PV payback time and whether to upgrade

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PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby ads » Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:01 am

Hi All

I have a 1.1kW Kaneka thin film system with SMA inverter facing due north. I've been happy with its performance and have written about it on my blog Sustainaburbia. We generate about 4.5kWh a day and consume about 5.5 kWh a day. In a recent post I wrote about PV payback time and the different feed in tariffs people are paid. I'm lucky enough to get 49 cents a kWh for any power I feed to the grid (40c from WA govt and 9c from Synergy) and since I feed in two thirds of my generation it works out great for me. My last annual bill was $58. Then it got me thinking about people who get paid just 9 cents for power fed in (people who have installed in the last 3 years), so I calculated what my bill would have been if I were to get paid 9 cents and it came to $493, over eight times more expensive! This could mean that from 2020 (when the 40 cent govt FIT ends) we'll be paying up to $1,000 a year (power prices have doubled in WA in the last 6 years).

Since I don't want to go into retirement having to pay large bills it has made me think about upgrading. Initially I thought I'd upgrade in 6 years time. Then I thought well why not upgrade right now to take advantage of the next 6 years of good FIT prices. My understanding is that you are allowed to upgrade to up to 5kW systems (by inverter size) without affecting your eligibility for the 40 cent FIT. I've calculated that if I upgrade to a much bigger system (say3-4kW), the payback would be about 3 years. This means that after paying off my outlay I'd get another 3 years of 40c FIT before I go down to the lower rate.

My other issue is that I'd probably need to remove the Kaneka panels to upgrade. These thin film panels take up a huge amount of roof space per kW and take all the shade free space on my roof (we have a large eucalypt to the north which shades some panels in winter). However we could probably fit 3-4 kW on the same amount of space using different panels. We may also replace our old leaky tiled roof with tin in between replacing the panels, yet another big upfront cost but probably worth it in the long run.

Upgrading makes total economic sense to me, but I'd just like some feedback from other people and how they see it. I also have a few questions:

Do others agree that you can upgrade without affecting eligibilty?
Is there a market for second hand panels (6 years old) and inverters and what would they be worth?
How much would it cost to remove the panels?

Cheers, Adam
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby davidg » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:26 pm

I think you will find in WA your all out of luck like everywhere else in Australia, upgrading will loose you, your current FIT.

Karl might be lurking some place and if so he will know as he is in WA is involved with EM.
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Benny » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:57 am

I'm in exactly the same situation Adam - with a 1.5kW kaneka system covering my roof. Cost $19,000 !!! less the $8000 federal donation about 8yrs ago. What I could buy for that now eh, but then someone had to get the ball rolling.
I think you'll find that if you increase the power of your inverter you will lose the FiT. I've considered swapping the panels for say 2.5kW of mono panels to "overload" the inverter (my system faces NE) but even that doesn't sound like a good proposition unless I could sell the existing panels for a reasonable price. I don't have a good NW roof to get good virtual tracking.
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Tracker » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:25 pm

Benny wrote: I could sell the existing panels for a reasonable price.

What is a "Reasonable Price", considering that new panels are being bought for under a buck a watt..
You could try selling them a couple at a time to caravan owners wanting to install solar..
Benny wrote:(my system faces NE)

Do you have NW roof space... :idea: ... Installing the equivalent on the NW roof would give power all day, increasing the daily production without touching the inverter.. :D
..
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Benny » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:21 pm

See my post Tracker "I don't have a good NW roof to get good virtual tracking."
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Tracker » Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:05 am

Benny wrote:See my post Tracker "I don't have a good NW roof to get good virtual tracking."

So many folk are asking how to improve, without affecting existing benefits..
NSW GFIT ends in 2016.
Nothing will surprise me if the more generous states try to cancel their schemes, as they then appear to be over generous and as pressure increases to reduce the impact on other energy users ..
Yes... now nth facing... I see that again..
but I was more thinking of the general east west thing and covering more of your usage..

From the sound of it, you know what you want to do and need to do..
..
.
Retired Engineer and keen PV experimenter - Always ready to learn and share.
2 x CMS2000 (fan cooled) GCI and SE 170W panels
1.7kW First Solar/Outback Island circuit - Peak Replacement Power
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Bundaburra » Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:47 am

I found this on the WA govt dept of finance web site:

"If you are considering upgrading your inverter or panels, please remember that you must keep your inverter at the same capacity as in your original application to your retailer in order to receive feed-in tariff payments.

Customers who increase the size of their inverter or add an inverter beside the existing one will no longer receive feed-in tariff payments."

View the site here: http://www.finance.wa.gov.au/cms/TwoColumns_Content.aspx?Pageid=17638&id=14713

This could be taken to mean that you could add extra panels if your existing inverter has spare capacity, so is worth following up. Another site I saw said that you could add a completely new system, with its own inverter. You would only get the current FIT for the new system, but the old system would continue unchanged
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Benny » Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:58 am

"You would only get the current FIT for the new system, but the old system would continue unchanged"

I can't see how that would work Bunda. The combined output from each system would go through the Synergy meter. How could they separate the outputs from the systems ?

I agree that adding extra panels is the best option - either if you bought an oversized inverter or to "overload" the inverter - especially with panels on different orientations. I'd like to put another 1.5kW on my NW side but roof is too complex, solar HWS, trees etc. Plus I haven't checked how/if my inverter will handle "overloading" - will it just clip/limit etc. or shut down.
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Tue Jun 10, 2014 1:48 pm

Using a panel arrangement as described in the Virtual Tracker thread wont overload your inverter with ~ 2X the number of panels possible compared with a straight north facing array.
solar-wind-gear/topic5064.html

For a situation such as Adam's where inverter size cant be changed, this is the ideal path to follow- get your inverter producing max output all day, rather than just around solar noon.

However, the powers that be may need to be convinced about this...
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Re: PV payback time and whether to upgrade

Postby Tracker » Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:32 am

Gordon-Loomberah wrote:... the powers that be may need to be convinced about this...

But only if they are told.....
Ie.. I would be upgrading panel numbers and saying nothing.. that way, they would not need to THINK about the issue..
..
.
Retired Engineer and keen PV experimenter - Always ready to learn and share.
2 x CMS2000 (fan cooled) GCI and SE 170W panels
1.7kW First Solar/Outback Island circuit - Peak Replacement Power
Governments won't save the world :-) They will just TAX it :-(
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