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Getting Started with Solar Power - by Alice Richard

Getting Started with Solar Power - by Alice Richard

There's never been a better time to install solar – energy prices are going up, solar panel prices are coming down and the technology is as good as it's ever been.
But if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the technical information out there, you're not alone. It's hard to know where to begin.
We explain the four steps to getting solar, to help you decide if it's right for you.
1. Costs
Is solar worth it?
For most households, solar is worth the upfront cost.
"Households paying hundreds of dollars per quarter for electricity will definitely benefit from looking into solar. So will households with low electricity consumption, though their payback time might be a bit longer," says Chris Barnes, CHOICE's solar expert.
How much does solar cost?
It's cheaper than ever to install solar – prices have fallen by around 58% in the last six years. A 5kW solar system (which is the average size) will cost you around $5100 in a capital city.
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2. Is my location suitable for solar?
Solar will generally work anywhere that receives a decent amount of sunshine, but it will work better under certain conditions. You'll need to consider:
  • Shade: Make sure there are no trees, power lines or other structures shading your proposed install location.
  • Direction: Work out where your location gets the most sun hours, and point your panel in that direction
  • Renting: Renters might assume that solar isn't an option for them – not true! You simply need to purchase a mobile/portable system which you can take with you when you leave.
3. What equipment do I need?
Solar systems seem complex, but there are just two main components you need to worry about: the Panels and the Inverter. You can also add a battery to store any surplus energy....for a rainy day.
  • Panels: How many panels you need depends on your energy use. A typical home uses 20kWh per day, which equates to a 5kW system. If you're getting a quote, make sure to look at the price of the whole system and installation, not just the panels.
  • Inverter: When the sun hits a solar panel, the panel turns the energy into direct current (DC) electricity; the electricity from your power points is alternating current (AC) electricity. An Inverter converts the DC to AC so you can use that energy in your home.
  • Battery: Keep an eye on the market as battery prices (e.g Lithium Batteries) are falling and electricity costs are rising, so they are becoming a good option. If you think you might install a battery in the future, you should ensure that your solar PV system is battery-ready

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More info and thoughts for you!
Obviously, solar panels need sun to generate electricity efficiently and economically. The amount of electricity you will be able to generate at your site depends on how much of the sun's energy reaches it. Ideally, locations in the northern hemisphere should be orientated to true south. However, panels can usually face up to 45º east or west of true south and still perform sufficiently. You may be able to use either roof-mounted panels or free-standing systems for the ground that are either fixed in one position or designed to "track" the sun. The orientation of your roof, shade from trees and other landscape features and local weather conditions (amount of fog or afternoon clouds) also need to be considered.


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