Australia has one of the largest residential solar installations globally, though lacks behind other developed nations in commercial and industrial solar energy production. Recent numbers suggest that almost a quarter of households have some kind of solar installation, with South Australia traditionally leading other states. Current stagnation is largely due to the lack of incentives previously offered, and lowering back-to-grid feeding payments for excess home kilowatts.
With power prices rising annually, investing in solar now will definitely save you money in the long run. Though initial up-front costs of entire systems aren’t cheap, for larger households with substantial energy bills this is a viable cost-effective solution. Solar tech is rapidly expanding, and with more players in the field, competition has steadily reduced production prices. Solar installations are way cheaper than say a decade ago, and also more efficient when it comes to power output and product longevity.
What Makes Up a Basic Solar System?
To generate energy from the sun you’ll need a setup consisting of photovoltaic panels, mounting brackets, solar cables, an inverter and a battery to store excess power. A variety of panels and panel technology is available, something I’ll get into detail further down. To utilise the power generated by the panels, an inverter converts 12V of DC current into usable 230V AC electricity for powering home appliances. Any power that is not consumed is stored in a battery.
This is the basic make-up for residential or off-grid systems, though similar components are used for smaller applications like campervans and RVs. Prices vary considerably in the type of panels used, and the output they produce. Calculating your current consumption, and what you’ll need further on can add to significant savings.
Types of Solar Panels
Solar panels are a combination of dozens of solar cells, each consisting of a silicon layer sandwiched between positive charged phosphorous and negatively charged boron layers. Sunlight activates a chemical reaction, and the resulting current is conducted through the silicon. The purity of the silicon is a factor in efficiency, resulting in different types of panels:
• Monocrystalline – Monocrystalline panels consist of a single piece of pure silicon, cut into sections. The panels are recognisable by the uniform colour. This is the most expensive type of panel, requiring costly crystallisation methods of larger silicon pieces, though it offers some of the best efficiency and product life.
• Polycrystalline – Polycrystalline panels are made of several smaller silicon fragments crushed into square wafers. Silicon purity here is less than single-piece monocrystalline panels, something you can see in the different shading and colours. This makes them less efficient in picking up sunlight and power generation, though they’re much cheaper to produce.
• PERC- or passivated emitter and rear cell panels are a variation of monocrystalline panels with an added rear layer to maximise efficiency. They are currently the best panels for residential buildings with less sunlight exposure.
What are eArc Solar Panels?
The panels mentioned above fall into the traditional category, meaning heavy aluminium frames and thicker glass. This hinders their use in two major ways. The first is they are rigid designs and cannot be fitted to all surfaces. The second is the weight. Individual panels can weigh over 20 kilos, and considering you’ll need at least half a dozen on a house, this places a lot of stress on less-than-perfect Aussie roofs. Newer technology, such as earc panels use efficient monocrystalline designs but with glass fibre polymer composites – basically the stuff in aeroplane windows.
Such a design means eArc panels are extremely lightweight and durable. Larger panels with higher output only weigh around 2 kilos, a significant weight saving over traditional panel types. The materials used mean they’re tough too, standing up to high heat, strong winds, and impact, particularly hailstones. They’re also highly efficient, coming close to the most expensive monocrystalline panels. They are quickly and easily fitted atop roofs using high bond double adhesive tape and have additional eyelets for securing bolts where maximum safety is needed.
With a frameless design, low weight and a much thinner profile, eArc panels are versatile and can be fitted in all roof types. This makes them suitable for both portable solar, like caravans, yachts and motorhomes, or fitted on residential and commercial buildings with irregular roof designs. Another benefit is they are flexible, able to bend and accommodate any obstructions. The fact that they are recommended by the Clean Energy Council, with initial funding by the Australian government, signals a bright future for panels tailored to Aussie conditions.
EArc panels are available in a range of sizes to fit your intended roof and in varying output. Smaller panels, ideal for vehicles or larger panels with higher output and good for off-grid setups are sold. Kits with integrated junction boxes and charge controllers make purchases easier on the wallet.
Buying Solar Panels
Solar panels, including eArc panels and additional components in solar installations, are sold through residential and portable solar companies throughout Australia. All stores offer expert advice, installation and recommendations for your particular solar setup.