Australian Household Solar Survey Results

1,028 Choice members across Australia have been surveyed about their experience buying and owning a solar power system – and the results are quite interesting.

Carried out earlier this year, the latest results were published by the consumer advocacy group on Friday. Here’s a look at some of what was revealed.

Getting Quotes

While 61% reported receiving between two and five quotes before making a purchase decision, 34% received a quote from just one installer. 22% of survey respondents said they chose a company based on price – this is concerning as there can be a high cost associated with very cheap solar.

Solar Panel And Inverter Brands

The most commonly installed brands of solar panels were Suntech (7%), followed by Trina (6%) and LG, Jinko and Sunpower (5%). The prevalence of Suntech indicates many of those participating in the survey have had their systems in place for some time.

With regard to inverters, Choice notes the most common “brands” were SMA (14%), Sunny Boy (14%) and Fronius (12%). However, what wasn’t noted is that Sunny Boy is SMA – it’s part of the SMA product line, not a brand.

On the battery side of things, only 9% had energy storage; with 24% choosing a Tesla Powerwall, 17% had a LG Chem battery and 11% installed Enphase. These home battery systems were among the first to be available in Australia.

Solar Satisfaction

On average, respondents gave a rating of 72/100 for solar installer satisfaction. Choice notes the results indicate smaller independent providers delivered a better service and generally experiences improved where systems were installed after 2016.

30% of respondents reported having a problem with the installer, with the most common issue being delay in installation. Around a third indicated experiencing problems with their system post-installation, with the largest portion of those problems (20%) related to the inverter.

Questions were also asked about payback times – 47% stated it was the same or shorter than detailed by their installer and 10% said it was longer.

Further results from the survey can be reviewed here.

The breakdown of when systems were installed wasn’t clear in Choice’s summary, but given some of the brands mentioned, various notes and statistics, a number of systems were installed prior to 2009. The Australian solar industry has greatly improved since that time and in particular in the last few years (Australians have also become more solar-savvy), but there are still traps and pitfalls for the unwary.

Potential solar power system purchasers can minimise the risk of problems through careful research of installers, solar panels and inverters. Other useful resources include The Good Solar Guide, a step-by-step guide to installing solar energy systems in Australia that is free to read online.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Daniel Debreceny says

    Fantastic News on solar.

    47% of solar customers indicated that payback was the same or less than advised by the installers, and only 10% indicated that it was longer than anticipated.

    I’m extremely surprised about the enphase batteries.

    I’m confused what 260W, the rated output of enphase batteries, can actually supply as backup, except maybe 10 LED lights (120W), one modern efficient TV (120W) and the internet/Wifi head-end (20W) for laptops/ipads.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Daniel

      I’m afraid the Enphase battery isn’t even able to supply backup. But if it could, you are quite correct that not much could be run off it.

  2. What about Enphase? Their newest 2-wire IQ technology with better PLC, and much higher reliability in the field was not mentioned. However, the link to “inverters” did note that IQ was a premium inverter, and the premium inverters had better reliability. The SMA SunnyBoy microinverter is not sold here in the States any longer, just Enphase, so did the 1 out of 5 customers with SMA’s microinverter, or was the microinverter’s reputation spotless? Were there ANY IQ problems? Of the 1 in 5, what inverter brand did they have?

  3. Josef Verner says

    Hi Daniel,
    Enphase batteries are 1.2kw in Australia
    I have 3 of those combined with 8kw solar system & micro inverters which runs 3 bedroom house & granny flat & large shed without any problems plus I am getting large rebate from electricity company
    Cheers Joe

  4. Pedley’s electrical services installed my 6.6kw 22×JA 300watts 60 cell mono perc system with Sungrow inverter 4990 w one phase.
    After put some pressure, I got it installed in two weeks. Although they promised Trina or Jenko ended up with JA.

    Had problem with Inverter WiFi. Took two months to fix it after frustrating several attempts. Hope it will continue to work now😃

    Can you please tell me the price I pai $5500 is reasonable? What is the average the system could produce during summer / Winter. I am in Corinda Brisbane.

    Overall I am happy with the work. The advantage of installing it to be seen.😃

    Thank you for your support.

    .

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hello Nanda

      A 6.6 kilowatt system for $5,500 is a competitive price provided the installation is done well. It’s only $833 per kilowatt. Sungrow is a mid to low cost inverter but is generally considered to be good value for money. JA panels are generally reliable and you shouldn’t have a problem with them. But, despite them being decent quality, if you were promised Trina or Jinko panels that is what you should have got. Under Australian consumer law they have to give you what they said they would.

      In Brisbane solar output is more constant through the year than in the southern states. A typical 6.6 kilowatt system that doesn’t suffer from any significant shade may produce around 9,500 kilowatt-hours through the year. The best month is December with around 950 kilowatt-hours of output and the worst month will be June with around 590 kilowatt-hours.

      If you like you can use the PVWatts site to try to get a better estimate for your system:

      https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

      But it might take some time to get used to it.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Hi Ronald,

        Happy new year – 2019.
        You stated:

        “In Brisbane solar output is more constant through the year than in the southern states. A typical 6.6 kilowatt system that doesn’t suffer from any significant shade may produce around 9,500 kilowatt-hours through the year. The best month is December with around 950 kilowatt-hours of output and the worst month will be June with around 590 kilowatt-hours.”

        Compare those figures above with these for a non-shaded, roof-mounted solar-PV system with these attributes:
        • Location: Lithgow, NSW;
        • Azimuth: approximately 5° east of true North;
        • Slope: approximately 30° elevation from horizontal;
        • PV modules: String1: 6x 327 W; & String2: 4x 327 W (nominal);

        The following figures are indicated or derived from recordings of the system inverter display readings:
        • Indicated inverter maximum output: 3,286 W;
        • 2015, June: 11.6 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2015, December: 16.3 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2015 (first year) inverter production: 3,718 kWh / 273.5 days = 13.6 kWh/d yearly average;
        • 2016, June: 8.3 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2016, December: 15.5 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2016 (second year) inverter production: 5,235 kWh / 366 days = 14.3 kWh/d yearly average;
        • 2017, June: 10.6 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2017, December: 14.8 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2017 (third year) inverter production: 5,345 kWh / 365 days = 14.6 kWh/d yearly average;
        • 2018, June: 9.2 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2018, December: 16.5 kWh/d monthly average;
        • 2018 (fourth year) inverter production: 5,349 kWh / 365 days = 14.7 kWh/d yearly average.

        Given that the Lithgow 3.2 kW (nominal) solar-PV system is actually producing on average about 5,310 kWh annually (based on the average of outputs for full years 2016, 2017 & 2018), then a 6.6 kW nominal system in Lithgow should expect to be producing about 10,950 kWh annually – apparently better than if sited in Brisbane with only a 9,500 kWh output, per your indicated estimates. Why do you think that would be so? Higher overall insolation in Lithgow? More pollution/haze in Brisbane? Higher temperatures in Brisbane reducing PV efficiencies? Any thoughts?

        • Ronald Brakels says

          Happy New Year!

          I would expect a 3.27 kilowatt system facing almost north with a 30 degree tilt to produce an average of 4,754 kilowatt-hours a year. Or at least that’s what the PVWatts site tells me:

          https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

          The reason why your system has done about 12% better could be because it’s an excellent system or it could be due to the weather that year or a bit of both.

          An identical system in Brisbane will produce 4-5% more according to PVWatts. Brisbane has a considerable amount of cloud cover in summer and the difference in the length of days between summer and winter is not as large as further south and this results in their output being a little more consistent through the year. If you directly west 140 km of Brisbane and go up the range the reduced cloud cover increases solar output by about 7.5%. Solar in Lithgow would benefit from this compared to Sydney or Newcastle.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Thanks Ronald,

            The installer of the Lithgow 3.27 kW (nominal) solar-PV system provided documentation that included modelling of the system’s expected performance. Weather properties were based on Richmond RAAF (33.66°S, 150.78°E), and included a derating factor of 0.90. Modelled expected performance included:
            • Lowest performance month (June): 325.2 kWh / 30 days = 10.84 kWh/d monthly average
            • Highest performance month (October): 518.8 kWh / 31 days = 16.74 kWh/d monthly average
            • Annual performance: 5209.9 kWh / 365 days = 14.27 kWh/d yearly average

            I think the solar-PV system actual performance (see the figures in my earlier comment) correlates within an acceptable range of variation with the modelled expected performance. That may be due to favourable levels of insolation at Lithgow during full years 2016, 2017 and 2018, and time will tell whether the output performance remains roughly consistent over a longer operating period. So far, IMHO, the system is performing as expected, and in some instances slightly better.

            You state:

            “I would expect a 3.27 kilowatt system facing almost north with a 30 degree tilt to produce an average of 4,754 kilowatt-hours a year. Or at least that’s what the PVWatts site tells me:…”

            Perhaps the modelling figures provided by the PVWatts website are conservatively biased to minimise disappointments with slightly lesser performing systems? Unless the Lithgow solar-PV system inverter display is showing false information (a remote possibility but I suspect unlikely because the modelling in the system documentation correlates to date) then I would suggest the PVWatts numbers you are referring to are probably conservative. It suggests to me that perhaps all reasonable solar-PV systems should actually be performing better than the PVWatts’ indicative figures – if not then there’s likely to be a significant problem with those solar-PV systems showing sub-par performance that should be investigated and fixed.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            PVWatts produces results similar to independent estimates for solar system output. However, I suppose it it was off for a particular region that would be hard to spot. PVWatts does allow for typical losses which may be less in your system.

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