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Detailed reviews and information of the best solar panels, inverters and batteries. Plus hybrid and off-grid solar system reviews and information articles on how solar and battery systems work.

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Find reviews of the best Solar Products, SMA Sunny Boy, Aurora Power-One, Growatt, SunPower, SolaX, QCells, Trina Solar, Jinko, Selectronic, Tesla Powerwall, ABB, SMA Sunny Island, Hybrid inverters, battery sizing, Lithium-ion, lead-acid batteries, off-grid, on-grid, stand-alone power systems

AC Vs DC coupling - Solar battery storage types

Jason Svarc

AC coupled systems are the preferred battery system for larger solar installations above 3kW while DC coupling works really well for smaller systems. We explain the advantages and disadvantages of each plus AC batteries such as the Tesla Powerwall and DC In-string battery systems.

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Top 10 Solar Panels and latest PV Technology Review

Jason Svarc

We review the latest solar panel technologies and best quality panels of 2017 from Sunpower, LG, Winaico, REC, Trina and Jinko. Find out about recent innovations such as PERC and half-size cells, multi busbars and smart panels.

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Home solar battery options and price guide

Jason Svarc

The following solar battery systems (hybrid systems) are based on the energy consumption of an efficient 3-bedroom home with an average energy use of 12kWh per day. This is a basic guide to sizing a home solar battery system, remember every household is unique and there are many ways to reduce energy consumption. See introduction here.

Note: Prices are in Australian dollars and are estimates only - including all parts and labour for a hybrid solar installation on a efficient 3-bedroom home with a typical energy use of 12kWh/day. Cost breakdown is shown at the end for reference.

* Solar array sizing is based on an average of 4.5 PSH (peak sun hours per day) which is the average annual solar energy (irradiance) received around northern Victoria or southern NSW. Melbourne is approx 4 PSH and Sydney closer to 5 PSH. For locations further north in QLD the requirements will be different as the energy use will be greater for air-conditioning rather than heating.

Hybrid solar system types in order of price:

  1. Hybrid solar system for self-use ($9-12K)

  2. Hybrid solar system for self-use and limited back-up power ($12-15K)

  3. Hybrid solar system for maximum self-use and back-up power ($15-20K)

  4. Hybrid/Off-grid solar & complete energy management system ($20-50K)

 

1. Hybrid solar system for self-use

This is the most basic hybrid system with enough battery storage to cover peak evening energy use from 5pm to 10pm. The solar array will cover the majority of the daily energy use plus charging of the battery system. These systems typically use AC-batteries which are easier to install and are a great cost effective way to store solar energy. The main drawback is that they do not have back-up power capability during a blackout.

  • Total energy used per day - 12kWh (over 24 hours)
    • Peak evening energy use - 4kWh (5-10pm)
  • Battery capacity required = 4kWh (usable capacity)
    • Solar array size* - Min number of panels required =  14 x 260W (3.6kW)
    • Location - Note slightly larger system needed for southern VIC & TAS
    • Solar orientation - Roughly North facing on 20-30 deg tilt
    • No solar shading issues from large trees / buildings
    • Total estimated cost - $9-12K (inc GST)#
  • Inverter and battery options currently available - Solax, LG chem, Enphase, Samsung, Growatt.

 

2. Hybrid solar system for self-use and limited back-up power

This is the most economical hybrid system with enough battery storage to cover peak evening energy use from 5pm till midnight. The solar array will cover the majority of the daily energy use plus charging of the battery system. These systems can also provide limited back-up power during a blackout. Note, if the black-out happens during the day (when the battery is full) the system would typically be able to power essential loads (lights, TV, laptops, fridge etc) for 6-12 hours.

  • Total energy used per day - 12kWh (over 24 hours)
    • Peak evening energy use - 5kWh
    • Back-up reserve - 0.5kWh (after peak use)
  • Battery capacity required = 5.5kWh (usable capacity)
    • Solar array size* - Min number of panels required =  14 x 260W (3.6kW)
    • Location - Note slightly larger system needed for southern VIC & TAS
    • Solar orientation - Roughly North facing on 20-30 deg tilt
    • No solar shading issues from large trees / buildings
    • Total estimated cost - $12-15K (inc GST)#
  • Inverter and battery options currently available - Solax, Redback Technologies, LG chem, Tesla, Pylontech, Alpha ESS, Fronius, GCL, Goodwe, Enphase, Samsung, Growatt.

 

3. Hybrid solar system for maximum self-use and back-up power

This is a more advanced hybrid system with enough battery storage to cover your peak evening energy as well the off-peak overnight energy use.  The solar array will cover the majority of the daily energy use plus charging of the battery system. These systems will provide greater back-up power during a blackout. Note, if the black-out happens during the day (when the battery is full) the system would typically be able to power your essential loads (lights, TV, laptops, fridge etc) for 12-24 hours or several days in good weather.

  • Total energy used per day - 12kWh (over 24 hours)
    • Peak evening energy use - 5kWh
    • Off-peak or overnight energy use - 3kWh
    • Back-up reserve - 1kWh
  • Battery capacity required = 9kWh (usable capacity)
    • Solar array size* - Min number of panels required =  18 x 260W (4.6kW)
    • Location - Note slightly larger system needed for southern VIC & TAS
    • Solar orientation - Roughly North facing on 20-30 deg tilt
    • No solar shading issues from trees / buildings
    • Total estimated cost - $15-20K (inc GST)#
  • Inverter and battery options currently available - Solax, Redback Technologies, Selectronic SP-PRO, SMA, LG Chem, Tesla, GCL, Pylontech, Sonnen, Redflow, Fronius, SolarEdge.

 

4. Hybrid/off-grid solar energy management system

This is the most advanced hybrid system with potentially enough battery storage to cover your total energy use for several days at a time. At the larger scale it is essentially an off-grid system and would be able to operate independent of the grid for much of the year and several days at a time over winter or bad weather. Note: If setup in an off-grid location a back-up generator would be required. Refer to the following section 'Going off-grid' for more details about off-grid power systems. Also see our guide to selecting an Off-grid/hybrid inverter and batteries here.

The solar array and battery will typically cover all daily energy use plus charging of the battery system. In addition these systems can provide full back-up power for the entire home including high load appliances such as reverse cycle air-conditionors. Note, if a black-out happens the system would be capable of powering your essential loads (lights, TV, laptops, fridge etc) indefinitely if you monitor the system and high loads such as air-conditioning for much of the day in the right conditions.

  • Total energy used per day - 12kWh (over 24 hours)
    • Peak evening energy use - 5kWh
    • Off-peak or overnight energy use - 3kWh
    • Back-up reserve - min 9kWh up to 30kWh or more.
  • Battery capacity needed = 18-40kWh (usable capacity)
    • Solar array size* - Min number of panels required =  20 x 260W (5.2kW)
    • Location - Note larger system needed for southern VIC & TAS
    • Solar orientation - Roughly North facing on 25-45 deg tilt
    • No solar shading issues from trees / buildings
    • Total estimated cost - $20-50K (inc GST)#
  • Inverter options currently available - Selectronic SP PRO, SMA Sunny Island, Schneider Conext XW+, Outback Radian (USA only), Redback Technologies.
  • Battery options currently available - Most lead-acid batteries (Gel or AGM), Narada lead-carbon, LG Chem, Sonnenshine, Redflow Zcell, Aquion Energy, Ecoult Ultrabattery.
Various solar hybrid systems available - R to L = Redback, SMA, Samsung, Selectronic, Solax, Fronius

Various solar hybrid systems available - R to L = Redback, SMA, Samsung, Selectronic, Solax, Fronius

 

# Cost Breakdown - Solar battery systems

The following figures are a guide only as pricing from various distributors and solar retailers can vary significantly. Prices in Australian dollars $

  • Hybrid solar Inverters - $2500 - $4000 (Single phase)
  • Advanced Off-grid/hybrid (multi-mode) inverters - $4000 - $6500 (per phase)
  • Battery storage - Lithium - $500 - $850 per kWh (usable)
  • Battery storage - Lead-acid (VRLA) - $600 - $850 per kWh (usable)
  • Solar panels including installation - $900 -$1400 per kW (inc solar STC rebates)

Note: Installation cost can vary significantly depending on roof type, roof height & available space, panel tilt kits, distance to inverter, roof access, battery location, switchboard location and other requirements to meet current standards and regulations.

Off-grid solar dairy farm - Project review

Jason Svarc

Dairy farms use a large amount of energy to operate due to the high power requirements of the vacuum pumps, compressors and milk vat refrigeration systems, as well as irrigation in summer. To add to the difficulties over a third of the energy used is early morning well before the sun is up. With this in mind powering a dairy farm using a solar off-grid battery system posed many challenges.

Due to the difficulties faced we initially designed the system to work as a grid-connected (hybrid solar) energy storage system. Although at the time of installation a new mobile (NBN) tower was being installed on the same property which required a power connection. The existing 35+ year old grid supply to the farm was undersized and showing signs of thermal damage due to the overheating. The new grid supply was to be based on the existing supply (63A) and was also undersized especially with the additional distance to the dairy. Due to the delays with the NBN power meters and risks involved it was decided to run the system completely independent of the grid for the summer period and monitor it as winter approached.

off-grid solar dairy farm

Being located in SE Victoria in a temperate climate there was a risk that it may not generate enough power to get through the short winter days. Although with some careful monitoring and slight adjustments to milking the farmer was able to power the dairy through the darkest winter days and only had to use the old (now back-up) supply for 8-10 morning milking cycles.

Due to the high power demand of the milking equipment three Australian made Selectronic SP PRO inverters where chosen to power the dairy. The powerful 20kW multi-mode battery inverters also function as the energy management system, with the nine ABB solar inverters being controlled by the SP PRO’s.

The 3 Australian made Selectronic SP PRO multi-mode inverters coupled with 9 ABB solar inverters

The 3 Australian made Selectronic SP PRO multi-mode inverters coupled with 9 ABB solar inverters

The 240 solar panels (60kW) is designed to do the bulk of the work while the three 1kW vertical axis wind turbines assist with the battery charging. The aluminium wind turbines were an experimental design but have unfortunately had some issues with structural fatigue at the welds. Luckily the solar is performing far beyond expectations with the afternoon milking cycle being directly powered by the 22.5kW west facing and 28kW of north facing solar panels. There are also 9.5kW of east facing panels to help capture the morning sun.

The early morning milking is powered completely from the energy stored in the large 240kWh Gel VRLA battery bank which has enough reserve energy for 2-3 days of bad weather.

The 22.5kw of west facing panels on the hayshed

The 22.5kw of west facing panels on the hayshed

Overall the farm was powered by the system for approximately 99% of the year saving the owner around $2100-2600 per month or about $30,000 in annual electricity costs.

The installation was financed through a small business loan and the energy savings covering the loan repayments with an estimated payback of around 6 years, accounting for the increase in power prices. The solar panels are warranted for 10 years but most quality panels perform well for 25-35 years while the SP PRO inverters have a 10 year warranty, although with the track record of the inverters I would expected them to function for 20+ years. The batteries however due to the high power demand are not expected to last more than 10 years, although with the rapidly advancing lithium batteries and huge price reductions the cost of replacing the batteries in the future will be minimal in regard to the overall savings made.

Jason Svarc works as a solar & energy storage system designer, consultant and is the technical writer for clean energy reviews.

Complete Solar Battery Review

Jason Svarc

Tesla Powerwall 2 compared to leading lithium batteries LG Chem, PylonTech, plus sodium-ion and lead-carbon batteries in the battery challenge

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LG Chem battery Review - Compact and compatible home battery storage

Jason Svarc

The new huge range of LG chem RESU batteries might have positioned LG as the leader in home energy storage options.

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Off-grid & hybrid solar power system reviews

Jason Svarc

The Tesla Powerwall compared to leading lithium and sodium based batteries LG Chem and Aquion, plus proven lead-acid and advanced lead-carbon batteries in the solar hybrid battery challenge!

 

Hybrid & off-grid solar inverter system reviews

With the new generation of hybrid solar inverters, complete hybrid energy storage systems and battery storage options now available on the market, we at CER have put together a summary of what's available and what's up and coming.

 

VIDEO REVIEWS:

The MPP Solar hybrid solar inverter from Voltronic with seal Lead-acid battery bank.

ABB (Aurora), SMA, Enphase, Fronius, Solarbridge, Delta, Zeversolar, Growatt, SolaX solar inverter review

Redback Technologies hybrid solar inverter with the Pylon Tech (LFP) 2.4kWh battery module.

The high-end Schneider Conext XW+ solar hybrid system with large 24kWh battery bank.

Hybrid Solar Inverters and Systems

Jason Svarc

This review has been updated. Please follow the link below for the latest hybrid inverter and energy storage systems:

Hybrid Solar Inverters and Energy Storage systems review 2016

 


3. All-in-one hybrid inverters

Jason Svarc

The simplest and most economical type of hybrid Inverter is the all-in-one inverter. The all-in-one unit contains a solar inverter, charger and battery inverter with software monitoring and control.

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Hybrid/off-grid inverter and solar battery review

Jason Svarc

The complete guide to hybrid solar inverters, battery storage and all-in-one systems from leading manufacturers LG, SMA, Tesla and more. Plus advanced AC-coupled systems from Selectronic, Schneider and Victron energy.

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