EcoSouth has been supplying and installing Grid Connect systems for homes, business and communities since the year 2000.
A grid connect solar power system produces clean green power, reducing the need for power to be produced by coal or gas etc. The great thing is it will actually save you money as well.
The power produced by the solar system will be fed straight into your home, reducing the amount of power you need to buy from your energy retailer (saving money). Any excess power your system produces will be exported back to the street, which you will receive a credit for on your power bill. If at any time your appliances are using more power than your system is producing, the power will be imported as usual and charged for on your power bill (which gets offset by the credits for export). At night, your appliances use imported power as usual.
Grid connect PV systems could be considered a fit and forget system requiring minimal maintenance. Checking for a green light on the inverter and recording the total production (eg monthly) is recommended so that any loss of performance can be addressed. Panels tend to self clean if they are on a reasonable slope, and generally do not need cleaning for at least a year depending on your location/surrounds.
A grid connect solar system may seem complex, but it's fairly simple when broken down to the major components.
Diagram of Grid Connect solar production
Grid Connect Components
A grid-connect solar system consists of:
- Solar panel array to produce the electricity
- Inverter that harvests the power from panels and converts to normal household electricity
- Balance of System - this is the installation, cabling, switchgear framing and more
- Import/Export meter for correct billing of your power
Solar Panel Array
On your roof are installed the panels - also known as an 'array'. These produce a Direct Current (DC) electricity, similar to what you would get from a battery (but at a higher voltage).
The size (wattage) of the solar panel array sets the amount of power your system produces, and therefore the savings potential of the system.
There are factors that limit your system size (ie roof area, shaded areas, budget, aethestic considerations), this is something that EcoSouth can work through with you to achieve the best solution for you.
For maximum overall production, panels are mounted on a north facing roof with a 15° to 40° pitch, however if electricity usage is to take place earlier later in the day, then a easterly or westerly system can be of greater value as it picks up more morning or afternoon sun.
Solar panels have an expected lifetime in excess of 25 years with a power output warranty of a similiar length for most panels. You want to ensure the manufacturer is reputable and financially sound, so that in the rare event (for quality panels) there is an issue, they are still around and willing to get the issue sorted.
The inverter tracks the maximum power available (via is MPPT software algorithm) from the panels, and converts the DC electricity into Alternating Current (AC) electricity which pulses cyclically, the nearest equivalent example being an electric fence.
The inverter, via its computer control, manages and synchronises this power such that it is compatible with the 230V AC supply to your home, and all your home's electrical appliances.
Whatever power your appliances require will be first drawn from solar power system. If they require more, it will be automatically drawn from the power-lines in the street.
In times of good daylight, when there is more solar electricity than your appliances require, then the surplus solar electricity will be exported to the street's power lines.
Standard warranties for most inverters are 5-10years, so it is important that you (and us) are comfortable with the manufacturer being in a position to honour the warranty, as warranty faults are more common for inverters. EcoSouth heavily scruntises any grid connect inverter we consider selling, taking into account the inverters track record, design, heat disippation methods and of course the values, history and position of the manufacturer.
We recommend that inverters be installed indoors or undercover (even outdoor rated units) as this helps ensure the longest life possible. Direct sun should be avoided, as direct sun makes it very difficult for your inverter to dissipate the heat it produces and keep cool. Inverters may make a slight buzzing noise when in operation, and a fan runs when hot (if it has a fan), so living areas may want to be avoided.
Balance of System
The balance of the system is essential for the correct operation and long trouble-free life of your system, it consists of the cabling, framing, switchgear and installation standards.
EcoSouth proudly employs of our own installation teams.Our installers take pride that they install your system neatly and won't need to return for substandard workmanship.
Quality switchgear is very important for DC currents. By nature it is harsher than AC to switch off as it is contstant, whereas with AC it regularly "turns on and off" 50 times a second which stops the arc.
For the switchgear on the roof (rooftop isolator) we supply and fit the EcoSouth cover to help protect it from the harsh Australian sun in summer and the beating wind and rain of winter.
Water ingress is a major issue. A poor installation will damage the switchgear and can flow through the conduit from the roof to the inverter switchgear, damaging that as well!
Measuring and Metering
SA Power Networks (formerly ETSA Utilities) require that solar customers, have a PV Import/Export Meter that is capable of measuring and recording the exported power.
EcoSouth manages the paperwork and booking for your Import/Export meter with your energy retailer and SAPN (SA Power Networks).
When the new meter is installed SAPN will invoice you directly for the installation of the meter.
As at March 2014 they were charging:
Single Phase: $314.60
The PV Import/Export meter measures:
a) the power that comes into your home, ie imported
b) the power that manages to leave your home, ie exported
c) any off-peak power you use, ie for hot-water or in-floor heating
Inverters have built in power-meters (like an odometer) – this shows the total solar power produced since installation. Remember that one part of this solar power is used by your appliances, and the other part is exported to the grid (power-lines) in the street
You can work out how much solar power was consumed by your home by subtracting the export recorded on the SAPN meter, from the total production recorded on the inverter. That will be the amount of power that the solar system has saved you from buying (importing)
Please call for customised pricing and solution for your situation
For a business, the cost is depreciable over the ‘tax lifetime’ of the system - consult your accountant. Get the most cost-effective system to suit your circumstances.
We are happy to visit and inspect your site to provide a comprehensive quote. Please call 8371 5655 to arrange an appointment and a free information pack