Frequently Asked questions about Solar

According to the PV system basic pricing index (i.e. solar panel costs based on live database) for residential and commercial-scale solar systems, the prices vary accordingly with both size of systems to be installed as well as where in Australia they are going to be installed. In the NT, the prices vary for different PV system sizes as follow:

3 kW system: AU$ 7,360.

4 kW system: AU$ 8,400.

5 kW system: AU$ 9,740.

6 kW system: AU$ 10,250.

7 kW system: AU$ 11,310.

10 kW system: AU$ 13,000.

Direct hours of daily sunlight and the size and angle of your roof are both important, but local electricity rates play the biggest role in determining how much solar can save you. In the NT, depending upon the size of the PV systems and local electricity rates, the estimated annual savings are as follow:

3 kW system: AU$ 1,260 per year.

4 kW system: AU$ 1,430 per year.

5 kW system: AU$ 1,600 per year.

6 kW system: AU$ 1,870 per year.

7 kW system: AU$ 1,935 per year.

10 kW system: AU$ 2,445 per year

Photovoltaic (solar) panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, although they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds, which means they can still produce 10–25% of their typical output on a cloudy day. Obviously, since the capacity of panels are severely affected by the blocking of light due to clouds, this amount is much less than during periods of direct sunlight, but it cannot be considered as nothing.

To determine the type and size of a solar system, the following factors are needed to be considered:

  1. Budget
  2. Household electricity consumption behavior

At Top End Solar, we analyze these factors holistically for our valuable customers before deciding the appropriate size and type of systems to be installed. We also present standard interactive proposals to our customers which not only include type and size (capacity) of the system but also covers maximum savings estimation and payback period calculation.

A typical system (1.6kW to 3kW) will require 1-2 days for installation (only). Larger systems will typically take longer. However, there are several other stages that needs to be completed before actual installation, starting from customer’s interest until the solar system is up and running. The overall process for this includes Site Assessment, Design Approval, Permitting, Installation, Inspection and Utility Interconnection.

Installing a solar battery can be a great way to get the most value out of your solar panel system. They are an excellent source of backup power, can make you less reliant on the grid, and in some cases can save you even more money on your electricity bill.

Yes, you can add a battery storage to the existing solar system. The level of difficulty associated with adding a battery depends on whether your solar panel system was designed with the intention of adding energy storage later on.

If you have a “storage ready” solar system, you already have an inverter that can easily integrate a battery into your solar panel system. In this situation, a battery is relatively simple to install, and the installation process won’t require much additional equipment.

If your solar panel system was not originally designed with the ability to add storage later, the installation will be slightly more complicated. In this scenario, you have two options: an “AC coupled” solution (i.e. your battery is installed with a separate inverter that is integrated into your home’s energy system), or replacement of the existing inverter with one that works with your battery.

A solar (PV system) with battery storage must be designed and installed by Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited personnel. Therefore, you need to head towards an accredited company or contact them online or over a phone if you desire to install a PV system with battery storage.

At Top End Solar, we are CEC accredited designers and installers who are dedicated towards the design of quality PV systems. We carefully perform an energy/load assessment at your house to determine the size (capacity) of the system as well as battery bank to be installed. Furthermore, it is also our responsibility to estimate best annual savings and payback period for the solar system (with battery storage) we design and install.

The feed-in tariff is different for every state in Australia. Considering the NT, the GST inclusive and GST exclusive feed-in tariffs are AU$ 0.0913 and AU$ 0.083 respectively.

When considering going solar, one of the key questions is whether you will need a building permit or permission from your state or council. If you do, it’s usually possible to get your solar installer to take care of this for you. However, you can also:

  • Ask your local council: Your local council will be in charge of building permits and regulations and should be able to provide you with a quick answer. Give them a call, or the information may even be available on your local council website. If a permit is needed, you should also find information as to how you go about getting one and any other advice you need before installation.
  • Ask your solar installer: Your solar installer or any solar installation companies in your area will know the rules of your area and any building permits required, and if they don’t then you might want to take that as a warning.

A PV (solar) system with battery storage is able to support your loads during power outages (from grid) and can save you even more money (depending upon the tariff structure in your region). But batteries are expensive and can take a while to pay off. Having said this, if you are a Northern Territory (NT) homeowner, business or a not-for-profit organization, you can apply for a $6,000 grant for battery installations. This means that the upfront cost is reduced and the savings and payback period are improved.

However, if budget is not a problem and if most of the electricity consumption is at night, it is in best interest to generate your own electricity, use it as much as possible, charge the battery and export any surplus energy during day time and use the stored energy at night.

Last but not the least, even though the cost of solar battery storage is projected to decline year-over-year, it simply makes no sense to wait to get solar. Waiting years for batteries to become affordable means bearing high electricity bills during that exact amount of time until you finally decide to install your solar system. Therefore, since PV (solar) systems are quite flexible systems, meaning, they can be installed now (start benefiting from your system right away in terms of both savings and environment), batteries can be added later on in the existing system.

Yes. Since safe design is a must, the roof material definitely matters for PV (solar) installation. For a roof-mounted solar installation, the suitability of the roof should be determined as part of the site assessment. Some criteria to be used to determine the suitability of the roof are:

  1. The structural integrity of the roof.
  2. The type of roof cladding and its condition.
  3. Sufficient area for the panels to be installed.
  4. Roof dimensions

At Top End Solar, we design PV systems considering optimum safety for most types of roofs and if your roof is really not suitable, we’ll tell you.

Since we are located in the southern hemisphere, the best site for a solar PV system is a north facing roof which receives plenty of sunshine and is not shaded by trees or neighboring buildings. The roof needs to be structurally sound and safely accessible for installation.

Not having a north facing roof does not mean a solar PV system is not suitable for your house.  Even a west or east facing roof is suitable for a solar PV system. It will not generate as much energy as a north facing roof but can still help you reduce your electricity consumption from the grid.

North facing solar panels will peak in their power production around midday and give you the most energy overall throughout the year. East facing panels will peak in the morning and give you about 15% less energy throughout the year. West facing panels will peak in the late afternoon and again give you about 15% less energy throughout the year. This means, a working household can self-consume more solar energy with east and west facing panels because they give more energy before and after school or work which accelerates the system payback.

Moreover, although south facing roof panels limit the overall production throughout a year and is the last resort, they can still make you money.

The PV (solar) panels’ physical arrangement is determined by the area of the roof. Depending upon the size (capacity) of the solar system you need, the corresponding maximum number of panels should fit in the available area of the roof while keeping in mind the spacing (safety) requirements between panels as well as the group of panels arranged in rows/columns.

A grid-connected PV (solar) system requires the installer to provide services and products in order to create this system. There are four main types of warranties applicable to such a system, these are:

  1. Product warranties covering defects in manufacture.
  2. Product warranties related to product output performance over time.
  3. System warranties relating to the installation of the system and its performance over time: usually the installer will document the ‘installation warranty’ provided, e.g. a minimum of 12 months.
  4. Energy performance warranties relating to the guaranteed energy output of the grid-connected PV system over a period of time.

The first two warranties are offered by, and are the responsibility of, the equipment manufacturer. In the event that there is an equipment failure, you are required to contact the installer in relation to any warranty claim. The installation company provides the third and fourth warranties shown above. Details of all warranties related to the system will be included in the system manual.

There are three major types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each type has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the solar panel type best suited for your installation will depend on factors specific to your own property and desired system characteristics.

However, the most important thing to consider while selecting panels is their quality and durability. Good quality panels that can last 25+ years are to be selected so that you can get the best return within the system’s lifetime. Good quality panels are bit expensive but apparently, we generally get what we pay for!

Yes, solar systems can be upgraded later on. However, the complexity of an upgrade is affected by whether it’s classed as a ‘repair’ or ‘alteration’. Repairs (replacing failed panel/s, inverters, etc.) are generally allowed without (much) additional work while alterations (increasing the size of the system, adding battery storage, moving the system, etc.) require more work to meet the current standards.

A grid-connected PV (solar) system uses solar (PV) modules (or panels) as the power generation source. PV modules convert sunlight into DC power. The power produced is fed into an inverter that changes the DC power output of the PV modules to AC power, compatible with the Australian power grid and majority of appliances. The system allows for any on-site appliances to be powered by the power generated by the PV system or the power drawn from the grid or a combination of the two. Any excess power generated by the PV system is generally exported to the grid to receive benefit in terms of feed-in tariff. In a PV system with battery storage, you can generate your own electricity from the PV system, self-consume it as much as possible, charge the battery, export any surplus energy and finally, use the stored energy during the night to maximize the benefits.

A grid-connected PV (solar) system that has been appropriately installed and commissioned should operate over its life with minimal intervention: this is one of the main advantages of solar systems over other forms of power generation. However, PV systems do need regular inspection and maintenance to ensure that they are operating – and will continue to operate – efficiently, to check for any problems and to maximize the life of the system. On the other hand, although the solar system that has been well designed and installed should provide fault-free operation for many years, it will occasionally require troubleshooting to determine the source of problem if there happens to be one.

A power blackout (also called a power cut, a power out, a power outage, power failure or simply a blackout) is the loss of the electrical power network supply to an end user. Essentially, a blackout is a problem for home owners. Putting into simple words, during a blackout, you are devoid of any power from the grid into your house. A PV (system) with battery storage is a perfect solution for residential homes as well as commercial buildings that experience regular (or frequent) blackouts as this system will disconnect from the grid as soon as the grid failure happens and immediately supply power to the specified appliances to prevent any loss due to the grid failure.