Solar Power – FAQ’s
How do solar modules (panels) work?
Solar, photovoltaic, modules use a special kind of silicon to convert light energy (usually sunlight) into electricity. The electrical output of a solar module is directly affected by the intensity of the light – the brighter the light the greater the output.
Different Types of Solar Panel
At this point in time there are two basic types of solar module commercially available – thin film (or amorphous) solar modules and crystalline modules. Within the crystalline category there are two primary sub groups – multi (or poly) crystalline and mono (or single) crystalline modules.
Solar Panel and Inverter Brands
At Adelaide Solar Systems, we supply and install quality solar panels and inverters from the world’s leading manufacturers. All companies well known in the solar industry for their performance and reliability. Click here for further reading on our product manufacturers.
Effect of Shading
Thin film and crystalline modules behave differently when partially shaded. If a crystalline module is partially obscured by heavy shade then some of the module may cease to provide any output. Thin film modules on the other hand will continue to provide an output under such conditions, proportionally reduced by the area exposed to shading. Potential shading is an important factor in determining the best type of system for a particular application.
Solar modules can be fitted to almost any roof type – Steel (galv/colorbond), tiles (terracotta, cement, aluminium).
Aspect and Inclination
Ideally, the best arrangement for solar modules is north facing, inclined at an angle equal to the latitude of the location (nominally 33 degrees for Adelaide). In practical application, alignment within approx. 15° of north and an inclination of between 20° and 40° has only a small effect on output (less than 3%).
Locating photovoltaic modules directly on east or west facing roofs will substantially reduce their output. [East and west facing roofs can sometimes be accommodated by using an ‘offset’ stand to orient the solar modules back to north facing.]
Solar Module Life
Life expectancy of solar modules varies enormously depending on the type and quality of the module.
We recommend the use of thin film or crystalline modules with a performance warranty of better than 25 years which have been sourced by branded manufacturers with over 10 years history manufacturing PV modules.
What’s the best size system for me?
There are a number of factors which influence the ideal size of a system – household electricity consumption, available roof space, budget considerations. Where practical, we would recommend that you aim for a system size that meets somewhere between 40% and 100% of your household energy needs. With some planning and forethought systems can be designed to be expanded at a later date – so you can start with a smaller system and build it up over time if desired. In Adelaide every 1kW of solar power will provide approximately 1500-1800 kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
Operation, Cleaning and Maintenance
Once installed, solar electricity generating systems are generally fully automatic systems and require no day to day input from the owner of the system. Once or twice a year the surface of the solar modules should be cleaned with water to remove any build up of dust or dirt.
Grid Shut-down / Battery Back-up Systems
For normal operation our grid-connect systems don’t need and are supplied without battery back-up. This is the most economical configuration. However, it must be pointed out that grid connected solar energy systems usually shut down during a grid blackout. This is so that power generated by the solar system isn’t fed back into a potentially damaged or faulty grid.
But if you want, or need to power on when the grid goes down we can custom design and install a system with battery back-up to meet your needs.
Installation of a grid connected solar energy system usually means changing the electricity meter installed at your home. If you have either the old ‘rotating wheel’ type or a ‘one-way’ digital meter, this will be changed to a digital ‘import-export’ meter which measures both the energy you consume from the grid and any energy your solar generating system exports to the grid (you should only have to pay for the net energy you import from the grid, plus the inescapable supply charge). ETSA Utilities levy a fee for changing over to the import-export meter.
If you are building a new home and are considering installing a solar energy system, you can request an import-export meter be installed from the outset. There should be no additional charge in this case.