Installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system at your home or business is a great way to slash your power bill and get back control of your electricity usage.
But there’s a lot of information out there about solar power, and not all of it is reliable. To help cut through the noise, the Clean Energy Council has provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from householders and businesses looking to go solar.
Solar power costs and savings
How much does it cost to install solar panels?
The price of solar systems has dropped dramatically over the past few years, making it an increasingly attractive option for homes and businesses.
The upfront cost of your solar PV system is affected by a number of different factors, including:
- government incentives and support schemes available
- contractor installation costs
- type and number of solar panels, which affect the output of your system in kilowatts (kW)
- type and size of inverter (the part of the system that converts the electrical output of your solar panels into AC electricity for use in your home or business)
- type of framing equipment and other system components
- height and accessibility of roof and whether it is tiled, metal or concrete
- any after-sales service agreements
As a very rough guide, the total cost of getting a home solar system up and running is between $2500 (for a small 1.5 kW system) and $11,500 (for a top-of-the-line 5 kW system).
For businesses, the approximate cost of installing solar ranges from around $15,000 (for a 10kW system) to more than $200,000 (for a high-capacity 100 kW system).
How much money will I save with solar panels?
The amount of money your household will save on power bills by going solar is affected by a number of factors, including:
- Your energy consumption and the size of your solar power system – if you use more power than your system is capable of producing, your savings will be reduced. This can be avoided by choosing the right-sized system for your needs.
- Your feed-in tariff – this is the amount your electricity retailer pays you for any excess power your solar panels generate.
- Your usage patterns – solar panels can only generate electricity while the sun is shining. This means that households that use a lot of power during the day may attract greater savings than those that consume most of their power at night. However, you will still receive a feed-in tariff for any excess electricity you generate during the day.
- Where you live – some areas of Australia receive a lot more sunlight than others, so a solar PV system in Brisbane will usually generate more power than one in Hobart.
Businesses have a couple of other things to take into account, including the tax implications of any revenue received from feed-in tariffs.
A Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer must provide a site-specific estimate of your system’s energy generation. Many solar companies will also calculate the impact this has on your bill.
What is a solar feed-in tariff (FiT)?
A feed-in-tariff is the amount your electricity retailer pays you for any electricity your solar PV system generates that you don’t use, and is instead fed back into the grid.
What is a small-scale technology certificate (STC)?
STCs are government incentives that help reduce the upfront cost of installing your solar PV system. The value of STCs your system receives differs depending on its size and location.
To be eligible for STCs, your solar system must be installed by Clean Energy Council accredited installer.
Purchasing solar panels
What is the difference between a Clean Energy Council member, a Clean Energy Council accredited installer and a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer?
A Clean Energy Council member is any company that has joined the Clean Energy Council.
Membership is open to all companies with an interest in the renewable energy sector: small- and large-scale solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, electricity retailers etc. Members help the Clean Energy Council advocate for better renewable energy policy.
A Clean Energy Council accredited installer (or designer) is a tradesperson who has demonstrated their competence in the design and/or installation of solar PV systems.
Please note that only individuals are eligible for accreditation – there is no such thing as an accredited company, although many accredited installers run their own business.
A Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer is a company that sells complete solar PV systems and has signed the Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct.
Authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Code of Conduct is a voluntary scheme that aims to bring about a better standard of service in the solar industry.
An Approved Solar Retailer has formally committed to following our high standards for marketing, documentation and ethical business practices. They use accredited installers and high-quality components, and provide all customers with a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty.
How can I select a reputable solar retailer?
There are two ways to ensure you are buying your solar PV system from a reliable retailer:
1. Choose a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer.
Approved retailers have signed the Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct, which means they are committed to ethical sales and marketing activity, use high-quality components and will guarantee the operation of your system for at least five years.
You can trust an Approved Solar Retailer to handle every part of the process involved in installing solar, from planning the best system for your needs to helping you get it connected to the grid.
2. Shop around and do your research.
Before you select a system, make sure you talk to multiple solar retailers about your options and obtain several quotes.
How can I tell if my installer is accredited?
If you’re buying from an Approved Solar Retailer, you can rest assured that your system’s installers are accredited by the Clean Energy Council.
If you’re not buying from an approved retailer, you should ask to see your installer’s accreditation card:
You can find an accredited installer in your area using our find an installer tool.
Remember, to be eligible for government rebates in the form of STCs, your system must be installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer.
Where can I find a list of approved solar PV modules and inverters?
The Clean Energy Council maintains a list of all solar modules and inverters that meet Australian Standards for use in the design and installation of solar PV systems. Only systems that use products from the approved lists are entitled to rebates in the form of small-scale technology certificates (STCs).
Please note that the Clean Energy Council does not certify modules and inverters directly. For a product to be included on our approved lists, the manufacturer must provide a certificate of compliance from a recognised certifying body.
Can I recycle my solar panels?
Reclaim PV Recycling operates an Australian solar panel take back and reclaiming scheme throughout Australia. Reclaim PV has announced recycling partnerships with panel suppliers Suntech, Yingli Solar and Canadian Solar.
When you are buying your solar panels, check with your supplier whether they have a recycling program in place.
Solar safety and reliability
Is solar power safe?
The Australian solar industry is well regulated and safe.
Solar panels and inverters sold in this country must comply with a range of standards that maximise safety and reliability. The Clean Energy Council maintains a list of currently approved solar panel modules and inverters.
The Clean Energy Council’s Solar Accreditation scheme ensures that the people who design and install solar PV systems are across all the latest safety requirements. Accredited installers are qualified electricians who have undergone additional training and assessment in the installation of solar PV systems. Systems must be installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer to be eligible for small-scale technology certificates (STCs).
Initiatives such as the Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailer scheme are also ensuring that the Australian solar PV sector stays safe and reliable.
To keep your system running safely and effectively for many years, you will need to maintain it correctly. See our after installing solar PV section for details on inspecting, maintaining and upgrading your system.
Do solar panels work at night or during cloudy weather?
Solar panels do not generate power at night. Once the sun goes down, your home or business will start to draw power from the main grid as usual.
Solar panels still work on a cloudy day; however they will not generate as much electricity as when the weather is clear and sunny.
What should I do if my solar PV system stops working?
If your solar PV system is still under warranty, you should contact the retailer you purchased your system from to arrange repairs. If you bought from a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer, you can rest assured that every part of your system is covered under warranty for at least five years.
If your system is out of warranty, you should contact your retailer or an accredited solar installer. However, you may be responsible for the cost of any repairs.
For more information on what to do if your system stops working, refer to solar PV warranties, complaints and disputes.
How can I make a complaint against a solar installer or retailer?
If you have a faulty workmanship complaint about an individual Clean Energy Council accredited installer, you can lodge your dispute with us online.
If you have a complaint against a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer, please fill complete the retailer complaints form. Approved Solar Retailers have signed the Clean Energy Council's Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct, meaning they are committed to responsible sales and marketing activities and solar industry best practice.
Please note that we are unable to take action against solar retailers that have not signed the Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct – in this situation, please contact the Fair Trading office in your state.
For more information see solar PV warranties, complaints and disputes.