SA’s Remote Solar Disconnect/Reconnect Explained

In this video, chartered electrical engineer and SolarQuotes founder Finn Peacock sets the record straight on “solar shutdown” capabilities in South Australia.

Transcript:

If you live in South Australia, you might have heard something pretty scary-sounding in the news recently.

“The government wants to shut down your solar!”

If you take the mainstream media’s word for it, Stephen Marshall himself has a big red button in his office that he can press at will and shut down every solar system in the state.

I’ll first confirm that legislation has indeed been enacted giving the electricity network the ability to send out a remote disconnect/reconnect signal that will turn compatible inverters on or off. But let me cut through the hysteria and drop a pallet load of knowledge on the situation to show you that it’s not a big deal at all.

Why Remote Disconnect Is Needed

Firstly, why is this necessary? To put it simply, Australia in general but especially South Australia has a crapload of solar generation capacity, which continues to rise every single day as new systems are installed on rooftops across the state. For a few hours in early October, solar alone met all of South Australia’s electricity needs. And in the very near future, we may have times where solar is generating more electricity than can be used or exported to Victoria. This can lead to an unstable grid and potentially blackouts.

So some legislation was hastily enacted to mandate that all solar systems installed in South Australia after September the 28th must be able to be remotely disconnected. It sounds scary, but let me jump in and separate truth from fiction.

This remote shutdown requirement is only for systems installed in SA from September the 28th, 2020 onwards. So if you’ve already got solar, relax, these new rules will not affect you.

This isn’t just the Government trying to stop everyday Aussies from saving money with solar. It always surprises me how suspicious Aussies are of their government. Since these new rules were announced and enacted, almost every other day I’ve had a phone call or email from someone in SA ranting about how this is just “the man” trying to keep energy independence away from ordinary people.

All I’ll say on this is, speaking as a chartered electrical engineer who understands how hard it is to maintain a national electricity grid, the SA government has legitimate concerns about the stability of the grid that has led them to propose and enact this legislation.

The challenges posed by integrating renewables into electricity grids aren’t unique to our “Heaps Good” state. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this remote disconnection requirement becomes standard for new solar systems around the world, not just in Australia.

Financial Impact: Minimal

I would honestly be surprised if this remote disconnection kill-switch was used by the networks more than two to three times a year for more than a few hours at a time.

In terms of the financial impact these new rules will have; the typical 6.6 kilowatt solar system in SA will save a home around three to four dollars a day. If such a system is shut down two to three times a year for a few hours at a time, the total financial impact will be in the tens of dollars per year, if that.

That’s annoying, but it’s not exactly something worth storming Stephen Marshall’s office about. The bottom line is that solar is and always has been an excellent investment in SA. Don’t believe me? Give my solar and battery calculator a whirl and see how much a system can save you.

Spoiler alert: the typical 6.6 kilowatt system can save you around $1,600 per year; meaning you can break even on a $6,000 system in under four years. Now, that’s not bad for something that will last 25 plus years on a roof.

And the even better news is that savvy solar installers can install a smart solar system that won’t fully shut down when the big red button’s pressed. These systems are designed to still keep powering your home on receiving the signal – they just stop exporting surplus energy. That means you’ll still be saving money with a solar powered home, even through these hopefully rare disconnection events.

A Good News Story

So while these new remote shut down requirements for inverters sound scary, I hope I’ve now reassured you that they’re nothing to worry about and indeed they’re even necessary.

It’s actually a really good news story. The fact that we’re the first in the world to occasionally have too much solar, it means that most of the time we have world-beating amounts of clean, renewable energy powering SA’s homes and businesses.

That’s something we should all be really proud of.

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. Colin Martin says

    I’m now interested in the mechanics of the system. I’m in Melbourne using Enphase IQ7+ micros with 2 x Powerwall 2 and Gateway 2. You say “shut-down inverters”

    How does the electricity provider stop the Solar generation going onto the network in the over production scenario with our system

    Is it just a signal to the Smartmeter making our system “think” the grid is down.

    We are a total hybrid system which works perfectly in backup mode..

    Great blog, thanks

  2. You might be interested in reading the report published at
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/switching-off-rooftop-solar-will-become-a-regular-feature-of-a-renewables-grid/

    I doubt that the “powers that be” will be either turning off fossil fuel generators (especially, government owned ones), or, providing free electricity to the owners of the household rooftop photovoltaic systems, that the governments choose to punish for having them.

    If the governments decided to waive the electricity bills of households, whose rooftop photovoltaic systems they shutdown, it would be different.

    The issue of restrictive trading practises, and, racketeering, also arises, where governments prohibit households from using electricity that would otherwise be generated by the household rooftop photovoltaic systems, and, force the households to instead, use and pay for electricity that they would not otherwise be using.

    Sounds like mob tactics, to me.

    It is a bit like the state government in WA, owned by the fossil fuel companies.

  3. The sinister actions and intentions of the states’ and federal parliaments, in trying to sabotage the use of clean energy in Australia, has become even more sinister.

    See
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/solar-switch-off-rule-to-extend-to-ev-chargers-pool-pumps-and-air-con/


    State energy ministers are looking to adopt new protocols that will allow network operators to not just switch off rooftop solar when instructed, but also pool pumps, electric vehicle charging stations, hot water systems and even air conditioners.

    So, the states’ and federal parliaments are acting to ensure that, in Australia, Battery Electric Vehicles will not be allowed to be powered by clean energy, and, the use of clean energy in Australia, in general, will be maliciously crippled, by the parliamentary political parties and their owners, the fossil fuel companies.

    So, the people of Australia, take a step forward, and, the Australian legislatures, like the chinese emperor, bring out the bulldozers, to push the people backwards.

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