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Solar Panels: Cost, Installation & Rebates - Explained

Solar panels

Did you know 1 in 4 homes in Australia has solar panels on their roof? Solar energy saves some people around $540 per year on their electricity bills. So are solar panels right for you? Below we explain, what solar panels do, the types you can choose from, which are best, how much they'll cost you, the installation process, and how to save money on your solar panels through government rebates and exporting to the grid. Read on for more.

Types of Homes Solar Panels

There are many different ways to generate residential solar energy. Cost, efficiency, aesthetics, and the layout of your home and roof, as well as what you hope to get out of your solar energy, can all play an important role in choosing the right type of solar energy generation for your home.

Click on the type that interests you from the dropdown below to see more.

Traditional Solar Panel Systems

Traditional solar panels (Solar PV systems) are among the most popular and most common types of rooftop solar systems. Within the umbrella of “solar panels” there are three main types:

 Monocrystalline Solar Panels: The oldest and most developed solar panels. These panels are created from a single, continuous crystal structure, which increases efficiency and allows them to be used for many years (some monocrystalline solar panels are still in use from the 1908’s). The average efficiency of monocrystalline panels is 18%.

 Polycrystalline Solar Panels: While similar to monocrystalline solar panels, these panels are made from pieces of silicone crystals, rather than one continuous crystal structure. While traditionally seen as inferior to monocrystalline, polycrystalline solar panels now offer a more cost-effective and comparably efficient alternative to the more expensive monocrystalline panels.

 Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) panels: PERC panels are like monocrystalline panels, but have a passive layer at the rear that reflects light back into the panel for extra absorption, therefore, making them more efficient.

 Thin-film solar panels: Unlike crystalline solar panels, thin-film solar panels are made by coating glass or steel with a thin layer of light-absorbing material. These panels are significantly less efficient than mono or polycrystalline solar panels, with 9-13% efficiency. However, thin-film solar panels are more cost-effective and have more flexibility when it comes to installation allowing them to be installed on surfaces that crystalline panels might not be able to be installed on.

PERC panels tend to be considered the best solar panels for Australia because they are the most efficient:

  • Thin-film solar panels have an efficiency rating between 9-13%
  • Polycrystalline panels have an energy rating between 15-17%.
  • Monocrystalline panels have a 20%+ energy rating.
  • PERC panels have around a 25%+ efficiency rating.

Solar Thermal Panels

Solar thermal panels are less well known than traditional solar panel systems.

Unlike solar PV which transforms the sun's energy into electricity using a generator, solar thermal energy heats up the water inside cylinders attached to your roof, which is then used to heat your home and water.

Solar thermal systems can often provide anywhere from 40% to 90% of your home’s hot water supply. However, since they do require the sun to be shining in order to effectively heat your home and water, you will need to supplement your solar thermal system with an electric or gas boiler.

There are three main types of solar thermal systems:

 Flat-plate collectors: Large, solar panel-like collectors which attach to your roof and transfer the heat of the sun to a hot water tank. These are more affordable, but not the most efficient choice.

 Evacuated tube collectors: While similar to flat-plate systems, evacuated tube collectors use glass tubes to transfer heat to a hot water tank. While more efficient than flat-plate systems, they are also the most expensive.

 Heat-pump systems: These systems collect heat from the air, rather than direct sunlight, to heat your household’s water. These do require electricity to pump the hot air, but not a significant amount.

Solar thermal systems can cost between $3,000 and $7,000 depending on the type of system, which can be up to $5,000 more than choosing a traditional gas or electric hot water system. However, the running costs for a solar thermal system can be up to $200 less per year than running an electric hot water storage system.

Solar pool heating? Pools can use a lot of energy between heating, cleaning, and running a filter. Discover how you can benefit from solar pool heating to reduce the cost of owning a pool.

Solar energy tiles

If you don’t like the aesthetics of solar panels on your roof, but want to benefit from a solar PV system for your home, solar energy tiles can be an attractive alternative.

Tesla made these tiles famous with its solar roof. Howeverm they're generally known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and are integrated into your roof rather than attached on top, creating a more streamlined appearance.

Solar roof tiles are better looking than traditional solar PV systems, but they are less efficient and more expensive.

  • Solar roof tiles have an average efficiency of 10%, whereas monocrystalline solar panels have an average efficiency of 20%+
  • Solar PV systems can cost around $4,000 to $6,000, while solar energy tiles can cost you over $10,000 for the entire system with installation and an inverter

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How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels, and the technology behind them, might seem complicated, but when the step-by-step process of transforming the sun into electricity is broken down, it’s relatively straightforward.

 Solar panels are grouped together and installed on the sunny side of a roof.

 They have silicone solar cells inside which are made up of two thin layers of silicon that form an electric field. That's because one of layer is positively charged, and one layer is negatively charged.

 Solar energy hits these solar cells and causes the cells to release electrons trapped within the layers of silicon which creates a "DC electric current".

 The DC current is sent through an inverter attached to your solar panels, which changes the current to AC which is the type of electricity that powers most homes.

 After the electric current is converted, it is sent through your home to power appliances in the same way traditional electricity generated from the grid powers your home.

 Any energy home doesn’t use can be sent to the electricity grid with solar feed-in-tariff to make some extra money.

    Solar Panel Installation Process

    solar panels on a residential roof connected to a battery

    Here's a list of the steps involved in the solar panel installation process:

    1. Reviewing a list of approved solar panel installers from the clean energy council
    2. Getting several installation quotes
    3. Choosing an approved solar panel installer
    4. Submitting a grid connection application for your solar panel system to your energy distributor
    5. Waiting for approval from your energy distributor (usually less than 30 days)
    6. Having the solar panels installed at your home

      Choosing a Solar Panel Installer

      The Australian government requires all residential solar panels to be installed by an accredited solar installer. Therefore, its important that you properly vet your solar panel installer before going ahead with the installation.

      Some things to remember when speaking with your solar retailer include:

      • Making sure they are Clean Energy Council Approved
      • Making sure their installers are accredited by the Clean Energy Council
      • Requesting a custom design and performance estimate for your system & its location
      • Understanding the terms of cancellation in the event of unforeseen circumstances
      • Understanding the warranty details for each component of your system
      • Requesting an additional warranty, after-sales monitoring and repair of the system

      For the full list of accredited installers, (and there are dozens available) visit the Clean Energy Council website.

      Although you can find the full list at the link above, below we have listed a just few of the major solar panel installers in each major city of Australia.

      Solar Panel Installation Sydney

      Here's a list of some of the major solar panel installers in the Sydney area:

      • ADS Solar
      • Arise Solar
      • Aussie Hybrid Solar
      • Beyond Solar
      • Bradford Energy
      • EPS
      • Fair Value Solar
      • Global Solar World
      • Green Ultimate Pty Ltd
      • Hills Solar
      • Infinite Energy
      • Isolux Solar
      • Natural Solar
      • Origin Energy
      • Regen Power
      • RK Solar & Consulting Services
      • Smart Energy Answers
      • Solahart
      • Solaray Energy
      • Solargain
      • Solar Galaxy
      • Solaright
      • Solar Mission Australia
      • Solar Ocean
      • SolarPath
      • Solarpro
      • Solar Secure
      • Solar Vertex
      • Space Solar
      • Sun Max Solar
      • Sync Energ

      Solar Panel Installation Melbourne

      Here's a list of some of the major solar panel installers in the Melbourne area:

      • Amazing Solar
      • Betta Value Renewable Energy
      • Clean Technology Services
      • Clipsal Solar
      • Do Solar
      • Eco Relief
      • Essential Solar
      • Glen Clark & Co
      • Gnowee Solar
      • GreenLink Solar
      • Horizon Solar
      • Infinite Energy
      • Life Solar
      • Lighting Solar & Electrical
      • LuvSolar
      • NewGen Solar
      • Origin Energy
      • Smart Energy Answers
      • Solargain
      • SolarHub
      • Solar Max Power
      • Solar NextGen
      • Solar Spirit
      • Solar Tactics
      • Sun Current
      • Sunrays Power
      • Sunrun Solar
      • Teaslec
      • Tesla Electric
      • Total Solar Solutions
      • Todae Solar Melbourne
      • Trione Energy
      • Ultimate Solar Energy
      • Venergy

      Solar Panel Installation Brisbane

      Here's a list of some of the major solar panel installers in the Sydney area:

      • Adapt Energy
      • Apollo Solar
      • Australian Enviro Projects
      • Bradford Energy
      • CSA Services
      • Ecoelectric
      • EISS Pty Ltd
      • EnergyAware
      • Energy Wise
      • Essential Energy Solutions
      • Fallon Solutions
      • Gem Energy
      • Goodhew Electrical & Solar
      • Go Run Solar
      • Green Solar
      • Infinite Energy
      • Keen 2B Green
      • MC Electrical
      • Origin Energy
      • OTI Power
      • PowerLite Industries
      • QLD Solar and Lighting
      • REA Solar
      • SAW Group
      • SEM Group
      • Sky Solar Energy
      • Solahart
      • Solar EZE
      • Solargain
      • Solar Hybrids
      • Solar Panels Brisbane
      • Solenergy Group
      • Springers Solar
      • Sunboost
      • Sunelec
      • Sunny Sky Solar
      • Symons Energy

      Solar Panel Installation Perth

      Here's a list of some of the major solar panel installers in the Perth area:

      • Anew Solar Panel Repairs
      • Ascend Electrical
      • AusBrite Solar Perth
      • Clean NRG Solar
      • DNX Energy
      • Empower Solar Perth
      • Formula Sun
      • Fritts Solar
      • Future Solar WA
      • German Solar Power
      • Infinite Energy
      • Koala Solar
      • Northern Perth Electrical Solar Panels & Batteries
      • NOW Solar Group
      • Perth Solar Force
      • Perth Solar Power Installations
      • Perth Solar Warehouse & PSW Energy
      • Regen Power
      • Renew Energy Solar Power Perth
      • Reztech Solar Panel Installations Perth
      • SMC Energy
      • Sola Hub Technologies
      • Solaire Connect
      • Solargain
      • Solar Harness
      • Solar My Home WA
      • Solar Naturally
      • Solar WA
      • SunBoost Solar
      • Sun Max Solar
      • Sun Renew Solar
      • Sync Energy
      • West Coast Solar
      • Westsun Solar
      • Vista Electrical Controls

      Solar Panel Installation Adelaide

      Here's a list of some of the major solar panel installers in the Adelaide area:

      • Adam Solar
      • Adelaide Connections Electrical & Solar
      • Adelaide Solarsafe
      • Adelaide Solar Systems
      • DQ Electrical & Solar
      • EcoSouth Solar
      • Electrawise
      • Energy SA Solar and Air Conditioning
      • Everyday Electrical and Solar
      • Exceed Solar
      • Adelaide Sparks and Solar
      • Goliath Solar Adelaide
      • Green Ultimate
      • Greenaus Solar
      • Ionics Energy
      • Infinite Energy
      • Lightning Solar
      • Living Energy
      • NRG Solar
      • Off-Grid Energy Australia
      • Origin Energy
      • SEM Group
      • Solar Power Direct
      • Solar Harbour
      • Solaring
      • Solar Panels Adelaide
      • Solar Warehouse Australia
      • SunBoost
      • Sunrays Power
      • Sunterra Solar
      • SunEnergy
      • Solargain
      • Solarlab
      • Venergy

      Submitting your Grid Connection Application

      All solar panel systems in Australia are required to undergo revision and approval before they are allowed to be connected to the energy grid.

      The body that approves your solar panel installation is your regional energy distributor. Therefore, you must submit a grid connection application to them for approval before having your solar panels installed.

      Some questions you should ask your solar panel installer regarding your grid connection application include:

      • Will you submit the grid-connection application for me or should I?
      • Is my signature required on the grid connection application form?
      • Is there a fee to submit the grid-connection application, and if so, is it included in my installation price?
      • Will you send me a copy of the confirmation that the application has been submitted?
      • How long will it take to be approved for connection to the grid?
      • Will I get a refund if my application is rejected?
      • Will you send me a copy of the grid connection approval?

      How Much do Solar Panels Cost in Australia?

      Solar PV systems generally cost between $3,000 and $10,000 in Australia, and that price can be lower if government schemes and rebates are applied.

      Here is a table showing the average cost of solar panels in each major city in Australia:

      Average Solar Panel Cost By City (5kW system)
      City Solar Panel Cost
      Adelaide, SA $4,390
      Brisbane, QLD $4,720
      Canberra, ACT $4,690
      Darwin, NT $7,610
      Hobart, TAS $5,870
      Melbourne, VIC $4,850
      Sydney, NSW $4,900
      Perth, WA $3,990

      *Source: SolarChoice Average Solar Panel Price April 2021

      People living in Western Australia enjoy some of the lowest prices for solar panel systems. The average solar panel price in Perth is $3,990.

      However, in the Northern Territory, people pay some of the highest prices. The Average price of solar panels in Darwin is $7,610.

      However, the ultimate cost of solar panels depends on a number of factors such as:

      • Solar panel quality
      • Solar panel brands
      • Sizes of solar panels
      • Location of solar panels

      All of these factors can drive up the price of solar panels and solar systems. In the example below we show how the size and strength of the solar panel affects the price.

      Here is a table showing the average cost of solar panels in Australia based on their power output in kWh:

      Average Solar Panel Cost in Australia (Based on kWh )
      Solar System Wattage Average Cost of Solar Panel
      3kW $3,920
      5kW $4,960
      7kW $6,580

      *Source: SolarChoice Average Solar Panel Price April 2021

      Australian Government Solar Panel Rebates & Grants

      Despite increased interest in solar panels, the Australian government has begun to reduce the number of initiatives to switch residents to solar energy. While some residents in some states can still enjoy government-subsidised solar PV, there are fewer rebates now than five years ago.

      Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs)

      Small-scale technology certificates are a federal scheme through the Renewable Energy Target, available until 2030, to give customers rebates for their small-scale renewable energy generators. While this can include other forms of renewable energy generation, solar PV is the most common.

      STCs represent the amount of energy your solar panels and solar PV system would generate over its lifetime, which offsets what you would otherwise use from the electricity grid. The bigger your solar PV system, and more electricity it generates, the more STCs you’ll receive. While you can independently trade STCs, it’s much more common for your installer to be assigned the certificates who will then offer you a point-of-sale discount, upfront, to offset the solar system cost.

      Solar Rebates in SA

      The South Australian government offers all residential households the solar home battery scheme, to offset the cost of their solar energy storage. The total amount available per household depends on a number of factors including whether you’re a concession cardholder and the size of the system.

      South Australia home battery scheme
        Step One Subsidy
      Effective 29 Oct 2018 – 14 April 2020
      Step Two Subsidy
      Effective 15 April 2020
      Energy concession holder $600 per kilowatt-hour $400 per kilowatt-hour
      All other households $500 per kilowatt-hour $300 per kilowatt-hour
      Maximum subsidy per battery installation $6,000 $4,000

      Source: South Australia Government

      Below we have outlined the main rebates for residential solar panels by state. Click the drop-down arrow to see your state.

      Solar Rebates in NSW

      Currently, the government of New South Wales offers one solar power scheme to low-income residents interested in solar energy. Eligible households will receive a fully-funded 3kW solar PV system if they meet the following criteria:

      • Currently be receiving the Low Income Housing rebate (please note that if you receive the solar for low-income housing subsidy you will not be eligible for the Low Income Housing rebate for 10 years)
      • Hold a valid pensioner concession card or Veteran’s Affairs Gold Card
      • Own their home and not already have solar PV installed
      • Use at least 3,600kWh of electricity annually
      • Live in: Central Coast, North Coast, Sydney - South, South Coast, or Illawarra – Shoalhaven

      Solar Rebates in ACT

      There are two solar energy programs available to residents in the ACT. The first is available to Pensioner Concession Card holders, which offers up to a 50% rebate (capped at $2,500) to eligible residents.

      The second is a program known as the “Next Generation Energy Storage program” which gives eligible customers up to $825/kW on their solar battery storage, up to 30kW. If you have solar energy storage through Evergen, Solahart, or SolarHub, or are planning on purchasing one through one of these installers, get in contact with them directly to find out more.

      Solar Rebates in VIC

      There are four available solar energy rebates in Victoria for solar energy installation and generation.

      1. Solar panel rebate for homeowners: Up to $1,888 for eligible homeowners to install solar panels on their home
      2. Solar panel rebate for tenants: Up to $1,888 for eligible rental properties
      3. Solar battery rebate: Up to $4,828 for eligible solar panel users who want to install solar storage
      4. Solar hot water rebate: Up to $1,000 for eligible solar hot water systems

      Solar feed-in Tariffs in Australia

      Solar feed-in-tariffs are given to solar energy users who put generated electricity back into the grid. Electricity providers offer different feed-in-tariffs, and here we outline some of the electricity providers offering the highest FiT.

      Solar Feed-in Tariffs in NSW
      Provider Minimum FiT Maximum FiT
      AGL 9.5c / kWh 17c / kWh
      Origin Energy 7c / kWh 20c / kWh
      Amaysim Energy 10c / kWh 16c / kWh
      Solar Feed-in Tariffs in ACT
      Provider Minimum FiT Maximum FiT
      Energy Locals 10c / kWh 16c / kWh
      EnergyAustralia 10.5c / kWh 10.5c / kWh
      ActewAGL 8c / kWh 11c / kWh
      Solar Feed-in Tariffs in VIC
      Provider Minimum FiT Maximum FiT
      Origin Energy 10.2c / kWh 16c / kWh
      Momentum Energy 12c / kWh 13.5c / kWh
      Click Energy 12c / kWh 13c / kWh
      Solar Feed-in Tariffs in QLD
      Provider Minimum FiT Maximum FiT
      Red Energy 6c / kWh 16.1c / kWh
      AGL 8c / kWh 15c / kWh
      Origin Energy 6c / kWh 14c / kWh
      Solar Feed-in Tariffs in SA
      Provider Minimum FiT Maximum FiT
      Click Energy 10c / kWh 17c / kWh
      Amaysim Energy 10c / kWh 16c / kWh
      AGL 12.4c / kWh 16c / kWh

      It might seem like if you have solar panels, you should choose an energy plan with a high solar feed-in-tariff. However, it is common for energy providers who offer high solar FiT have lower discounts on their energy rates.

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      Depending on your circumstances, you might be better off with a lower FiT and higher discount if you have a smaller solar system that you use more frequently during the day, whereas if you have a large solar system and export a lot of your generated electricity to the grid during the day, you might be better off choosing a higher FiT despite your plan offering a lower total discount.

      Are Solar Panels Worth It?

      Solar panels and solar PV systems might seem like a big investment, but the benefits can outweigh the costs for most households, and are an easier at-home renewable energy generating system than residential hydropower, biomass or small-scale wind energy.

      While it may take anywhere from 5 to 10 years or more to recoup what you spent on your solar PV system, you will start seeing immediate benefits through generating your own renewable electricity, thus reducing your annual electricity costs while doing your part to combat climate change and make Australia greener.

      Are solar panels right for your home?

      Solar panels can be very expensive, and there are many things to consider before investing in residential solar energy. When shopping around for an accredited solar installer and getting multiple quotes, your installer should discuss all these factors with you before anything else.

       Climate: You need the sun in order to generate solar energy. Thankfully, Australia is the perfect place for solar panels, with an average of 7-8 hours of sunshine per day in the summer.

       Roof: The angle and direction of your roof play a big role in the efficiency of your installed solar panels. The angle of your solar panels should be the same as the latitude of where you live. If you live at a latitude of 40 degrees, for example, your panels should be mounted at 40 degrees. In addition, the direction of your roof matters as well. North-facing roofs are the best, while East or West are only slightly less efficient. Meanwhile, if you have a south-facing roof, you might want to look into other options such as ground-mounted panels.

       Shade: Since solar panels rely on the sun, therefore it makes sense that you won’t want to install solar panels if your home is surrounded by trees and buildings that block sunlight. There are ways to install solar panels even if your house has some shade; micro-inverters, rather than a large inverter, attach to the back of each panel and convert solar energy to electricity individually.

      What if I can’t install a solar PV system?

      Maybe you want solar energy for your home, but due to any number of reasons such as housing restrictions, rental agreements, or owning a home not suitable for solar energy, you can’t install solar panels in your residence. While this may be frustrating, not all is lost. Community solar energy (also known as offsite solar) can give people the benefits of solar energy without needing to install panels directly on their homes.

      With community solar energy, customers can purchase or subscribe to solar panels on a solar farm, and get all the benefits of solar energy in their homes. With community solar energy, customers get the benefit of:

      • Not needing to worry about factors such as rooftop size and direction, shade, surrounding buildings, or housing restrictions
      • Not needing to perform maintenance or repairs on solar panels
      • Allowing those who might not be able to benefit from solar power the ability to access it

      Green Power Want to still invest in renewable energy but can't afford to install solar? Green Power is a government-led initiative with Australian companies to allow anyone to invest and commit energy providers to use more renewable energy, for only a few cents per kWh.

      Click below to find a better deal for your home!

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