What Solar Panels Can Do For Your Home - Ecobuy
Solar Panels

Are you considering installing some rooftop solar panels? With more and more Australian homes switching to solar, solar looks like an attractive and eco-friendly alternative to coal-powered energy.

In this article, we debunk the myths around solar unreliability to show you that solar power is a viable and economic option. Installing solar panels could save your household lots of money in the long term with the added benefit of reducing your carbon footprint!


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What is solar power?
Rooftop Solar

Rooftop Solar

Solar power is a renewable alternative to traditional electricity production which relies on the burning of fossil fuels. While fossil fuels are still the main source of electricity worldwide, solar uptake is increasing. Being one of the sunniest places in the world, Australia has the potential to generate a lot of solar energy, and a quarter of Australian households already use solar power. The reasons that solar is a popular renewable source is because it is easier to install and maintain than other sources like wind turbines or hydropower.

Despite our high solar uptake, Australia is still very dependent on coal. 79% of Australia’s electricity generation comes from fossil fuels compared to 68% for the United Kingdom and 60% for New Zealand. Government initiatives like Switch for Solar are crucial if we want to speed up our transition to renewables.

How does solar work?

There are two types of solar panel systems: thermal and photovoltaic (PV). Most people will be familiar with rooftop PV panels which directly converts sunlight into electricity without needing bulky steam turbines and generators. PV is handy for localised energy production and can be used in remote areas where electrical energy from the grid is unreliable or inaccessible.

The future of PV solar is bright, with innovations like PV paint and solar windows entering the energy industry. Imagine slapping on a coat of PV paint on our exterior walls to generate electricity!  This would drastically reduce difficulties with panel installation. Clear solar windows, developed for the first time in Perth, WA, are being trialled to create self-sustainable bus stops and greenhouses. These could work on skyscrapers to power offices as well.

How reliable is solar?

It is a common myth that solar power is unreliable. The physical solar panels are durable and reliable. It’s a myth that maintaining solar panels is expensive as well. Maintenance of coal plants are much higher!

Another myth is that that you will be without power during the night and in winter. Remember, just because you have solar panels, it doesn’t mean you disconnect from the wider electrical grid! You can rely on the traditional grid if your solar panels aren’t generating enough power. You can collect and save excess sunlight in batteries for nights and cloudy days, but this isn’t necessary. Net metering or gross metering government schemes allows households to be compensated for the excess energy their panels produce. Of course, the details will depend on which state you’re in. This means that no power goes to waste and there’s no chance of random blackouts on cloudy days!

The power and reliability of solar can be seen in the Barangaroo Project in Sydney. With 6000m2 of solar panels, the area is entirely carbon neutral and invests in carbon offsets. The potential of solar, however, isn’t limited to futuristic urban renewal projects like Barangaroo. The transition to renewable energy starts with individual households installing rooftop solar.

Why don’t more people switch to solar?

If solar is so environmentally and economically efficient, why aren’t more people switching to solar?

The main problem with solar panel systems is that they are often inaccessible for lower income Australians due to the large upfront cost of installation. The total cost of installation ranges anywhere between $3000 and $15000, and it takes a few years to reap the rewards. Installation costs go up for houses with unconventional roofs; if you have a roof that slopes too much, installation may be tricky and costly. Depending on the size of the system, it can even take up to seven years to pay back the cost of the system.

Many homeowners do not know if they will be living in the same house in a couple of years. If this is the case, then installing rooftop solar may seem like a wasted investment.

The situation is more difficult for people who do not own their houses. Tenants have little control over where their electricity comes from as the installation of panels is up to the property owner. Property owners are unwilling to invest big bucks in installing panels when it is only their tenants who reap the rewards.

Solar Payback

Solar Payback

Are solar panels a good fit for me?

To see if you could benefit from solar panels, it will be useful to see what the Australian Government and your state government is doing.

There are many State Government initatives out there if you’re interested in solar. For instance, many states are now offering subsidies for the cost of solar battery storage. See here to explore what your state is doing.

If you already have solar panels, you might be able to benefit from the Australian Government’s Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). SRES is a Federal Government scheme that provides incentives for households to invest in renewable systems like PV solar, solar water heaters, or wind turbines. It benefits households that have already installed a renewable system. See here to learn more about the Federal Government’s Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme.