Firstly, my apologies as even whilst I am typing this, I don’t 100% know what is about to change and how it will effect our customers and our business going forward.
We have called SAPN and all the industry experts and everyone is scratching their heads just as much as we are.
What we do know;
The new Australian Standard for grid connected Solar system (AS/NZS4777.1 2016) was published on 30 September 2016. The new standard states that “unless specifically stated by the distributor, the rating limit for a single-phase IES is an individual installation shall be equal to 5kVa, and a multi-phase IES shall have a balanced output with respect to its rating with a tolerance of no greater than 5kVa unbalance between any phase.”
(the above was published 30 September 2016, applicable six months from publication, i.e. 1 April 2017):
What does this mean?
As far as we can understand SAPN are going to enforce the changes to the standard as of April 1st 2017.
Our best guess is if we are to submit an application for a Small Embedded Generator approval after March 31st we will only be able to approve up to 5kW of solar on a 5kW inverter on a single phase connection (currently you are allowed to install up to 10kW on a single phase connection). We are of the understanding that if we complete the application before March 31st, the current rules will apply (up to 10 kW on single phase).
We are hoping, and have asked for clarity however SAPN have not been forthcoming, that going forward we will still be able to oversize the solar array on the 5kW inverter even if this means limiting the export but sadly this is not looking likely (I dont think the staff on the SAPN builders and contractors line even know what is going to happen).
In summary what we are expecting is – as of April 1st on single phase connection you will only be able to install a 5kW solar inverter with a total of 5kW of panels.
How does this effect me if I already have a quote for 6kW or more on my single phase connection?
We will still honour the contract as is if accepted prior to the close of business Friday the 31st of March – nothing will need to change, as our advice suggests that we will be able to install the quoted system, as the approval was sought before the cut off.
Where things get tricky and something I really want to address now is the price of systems if we are in fact limited to 5kW – For years we have oversized the solar array on our inverters because it simply makes sense, there are a few of reason for this;
1. The way the STC rebate system works – we are entitled to create 19.32 STC (small technology certificates) for every kW of solar power we install on your roof, STCs trade at around $40 per certificate and a panel costs us around $200. Without getting to technical one panel is .27kW so entitled to 5 certificates or $200, as you can see aside from a little extra rail and someone to put it on your roof there is not any real cost to adding panels and pushing inverters to capacity.
2. Arrays are often split between two different orientations therefore all panels on the roof are never working at their full potential at the same time. In this instance a 5kW inverter is more than happy with 6.5kW of solar panels.
3. Extra winter generation is achieved with the extra 20% of panels installed on the inverter, the extra panels will ensure even in the depths of winter your system is still producing a reasonable amount of power to cover your daytime loads and maybe even export some power or charge a battery in the cloudy months. Going forward, if the system size is limited to 5 kW on single phase, the only way to achieve extra generation will be expensive additions like optimisers.
I wanted to explain how the rebate system works so that everyone could understand where our pricing will be and why if we have to reduce all of our larger single phase quotes to a standard 5kW on a 5kW inverter.
As a 5kW solar array on a 5kW solar inverter costs us virtually the same as a 6.48kW system on a 5kW inverter our price as of April 1st for 5kW of Canadian Solar 270Watt panels on a SMA SB5.0AV inverter will be $6,000 (for a single story pitched roof installation). This means even if you now have a quote for a solar system with a panel capacity higher than 5 kW and you choose not to go ahead until after the 31st of March the largest system you will be able to install will be 5kW of panels on a 5 kW inverter (SINGLE PHASE) and the price will be $6,000 (ASSUMING SIMPLE, SINGLE STORY INSTALL WITHIN 100KM OF MOUNT BARKER).
If you have 3 phase power or are thinking of installing something smaller than 5kw this change of regulation with not effect you.