Energy efficient home design

Solar photovoltaic systems and battery storage

Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems help offset the cost of your electricity use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a sustainable future for all South Australians.

Large-scale batteries can store energy generated from solar PV systems during the day, to use when the sun isn’t shining.

Using electricity generated by a solar PV system during daytime hours rather than drawing electricity from the grid is an effective way of lowering your electricity bills. To make the most of this benefit, try to align your electricity consumption - eg running laundry appliances, dishwashers, or heating and cooling - to times when your solar generation is highest.

Choosing and installing a solar PV system or battery

The best solar PV system or battery for your situation will depend on a number of factors. To work out what solution is best for you, speak with a reputable solar or battery installation company that uses installers accredited by the Clean Energy Council.

The person installing a solar PV system or battery must be a licensed electrician. You can check if your electrician is licensed in South Australia by searching the licensing public register.

For help understanding your options:

Understanding your home energy use can help you calculate the effect of a solar PV system on your energy bills, and help you work out if battery storage is an economical choice for you.

Before you install a solar PV system or battery

Check you have a suitable location

Solar PV panels produce most power when they are pointed directly at the sun. Ideally, the panels should get full sun between at least 9.00 am and 3.00 pm and not be placed in shaded areas. Even shade from things like trees, roof ventilators or antennas on just one cell will result in a loss of power from many cells and have a large impact on the output of a panel, due to changes in the flow of electricity through the panel. In Australia, solar modules should face north for optimum electricity production.

Different battery types have different installation requirements, so make sure you understand what you are having installed. Battery performance is affected by variations in ambient temperature. Batteries need to be in an appropriate location or enclosure that has adequate insulation and plenty of ventilation. In Australia, a battery enclosure should ideally be located on the south or east-facing side of a building.

Batteries should not be installed in habitable areas and need to be well protected from vermin, pets  and children. Never store anything on top of or against the battery or its enclosure, as it may cause an electrical fire.

Check your installer has submitted an application to connect your solar PV system to the electricity grid

Your chosen solar installer will normally request permission to connect your solar PV system to the electricity grid on your behalf by submitting an Application for PV SEG (Small Embedded Generator) Approval Reference form to SA Power Networks.

If you have any queries about your application for solar PV SEG permission to connect, including whether it has been approved, the date it was approved or the peak capacity approved, contact SA Power Networks on 1300 665 913 or seg@sapowernetworks.com.au.

To see a copy of the Application for PV SEG Approval Reference form or for more information about Small Embedded Generation, see the Small Embedded Generator User Guide on the SA Power Networks website.

Check you have the correct meter

If you need a new meter for your solar PV system or battery, your installer can send a request to your electricity retailer (once your solar PV system has been approved by SA Power Networks). Your retailer will arrange installing an import/export meter. In some cases your meter may be installed before your system. See the SA Power Networks guide to installing a solar PV system for more information.

Please note that as of December 2017, all new meters will be advanced digital meters (smart meters)

Incentives to install solar PV systems

Your electricity retailer may offer you a feed-in tariff for any excess electricity your system generates and exports to the electricity grid. See solar feed-in payments for more information about what you may be eligible to receive, or contact your energy retailer for more information.

If you have an existing solar PV system and want to install a battery, speak to your retailer about how adding a battery may affect any feed-in tariff you currently receive.

Under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, installing an eligible solar PV system entitles you to small-scale technology certificates (STCs). Each STC represents the amount of electricity in megawatt hours generated by the solar PV system over the course of its lifetime that offsets what your home would otherwise draw from the main electricity grid. The more renewable energy your solar PV system is capable of producing, the more STCs you will get.

STCs act as a form of currency and can be sold to recoup a portion of the cost of purchasing and installing the solar PV system. The most common way of claiming STCs is by getting a point of sale discount on your new system from your retailer or installer and assigning the STCs to them.

Solving problems and making a consumer complaint

Your solar PV system, battery and most installations are covered by automatic consumer guarantees - the system should work and do what it claims to do. A warranty offered by the supplier is separate and doesn't replace the standard consumer guarantee.

You can also visit the Consumer and Business Services' Make a consumer complaint page for more advice.

Safety checks after installing a solar PV system and/or battery

How to check your solar PV system installation video

What to look for

Secure cables

Ensure that all of the system's cables are secured and properly enclosed to protect them from mechanical and environmental damage. Unprotected cables - eg laying loosely across your roof, could easily become damaged and present a safety risk.

Example of cables that are not secured or protected

Example of cables that are not secured or protected

Solar array with correctly secured and protected cables

Signs relating to safety, isolating switches and shutdown procedures

Your system should have labels which clearly identify switches (isolators) controlling the:

  • supply from the solar panels (DC supply)
  • supply from the inverter unit (AC supply)
  • supply from the batteries (DC supply)
  • normal electricity supply main switch.

The solar PV system or battery should also have:

  • clear shut down instructions you can follow if you need to switch off the supply from the solar panels or batteries
  • a label on your main switchboard and meter box identifying that your home has multiple energy supplies
  • a sign explaining the type of battery installed.

If there is no shutdown procedure displayed or you do not understand the instructions, do not operate any of the switches until your installer has explained their use to you.

Ask your installer to show you the location of all the relevant switches and labels.

Solar system with clearly labelled switches and shutdown procedures

Switchboard with dual supply and solar array clearly labelled

A certificate of compliance

Your solar PV system and/or battery must be installed by a licensed electrician, who should give you an electrical certificate of compliance within 30 days of the system being connected.

If you do not receive an electrical certificate of compliance it could jeopardise your insurance if an electrical-related incident subsequently causes fire or damage to the property. See using licensed tradespeople for more information.

System maintenance

To keep your system safe, make sure your installer provides you with a maintenance schedule. This will help ensure:

  • your system is operating correctly
  • you understand your system's performance potential and limitations
  • you understand how to interpret critical system health information, so you can recognise when the system needs attention
  • people at your property or working on the electricity distribution network are kept safe.

Your installer or a licensed electrician should service your battery storage system every 12 months.

If the electricity consumption at your property changes significantly without an obvious reason - eg using a new appliance or more people living in a home - check with your installer that the system is working properly.

Further help and advice

If you would like further general information about installing solar panels or battery storage please contact the Energy Advisory Service.

If you have safety concerns about a solar or battery installation at your home contact the Office of the Technical Regulator.

If you are a licensed electrician, see Grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) arrays - new, alterations, additions and repairs for technical information. The Queensland Government provides useful advice on battery energy storage system installation safety.


Was this page useful?

We can't respond to any comment made here. If you need a response, please use our contact page.

Page last updated 11 May 2017

Provided by:
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
URL:
http://www.sa.gov.au/topics/energy-and-environment/energy-efficient-home-design/solar-photovoltaic-systems
Last Updated:
11/05/17
Printed on:
21/07/17
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016