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goughy

Solar power, cost, installation etc etc

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The thread I found was getting old, so thought a new one could be in order.

My wife wants us to look more seriously at getting solar.  We'd been saving for a car for our daughter, but between grandparents and her saving they covered half the cost so she still has about 3k in savings aside. 

I did query some site, I think it was like an iselect thing what 3 local solar companies would get in touch with me.  To 3 weeks for one to get back to me, then a few more weeks for him to email us stuff and he's been hassling me ever since. But of course, no pricing was included!  Just lots of stuff that just made me dizzy.

I don't really care about money back for supplying to the grid. This is just about us. I work from a shed at home and my wife is home full time.  At least one of the air-conditioners seems to be going all the time, if not both (summer and winter). Plus of course my stuff in the shed.  Currently our bills seem to fall about 800 to 900 a quarter.  My well off mate didn't have it, but he and his wife are never home during the day to take advantage of it.  But I do think we could be perfect candidates for it.

The best positioning for panels on our roof would be more so the West facing side.  You'd only get about 6 panels facing north, which is the road side and my wife hates the look of them so she'd prefer not to have any there.  Me, I don't really care.  

But in the end I have no idea what it could cost, if there are payment options, who are the more reliable companies.  And just how many panels to get etc etc.

Anyone got any real info, or a good straight up non confusing site I can go have a look at?

 

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I know not much about solar but i love it....we put a 5 kw system on our house in Townsville back in 2012, we paid 11.5k for our system, we have 250 watt sun tech panels and a SMA Sunny-boy inverter.  system has worked flawlessly and never ever had an issue, we dont live there anymore, but when we did we saw an immediate impact on our power bills, we have the 44c rebate, where as others i know only have the 9c which i believe has changed to about 8c or something like that.  with us being on the bigger rebate we liked to sell back to the grid, but if we were on the lower rebate we would have just utilized the solar to run our home appliances more effectively.

I believe when the rebate went to 9c the cost of solar install dropped significantly as the suppliers and installers saw a huge decrease in people wanting solar, i know someone who got a 5 kw system supplied and installed for about 5k.

We paid for ours cash but i heard Queensland country credit union have a green loan, that a lot of people were using for solar

With the SMA inverter i can log in remotely and see how my panels are performing, but i couldn't care less as im no longer living there.  I charge more for rent though..

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Few hints:

I'd be looking for at least 5kw unit.  We have 2.8Kw and it doesn't seem like enough, most reputable ones for family homes seem to start at 5kw

From a mate who gets lots of business fixing the systems, don't go any Chinese made panels or units - lots of cheap plastic bits that stop working not long after installation and keeps his business going.  Most people don't realise a small part stops the power feeding in until they get their next bill, and then he gets a call to locate and fix the problem.  Doesn't hurt to have a brief look at the inverter to see how much power is flowing in during the day to ensure everything is ticking over from time to time.

As for companies, ask neighbours who got them done is probably the best.  In our area we have a local only installer that does customised jobs based on your budget and requirements.  The national chains advertising on the tv with this rebate and that special don't seem to get many calls - pretty much bad reps down our area.  iSelect and the like only recommend companies that give them kickbacks - our local installer while rated highly would not be on their list

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Not that I would be thinking of a battery system, but just saw this

https://www.qld.gov.au/community/cost-of-living-support/solar-battery-rebate

I haven't looked at a power bill in ages (the boss takes care of that), but do they breakdown your average usage based on hour of the day?

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Had a 3kw system installed 2.5 yrs ago for 3.5k.  I chose a sunny coast firm named Halcol, they service SEQ and were easy to deal with. 

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Goughy,

Based in Melbourne, we had Solar installed in Aug. We have  a 5kw system of 17 x 300w LG Panels and Fronius Primo inverter. Cost was just under $7k after rebates. We have 6 panels facing North and 11 panels facing West. Like you, basically someone is always in the house so consuming during daylight hours.

Our power bill was $455 for May, June, July (our Gas bill is a different story!). For the period of Aug, Sept, Oct we dropped to $60. Actual numbers compared to the same quarter last year are: last year we purchased 26.11kw per day. The quarter with Solar was 3.52kw's so a saving of 86.5% less purchased usage. 

In terms of energy: on a sunny day, we seem to make 30-32kw's a day so we are in surplus which we sell back at 12cents and then at night, we buy at 26cents.  So far in Jan we have created 600kw's so about $160 in value. In Dec 745kw, Nov 720kw. For the quarter that dropped our bill from $455 to $60 we created 1504kwh which would likely be our lowest totals (darkest month of the year).

We were told payoff period for us would be 3.5 - 4years. This seems, so far, to be accurate.

 

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Your situation sounds like ours - both of us are home based and use aircon a lot plus we have pool/spa pumps and I have my new large shed as well I plan to be using a lot more this year once health improves.

This seems like a reasonable read to me:

https://www.solarquotes.com.au/solar101.html

I wouldn't be dealing with anyone that didn't come to visit and do a proper assessment of energy use and usage patterns, as well as the physical layout of the home and what panel layout is feasible, what the unique installation issues are etc.

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I wrote an article for our newsletter about this after being told a heap of BS by a Byron Bay based company about how much we'd save. We've not put solar on yet, quarterly bills are $350 in summer, up to $540 in winter (higher due to reverse cycle a/c heating).

http://www.rdani.org.au/news-events/july-2017-newsletter-31-07-2017.php#HomeSolar

 If you are using most of your electricity during the day at peak rates, it is likely to save you a lot.  But as CE says, get good quality stuff - and not just the panels.  The inverter quality is also very important - make sure it is also battery-ready.  Here is a little calculation you can do from the spec sheets on the panels to determine their quality:

http://www.rdani.org.au/projects/northern-inland-business-energy-assessment.php 

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How so?  We had some on ours already, we signed on with a supplier after the purchase was complete and it's in the contract the amount we get back for feeding into the grid.  We're responsible for the panels, looking to upgrade and possibly add a battery in the near future

Believe some of the early adopters can transfer the more lucrative buy back rates as part of the sale, have seen a few houses advertised with this as part of the advertising

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24 minutes ago, Cottoneyes said:

How so?  We had some on ours already, we signed on with a supplier after the purchase was complete and it's in the contract the amount we get back for feeding into the grid.  We're responsible for the panels, looking to upgrade and possibly add a battery in the near future

Believe some of the early adopters can transfer the more lucrative buy back rates as part of the sale, have seen a few houses advertised with this as part of the advertising

Not in Queensland, the higher feed in tariff is lost if you sell/buy the house. 

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5 minutes ago, pieman said:

Not in Queensland, the higher feed in tariff is lost if you sell/buy the house. 

They're trying everything they can to get out of it. Insane that it is still going really.

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4 minutes ago, Ex-Hasbeen said:

They're trying everything they can to get out of it. Insane that it ever happened really.

fixed for you...

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44 minutes ago, Cottoneyes said:

Believe some of the early adopters can transfer the more lucrative buy back rates as part of the sale, have seen a few houses advertised with this as part of the advertising

yep this is what I was chasing. No matter what happens we will be saving electricity. Going from a house with a large swimming pool will always be cheaper.

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Yeah, I found the price of some of the batteries.... :o ....... Even with a rebate and govt loan we won't be doing that.  Not for what little you get back from them atm

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Batteries still don't make much financial sense ATM. Over the life of the battery, the cost per kWh is still multiples of grid power cost.

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42 minutes ago, Alex Simmons said:

Batteries still don't make much financial sense ATM. Over the life of the battery, the cost per kWh is still multiples of grid power cost.

I agree, however not sure with the dilydallying of the governments and lack of infrustructure in place to ensure things keep working,  and the every increasing cost of power, $6K for one might seem a bargain in the next decade.  If I had a small business, it would be a no brainer

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2 minutes ago, Cottoneyes said:

I agree, however not sure with the dilydallying of the governments and lack of infrustructure in place to ensure things keep working,  and the every increasing cost of power, $6K for one might seem a bargain in the next decade.  If I had a small business, it would be a no brainer

Only that generally for business batteries make less sense, as most business takes place during business (aka daylight) hours. 

My wife is thinking of getting solar panels on the roof of the pre-school she runs. 99.99% of their power usage is during daylight hours, and when they are vacant during 12 weeks of the year any feed in tarriff will be a bonus. 

 

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18 minutes ago, roxii said:

Only that generally for business batteries make less sense, as most business takes place during business (aka daylight) hours. 

 

 

Solar panels feed into the network first and then back to your house / business - unless you have a battery.   So in a blackout the panels don't keep your lights on by themselves

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Aaaah ok.

bkackouts aren’t really an issue for us.....YET!! 

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Is that true Ceyes, I didn't know that?  So basically solar power is an offset against the electricity you use, not an "instead of"?  

Was reading about the batteries and efficiency.  So say the Tesla 10kw battery, which is what $16k?  They run at about 92% efficiency.  Then they lose more in the converter.  So in the end you may actually have 6 to 7kw to use.  Then take a household usage like ours, that might give us about 3 hours a night.  And you've gotta use say a third to half your daily generation to charge it up (or a cheaper night rate of you can get one).  I couldn't even attempt the math without my head blowing up but it doesn't seem like good economics to me?  Sure, if I had plenty of coin of do it in a heartbeat just for the environment and so I can feel all hippie.....

Edited by goughy

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5 minutes ago, goughy said:

Is that true Ceyes, I didn't know that?  So basically solar power is an offset against the electricity you use, not an "instead of"?  

 

I don't think the tech is there to do it otherwise.  My SIL has had solar panels for a while, and during blackouts they are "black'dout" even during the day.  Looking at ours the wiring is fed back into the grid and then back into our box.  Maybe others can confirm who have had it longer but that's just the 2 cases I know of

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Your "normal" solar installation will go off in a black-out. To have anything else, you have to either get another inverter & panel set, and wire it to a different circuit which is just your "emergency stuff", or you go off grid. You could possibly have some type of cut-over circuit put in, but I'm not sure of the legalities.

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I haven't thought about batteries yet. If I get some time I'll do an assessment on putting them in.  Purchase price, maintenance, sparing, MTBF, LORA and disposal costs. Then report back to you.

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4 hours ago, Cottoneyes said:

Solar panels feed into the network first and then back to your house / business - unless you have a battery.   So in a blackout the panels don't keep your lights on by themselves

My understanding is that not even a battery system will keep you immune from blackouts. The system shuts down along with the blackout. But I could be wrong, I'll defer to experts but that is how I understand it.

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Have been doing the due diligence on solar for my new place in Broulee. Originally going with battery ( that would give power during a blackout ), but the initial capital expenditure, was just not worth it with battery costs at the moment. ( $25,000 all up )

Going with 5.2kW system, 3 phase ( but with conduit for battery install down the track.) Ends up being around $8,000 installed and commissioned, grid connect. Metering is now done by the local power provider in our Shire, not sure about other places.

Our aim is to be able to produce our own power and if we can sell back to the grid, we will. It's not about making any money. On the new build, we have no pool and only A.C units and a mega roller door ( 7.2m wide ) that require the 3 phase. 

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16 hours ago, roxii said:

Only that generally for business batteries make less sense, as most business takes place during business (aka daylight) hours. 

My wife is thinking of getting solar panels on the roof of the pre-school she runs. 99.99% of their power usage is during daylight hours, and when they are vacant during 12 weeks of the year any feed in tarriff will be a bonus. 

 

I may have posted this before somewhere but I've done a bit of experimenting with traditional lead acid batteries and, according to me at least, this is the deal:

let's say you want to push 1 kWatt (1000 Watts) for an hour, ie 1 kWh.  Let's use the industry standard 12 Volt 100 AH sealed lead acid SLA) batteries 

You start with dividing the power by the volts (nominally 12) to get the current, which when you add 10% for losses gives around 1 battery, ie around 100 amps. So does this mean I it is 100 amps for an hour, therefore I only  need 1 battery?!

No. A battery's rating is done over a longer period of time (usually 20 hours) so if you want to suck it all out in 1 hour you have to de-rate it, a lot. Say 40%,  So, now you actually need 2 and a half batteries. So I can get by with 3 batteries?

No.  The deeper the discharge cycle the shorter the battery life.  A 100% discharge will kill it pretty quickly.  Best to be only 40% or less, so now we de-rate the batteries by another 2.5. So now you need 6 batteries for your humble 1 kw hour. 

Cost is around $200 per battery if you shop around so looking at $1,200 for batteries. You will also need some pretty heavy duty cabling (not cheap) and a good solar controller/ charger preferable the more efficient *MPPT type.

The good news is the Lithium batteries do not de-rate nearly as much as SLAs so you will need a lot less for a given output but they are more expensive and have their own quirks.

*How you wire up your batteries (ie all parallel for 12 volt or series parallel for 24 volt) has a big affect on what charger panel voltage and/or inverter you need.  If you have a 12 Volt system and 30 volt panels you must go MPPT.  If 24 volt system and 30 volt panels you can probably get away with PWM without too much loss of efficiency.  Series connection of batteries can be prone to balance issues that will reduce the overall capacity and may prematurely shorten the batteries' lifespan. 12 volt systems require twice the current so bigger cables, bigger fuses, bigger everything needed.

 The short answer is don't do it and wait until lithium batteries get cheaper! :) 

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You lost me at "I may have posted"..........

But I understood your short answer :)

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13 hours ago, Alex Simmons said:

My understanding is that not even a battery system will keep you immune from blackouts. The system shuts down along with the blackout. But I could be wrong, I'll defer to experts but that is how I understand it.

A UPS & a back up generator is the best way to ensure you never have a black out.  

In SA we had a major power failure about 12months ago.  Living next door to bikies had it's advantages on that day. They quickly got a generator set up & running. They chucked an extension lead over the fence for us so we were able to watch tv & cook dinner.  I guess they needed to keep the drug lab ticking along. 

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33 minutes ago, Bored@work said:

A UPS & a back up generator is the best way to ensure you never have a black out.  

In SA we had a major power failure about 12months ago.  Living next door to bikies had it's advantages on that day. They quickly got a generator set up & running. They chucked an extension lead over the fence for us so we were able to watch tv & cook dinner.  I guess they needed to keep the drug lab ticking along. 

I can imagine those words and a picture on the www.realestate.com.au ad for your house...

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45 minutes ago, pieman said:

I can imagine those words and a picture on the www.realestate.com.au ad for your house...

They moved out about 8months ago.  The funny thing was coming home after a ride in full Lycra with 15 guys sitting on Harleys out the front. Rode past them, quick nod of the head & continued on.

TBH we didn't have any problems with them. We spoke briefly & kept to ourselves. I don't think they want the attention around their house.

Worst thing is SA is such a small place. I was out at a work lunch with the senior management team & some of the big players from the USA. When the bikies walked past & of course they went "morning Dave"........  Try explaining that one.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Bored@work said:

Worst thing is SA is such a small place. I was out at a work lunch with the senior management team & some of the big players from the USA. When the bikies walked past & of course they went "morning Dave"........  Try explaining that one.

No worse than being freshly engaged, and taking my future wife into a country pub where I'd been working for the past few months. She was passing through to pick me up to go to a race. As we walked in, the drop dead gorgeous young barmaid call's out "Hi Tony", and has a beer on the bar for me before I'm 3 steps into the place.

You could have started a bush-fire with the glare I got from my fiance. :shy:

Edited by Ex-Hasbeen
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6 hours ago, Bored@work said:

A UPS & a back up generator is the best way to ensure you never have a black out.  

In SA we had a major power failure about 12months ago.  Living next door to bikies had it's advantages on that day. They quickly got a generator set up & running. They chucked an extension lead over the fence for us so we were able to watch tv & cook dinner.  I guess they needed to keep the drug lab ticking along. 

Yeah, good for basics but not much fun when the AC goes down on a hot day/night.

This is what they say on the Tesla site:

Quote

How does Powerwall work during an outage?

Powerwall can detect an outage, disconnect from the grid, and automatically restore power to your home in a fraction of a second. You will not even notice that the power went out. Your lights and appliances will continue to run without interruption.

If you have solar and Powerwall, then solar energy will continue to power your home and recharge Powerwall. Without Powerwall, solar will shut down during an outage.

We estimate how long your home will stay powered during an outage based on your indicated home size and the appliances you elect to back up, derived from national data. With solar, your Powerwall charge will deplete only when your home energy usage exceeds your solar power production. We cap our estimate at 7 days to account for the occasional cloudy day that may impact solar production.

So if that's true, it may actually provide a decent solution for areas prone to regular grid outages. I still expect it to be an expensive solution though.

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On 1/24/2018 at 3:12 PM, Cottoneyes said:

Solar panels feed into the network first and then back to your house / business - unless you have a battery.   So in a blackout the panels don't keep your lights on by themselves

That was the way systems were once wired when large FIT's were payed by the state governments. Called Gross metering

This was because you would sell everything generated for 60c/kwh and buy it back for less than 20c/kwh

Systems are now set up to "net metering" so that power is consumed onsite first, anything surplus to needs is then exported.

The reason solar systems are required to automatically switch off in a blackout is prevent them feeding power into the grid than may be under repair and so put workers lives at risk. Its a safety measure.

Some battery systems will still not prevent this (i.e. they will still showdown and you still are left in the dark) unless the system is set up for "islanding". When the grid goes down you are set up like an "island" so that you can continue to use your batteries, but all exports are restricted (again, to protect others)

 

 

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Luckily for me I live 10min from work. Work has a massive UPS with two CAT Generators.

 

Any black out & I pack up & drive to work. Coffee machine, big screen TV, comfy couch & aircond.

 

 

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Had a drive around southern tablelands today. Loved seeing a 51 turbine wind farm at Taralga and a 73 turbine wind and 42,000 panel facility at Crookwell. They can supply 45,000 and 70,000 houses with power. Since seeing a wind farm up close while cycling in Germany and Holland I am astounded with the opposition to them. 

Reading about these 2 facilities within a few hours of Sydney, I was disappointedly to read that one is owned by the Chinese government and the other by a Chinese publicly listed company

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We got our first electricity bill for the new house  with a 3kw system & 55c feedings tariff. Average cost per day $2.10

Our old place with no solar panels and running a pool pump and filter $16.50 a day. 

The old place didn't have gas and the new one does so we are expecting the delta to reduce. 

We are really happy not to be paying $1500 power bills anymore. The extra coin will got towards the added mortgage. 

 

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On 1/25/2018 at 3:33 PM, Alex Simmons said:

Yeah, good for basics but not much fun when the AC goes down on a hot day/night.

This is what they say on the Tesla site:

So if that's true, it may actually provide a decent solution for areas prone to regular grid outages. I still expect it to be an expensive solution though.

I am not completely up on that but I was under the impression that you cannot use your inverter to power during a blackout.  Grid tie inverters synch to the mains and are designed to switch off in the event of a power failure. 2 reasons for this - if an electrician disconnects the mains power he needs to know that there is not a 240 volt source still there waiting to kill him and secondly, if the inverter is still on when the mains is back on it may have lost synch, in which case it could be completely out phase when the mains comes back and lots of smoke and crackling noises could result.

*edit - I also think that grid tie inverters aren't built to cover the kinds of surge current that would be experienced in a back-up power situation, eg motors turning on, where currents 2 or even 3 times need to be catered for.

 

Could be wrong, but if it is done interesting to hear how it is done.  I have an off grid inverter which for all intents and purposes is like a back up generator but I have to make my own "extension cable network" to run power to the items that need it and NOT use the house wiring.

Edited by Pete

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Currently in the process of getting quotes from 3 recommended suppliers. I did up a reasonably decent briefing, provided quarterly consumption data for last 9 quarters, broke out the off-peak hot water usage (since that's at ~11-12 cents/kWh so no point putting that on solar) and have had all 3 visit to inspect the place and discuss options.

My expectations before starting is that the 3 quotes will be not directly comparable, it'll be apples with oranges.

So far that's looking like the case based on our meetings. I'm OK with that because it's not the price that will be my primary deciding factor (provided it's not ridiculously different). What I'm looking for are the other factors, suitability of the proposed solution, quality and durability of the technology, how the process is managed end to end, ability to add tech later without pain and the financial projections. Then there is the after sales service and longevity of the business.

One quote has arrived, two others due soon.

It's interesting to get a sense of who knows their stuff, can properly address the specific situation we have and not hand wave away certain issues.

In particular is the fact we have 3-phase power and that presents some challenges when it comes to potential for battery storage and uninterrupted power supply. I've been reading up on all the various configurations in this article:

https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/home-batteries-3-phase/

Boy, this is one thing I'll need to get right so I don't get hammered later if we decide to retrofit battery storage later. Already I can see on the one quote we have that the solution is somewhat technically limited and the financial projections don't account for the limitations of the proposed solution (not to mention the unduly optimistic and pessimistic assumptions designed to make the financial return look a lot better than it really will be).

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So I'm somewhat further down the track now and have chosen my preferred supplier.

All I need to do now is sort out how I'm paying for it.

As I had expected, the solutions put forward were actually quite different and it's been interesting to pull them apart to understand the nuances.

I'll end up with an 11kW array and a Fronius 3 phase inverter. The battery solution for future is a bit newer and installs between the solar array and the inverter, rather than on the grid side of the inverter. It's pretty nifty and means I don't need to set up with a more expensive hybrid inverter.

One solution I'm not going with was the use of micro inverters (Enphase) which was quite appealing for my situation and works pretty well with the 3-phase. However the future battery solution is not so great for a 3-phase set up. There is a modular battery solution for use with the micro inverters but their power output is so low you would struggle to use the stored energy during the evening peak period, which is exactly when you can benefit most from having stored energy - and so limits any advantage from of time of day electricity pricing.

Another company I think oversized the system a little but more importantly they struggled to come up with a solution suitable for adding battery later for use over 3-phase, but did so after I talked it through with them. But if I have to tell them what tech solution they need given the briefing already provided, that's a sign they are focussed on a solution more right for them than me. But it did provide a useful price check point.

The mob who will get the business have been very helpful in thinking it through, doing extra research and being creative in investigating the various options and came up with a solution that keeps initial outlay down while also being battery ready for future.

As to batteries, at the moment they are still too expensive at well over $1k per kWh rated storage for their warrantied life. So they need to drop in price and after a year or two I'll also have much better time of day power usage data from the smart monitoring system so I can better model the cost/benefit.

As for future support, my preferred supplier is also based in the local region and have been around for some time now. And as it turns out, their price is also better.

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The one bummer in all this is the nonsense going on with the current Federal Government and their idiotic inability to deliver a sensible energy and climate policy.

ScoMo claims he wants to focus on driving energy prices down, yet all their leadership bullshit has done is result in prices on such systems increase substantially.

In the time from before the leadership spill/ditching of NEG to after it, the STC price fell sharply which means my system price goes up by about $800.

It's a shame we don't have real muppets running the show. I'd rate them far about the bunch of clowns we have at the moment.

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My application to the local energy distribution company has been approved and I'm permitted a grid feed in of up to 9kW, which is pretty good given we are rural.

My current old school electricity meters will require an upgrade to smart technology, and is done by the energy retailer, in my case Energy Australia. Pretty sure they don't do that until after the solar system is installed.

So now it's a wait until installation which I guess is 6-8 weeks out. Then the meter change over and commissioning. By then we'll be into summer and the beginning of our highest electricity use period and hopefully will see the benefits quickly.

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