Solar Panels
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[stextbox id=”alert” bgcolorto=”23db44″]This article is fairly long winded but if you are a potential solar panel user I am sure you might find some of my experiences interesting. Feel free to contact me too if you need to know more…[/stextbox]

Hurrah! Eureka Farm is going solar. We have looked at the costs and have decided there could be no better time to install solar panels. Prices for the panels has dropped enormously as the world enters an over supply situation. Once the decision to go solar was made I became intrigue as to what system I should use. This included the type of panels i.e mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline , are some better than others, what size and then how to put them on the roof landscape or portrait and what sort of mounting would be best for us. Then there was the question of inverters and  how to get it into the grid system.

My research led me all over the place but gradually the folklore around installations and the more real answers came to light. It was interesting to talk to suppliers too and hear their take as well. My neighbour Terry Stingle has a 5kw system installed and he too had done his home work well and gave me some good advice.

I eventually settled on 250w panels and ended up with a panel supplied by Diamond Cell. Now you just can’t use any panel but it has to have Australian Accreditation. And yes the panel given in the quote is accredited. I wouldn’t have chosen this one initially ( virtually an unknown brand) as I favoured the Trina Panels which had a reasonably smart specification and were being offered very cheaply.

3-DSCF6077The things you should look for besides the spec are thwarranty. With the TDG-PV 250w  solar panel shown above there is a 10 year product warranty  and a 30 year linear performance warranty. I don’t place a lot of confidence in these long term warranties for if you have been reading the papers lately you will note that many large and first class manufacturers have given up largely because they cannot compete with China. But the large warranty supplied hopefully will last long enough to see that they go through one summer and one cycle thereby ensuring that most of the performance criteria is met.

It would seem that there are many businesses out there flogging their systems. Usually they seem to have a relationship with certain module manufacturers and are less particular about which inverter to use. It is very hard to distinguish the real costs of parts and installation and the Government rebates offered with many of these suppliers. Often you think you are getting a good price but are inclined to forget this price includes the SPC credits (Government rebates) which are returned to the user or his nominated supplier.

I must admit I began to  suspect that there was a lot of fat built in these prices and was very interested to see what the actual wholesale prices would be for these materials. In our case at Eureka Farm we were looking at a 20kw system or 80x 250w panels.. It was large enough that certain wholesale suppliers were interested in quoting. As an example one wholesale quote for a 20kw wholesale price delivered to me including panels, 3 traditional composite string inverters and  mounting came to $28000. Add the cost of installing the system and take away the credits this comes to about $20000 to $23000 including GST. This compares with having a package supplied by a solar installer of at least $31000 on the same basis  a difference of up to $10000. This settled the course of action plan for me.


Comments

Solar Panels — 7 Comments

  1. Hi Dennis,
    We are about to sign with solarmyhome with the TDG panels. Thanks for your page, it was really informative. Just wanted to know if you are still happy with your “solar system” as it is now February. Would you still recommend the panels?

    Regards

    Linda

    • Yes I am very happy. Some wonderful advantages with micro-inverters. we did have some problems with the electrical connections on the micro-inverters but the backup was good and they replaced the lot. I think it was a one off problem. Backup and warranty have been good so far and the ability to see what is happening at any time with every panel on line is a great feature.

    • Solar panels are still not that cheap to buy. However I see a future situation whereby panels such as I am using with micro-inverters could be installed by the handyman which would reduce costs. This is because the microinverters produce an AC output which could be just plugged into a circuit with simple safeguards. Obviously though if you are not connected to the grid and are on Dc then you are free to do whatever you like.

  2. Hi Denis,

    Like you we are currently looking at the TDG/APS combo, albeit on a much smaller scale – 2.5kW. It has been roughly 10 months now since your install and I’m just wondering how man of your 80 panels and 40 inverters have failed, and how you went about getting them replaced via direct manufacturer warranty, as you indicated that you had these directly imported?

    I’ve not heard very good comments about the TDG panels however I do realise that they are a cheap Chinese brand and as such would not expect them to last as long as some of the more reputable brands. Just a case of getting what you paid for I guess?

    I do like the idea of a micro inverter set up however there are just not that many options out there at the moment.

    • Ok I am ready to reply to your queries. To start with I am very happy with Australian Micro Inverters. I really like the idea that each inverter can handle 2x250w panels. there are a lot of advantages in keeping the system AC. Each inverter and in turn each panel can be monitored for performance. If one inverter goes down or performs badly in a string operation then the whole string’s performance is affected. This is not the case with micro-inverters. With DC setups then you only have a limited number of inverters which in your case would be only one. If that goes down then you have no power until it is fixed. Even under warranty it is my experience that getting things done can take a while. With 10 panels which is what you would require you would only require 5 micro inverters and I am told that would be cheaper to install.
      As reguard the TPG panels I suspect there isn’t much difference between makers even though large claims to the contrary might prevail. To stay in business the panels and warranty have to be good. TPG panels are warranted for 25years and it is a comprehensive warranty. And remember warranties are only good if the manufacturer stays in business.
      I have had no problems with the panels although I expect 1 or 2 are underperforming and when I have time I will try to resolve whether this is the case. As least I can see these performance figures and make such an assessment. The suppliers at AMI also have access to the performance criteria of my panels and have been very helpful in resolving any issues that I might have had.
      I did have problems with the inverters though. The electrical connections kept breaking. But again AMI replaced all the inverters including labour with an updated model.
      In summary I would look at the specs for TPG panels and compare. I would also talk to the supplier or your installer for more info. But for me I wouldn’t go any other way.

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