Solar Energy FAQs

Why choose solar power ?

What is Solar PV?

Solar Photovoltaic panels generate electricity directly from sunlight, not from heat. They capture the sun’s energy to generate electricity cleanly and quietly. Light energy is converted directly into electricity by transferring sunlight photon energy into electrical energy. This conversion takes place within cells of specially fabricated semiconductor crystals. While it might be true that solar cannot generate electricity all the time, it does generate electricity when it is needed most. This is during the day and on hot sunny days when electricity demand is at its peak driven by air-conditioners. Importantly, electricity is generated at the point of demand. It’s where people live and work which means there is no need to transfer the energy at long distances across expensive infrastructure.

Why should I install a Solar Power System?

There has never been a more affordable time to install a solar electricity system on your home. The Solar Credits Scheme provides significant discounts at the time of purchase, whilst the Premium Feed-in-Tariffs can help you pay off the system quickly and even earn money over many years. A solar electricity system has a typical lifespan greater than 30 years and represents an excellent investment to save on your future electricity bills and improve the value of your home.

There are a number of reasons warranting the installation of a Solar Electricity System:

  • Solar Photovoltaic Energy or Solar Electricity is a renewable energy technology capable of providing your household with emissions free electricity. This also assists in climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability efforts as well as alleviates today’s and the future’s high cost of electricity.
  • Solar Credits is a mechanism within the RET scheme that boosts support to households, businesses and community groups that install small-scale solar PV by providing a capital subsidy at the time of purchase. Depending on the value of the solar electricity system, the REC’s and the location in Australia, this discount could be as high as 70% for a 1.5kWp system. The level of discount diminishes as system sizes increase.
  • A feed-in tariff (FiT) is a premium rate paid for electricity fed back into the electricity grid from a designated renewable electricity generation source. In Australia, FiTs have been introduced or are under consideration in all States and Territories, and come in two forms; a gross FiT or a net FiT. The premium FiT rate varies from $0.20/kWh in Tasmania to as high as $0.68/kWh offered by some Victorian electricity retailers. Although the FiT schemes differ from State to State they all have the capacity to greatly offset the cost of electricity usage during the evening when peak tariffs apply. The more electricity a household feeds back into the grid, the quicker they may recoup the cost of their system. This provides incentive for additional energy efficiency measures in the household. The FiT schemes in general provide greater incentive for larger systems.
  • Gold Coast Energy provides high quality Solar Electricity Systems at competitive prices, installed by CEC accredited electrical installers and back-up by high quality technical support. We offer a range of systems that can be customized to meet your needs.

How does a solar power system work?

  • A grid-connected solar PV system is an array of photovoltaic modules that produces DC electricity.
  • An inverter converts the solar DC electricity to AC electricity suitable for export to the grid.
  • The Gross Metering scheme means that all electricity produced by your solar system is exported to the grid. To measure what is exported a new meter is installed.
  • The house will continue to source its electricity from the grid during the day and night.
  • The premium gross feed-in-tariff enables households to offset the cost of their electricity usage through the sale of all of the solar electricity to their supplier.

Is my house suitable?

What if my roof is not facing north? My roof faces east-west.

The roof need not be facing due north. At 45 degrees off north, the loss is a very reasonable 7%. Even at 90 degrees, i.e. an east-west roof, the loss is only approximately 12-16%.

What if I have shading?

Generally, by far, the biggest reduction in output is created by full or partial shading of the PV panels. Systems that are in the shade for more than 2-3 hours between 1 hour after sunrise and 1 hour before sun set should not be installed.

How do I know if my house might be suitable for solar panels?

All you need is a pitched roof with a predominantly northerly aspect, an inclination between 20° and 30°, a useable rectangular area of at least 12m2 that is ideally free of any obstructions and is free of shade throughout the day. If you are unsure, please ask our friendly staff to help you assess the suitability of your roof. Generally, this can be determined from a simple telephone interview and using Internet tools such as Google Earth to view your roof. Depending on the complexity of house’s design, a site inspection maybe necessary and this will be organized to suit your availability.

The panels are rectangular; which must be kept in mind when estimating the usable area of your roof. It is not permissible to have panels overhanging the roof. For tiled roofs, the edges of the array must be at least 150-200mm from the closest ridge tile. As a guide a 6 panel or 1kW array has the nominal dimensions of 5.1m x 1.6m.

Typical roof area required by system size:

System Size No of Panels Area Required (m2)
1.5kWp 9 15
2.0kWp 12 20
3.0kWp 18 30
4.0kWp 24 40
5.0kWp 30 50

What if I have a flat or low-pitched roof?

For those roofs with a flat or very-low-pitched roof (below 10 degrees), it is recommended to have a frame installed to elevate the panels to approximately 30 degrees pitch. The extra expense is offset by the improved performance of the system inclined to the optimal tilt angle.

What size solar electricity system can I get?

Gold Coast Energy offers a large range of solar electricity system sizes and configurations designed to suit almost any need and budget.

The size of the system chosen depends on a range of key factors including;

  • Available area for system installation
  • Budget and individual energy needs
  • Whether to offset all or just some of the current electricity usage
  • System capacity limits imposed by the respective State premium feed-in tariff schemes
    In Victoria for instance, systems larger than 5kWp capacity are ineligible for the premium feed-in tariff, whereas in Qld, WA, & SA, this limit is 10kWp for single phase connections and 30kWp for three phase connections.

The Solar Credits Scheme in its current form provides the greatest percentage discount for a 1.5kWp solar electricity system but this size system may not meet your total electricity demand. The level of discount reduces as the system size increases. But because larger systems generate more electricity, they may not only meet your average daily demand but significantly exceed it. This is especially important for net premium feed-in tariff schemes where only excess electricity generation is eligible for payment at the higher tariff. The more electricity that can be exported to the grid, the greater the earnings and financial return. In some cases these systems could finance themselves.

Government Incentive Schemes

Enhanced Renewable Energy Target (RET) and the Solar Credits Schemes

The Government’s RET scheme is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The new RET laws include the Solar Credits mechanism to boost support to Australian households and businesses installing small scale solar systems.

The Solar Credits mechanism works by allowing eligible households, businesses and community groups at the time of installation to create STCs equivalent to the output of up to 15 years operation; and for the first 1.5kW of capacity installed, multiply their number. The scheme is designed to allow the system owner to transfer the right of STC creation to their system provider in return for a discount on the system price. This provides an upfront capital subsidy to the householder. The householder if they choose may create the STCs themselves.

Solar Credits are available for eligible systems installed on or after 9 June 2009. Solar credits apply to the first 1.5 kilowatts (kW) of capacity installed. Generation from capacity above 1.5 kW is only eligible for the standard 1:1 rate of STCs creation.

What is a Renewable Energy Certificate (STC)?

STCs are a tradeable form of currency equivalent to 1 Megawatt hour of electrical energy produced. Many renewable energy devices or installations, including residential solar photovoltaic systems that reduce carbon emissions have a STC value attached to them. STCs can be traded for money or “surrendered” / “retired” (removed from trading circulation) to ensure additional renewable energy capacity is added.

The STCs are a tradable commodity and; thus, are subject to price volatility. As the STC price increases, so does the level of the Solar Credits discount.

Gold Coast Energy, on its quotation, will specify the STC price it is currently offering and the level of Solar Credits discount available at this price. If you choose to sell your REC’s to Gold Coast Energy, the balance payable for the solar electricity system will be determined as well.

Am I eligible for the Solar Credits Scheme?

To be eligible, the following conditions must be met;

  • Systems must be installed between 9th June 2009 and 30 June 2015
  • Only applies to the first 1.5kW of installed capacity at the eligible premises (after which standard STC creation applies).
  • No previous Government rebate was received or have been applied for any PV system on eligible premises. This means that the Solar Credits scheme can not be applied to system upgrades. They are only eligible for single value STCs
  • Must be installed on eligible premises, these include;
    • a house (including the land on which the house is located and any outbuildings on the land)
    • a townhouse
    • a residential apartment
    • a shop (including the land on which the shop is located and any outbuildings on the land); and
    • Other premises located at an address
  • No means test now applies.

What Zone am I in?

Gold Coast Energy’s installation area  from Brisbane to the North, Beaudesert to the West and Ballina to the South is in ZONE 3.

Are Solar Credits going to run out?

Yes. The Solar Credits scheme is scheduled to be phased out by 2015-2016. The multiplier which determines how many extra STCs are received will gradually reduce during this period. The multiplier reduction schedule is shown in the table below.

The Installation Process

What is the installation process?

This is our step by step process:

  1. Initial customer enquiry either via the online quote or telephone
  2. Gold Coast Energy will contact you to discuss the Property Assessment, the Solar Electricity System selected and arrange a site evaluation. Please allow up to 7 days for follow-up. Gold Coast Energy will issue a formal quotation for your review. You must sign the form as confirmation of order placement and return the documentation to Gold Coast Energy.
  3. Gold Coast Energy administration team will submit the application for connection to the relevant energy distribution authority on your behalf.
  4. Gold Coast Energy will contact you to schedule the installation within 1 – 2 weeks from the proposed installation date.
  5. The accredited installation contractor will complete the supply, installation and commissioning of the system at the mutually agreed time (STCs assignment to Gold Coast Energy at this point). At this point, you will be issued a Tax Invoice that can be paid either over the phone for credit card payments, bank cheque or paid directly into GCE’s bank account. The transaction receipt will be presented to the installer on the day of install.
  6. During installation, you must be present to ensure contractor access to necessary areas of the property and to sign all relevant documentation including the STCs assignment forms.
  7. Once we have completed the install, we will submit the required form to the relevant authority to have your system connected to the grid. This can take up to 48 working days in the case of Energex at this point in time. As demand settles, the time will eventually return to the normal 10 working day time frame.  

What is a standard installation?

A standard installation comprises;

  • Roof pitch between 20 and 30 degrees
  • Single storey residence
  • Clear unobstructed, preferably North facing roof area, free of shade, hazards, and large enough to accommodate the solar array
  • Continuous solar array installed in multiples of 6 (1kW) or 9 (1.5kW) panels on a single roof
  • Wiring distance from PV panels to inverter to switchboard-meter is less than 20 metres
  • Meter-box and wiring conforms to Australian Standards and requires no modifications.
  • Travel (delivery and installation) within Metropolitan areas
  • Client assists with installation documentation under direction of accredited installer

Is a Site Evaluation required?

>Yes, there are too many variables associated with solar installation for us to not physically come out and inspect your property to enable us to quote, without any surprises, on the day of installation. The site evaluation will be completed by an experienced member of our team. We know that you will find it reassuring to have an expert advise on the best location to gain the maximum benefit from your installation.

What do I need at the site visit?

A recent electricity bill will help us understand your current energy usage and work with you to determine what size system is best suited to meet your requirements for savings on bills, electricity generation or minimizing payback periods.

Will I receive a quote at the site visit?

Where possible, yes. We will endeavour to provide an accurate quote during the site visit; however, this may not always be possible if there are complexities to be considered such as a renovation yet to be completed or when significant electrical upgrades are required as well as skylights need to be relocated.

Do I have to accept the quote at the site visit?

No, we do not condone high pressure selling. We give you  relevant information and leave it with you to make an educated decision about your installation.

Is there a charge for the site visit?

No,  it is totally free of charge.

How do I book in for a site visit?

Either fill out our online quote or contact us by telephone. We will make arrangements for a site evaluation at a time that is convenient for you.

Who is the installer?

Gold Coast Energy only employs CEC accredited installation personnel in line with Australian Government Solar Credits approval conditions and regulations. All our employees are Gold Coast locals.

Why choose a Gold Coast Energy Solar Power System?

Why choose a Gold Coast Energy Solar Power System?

Gold Coast Energy is an electrical company that provides a diverse range of high quality Solar Energy products and services. We are also experienced in developing large scale Solar Energy plants through to installing 1000’s of smaller scale systems for Residential and Commercial customers.  We offer other services apart from Solar as well, such as LED lighting, energy audits and residential/commercial security monitoring systems.

Peace of mind that Gold Coast Energy is a local company which has been on the Gold Coast since 2008. We are at the forefront of ecologically sustainable engineering and design excellence.

Gold Coast Energy has installed over 6,000 systems in the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers, Brisbane and surrounding areas, and are passionate about the future of green energy. We practice what we preach. Due to the PV installations on our commercial premises, we are a 100% carbon neutral business!

What is the warranty of the panels?

Gold Coast Energy offers a market leading 10 year limited written Product Warranty and a minimum Performance Guarantee of 25 years. The performance guarantee is 90% of initial output after 10 years, and 80% after 25 years. The expected lifetime of photovoltaic panels is in the range of 30 – 40 years.

What inverters do Gold Coast Energy supply?

Gold Coast Energy offers a range of high quality and high performance inverters to suit a range of budgets and performance requirements.

    • SMA (Sunnyboy) – The world leader in inverter technology. A German designed and manufactured series of inverters that suit a range of residential and commercial applications. Capacities range from 1.1kW to 10kW in transformer and transformer-less styles. These inverters come with a standard 5 year limited product warranty which is extendable to warranty 10 years.
    • Fronius IG series – an Austrian designed and manufactured inverter with a market leading 10 year warranty that is extendable to 20 years! Gold Coast Energy is an Approved Service Agent for Fronius.

 

What Solar panels are used?


In order to ensure that market fluctuation and supplier lead-times do not affect the continuity of installations, Gold Coast Energy has co-specified the following photovoltaic panels. All of these panels have been supplied by Conergy and RFI. Both have been operating in Australia for more than 20 years; giving you piece of mind for the entire life of your system.

      1. Conergy Power Plus 230Wp one of the most advanced and reliable panels on the market today
      2. Conergy 190Wp
      3. Suntech190Wp
      4. Trina 190Wp

Is the inverter weather proof ? Can it be installed externally or will it have to be installed internally or in a weather proof box?

All inverters supplied by Gold Coast Energy are weatherproof IP65 rated. They can hang on any external wall that is preferably sheltered from rain and direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures affect the internal operating components and may shorten their operating life. The inverters may be installed internally provided there is adequate air ventilation..

What is the Warranty on the installation and other materials?

Gold Coast Energy warrants all other materials and installation workmanship for 5 years.

Is it possible to upgrade/expand panels and/or inverter?

Yes, it is possible to upgrade/expand your solar system at any stage by adding more PV panels and a larger capacity inverter. Should you do this from the outset? Generally, yes. Future expansions will incur an additional installation charge.

Gold Coast Energy can provide assistance in determining whether an upgrade or expansion is possible. We also recommend that before proceeding, you should inquire with the previous supplier/installer whether contracting another system provider for the upgrade would void the warranty on the existing installation.

Will my solar electricity system account for all my household electricity consumption?

Take Victoria as an example where the State is split into Zone 3 and 4, the solar irradiance is low in winter but extremely high in summer (exceeds Sydney and Brisbane). This coincides with extremely high electrical cooling demand.

The Victorian average household uses about 16-18 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per day. A 1.5kWp system will produce approximately 6 kWh of electrical energy per day on average. This could be as high as 10-12kWh per day in summer and as low as 2 kWh per day in winter.

Assuming that 4kWhr/day are fed into the grid and 2kWhr/day are used in the household from the Solar Electricity system, the saving calculated is as follows;

4 kWh @ 66cents/kWh (Origin Energy) = $2.64
2 kWh @ 20cents/kWh = $0.40
Total = $3.00/day

Equivalent kWh based on saving is $3.00/$0.20 = 16.6 kWh. This is in excess of average daily usage of 16 kWh.

Based on this analysis, with approximate annual savings of $800-$900 from a 1.5kWp solar electricity system, a Zone 4 customer with a final balance payable of $3,500 will yield an approximate 25% return on investment. The system will be paying for itself in approximately 4 years. If the balance payable for customers in Zone 3 is $2,500, then the return on investment is approximately 35%. The system will pay for itself in 3 years.

Is this based on tested/measured outputs for existing installations or calculated?

Both. Panels and inverters have been tested in-situ as well as in laboratory situations. Estimated forecasts of performance are based on these tests and standard meteorological data for the region.

Will the technology be outdated soon?

All technologies get superseded. However, it is forecast to be quite a while before significantly better solar cell technologies, such as the sliver cells, are commercially available at these prices.

Black out? Will my solar PV panels provide me with electricity during a black out?

No. Regulations stipulate this is not permissible and the system must shut down. (It protects the linesmen from being electrocuted.)

Costs & Payments

Does the cost of the Solar Electricity System include installation?

Yes. Gold Coast Energy’s final quotation for its Solar Electricity Package includes the supply, delivery and installation of the system. It does not include the meter installation charges, nor the application for the Premium Feed-in Tariff.

Are there any additional charges?

“Non Standard Installations” typically incur additional costs due to the need to make provisions for specific safety considerations, additional labour, additional components and possible freight of the system to regions outside of metropolitan areas.

Property evaluations are used to understand the specific circumstances of each resident’s house, switchboard and meter-box. This will also help us determine whether there will be a variation to our advertised pricing as well as whether electrical upgrade work is required prior to installation.

Schedule of non-standard installation surcharges

Description of non-standard installation surcharges Price (inc GST)
Steep roof pitch > 30° (per kW) $150
Terracotta tile installation $220
Multiple storey installation $220
Lifting and access equipment (when safe access to roof is unavailable) POA
Splitting of PV Array – different roofs or splitting 6 panel module (per split) $220
Tilt Frame – flat roofs or east or west facing roofs when a northerly orientation is sort (per kW) $440
Cathedral ceiling or limited roof cavity $300
Excessive wiring distance / underground cabling / additional surface conduit & ducting POA
Freight to Regional Centre POA
Installer & Electrical Inspector travel charge outside of serviced regions POA

POA = Price on application

Is the balance payable exclusive or inclusive of the Solar Credits?

The quoted price takes into account the Solar Credits discount and represents what you pay to Gold Coast Energy. Once the system is fully installed and works approved by the electrical safety inspector, the solar credits is claimed by Gold Coast Energy (on your behalf) and paid directly from the government to Gold Coast Energy. This payment schedule is designed to minimize your financial exposure and limit payments to the out of pocket expense. The quoted price by Gold Coast Energy does not include the bi-directional meter. This will be charged by your retailer and will be added to your next quarterly bill after the meter is installed.

When do I pay the balance of the quote?

Payment of a 10% deposit is required upon order confirmation. The balance of the  invoice is to be paid on the day of installation. Payment can be made by credit card, direct deposit or bank cheque.

Metering, Retailers and Distributors

Must I get a new meter?

In most cases, yes. If you have a traditional accumulation meter (with a spinning disk), this will need to be replaced with an interval or smart meter. This is because an accumulation meter does not record the energy you export to the grid or the electricity you import from the grid. An interval meter or a smart meter provide half hourly readings of the electricity you consume and the surplus electricity you generate (Source: Clean Energy Council).

I had a new meter installed within the last 2 years? Will this one be suitable?

No. It may have capacity to measure the import and export of electricity, but it will not be programmed accordingly. A callout by the Distributor is required to come and program the meter to perform these functions.

How much will a new meter cost?

This will depend upon the State in which you live, what area you live in and which electricity distributor/retailer covers that area. Typically the charges for a new meter, its installation or a callout for reprogramming will cost between $100 and $300. This charge and service is outside of the scope of Gold Coast Energy quotation and scope of works.

How do I obtain the Premium Feed-in Tariff?

Once your system is fully installed with a bidirectional meter, your electricity retailer may contact you and offer their feed-in tariff. Otherwise, please contact your retailer and request their Premium Feed-in Tariff Contract and Schedule of Tariff Rates. Please note that electricity retailers offer a variety of packages and rates which you may need to review.

Other

Are my panels covered by insurance?

Yes, they would be covered by your home insurance policy but you may need to inform your insurance company about your solar PV installation. The value, for insurance purposes, should be the total on the quote prior to the rebate being applied.

Does my solar system need servicing ?

Solar is a long term investment. To get the best return from your investment, it needs to be maintained; making sure you are getting the optimum output from your system. Regular cleaning of the panels is essential in ensuring this happens. GCE also have the only solar panel testing equipment in Australia at this point. It can be used on any brand of solar panel on the market. As part of the deal with the Australian Government, solar panels must produce a minimum level of 80% for the first 10 years after installation or you are entitled to have them replaced under warranty at no cost to you.

What Customers are saying about Gold Coast Energy

"Have just had a 2kW system installed on my garage by Gold Coast Energy, after being rejected by another company saying they could not do the install as my house had tin tiles. Thank goodness Gold Coast Energy made the effort to come out and come up with an easier option for us to be able to get Solar. Wonderful friendly communication and very helpful in explaining how it all works."

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