Solar photovoltaic systems and battery storage
Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert energy from the sun into electricity you can use in your property. Any electricity you don't use gets fed into the main electricity grid.
Large-scale batteries can be connected to solar PV systems to store energy generated during the day that you can use when the sun isn’t shining.
Using the electricity generated by a solar PV system during daytime hours means you don't need to buy as much electricity from the grid, which can help lower your electricity bills. Where possible, align your electricity consumption – eg running clothes washers, dishwashers, or heating and cooling – to times when your solar generation is highest, rather than running them at night when you have to buy electricity from the grid.
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, including:
- how much electricity you use and at what time of day
- how much roof space is available
- the direction and orientation of panels.
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:
- the Australian Government's YourHome website provides information about photovoltaic systems and batteries and inverters, including the different types, and installing and positioning solar panels.
- the Clean Energy Council answers common questions about solar power and battery storage
- the Clean Energy Council produces guides for choosing, buying and installing solar PV systems for households and business and industry.
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 9.00am and 3.00pm 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 impact the output of a panel, due to changes in the flow of electricity through the panel. In Australia, panels are usually installed facing north to produce the most electricity.
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 be installed away from living 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 applying for a SEG (Small Embedded Generator) Approval Reference Number from 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see a copy of the SEG Approval Reference Number 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 to install 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.
As of December 2017, all new import/export meters are advanced digital meters (smart meters).
Solar PV system subsidies and feed-in payments
When you purchase an eligible solar PV system, the cost of the system is subsidised by the Australian government via small-scale technology certificates (STCs), as part of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
Each STC represents the amount of electricity in megawatt hours the solar PV system generates over its lifetime to offset what your property would otherwise draw from the main electricity grid. The more electricity your solar PV system is capable of producing, the more STCs you will get.
Trading your STCs offsets the cost of your solar PV system. The most common way of claiming STCs is to assign them to your installer or retailer, who will give you a point-of-sale discount on your system in return. It's a bit like a rebate, except you get an immediate discount instead of paying a larger amount and then needing to claim money back.
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 for, 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more information
- General information about installing solar panels or battery storage
Contact the Energy Advisory Service.
- Safety concerns about a solar or battery installation
Contact the Office of the Technical Regulator.
- Technical information for licensed electricians
Grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) arrays - new, alterations, additions and repairs
The Queensland Government provides useful advice on battery energy storage system installation safety.