you produce, and use it when the sun isn’t shining.

So, rather than exporting your excess power back to the main grid, you’re actually using sophisticated battery technology to store it. For example, the sun shines all day and you only use 50% of the energy your system generates. The remaining 50% is stored for use that night.

It’s important to note that there will still be times you draw power from the main grid, and how much depends on how much solar energy your system generates throughout the day. However, this is a way that many people find they can even further reduce those rising electricity bills.

While costs have decreased significantly in recent years, a 10kW on-grid solar and battery package can range from $16,000 – $24,000, meaning it is still more pricey than a standard on-grid solar solution.

tesla unit installed on the wall
sonen on the wall

Batteries for Off-Grid Solar

Off-grid solar energy uses battery technology to store the excess energy your solar panels produce. Even a few years ago, this sort of system came with exorbitant prices because the battery technology was reasonably new – certainly in a residential electrical sense.

Thanks to companies like Tesla and Sonnen, the market has seen considerable reductions in battery costs in recent years. While they’re still not going to be affordable for every home’s budget, the market has definitely shifted with more people keen to go completely off-grid.

The batteries used in off-grid solar installations are lithium-ion, but a lot of the new technology is much more than just a battery.

Battery solutions like the Tesla Powerwall 2 and the sonnenBatterie come packed with a range of features to help your household maximise its solar energy system. For example, they can store specific emergency backup power, either from your solar production or from the main grid when prices are lowest. Some also come with software to monitor and control energy use, while also acting as an inverter. These new smart battery systems are making it easier than ever for Australians to manage their energy use efficiently and effectively.

Financing Your Solar System

Installing a solar power system is an investment. It certainly pays for itself in time (even quicker if you’re smart about power use in your home), but there’s still an up-front cost involved. If you’re fortunate enough to have thousands of dollars to spare, then going solar is a great investment, however we understand that’s not the reality for most Australian households.

Like any purchase, there’s a range of options. You could take out personal finance to pay for the system up front, and that will all depend on your ability to obtain finance and willingness to pay the interest charges.

Many installers also offer their own financing options; however, you do need to be careful about the fine print. 0% interest offers usually come with a catch, and more often-than not, it’s an increase in the actual sale price. You can find retailers offering reasonably priced payment plans that don’t include an inflated purchase price.

Alternatively, Halcol Energy payment plans represent great value, and your energy savings are often paying for the system as you go. For example, a 5kW system over five years would cost approximately $300 per quarter in repayments. Between the excess energy you sell back to the grid, and the savings you generate from using solar energy during the day, you’re likely to still save money while paying for your panels.

Halcol Energy are CEC Accredited solar retailers, meaning we’ve been through a rigorous process with the Clean Energy Council to ensure our products and practices adhere to the highest industry standards. We’re proud to adhere to the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, because we believe in providing honest advice, affordable prices and taking a wholly ethical approach to everything we do.

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