When choosing to install solar power, also called a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, it's important to consider the following:
Do you want to meet all or part of your electricity needs?
Have you spoken with your electricity retailer and your installer?
Installing solar power might impact your current electricity tariff. Some energy retailers require solar customers to shift to time-of-use tariff.
Do you want to go carbon neutral?
This would mean generating enough renewable energy to offset any greenhouse gas emissions that you produce in your home.
Do you wish to add battery storage?
Battery storage allows you to store energy for use at peak tariff times.
Have you done as much as you can to make your home energy efficient?
This might include installing LED downlights, improving your insulation and replacing inefficient appliances. Making your house as energy efficient as possible will reduce the size of the solar PV system you need to buy.
How much are you prepared to invest in your solar power? Your budget may limit the size of the system.
Do you have sufficient unshaded space on your house or shed roof for the mounting of photovoltaic (PV) panels? Generally it's best to face your PV panels north but, if roof space is limited, it's also acceptable to face them west or east.
Have you considered shading?
If adjoining properties were developed to the maximum extent permitted under the relevant planning and building provisions, would your photovoltaic panels be in shade?
When deciding whether to install new solar panels, keep in mind that adjoining land and dwellings may be developed in the future, or a tree or fast growing hedge may impact the effectiveness of your solar panels.
Your local council's planning and building group can provide information on overshadowing, land use, planning and development in your area, as well as planning permit requirements.
Higher placement of panels, or splitting panel location across north, west or east roof orientations, can minimise the impact of overshadowing on your solar system as a whole.
Avoid placing panels on a roof face with minimal separation from a neighbouring building. A side boundary with a path or driveway increases separation between both buildings and this minimises the risk that shadows will be cast over your panels.
For small systems, placing panels on the roof above a north facing side window is ideal. This is because greater setbacks are required to allow solar access to existing north-facing habitable room windows under the building code. (Note: a setback is the required distance between a building or other structure from a street, road, river, stream and so on).
Despite careful panel placement of solar panels, some overshadowing may still occur. As long as this is not greater than 20% of the surface area of your system over the warmer months, energy generation will generally still be effective, especially if you have a multiple string panel set up (or equivalent). In this set-up there are at least two groups of panels separately linked to your inverter, instead of all panels being connected in sequence. While shade on one panel may affect the operation of all the panels when they are wired up together, splitting the system minimises the impact of shade.
Some premium solar power systems incorporate technologies less susceptible to the impact of partial shading on overall system performance. Your solar system retailer should be able to provide you with practical advice.
The needs of every household are different, and the installation of solar power can require significant investment. Make sure you do your research before starting your installation.
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