How Much Does Off Grid Solar Cost?

off grid solar system

I had a phone call from a mate today asking for advice on buying an off grid solar system for his new house in suburban Melbourne. He was pissed off about paying the daily grid connection charge when his solar system was easily going to produce more power than he used. A typical grid connection charge is about $1 per day.

So what is the extra cost of getting completely off the grid with your solar system in the city compared to a standard grid connect solar system?

Let’s take a 5kW system that would power an mid sized air conditioned house as an example.

On Grid Cost :

(updated Jan 2014 to reflect current pricing)

5kW of panels $6,000

5kW inverter $2,500

Racking and Cabling: $1000

Installation: $2,000

Less Solar Rebate (STCs): -$,3500

Out of pocket cost to you approx: $8,000 (Jan 2014 prices)

——

Off Grid Cost :

5kW of panels: $6,000

5kW Off Grid Capable Inverter + charge controller: $4,000

4 x 1350 Ampere hour 12V batteries: $18,000 (approx 50kWh of storage)

Racking and Cabling (you’ve gotta wire up and mount all those batteries remember!): $2,000

Installation and commissioning: $3,500

Bottom of the range Integrated Diesel Generator (unless you don’t mind running out of electricity occasionally): $3,000

Less Solar Rebate (STCs): -$,3,500

Total: $33,000

 ($25,000 more than the grid connect solar system)

So if my mate is going to go completely off his head off the grid, he is going to save $1 per day, or $365 per year.

But he is going to be paying $25,000 more for the privilege. That makes the simple payback for going off grid…. wait for it…  67 years!

My advice to my buddy: Get a grid connect solar system.

Please Note: These costs are for going completely off the grid for a typical Aussie home in the city with a turnkey professional design and installation. I’m assuming the homeowner is not electrically savvy and does not want to drastically change the way they use electricity. You can pay less if you have a very energy efficient home and constantly manage your usage, to make sure that you don’t drain the system too much – but let’s be honest – most people don’t want to do this! You’ll see a lot of comments below saying you can do it for a third of the price if you import your own components and DIY the install. That of course is true. I’m assuming you don’t want to do that. I’m assuming you want to pay a professional solar company to take responsibility for the system.

There is also a compromise solution and that is to connect your solar system to the grid, but still have a battery backup. This type of solar system configuration is a lot less expensive than the system described above, because you don’t need the generator or such a fancy inverter, or nearly as many batteries. This kind of hybrid arrangement is also sometimes called “grid-tie with power backup”, “grid failover” or “grid fallback”. I’ll run through the design and costings for these kinds of systems in a future blog post.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Robert G Scott says:

    You have over priced everything. You may be an electrical engineer for all I know but you have no idea of the cost of a solar off grid setup in the real world. I am an electrician & electronics tech and it has just cost me less than $9,000 to go of the grid. I generate a maximum of 4.5 KW per hour from my 18 x 250W 24V solar panels. These panels have cost me about $4,500 about a dollar a watt. They sell for a little less now. The batteries 4 x 12V 250 ampere hour types at $400 each = $1,600. Bigger Amp Hour batteries will cost more or course but nowhere near the outrageous cost you mentioned. The battery bank charger and solar panel harvest controller about $560. The 6 KVA pure sine wave inverter about $800. Wiring about $200-300 and a 6KVA backup generator $800.
    Granted Gas supplies hot water, heating and cooking and the labour was my own. We have no power connection to the grid and we are on our own. Here in Victoria it costs $1.20 per day just to have power connected to the house. It would appear you have no idea of costs in the real world and or on e-bay right now. It wasn’t much dearer when you posted your blog, you have not researched your subject much. I started my trade in 1965 and have quite a few other qualifications in the electrical and electronic trades.

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the comment.

      The price above is for a professionally installed, off grid solar system using top quality components with good warranties, professional backup, and heaps of storage, as would be needed by a typical, Aussie home with Air Con etc.

      Of course if you DIY an off grid solar system for low-usage home with a small amount of storage, using the cheapest equipment you can find on eBay, you are going to do it for a fraction of the price. You have zero overheads. Not my definition of a real world. Most homeowners I know would expect their installer to pay for: insurance, training, vehicles, wages, office, admin, designers, equipment, GST, payroll tax, etc. etc. Comparing the price of DIY to professionally installed makes no sense in my opinion.

      Also a “KW per hour” (sic) would have units of Joules per second per second, which would be a rate of change of energy, do you mean kWh ? :

      http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/kw-and-kwh-what-is-the-difference/

      • Robert G Scott says:

        Right,
        now I have been in this game a long time starting an electrical apprenticeship in 1965 and finishing a communications certificate in 1980 plus 20 years in the RAAF as an electronics tech & supervisor (SGT) .
        To start with the solar panels I bought were Jenko 250W models bought from Low energy developments ACN 126 262959. (made in China) The battery bank was a lucky buy for 12V 250AH AGM batteries for $400 ea. made in China . The solar charger is sold in Australia for over $2000 by several suppliers, they are ripping people off. The inverter is also sold here for markup prices.
        The system works well, I have looked inside both the charge controller & inverter and the build quality is very good compared to mil spec equipment of which I have a great deal of experience. I consider myself a professional and have laid out the wiring and installation in a most professional manner, If you give me your home e-mail I will send you pictures of my installation. I am not working for other vested interests as you appear to be so I don’t have to pump up prices to cover enormous profit margins as seems to be the want of solar installers at the moment. I am currently writing an article for Silicon Chip on my system so hopefully many others can duplicate my efforts to reduce my electrical power bill to zero with no conditions.
        I have written articles for the editor Leo before and he seems most interested in this one. I can run a 2.2 KW split air system and am running it at the moment on this most hot (41 deg) day of January 2013. The battery bank is only good for two days without sufficient sun but that will be upgraded soon to 500 AH. I am running a 48V battery system as it keeps currents down to reasonable levels for the amount of power required. As I have said in my last e-mail this whole system would be difficult if we had electric hotwater, heating and cooking.

        • Hi Robert,
          Am most interested in finding out more about your system and setup, will keep an eye out for the Silicon Chip article.
          Cheers,
          Dave

        • I don’t have any qualifications at all, but have been researching and using solar systems for over thirty years in various situations.
          And until recent times I didn’t have much money, so developed a keen sense of getting the best deal possible. (Including using cabling, switches and so on from factory demolitions, etc. (Used to be able to get ANYTHING at a bargain-basement price from the SEC depot in Port Melbourne, including 2-volt 3200 AH ‘stand-by batteries for $16 each. A mate recently dumped a set of them after 28 YEARS of daily off-grid use!)

          Point is that I agree with all the above comments about pricing etc. Just one minor observation is that any components, including batteries, can pack up just as easily whether they’re expensive or cheap ones (within reason). Therefore get the best cheaper components you can….with the best possible enforceable warranty.

          Another suggestion is to use several smaller circuits rather than a single large one.
          eg. Back when a u-bewt inverter cost about 2 years average wages, and was oversized enough to run everything, I was using SIX smaller auto-type inverters: each one running a separate circuit. All six of them cost less than 10% of one u-bewt inverter, was safer to use on any basis, and was much MORE EFFICIENT, because ~ back then ~ unless you used an inverter at more than abut 92% of its capacity it’s efficiency dropped to as low as nearly 50%. (Don’t know if that’s still the case, but the principle is still as sound as it was then.)

          Currently I’m using MeanWell pure sinewave inverters ranging from 100-watts to 700-watts in different applications. They’re fairly cheap, very efficient and come with a three-year warranty (better than most these days), which I’ve never had to invoke in over five years.
          Am running a 600AH 24-volt battery system which only ever gets discharged to 10/15 %, so should easily get the 10 years design-life of use. If so they’ll have cost a fair bit less than the ‘service-to-property charge over the same period (assuming the charge for that doesn’t increase ~ HA!)

          Th only ‘inconvenience’ is the use of a 2500-watt demand-start generator for the microwave, washing-machine, power-tools, etc.

          I’m still connected to the grid because it’s so bloody LUCRATIVE! (after usage charges and paying the gas bills it puts about $1600 year into my bank-account.

          Gawd life’s hard!! :)

          • Dabbles,
            Those batteries from what used to be the old SEC depot at port Melbourne, Were they NiFe batteries? do you know? (Nickel Iron batteries) also can you give me any contact details for the depot, so i can go and see what they might have lying around.
            I am after some big old batteries, for a off grid system i want to put together at my place at Romsey.

          • Hi Owen.
            Would like to help, but am talking about the ‘old days’ (Grandpa Simpson Syndrome!), and the depot has been closed down for (?) 25 years.
            It covered several hundred acres at Fisherman’s Bend (Salmon St) , and you could buy anything from 6-ton 4WD trucks to dunny paper. (galvanized nuts/bolts up to 24″x2″ @ $6 per five-gallon drum-full, Tallow-wood/Ironbark power-poles for $20, HT-pylon cross-members for $30 (best quality galvanized angle/channel up to half-inch) etc etc. ) Over the years I built six muddies for about $4,000 each with stuff from there.

            But I digress. Can’t recall that the batteries had any brandname or other details, but were ordinary lead-acid.The 2-volt ones were about the size of a suitcase, built of thick glass with glass ‘corks’. There were also 200 ah-12-volt and 500ah-6-volt ones (@ $5) available depending on the day. They were used as standby power in telephone exchanges, etc. and were replaced every couple of years whether they were ever used of not.

            Great opportunities, but in the end the ‘entrepreneurs’ got involved and bought everything by the semi-load, and got exclusive rights. Then finally the SEC was sold. (Bloody Kennett!)

            I’ve never seen material like that since ~ at ANY price ~ because price was never an issue in government spending.

            And in any solar-system the batteries are always the most expensive and least-reliable components. Lotsa years of experience tells me the best way to go is use the minimum amount of battery-power you can for lights, TVs, etc. and buy a medium-sized demand-start sine-wave generator for the intermittent heavy-users like microwaves, tools, etc. Though y’can oversize your solar-array compared to the battery-bank and run your fridges/freezers/whatever at full bore all day directly and not at all at night. Panels are efficient enough and cheap enough these days to install a LOT of them – and even switch excess power into heating water or whatever.

            Another option worth considering is to run dc circuits around the house and use dc lights/tv, etc. direct from the battery-bank. It not only saves you the cost (including the inversion-inefficiency loss) and possible failure of inverters, but allows you to avoid using an overpriced electrician.

            I do ALL my own work, but legally-speaking any post-inverter power – eg 240 vac – requires qualified installation, and would probably void your house insurance if you didn’t get a certificate. Mind you, about 99.35% of all house-fires start from circuitry installed by qualified electricians! ;) Heavier-than-required wiring, plenty of circuit-breakers – NOT much bigger than the circuit ACTUALLY requires and a few earth-leakage safety switches should be far more protection than you’d ever need.

            Hope all that helps; sorry for the long-windedness.
            ….and always remember: If it ain’t fun you’re doing it wrong!

  2. steve smith says:

    i to am currently building an off grid solar system as it would cost 60,000 to get the power to my house, at present i have imported 24 1000 amp batterys from china opvz 10,000 dollars, i;m trying to find a suitable inverter charger am a bit shy of chinese as i want it to last can you suggest a good 5 kw unit i’m looking at a vectron for $5500 right now solar pannels from samil still waiting for a quote they don’t do off grid inverter at present. as you can see it is going to cost a lot more than the above mentioned system. but i hope it will last me 12-15 years on the batterys minimum.

    • Selectronic are excellent – Australian Made – off grid compatible inverters: http://www.selectronic.com.au/inverter/sine.html

      • Not so good if I read the the tech. notes correctly.
        Apparently the 3kw unit restricts the input to about 35 vdc,
        which means you’d need cabling (& bits) heavy enough to launch a bloody space-shuttle.

        I’m currently running two strings of a nominal 24-volt ( 28-36 actual volts open-circuit 46 vdc) into an Aerosharp inverter at around 200 vdc per string. When I convert my grid-connect system to stand-alone I’d prefer to do and spend as little as possible, which means I’ll want an inverter that either has tow trackers @ 200+ vdc (ala the Aerosharp) ~ or, better a single tracker that’ll handle a 500vdc input @ about 5 amps.

        If possible, I’d prefer to keep the Aerosharp, but would need some way to circumvent/disable the ‘anti-islanding’ link……. (perhaps feed 240vac to it from a battery/inverter source ~ would that work?)

        Any info/suggestions from any of you qualification-glutted whiz-kids would be appreciated. (and I’d be willing to pay for your time, of course.)

        Jason

    • What I’d really be willing to pay a quid for is an inverter that does everything a good grid-connect inverter does, and as efficiently, but in a stand-alone application, ie, without he ‘anti-islanding’ loop. (or better still, with an on-off switch to connect/disconnect the anti-islanding thingo)

      If any of you whizkids can come up with such a unit PLEASE give me first refusal.

  3. RobertTalty says:

    Sorry Finn but I have to concur with the other Robert because your costs are way too high almost double what I would calculate. If you decided to have a generator for backup than the 50Kwh battery storage seems a little excessive, to say the least. With the price of PV dropping so much recently I find it better to over install PV and add west facing PV for the late afternoon / early evening loads. Additionally where I live the grid connection charge is $1.48 / day so it is not insignificant.

  4. Guys,

    Robert is correct, the prices quoted are far in excess of what is commercially available in the market now. I also am an electrician with significant other qualifications over the years. I got my first contractors license in 1978 and over that time have installed a significant number of alternative power system. You will appreciate that in some instances off grid power is not just not viable but impossible.

    First of all start with calculating you maximum demand to size the system. If you calculate that 5 KVA is acceptable per the example above then you can calculate your reserve capacity required. Once done you know what size batteries to use. Then you can get your quotes.

    Batteries “Exide” 2V 1150 AH ex Bris should cost around $8,000 for a 48 volt system includes links
    5KVA Inverter including MPPT solar charger allow $1500 ex Taiwan land in Australia
    Panels allow $1 per Watt
    A 5KVA Generator with auto start should cost approx significantly less than $5,000 in fact my mate bought on recently for $1000
    For installation its the same except you now have 24 batteries to accommodate. Add 2 – 4 hours

    For those of you that want a fully integrated kit then I can source an 8 KVA system includes the batteries and a purpose built steel cabinet for less than $20,000.

    So if your currently using the standard 15KWH per day then the average household will save about $2000 per year in electricity charges and pay for a $20,000 system in 10 years at current rates. I calculated this at 25 cents per KWH but prices are expected to rise well above the 30 cents some people are now paying. Allow for battery replacement as well though depending on your choice better batteries last longer. 18 plus years for good ones AGM 11 years

    • Lloyd: I’m looking up costing a similar battery system using Exide 2v 1050 AH batteries. However the price that I’m seeing almost everywhere is about twice what you’ve quoted above.

      These batteries are only under warranty for 4 years (from this supplier), though I do believe that their data specs say that they should last about 20 years at 20deg Celsius.

      http://www.apolloenergy.com.au/Renewable-Energy-Components/48V-Battery-Banks/Raylite-48050

    • But keep in mind there’s ‘many a slip twixt the cup and the lip’. Long experience has shown me that ‘design-life’ is one thing and ‘reality’ something else.

      Any accident, oversight, close lightning-strike, fault-in-the-regulator, charger voltage-surge, etc. etc, can fuck a thousand-dollar battery as quickly as it can a $100 dollar one.

      The current bench-mark seems to be bout $2 per AH, with warranty,half that for second-hand battery banks. (eg. stand-by agm batteries from routinely-replaced UPS systems.) Paying more, in my opinion, means one has more money than brains.

  5. thomas of the Norse says:

    Fell across this blog by accident and find it very informative as well as entertaining. But here I see a case of “mine is bigger than yours” going on. I have found all the replies entertaining as well as useful BUT I am the average everyday homeowner that Finn would be talking to. I am not a DIY sort of person in fact I am positive it is illegal for me to own power tools in the state of Victoria. (My wife wont let me near a hammer!). I yell for my 9yo to help when the Xbox throws a panic attack. If I was to call a ‘sparky’ around to install an off the grid system and he remarks casually, “What size kW system do I want?” and I stare blankly into thin air and blink, I will be able to see the dollar signs reflected as they roll through his eyes. I wouldn’t be able to build a system for the prices mentioned above because: a/ I don’t have the experience, b/ no know – how c/ lack of knowledge. I do have a question though after all that. Can a wind power system be combined with a solar system to work as an off the grid system and would this be a cheaper alternative to the above system?

    • Sure you can hybridise alternative systems, and quite cheaply, too.

      But my best advice is FIRST GET EDUCATED in the subject. Whether you get someone in to do the job or do it yourself (recommended: it’s like brain-surgery: simple when you know how!), it behooves one to understand what’s going on.
      There really isn’t anything complicated about it: once you grasp the concept it’s just a matter of buying compatible components and plugging them together. I’ve done heaps of them over the years (and innovated: built hyro-generator ~ the very best option as far as I’m concerned ~ out of bits accumulated in the shed) but still can’t figure out how to use a mobile phone!

  6. The cost of connecting to the grid will be $27,000. Finn, if you were in your seventies, would you pay probably $50,000 to go off-grid or would you go on-grid for $27,000 and then probably another $10,000 for a solar system?

  7. I’m with the bulk of the responders here. If these are the prices for a base system in Australia, then you folks are getting ripped off blind. While one would pay a similar cost for a well designed off grid home in America, that price includes triple redundancy. There are still a few issues with solar power systems that can cause them to fail if constantly worked at full load. I would opt for a solar-wind mix, and add a Pelton Wheel for the heavier equipment. That’s one benefit we have on this continent, lots and lots of small streams that run year round which you can tap. And hydroelectric is top notch for heavy load generation. If somebody is building a new home in the country, it would be idiotic to connect it to the grid in this region. $25k per mile construction costs, as well as being responsible for your own maintenance from the point where it branches off the grid is bad enough. Top that off with winter surcharges, and rate hikes which appear to be whims, and it quickly becomes clear that off grid is the only option that makes sense.

    • Agreed, Tim. Hydro-power is easily the most desirable option.
      For one thing it minimises dependence on the most expensive and least reliable component of an alternative system: the battery-bank.

  8. i am also looking at using renewable energy
    8kw power output but using a hybrid of solar panels and wind power as you get get wind day or night with a 5Kva generator back up with some batteries more for a buffer, as you only need a small reserve is required as I dont mind starting a generator when required. at the moment i have a generating running 15 hours a day.

  9. Why go solar just yet? Even the cost of the basic setup will be enough to cover my electricity bills for the next 7 years at current prices. Sure prices will inevitably raise but I am sure that the system would not pay for it self in less than 5 years.

    Batteries will get better and cheaper and so will the panels. I don’t beleive that it’s time to go solar for many people. Sure the larger houses would benefit but that again depends on the state you live in as the climate varies a lot between TAS and QLD for example, hence the power requirements.

    • It also depends on how prepared you are to adjust your power-usage. I’m only using about 2.5 kwh per day (with perhaps another 0.5 kwh from the generator running the microwave, washing machine,etc.

      I don’t squander power, but don’t skimp, either; it’s just a matter of priorities and awareness.

  10. Interesting, while it might take over 100 years to pay off for a city person, if you are building in the country it can cost $180,000 to get the power connected to your house (that’s just to run a line an extra 1km or so). In that case even spending $50,000 is an instant pay off. The ongoing power savings are all gravy

  11. Robert L Jones says:

    I might have the wrong ideas but if a 100AH battery stores 1kWh of usable energy (not fully discharging and lack of storage due to high discharge) then you save $.25 (cost of one unit) a day. So that breaks down to saving $91 per year or $455 over five years. Is this enough to cover the replacement of the battery only?

    • A 100Ah battery will deliver 100A for 1 hour (or in reality a max of 5A continuously for 20 hours) . Power = Voltage x Current. I’m assuming a 12V battery.

      So 100A at 12V is 100 x 12 = 1200W = 1.2kW for an hour. So the battery will store about 1kWh. Yes.

      Battery storage is still very expensive!

  12. The bottom line solar in any form is never going to be cost effective. A normal random selected hydro power station say within NZ as an example produces more voltage than the three largest solar stations in the world. Even today there is nothing suggested in the pipeline that equates as cost efficient with a large solar scheme in USA unable to raise finance anywhere. Domestically rig up a small solar panel onto two car batteries for a light , or TV or computer, turn off your mains power and watch how you still get stung LOL

  13. We sell and install a 5kw off grid hybrid system which is approved for installation by local councils

    $7500 = 2.5 to 3.0Kw wind turbine and self standing pole, (A&NZ approved) hole excavation extra cost.
    $3840 = 2.5 solar panels
    $1600 = racking and cabling
    $1800 = off grid 6 kw inverter
    $8000 = each pack 1150amp/h batteries recommend minimum of 2
    $450 = each(second hand fork lift battery packs best buy.
    $2500 = electrician charges

    as a lot of our products are sold to farmers they all like to install it them selves which is legal, but they can not hook the power to the house from the inverters as that comes back to dealing with 240 volt so must use an licensed electrician.
    for the wind turbine we can not quote the excavation for the hole as too many times we have struck rock so now either do it by the hour or get the client to dig it.

    But this goes to show that there are genuine prices out there its only a matter of looking.
    total cost is still around the $30K $35K mark
    our biggest problems is the battery prices , that is what kills the price for off grid

    as for warranties
    wind turbine (replacement warranty 5 years,) estimated life 20-25 years
    solar panels normal 25 years as what other companies provide.
    inverters 3 years warranty we are still testing ours for life time, been over 5 years so far, still testing.
    batteries 2 year warranty but expected life time 12 years, depends on the abuse they get.

    when I talk about batteries, people expect more than what a battery can handle, one client ran a old window type air conditioner all day and night running the batteries down to zero and kept doing this until they ruined the gel batteries.
    I am not impressed with the gel batteries and if some one here finds a battery that works good for themselves or there clients i would love to know, specially pricing.

    • One presumes you’re using gold-plated panels at that price?
      Panels these days (with as good a warranty as you’ll get anywhere) are selling for under a dollar ~ and down to 74 cents if you buy a few ~ per watt. That’s the retail price, so one presumes the retailer/installer gets them cheaper still.
      $1.50 plus can’t be justified.

      ps. the 25-year ‘performance’ warranty needs to be supplemented with a materials/manufacture warranty as well, particularly if (as most warranties’ fine-print insist) it’s solely up to the dealer to determine what ~if any ~ fault exists and whether the fault lies with the consumer or the producer/dealer.
      Many people don’t know there’s a difference.

      That said, can you provide details on the inverter. (see my note elsewhere on the blog ~ to which none of the whizkids have responded!)
      What I want is a stand-alone inverter that does all the jobs a decent high-efficiency grid-connect inverter will do (regulation, MPPTs that deal with 2 or 3 strings, and ~particularly~ a minimum 500+ vdc input at (nominal 24 volt) levels:- ‘working’ @ about 36 vdc, open circuit at about 46 vdc.).

      ..or else a way to bypass/disable the ‘anti-islanding’ loop.

      • @Dabbles
        Even if I paid $0.68 USD cents for the panels I then accrue extra costs like
        Transport to ship
        Shipping Insurance (they fall off container ships or get dropped)
        Container costs
        Shipping costs
        Transport to warehouse,
        Return container via transport
        Warehouse cost/rent
        Staff wages handling
        Tax
        Then you have the extra costs if they fail or get dropped when installing plus the warranty if a panel fails.
        You then have to return to the job find the fault and replace that panel or panels all at our own cost.
        As for the warranty from the manufacture that’s pretty much a laughing matter, they want you to pay for the return of the panels and also cost for it to be shipped back to you.

        So GOLD Plated panels and at $1.50aud per watt, hell yeah, I would not even bother to sell them for less and would sooner go broke than try to sell at a cheaper price.
        I am patiently waiting for all the other companies to slowly either close down or go broke as they are starting to now.
        When our dollar rate drops like it is to the USA dollar we will still try to stay with the same costs.

        We specialise in off grid and use our own inverters which is approved in Aust and NZ
        As you are aware of the pricing of solar panels then I presume you will know about as much as I do on the inverters.

        • Yeahbut. Everybody that retails panels has similar overheads, I presume, and still manages to keep prices down ~ though fluctuations in the exchange rate can make a difference.
          But still, I bought several at 98 cents per watt, and that included shipping from Qld to regional Vic., and there’s another crowd in Melbourne that ~ from time to time ~ offers similar prices.

          All have the standard sort of warranty, though what you’re saying about transport fees etc. is true ~ and a pet peeve. To date I haven’t had an issue with any of them. A friend of mine is still using panels I bought second-hand in about 1983 (from memory), so I live in hope.

          I don’t know how much you know about inverters, but I’m certainly no expert; take more a suck-it-and-see approach. You’ll see in earlier posts here that my (carefully-chosen) installer installed an Aerosharp 2kw inverter with my grid-connect system, and although all the ‘experts’ online were shitcanning them at the time I had no problem with it because it was about half the price of the u-bewt units and gave a ten-year- unconditional warranty when most of the others were offering 2 years (conditional) and the best of them 5 years, also smothered in ‘Terms and Conditions’.

          Six months later a voltage-suppressor failed ( a known fault apparently), and I rang the installer, who was prepared to come out that afternoon (from 2.5 hours away) to fix or replace it. I suggested he have the dealer send a replacement down and I’d fit it myself.
          It arrived early next morning by courier: right inverter wrong fittings. I rang the dealer/importer, who apologised profusely (mostly in Chinese!) and sent up the right unit the following morning, and I sent back the other two units with the same courier.

          ….and there wasn’t a single hint about waiting to have the crashed unit inspected, transport costs or anything else. It’s the sort of service I haven’t seen in about fifty years, and pure gold as far as I’m concerned.
          It’s been humming along nicely ~ at about a 97% efficiency ~ for over three years since then.
          …and still has nearly 7 years to run on the (new) warranty that came with the replacement.

          On the other hand ~ as stated elsewhere ~ what I’d REALLY be prepared to pay for is a stand-alone inverter that will do all the jobs a grid-connect inverter does, with the same efficiency. Need to handle 2 strings (MPPTs) and accept an input vdc of 500+. (or simply to rejig the grid-connect unit to bypass the ‘anti-islanding’ loop.)

          Given the government/industry stuffing about with FITs, ‘Smart-Meters’ etc., I won’t be the only one who’ll be looking to convert their grid-connect system to a stand-alone one.

          Any offers welcome.

          • You are quite welcome to contact me, but I do not know how you can.
            This website forum would have rules and all comments are moderated before they are posted.

            Have you seen a standalone system?? As far as I know they would all have a controller,
            With the unit I use it is a hybrid wind and solar, all the energy goes to the controller first then to the inverter or batteries,
            Some inverters have power on demand then battery others have battery only.
            I use the 48 volt AnyPower inverter (off Grid) as far as I know they do not have a grid connect inverter, well not the company I deal with anyway.

            There are copies of this inverter with other Chinese companies and they offer a 2 year warranty, ours has a 3 year and if you pay the extra dollars for it you can get more. But we have been testing this inverter on factory conditions, pretty much giving it hell to see if we can blow it up.
            It’s been nearly 5 years now, so more or less given up. But every now and then we try to overload it.

            The manufacture now has a new one and we are waiting for it to be changed in some areas of the manufacturing design, we are fussy and sometimes we want better parts installed.

            The people we deal with have had their share of us telling them we want better, even if it costs us.
            I have a friend that is also an importer who wanted a cheaper product to save money.
            I am still cracking up over that one.

            Well the Chinese bless their little hearts sold it cheaper a 40 foot container load of jack hammers all the parts were made of plastic instead of steel and they lasted 2 hours of testing before breaking up, he still has that load , so a good lesson for all.

            That’s why we made sure we do not screw our supplier for the inverters.
            As an importer we have to abide by the rules of importing, believe it or not, there are pretty stiff fines to importers who break these rules.
            One cannot just import an electrical appliance and sell it, everything must be approved even the LED lights that people import to fit their home out with.

            I am waiting for the insurance companies to stop paying out homes that catch fire due to unapproved led lights that people bought from China. That will be a very expensive lesson.
            I bought some Chinese LED lights in from a company and when we put them up for testing they caught fire after being continuously on for 10 days. Hence we no longer import lights.
            Just not worth it, even though it’s a good profit margin for importers.

            The new AnyPower pure Sin Wave inverter when its completed will be better than the older model,
            One thing I must say to any person that imports any electrical appliance that’s going to be sold here in Australia or New Zealand, beware of the rules as fines start at about $50K up to $500K. even second hand if they were no approved when new. no excuses are excepted.

            When buying an electrical appliance ask for the testing certificate/report specially if you are importing to sell.
            The inverter report of the Pure Sin Wave Inverter is 45 pages long. without that report we will not deal with that manufacture.
            Manufacture that copy a product will not give you a copy of that report unless they falsify it and if your good at paperwork you will see the difference.

    • Jeff, i’m working on a off grid system to be installed at my farm at Romsey and i would like to know if you have ever seen any big second hand Nickel Iron batteries about? I’m after batteries that will add up to a 48v system, probably in 2v cells. New ones are incredibly expensive, but they can last a lifetime.

  14. We live 16ks out of town and have always been totally off grid. The cost of getting and installing our system was half the cost of bringing the grid to our property line. Plus we never get a quarterly bill!

    • How big a system did you have installed??
      Are you finding it big enough for what you need?
      I am sure you will be saving lots of dollars as now I see the gas is even expected to go up another 30% like the power is.

      I feel sorry for all the people that have put their systems in back to grid, when their contract completes, I wonder what will be the cost paid for the power they generate in there solar system back to grid, $0.06 cents?? or maybe less.

      What people do not realise is that the power companies have them by the knackers and will screw them down.
      Like everything the government has done, it’s screwed up another area of the general public like they did with the batts.
      So “Patience” I reckon you have done the right thing with your power situation, your off grid and making your own, good on ya.

      • Not at all. I had a grid-connect system installed with the very intent of rewiring it for stand-alone use the minute they ever send me another power-bill. (to date I’m making a PROFIT of $1600 a year from the premium FIT.)

        I produce nearly three times electricity as what I consume, and when you get into it you wouldn’t believe how cheap and easy it can be to make a small (mine is 2.5kw) set-up run an entire house (with some adjustments in usage.)

  15. Everyone please stop right there.Just a thought What is a battery, think about this, a battery is stored energy, so is water in a dam on top of a hill, and so is compressed air & probably many other substances I cant think of at present. I am currently trying to work out running an air compressor from a wind generator, which could also be run through a condenser to create cool air on its way to a small? generator that could be very easily be made to operate on demand, I am told storage of the air is possible by linking truck brake compressed air cylinders available from the wreckers & the good thing is they can be mounted all over the place in any small nook or cranny & could also be used in a hybrid system as some modern compressor designs dont draw as anywhere near as much power as the old reciprocating ones, I think we need to think laterally here, & change the terminology to stored energy & goodness knows what people much smarter than myself can come up with

    • Yep. Lotsa schemes like that ~ some even work. But just remember that there are losses at every stage, and you’ll never get near the energy output as the input required.
      That said, efficiencies may not be the main consideration: if you have a permanent creek you can churn out consistent free electricity and use some of that to create hydrogen, which can then be used in most combustion motors.

      Keep posting. Brainstorming can be most useful.

  16. Mary Madigan says:

    Help ! They are FORCING ME to connect to a SMART METER today against my will.

    We have two meters on our property and when we installed 1.5 kw solar on our shed they installed a solar smart meter on our house and my computer and fridge died within a week. I had not had trouble with either. I rang them and they came back the next day (again without tell me ) and replaced the solar smart meter with my old one. NOW somw years later they are coming to put the smart meter back.

    We had signed up for a much bigger solar power system as we had a letter from Peter Garret MP at the time for an interest free loan. When we went to use this they refused to honour it.
    Imagine that a politicians promise not honoured. Before he got into politics I thought Peter Garret was a smart bloke.

    I live in South Eastern Melbourne. Democracy is just a word.

    • Democracy has accurately been described as “A dictatorship of the people” (or ‘Proletariat’ as Marx put it all those years ago.) ~ and people have been brainwashed into thinking it’s a ‘privilege’, valuable enough to die for, and all that crap.
      A ‘people’s dictatorship is STILL a dictatorship.

      Just don’t let them near your meter: physically bar the way (if they touch you it constitutes assault), and start screaming ‘Rape’ as loudly as you can. ;). (Seriously –> how do you KNOW they’re NOT going to rape you?).

      Check out a website called ‘StopSmartMeters.com.au’ (I always add ‘Victoria’ to avoid all the news of all the objectors from around the world. There’s plenty of info./legal notes, etc, to help you make a stand.

      Failing that go to a local shelter and adopt a rottweiler. ;)

  17. On grid solar is very economical… especially if you’re not home during the day with a ToU tariff. In QLD I’m on Tariff 12 with a small 1.25kV PV system. I don’t get home until 6PM weekdays – halfway through the 4-8PM peak period. So effectively, out of 168 hours in a week I’m only really using electricity during peak times for 10 of them (when we’re not home the only things on are the fridge and septic blower). Propane cooktop as well helps, and we stay cool/warm overnight economically due to the 30% cheaper off peak tariff.

    Using this method, we export half the output of the PV system and consume the other half locally. Over a quarter that’s around $200 of solar credits off the bill of $500 – with a very small system by today’s standards.

  18. This post is 2 years old now, how much have prices changed since then?

    • Dr Mike,

      Panel and inverter prices are always falling – and have come down. Everything else is pretty accurate. Here’s the 2014 version:

      5kW of panels $5,000

      5kW inverter $2,000

      Racking and Cabling: $1000

      Installation: $2,000

      Less Solar Rebate (STCs): -$,3500

      Out of pocket cost to you approx: $6,500 (Jan 2014 prices)

      ——

      Off Grid Cost (low end figures):

      5kW of panels: $5,000

      5kW Off Grid Capable Inverter + charge controller: $4,000

      4 x 1350 Ampere hour 12V batteries: $18,000 (approx 50kWh of storage)

      Racking and Cabling (you’ve gotta wire up and mount all those batteries remember!): $2,000

      Installation and commissioning: $3,500

      Bottom of the range Integrated Diesel Generator (unless you don’t mind running out of electricity occasionally): $3,000

      Less Solar Rebate (STCs): -$,3,500

      Total: $32,000

      As many commenters have pointed out – you can do it *a lot* cheaper if you go bargain hunting on eBay and graysonline and do all the 12V installation yourself. But it is a fairly technical exercise with lots of opportunities to electrocute yourself or worse!

      And yes – that is an awful lot of batteries, but the average Aussie house uses an awful lot of electricity. An efficient home can get away with half the storage – but most homeowners are not prepared to reduce their consumption that much in my experience. This many batteries is generally what is needed to give the customer the performance they generally expect from their home’s power supply.

      Hope That Helps,

      Finn

  19. Hi
    Most of the course of discussion is w.r.t. going totally off grid. What about the option of going solar but without feeding back into the grid. Thus just you using the offpeak solar electricity your own house produces during the day. So timers on washing machines to run say after 10am, electric hot water also to come on after say 10am, in slab heating, split systems , etc. So a similar principle to the old “offpeak 2:30am” supply that was common years ago, just back to front.

    Any ideas. Any costings

    Gene

  20. Yes, solar is really cheap if u keep the CEC and accreditation and the government out of it. Even using CEC approved equipment, if u select and install, u can do it for a fraction of the official prices from accredited solar companies. $1 a watt for solar, few thousand for good pure sinewave inverter setup. Dont skimp on the inverter too much, they tend to burn out-dangerous so install with safety in mind. Batteries can be expensive-also install with ventilation, say $300 per 100a at 12v. Less if u go lead , more for some gel types etc. Add a modest 5kv puresinewave generator $1-$2000?. Perhaps a 500w wind generator as they r cheap $700. Solar/wind hybrid charge controller for $500. As something to think about, high power usage devices like cooking can run from the generator on a as needed basis to not use the batteries. Power storage is really the main thing that needs improving, perhaps work needs doing on using dams(water tank?) as small hydro generators. Using gravity to run the gens to a lower dam during the night and solar to run pumps to bring the water back?? How much water does it take to run a 500w hydro gen?? Also, hot air electric generators from deeply sunk bore holes, how warm does it get down 100m and could it run a stirling engine for say even 100w of power?? Would the ground temp just a metre down run stirling engines for 10w of power for lighting??

  21. Yes Minister says:

    Obviously its possible to create any ridiculous cost scenario is one is intent on ‘proving’ the only viable option is to continue supporting the fatcats running Origin & AGL and using sufficient imagination to price off-grid systems at a level to break the federal economy. On the other hand, an off-grid installation can be done for chickenfeed if one doesn’t expect run much load. One particular local has an installation that cost a grand total of $3000 that has run his house since Adam was a boy. (junk maybe but it works for him, and no Martha, he doesn’t have or need airconditioning) In between there are countless options, for example I’m sitting on a 2.5kw $11,000 proposal using high end components mit most of the bells and whistles and that would easily supply my usage allowing for two days with no PV output.

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