Nuts & Bolts and Technical Information and Options

Where are the prices?

Click here for the price guide.

The prices we have negotiated are not the cheapest on the market. The components are all high quality, near or at the top of the market. Our prices are highly competitive for this quality gear and we are confident our local solar companies are both ethical and professional.

When does the Caring for Creation through Solar Bulk Buy close?

We don’t close the rounds as such, but we can only secure prices in three month blocks because of a whole host of market and government rebate circumstances. This round ‘Round 2’ is secured at the advertised prices until August 31st 2018.

Do I have to live within and belong to the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney to take part?

Not necessarily. At this pilot stage of the project our suppliers are only able to service the Sydney Metro region, which encompasses all of the Archdiocese. Some parts of Parramatta and Broken Bay Dioceses may also be serviceable, and we hope that over time we can grow our supplier list so as to be able service more areas. If you belong to another diocese please get in touch with us to discuss your interests, or come along to an Information Session, and we will do our best to find a way to include you in the programme.

When do I get my solar installed?

Once you have signed up on the Solar-Go Form by Registering we’ll contact you to finalise the details and the pass your details to the solar company who will get in touch to arrange a quote. Once you’ve accepted the quote they will schedule your job.

Is my roof suitable for solar panels? What about shading?

Most roofs are suitable for solar panel installation. If you are unsure don’t worry come along to an Info Session and we to get more advice. If you move forward with the quote the solar company will be able to assist you with your concerns and specific needs.

For more info on shading and its effects on solar have a look at this article by Community Energy Group, Sunny Shire click here.

How much power does my solar array produce?

Household solar panel arrays on houses are usually measured in kilowatts. 5 and 8 kilowatt systems are common. It is important to realise that if your system is a 5 kilowatt system, it will not produce 5 kW of power each hour. 5 kW is its maximum production over an hour, production will be zero overnight and differ during the day depending on time of day, season and cloud cover.  A 5kW system will on average produce about 19kWh per day. This is roughly equal to the average daily energy use of a fairly energy-efficient household. During winter it will produce less than 19kWh and during summer it will produce more.

What size system should I get? Why going big makes sense.

The Australian Government calculator reports that 18-25 kwh is typical daily electricity use for a four person, totally electric household. You can check your current average usage on the back of your electricity bill.

The right size will depend on various factors including your budget, availability of suitable roof space and your objectives. It is easier and cheaper to install a larger system up-front rather than starting smaller and adding panels later. This article by our solar consultant, Jonathan Prendergast,  provides several reasons for ‘going big’ up front. This article presents an economic analysis showing that larger systems should save more money over time, despite the larger up-front cost and regardless of how much energy your household uses.

This approach was confirmed by leading experts the Alternative Technology Association and reported here.

If your objective is to be as self-sufficient as possible then you’ll probably want a larger system.

Can I get a different size to the sample prices, eg 4kW?

Yes. You can discuss your requirements with the local solar company and they will quote accordingly.

Can I get finance to fund my solar installation?

We cannot organise this or offer financial advice or recommendations for you, but their are many options.

For example, Community First Credit Union offers ‘green loans’ to support solar installations. The current interest rate is 6.12%.  You can investigate this here.

Technical Information on components

Which panels should I choose?

Both of our options (Trina and LG) are quality, high-performing products.

The premium LG panels:

  • produce more power per panel: 330W vs 295W for Trina, so less panels are required for a given system size
  • should produce more power in low light situations
  • have a 12 year manufacturer’s warranty vs 10 year for Trina
  • more details about the LG panels are explained in this article.

The Trina panels produce more output per dollar of cost compared to the LG panels and may be more economical in most situations.

Which inverter should I choose?

Both of our options (Fronius and SolarEdge) are quality, high-performing products. The main benefit of the premium SolarEdge inverter is the use of DC optimisers on each panel. This allows for increased system output in the following cases:

  • partial shading of some panels
  • differences in the orientation and tilt of panels
  • differences between panels caused by manufacturing variation, dirt, bird droppings etc.

The Fronius inverter supports two groups (or ‘strings’) of panels and requires all panels in a group to be installed with the same orientation and tilt. If this is not possible on your roof and/or if you experience partial shading then the SolarEdge system may be a better choice. The local solar company can advise on your particular situation.

The SolarEdge inverter also comes with a much longer warranty: 12 years vs 5 for the Fronius. The Fronius warranty can be extended for an extra fee.

Gear at a glance

What does an inverter do, again?

Inverters convert the DC (direct current) power generated by your solar panels into the 240 volt AC (alternating current) power needed by the grid and by appliances in your home. Basically, without an inverter, your solar system can’t be used to supply the appliances in your home.

Your inverter will feed the excess energy you produce into the grid. This type of inverter requires the mains grid voltage to be present for safety, this means your solar system will automatically shut down during blackouts.

Note, installing an inverter larger than 5kW on a house requires permission from the network operator, although this permission is often granted. If such permission is required it will be arranged by the solar company.

Can I have 6kW of panels with a 5kW inverter?

Yes, it is possible and generally recommended to install more panel capacity than the inverter’s rating. A multiple of 1.3 is the maximum, e.g. a 5kW inverter can support up to 6.5kW of panels. Installing more panels will result in greater energy output and does not damage the inverter. Adding more panels will increase the price but is good value per additional kW. The solar company can provide more details and a quote for your particular situation.

What about the meter upgrades?

Your home will need a digital bidirectional net meter, that is one that measures not only the electricity coming into your home but the electricity you are feeding back into the system from your solar panels.

Only your retailer can arrange a new meter for you. Some charge, others don’t. The meter can only be ordered after you have had your solar installed. It is important to get onto this early in the process so you can start reaping the benefits of solar.  We will offer more detailed information and advice on this at the Information Sessions.

What about Consumption Monitoring?

The consumption monitoring feature provides monitoring and reporting of your household’s energy use at frequent intervals e.g. every 15 minutes. This feature provides insight into when your home uses energy and how much, this allows you to manage and optimise your self-consumption. For example, you can determine how much energy your dishwasher uses and when to run it so it can be powered by solar energy instead of importing energy from the grid. This will save money, which will help offset the additional cost of the monitoring option.

Both Fronius and SolarEdge inverters require an extra device to enable consumption monitoring, hence the additional cost. Without consumption monitoring both inverters will only monitor your solar output and the only visibility of energy imports and exports will be your electricity bill.

Consumption monitoring for both inverters connect to your home internet connection via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable and send monitoring data to a system on the internet. Both systems provide apps for Android and Apple IOS. You can check the performance of your solar from work!

Do these systems support a battery?

There are three kinds of home batteries:

  • AC batteries, e.g. Tesla Powerwall 2
  • DC low-voltage, e.g. some LG Chem
  • DC high-voltage, e.g. Tesla Powerwall 1, some LG Chem

AC batteries, such as the Tesla Powerwall 2, should be compatible with any solar  inverter, including those offered in this bulk buy. AC batteries have a built-in inverter and do not rely on the solar inverter.

The Fronius inverter does not support DC batteries directly. DC batteries can be added later by adding a separate battery inverter.

The base SolarEdge inverter does not support DC batteries, but can be upgraded to a SolarEdge StorEdge inverter that supports some DC high-voltage batteries. Selecting a StorEdge inverter to begin with is cheaper than retrofitting a separate battery inverter (the “SolarEdge Interface”) later. If you plan to install a DC battery at some point you may wish to select the StorEdge inverter up front – please see the price guide for costs and be sure to discuss your wishes with the solar company who can offer personalised advice.

Will these systems let me go ‘off grid’?

No, all inverters offered here are grid-tied and must be installed with a connection to the grid.

What happens in a blackout?

The Fronius inverter and the regular SolarEdge inverter cannot function during a blackout. It is not possible to generate or use solar electricity during a blackout with a grid-tied inverter.

The SolarEdge StorEdge inverter with a DC battery would allow some loads (e.g. lights, fridge etc) to continue operating during a blackout.

What does single phase and three phase mean?

Without getting too technical, most houses are single phase. If you have a really big house or are a big consumer you may have a three phase system. Three Phase power means you have greater power supply to your house. It also means you can, in most cases, get a larger solar system. If so, some aspects of your set up will be a little different. The local solar company will explain this to you.