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Types of Solar Power Systems

Choosing the right type of solar power system for your home or business.

Grid connect solar and Stand-alone solar power systems are the most common in Australia, however Hybrid solar power systems are gaining in popularity.

To make the most suitable, informed choice you will first need to determine what type of solar system will best meet your needs

Grid Connected Solar (On-Grid)

A grid connected system is linked to the mains electricity grid and doesn’t require the use of batteries.

Solar energy is used during the day by the system owner. At night, the owner draws power from the electricity grid.
Surplus energy generated during the day can be exported back to the grid.

Grid-connected systems must meet utility requirements.
For example, inverters must not emit electrical noise that can interfere with equipment reception.
Inverters must also switch off in cases of grid failure.

  • Most cost-effective and popular option
  • Easy to operate
  • Low-maintenance
  • Can be built to meet almost any scale of power requirement
  • Does not need to be sized to meet peak loads
  • Runs in tandem with mains grid electricity; any additional power required is drawn from the grid, any excess power produced is fed back into the grid
  • Electricity companies pay consumers for the surplus energy fed back into the grid (this is called a ‘solar feed-in tariff’)

Grid connect systems will not work during a power blackout; for safety reasons, grid connect solar inverters are installed with cut-off sensors to prevent electricity from being fed back into the grid during maintenance.

Hybrid solar systems (Grid Connected with Battery Storage)

‘Hybrid’ can refer to a power system that is driven by two or more renewable energy sources, often wind and solar power.

For the Australian market however, the term ‘hybrid solar system’ is generally used to describe an exclusively solar powered system that is connected to the mains grid, but also has a battery backup facility to store excess power.

Hybrid systems are grid-connected systems with battery storage added to allow power to be generated even if the electricity grid fails.
Stand-alone grid-tied systems can be applied to residential and business systems that require uninterrupted power.

  • Electricity is still available during a power blackout
  • Excess power can be sold back to electricity retailers
  • Hybrid solar users can enjoy ‘the best of both worlds’

Stand-alone or Off-Grid Systems

Off Grid Solar Power Systems, also known as Stand Alone Power Systems (SAPS), are not connected to the electricity grid.
They are commonly used in remote areas where mains power isn’t available.

Off-grid systems can be used for water pumps and greenhouse ventilation systems.
Specialized solar water pumps are designed for submersible use (in a borehole) or to float on open water.

When a certain power output level is required at any time of the day or night, either a storage method is necessary, or the system needs to be combined with another energy supply source such as a diesel generator (see off-grid hybrid systems, below).
Most off-grid systems use batteries to store power during periods of low to zero sunlight.

Stand-Alone Off-Grid Hybrid Systems

( PV Panels / Generator / Batteries / Wind )

To meet specific power requirements in an off-grid installation, a PV system can be configured to include a small diesel generator.

This means that the PV system no longer has to be sized to cope with the worst sunlight conditions.
Use of the diesel generator for back-up power is minimized during the sunniest part of the year to reduce fuel and maintenance costs.

  • May be the only option where mains electricity is not available
  • Can be cheaper than connecting to the grid in more remote areas
  • Negates the need to purchase electricity from a retail supplier
  • Off-grid solar systems can be designed to power single items only (e.g. – water pumps, large appliances and solar hot water systems)

Portable solar power systems

Portable solar systems are available for a wide range of applications including farming, fishing and camping.
Designed with transportability in mind, portable solar panels are robust and lightweight and can be set up quickly to provide power in situations where mains electricity is unavailable or difficult to access.

  • Easily transportable
  • Lightweight and robust
  • Generally very reliable
  • Designed for a specific purpose; from solar powered chargers for USB devices to portable solar panels for larger appliances and solar power electricity generators.

Most portable solar products are limited in their range of applications and typically aren’t suitable for large-scale household or commercial energy generating applications

Solar batteries – Off-grid and Hybrid solar systems

Stand-alone solar power systems (off-grid solar systems) and hybrid solar systems use battery banks to store energy for later use when there is no power being generated or there is an increased energy demand.

  • Power can be available during blackouts and / or periods of no power generation
  • Independence from the electricity grid
  • Batteries can provide additional power when needed

With such a variety of solar products available, it is essential to know what you are getting, before making a final decision.

Knowing precisely what you are getting before you buy can mean the difference between a sound investment that will pay dividends well into the future, or paying for a system that is too costly and / or doesn't meet your energy requirements.

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Unit 3/23 Nagle St
Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650
Office Number - 0269 710 084
Alex Manley, Commercial Inquiries - 0419 017 775
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