Not eligible for FIT so is a small system best?

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Not eligible for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby ozkooa » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:49 pm

Hi all

This is my first posting on the "Energy Matters Forum" What a great site. It like a Solar Panel wiki for Aussies :D

(apologies in advance if this is the wrong area to post my question)

Like every other Australian, our family is receiving shocking power bills, that just seem to get more shocking each time a new electricity bill rears it's ugly head. :evil:

So the time has come to seriously think about solar panels for the roof. (especially now that we have re-roofed the old girl)

As we are now past the cut off date for eligibility for the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (IE: NO feed in payments) we will be going onto a "net meter" system, when we eventually install our solar panels.

I'm fairly clear in my head just what "net metering" means (after many hours of trawling through cyber space), but I now find my self in an all to familiar predicament of realizing that, the more i know the more I realise just how much I don't know

I live in Northern NSW and our electricity supplier is Origin Energy (formally Country Energy). When we install our solar panels we will also need to install a mandatory "Country Energy bi-directional meter". (we live in a very old house with a very old metering system).

My thoughts now are, that as we will have no option but to go onto a Net Metering system, am I best of just getting a small system?

One that only needs to be capable of taking care of our power consumption during the daylight hours, as any excess power generated by a larger system, would only be exported back to the grid with no real benefits to us (except of course the benefit to the environment).

Our average daily power consumption is around 15kWh per day. With work and what-not and the 2 kids off at school, we are both pretty much out of the home during the day.

We normally have no problem with sunlight hours in this region (but then again it seems like it's been raining or cloudy, forever lately!) and the area of the roof where the panels would need to go faces Nor-East and has no problems with shading from trees, buildings etc.

We are quite prepared to invest in a system that uses quality built and reliable components, but at the same time, I don't want to be spending money on a system larger then absolutely needed.

So the raw facts are
Average daily usage:15kWh
Occupants: 2 Adults, 2 young Teenagers (and a Bull Terrier)

Any thoughts from the brains trust ,on what would be a good sized system ?
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby Tracker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:40 am

...
Clearly, the sun shines for just so many hours.. Whilst it shines, a PV system will produce power.

The daily total PV consumption is possibly irrelevant, if, like in many homes, the bulk of that power is used in the crazy hours - say 6pm to 8pm.. and otherwise when all are at home.. :idea:

A deal of the real benefit from a PV system will come from how you can manipulate your usage to take advantage of the FREE power.
eg. Programming the Clothes washer and Dish Washer to come on during the middle of the day..

we have a pretty average and NEW fridge and it consumes about 300W, and how often it would run during the PV-Productive time is a small unknown.. but measurable - remembering NO ONE is home to open the door (you hope).. :|

You could do things like Slow-Cooking to use power whilst at work, but even this is not going to maximise the actual use of the potential PV power..

So - bottom line - If you wanted to offset your power usage then the smallest possible system would be a good place to start IMHO.. :cry: .. Otherwise, YOU will be subsidising your energy supplier..
AND - I would be trying to buy the "Best Value" system, as distinct from the cheapest.. ALL as you really expected..

The other consideration is ENERGY TARIFFS.. It could be that being forced onto a TOU rate, you might end up worse off.. ie - that manic power consumption between 5 and 8pm..

You could try reading the meter over a week.. list usage from a suitable time when most are home..
get the kids to do it.. eg from 4pm to 8pm
This will give you both the daily total and the consumption in the PEAK period..
Compare what it will cost for THAT power, and remember that the sun is not all that productive then other than in peak summer...
...
.
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby ozkooa » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:12 am

Thanks for the reply "Tracker" helps to confirm my way of thinking.I have been doing further research this morning and have found that some Electricity providers for my area, actually do provide a Feed In Tariff. (even if your not eligible for the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme)

Will probably need to sign up on a 1 to 2 year contract to receive the "FIT" from said companies.

My current electricity supplier, Country Energy, dosn't appear to have any feed in tariff scheme operating, which is pathetic, when you consider that they are one of the biggest energy retailers in NSW. Will be phoning them on Monday for a liitle chat.

The government web site,IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal). Has some good info on what electricity suppliers are available for you to choose from in your particular area, and weather or not they have a solar feed in tariff

More info can be found at http://www.myenergyoffers.nsw.gov.au
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby Tracker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:50 am

ozkooa wrote:.... some Electricity providers for my area, actually do provide a Feed In Tariff.......Will probably need to sign up on a 1 to 2 year contract to receive the "FIT" from said companies.....


and then - the actual tariffs they offer.. I again think that the MOST important thing will be what is forced on you... Some might offer a 12% tariff discount and crappy FIT.. Other might offer a fair FIT and NO Discount..
It's a mine field of mind numbing complications..

what is your Hot Water.. If Resistive Heating, then your biggest saving might come from going SOLAR Hot Water.. Just a thought..
...
.
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby ozkooa » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:05 pm

We have a Solar Heat Pump system which was installed about 3 and a half years ago. Appearers to be working fine.

We would have liked to have put a solar panel hot water system on the roof instead of a heat pump system, but at the time we needed to install a better hot water system we couldn't as the old roof ( which is now a new roof) was in to bad a condition to be installing anything on it.

Mind you, with the miserable rainy and cloudy weather we have been having for months now, the solar pump is probably working more efficiently then any roof top system we could have installed!

I will be calling up Country Energy tomorrow,time permitting, and trying to find out if the will come to any sought of an agreement on a solar feed in tariff with us. I did read on one web site (can't remember wear) that if you signed up on a "market contract" ( whatever that is, as I can find no information about it) with Country Energy, you could get a FIT from them....here's hopping.
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Re: Not eligible for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:14 pm

Evacuated tube HW systems work amazingly well in cloudy weather! It's been overcast for the past 3 days here and I still have plenty of hot water in the 30 tube 250l system, which has no gas or electric boost.

If you are keen to go ahead with a PV system, you might want to have a look at this thread: solar-wind-gear/topic5064.html as a means of spreading your power production more evenly throughout the day, which would mean more power in early morning and late afternoon, when you are home. The usual all north facing panel arrangement is not suitable if you have minimal energy use in the middle of the day and are receiving a minimal or zero FiT.

All the ex Country Energy cars around here (Tamworth region) now have Essential Energy, rather than Origin, on them.
http://gunagulla.com Loomberah weather and astronomy including live solar radiation intensity and UV + Gunagulla aquaponics, organic eggs and cherries
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby Tracker » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:27 pm

ozkooa wrote:We have a Solar Heat Pump system .......We would have liked to have put a solar panel hot water system on the roof instead of a heat pump system.....


So it's NOT solar, but a heat pump... Is that one with the compressor built into the top of the tank..?

I must say that I have gone completely off this technology... The tanks dont last any longer than the old tanks and the Heat-Pump is very expensive technology to repair, thanks to Ms. Gillards Carbon Tax..
PLAN ahead to replace it (as Gordon says) with a Tubular Solar HWS..

and yes - DO consider Gordon's thoughts on Passive Solar Tracking.. Gives LOWER power consistently for MORE of the day - - :D -- Exactly what you need.. :idea:
..
.
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Re: Not eligable for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby bpratt » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:16 pm

I tend to agree with what Tracker has just said.

You need to find out if you are to be moved on to TOU (Time of Use) tariffs, which could make your bill higher if you're out to work of a day, and come home for dinner when TOU is at its most expensive.

If you are currently on a Peak tariff and off peak tariff metering, then I'd been seeing if you can keep that. I know you're in NSW, but we have here those type of tariffs and we've got large current drain items wired in to the offpeak one, which saves money.
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Re: Not eligible for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby zzsstt » Mon Mar 04, 2013 6:12 pm

1/ I believe that you can in fact choose a gross metered system, but it is entirely pointless because Country Energy (as you already know) do not pay a FIT.

2/ Your regulated power retailer may be Country Energy, but you are free to choose any retailer you like and, as you have already discovered, some do pay a small (8c ish) FIT. However you need to read the small print, an unregulated supplier is UNREGULATED. That means they can change your pricing whenever they like (depending on the terms of your individual contract) and are not bound by the IPART pricing policies, unlike your regulated supplier who must charge you the IPART approved rate. Also pay attention to the daily supply fee as well as the power pricing and FIT. It is the TOTAL bill that matters rather than the individual components.

3/ Changing to a TOU meter is seen as the work of the devil, but that depends how you use it! When they were first rolled out, people made no allowances and their bills increased massively. Also note that TOU varies between retailers - Country Energy have "shoulder" charged the same as "peak", but at a much lower rate than that charged for "peak" by other suppliers. TOU offpeak is also far cheaper than flat-rate, and runs from 10pm to 7am Mon-Fri and from 10pm Fri through to 7am Mon. So if you do you washing etc at the weekend and run your pool pumps (!) overnight it can actually work out cheaper than flat-rate.

4/"Off peak" is not the same as "controlled load". Off-peak is a TOU bracket. "Controlled load" is a discrete system that uses a timer or signal from the power company to run certain items at a reduced cost. It should not be assumed that items other than water heaters ("off peak water heating") can legally be connected to a controlled load circuit. Country Energy supply either TOU or flat-rate power (i.e. the charge rate is the same 24hrs a day). They also have a "controlled load" option on the flat-rate schedule, but as far as I know it is specifically for water heating.

So overall the best approach is somewhat dependent on your lifestyle. In my case, I have a 2kW net metered system on a TOU meter (Country Energy). I arrange my "timer-able" consumption (pool pumps, dishwasher etc.) to run either at peak PV hours or at night/weekends on cheap rate. Either way it's cheaper than flat rate! I avoid running things concurrently, so my total usage at any time stays (as far as is possible) within the output of my PV system. I have accepted that I am giving away power (free export) quite often, and also that at times I am consuming expensive grid power because the sun isn't shining when the timer turns an appliance on. However I am far better off overall than I would be with no PV.

Your total billable power use is unimportant, because if it happens at night PV cannot reduce it. So the best advice is to get a "whole house" power monitor with logging facilities and look at your instantaneous consumption patterns. You will see some massive peaks (aircon, oven for Sunday lunch, toaster, kettle etc.) but these are not worth chasing. So disregard those peaks and find the level that covers your background usage (i.e. "nobody home" power consumption). That will comprise fridges, freezers, standby consumption of appliances etc. Then look at the wider "peaks" that comprise predictable usage that could be moved to PV times - watching the TV at night cannot be moved to lunchtime, but dishwashers, washing machines etc. can! With all that information you can size a system that will cover your basic usage and give you some headroom (as much as you care to spend!) for the usage that can be shunted to peak PV hours.

Unless you are running aircon through the day (heating or cooling) it is likely that your background consumption will be around 500-700W and will, in reality, comprise the bulk of your consumption. People don't believe this and think that ovens etc. use most power, but in reality 500W continuously equates to 12kwh/day, whilst a 3kw oven for a 60min chicken probably only uses 1.5kW or less (as the heating element is not running continuously, depending on the ovens insulation). This is where the TOU system can benefit you - if your daytime power is cheaper on weekends (off peak) and you can arrange to use it, AND you can kill that background consumption during peak/shoulder hours by using PV, you can end up better off! Consider the 500W background load;

Flat-rate
0.5kW x 24hr x 7 days = 84kWh/week on flat rate = 84 x $0.344 = $28.90/week

Flat-rate + PV
0.5kW x 16hr/day x 7 days = 0.5 x 16 x 7 x $0.344 = $19.26/week

or for TOU + PV
0kW (killed by PV) for 8hrs per day = $0
0.5kW for 7 hrs/day peak/shoulder (early morning and evening) = 0.5kW x 7hr x 5days x $0.384 = $6.72
0.5kW for 7hrs/day off-peak (weekend morning and evening) = 0.5kW x 7hr x 2days x $0.191 = $1.34
0.5kW for 9 hrs/day off-peak = 0.5kW x 9hr x 7days x $0.191 = $6.02
$0 + $6.72 + $1.34 + $6.02 = $14.08

So TOU+PV costs $14.08/week against flat rate at $28.90/week or flat-rate+PV at $19.26

[Edit: I forgot that 2 days a week the early morning and evening are off-peak!]

The supply charge for flat-rate is now the same as for TOU.

Whilst a large PV system will be giving power away at noon, it will make more power under lower light levels and so will be "killing" your 500W background usage for more of the day as well as giving headroom to use aircon, dishwashers etc. "for free" in the high solar hours. So a 2kW will get on top of your background consumption with less sunshine than a 1kW system, so earlier and later in the day and on cloudier days. Going bigger than 2-2.5kW might be overkill, unless you use the aircon etc.

It really comes down to lifestyle and whether you can/will adapt to get the best from a system.

Note: These examples apply to Country Energy at their standard tariff and TOU times. They DO NOT apply to other energy retailers who have completely different time and charge arrangements!
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Re: Not eligible for FIT so is a small system best?

Postby evadsiv » Wed Jul 10, 2013 1:25 pm

Given that you want to match usage to size does it make sense to move some of the panels to different strings with different direction orientations to smooth out the bell curve, a la Virtual Tracker?
e.g. say I am looking at a 2.5 KW system which is say 10 250W panels.
Is the string length going to be too short to have multi strings?
If this is not the case is there any flexibility in arrangement of panels?
If there is flexibility is there any recommended layout given E W and Nth facing roofs?
say 30% 40% 30% or say 20% 60% 20%
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