Solar energy is made by converting sunlight into electricity. To make electricity, solar panels absorb light and use it in a way that creates electrical energy.
That energy is converted into the type of electricity we use in our homes. So long as your panels produce enough energy, you can use them to power your electrical items at home instead of relying on energy from the grid alone.
The sun shines for free, so the energy from your solar panels is free too. And for every bit you use, you’ll buy less energy from the grid.
In most cases any solar energy you don’t use will go back into the grid too – and you’ll get a credit on your bill for it. Waste not, want not.
Solar power is renewable – it doesn’t use finite resources*, so it’s a more sustainable way to power your home. Not to mention, the process of creating electricity in your solar panels doesn’t create any pollution.
Solar panels are full of photovoltaic cells, which is science for ‘things that turn light into electricity.’ When sunlight reaches the cells, it ‘excites’ electrons in the cells, causing them to move. Moving electrons = electrical energy. That energy moves out of your panels and into a solar inverter.
A solar what?
Solar inverters turn the electricity coming out of your panels into energy your electrical items can use. The inverter is connected to your switchboard which lets you use electricity when you need it, and (in most cases) feeds it into the grid when you don't.
You can only produce solar electricity when the sun shines. And when it doesn’t, your property will use energy from the grid.
If you want to limit your reliance on the grid you can also install a battery. It stores excess solar energy to use when the sun’s not out.
There are a few things to think about before getting solar panels for your property.
The upfront cost of solar panels means that they’re a long-term investment. Think about whether you’ll be staying at your property long enough for your solar savings to give you a positive return on the money you’ve invested. You can use a solar calculator to get an idea of how long this might take for you.
If your property is mostly empty during the day, it probably doesn’t use much power when the sun’s out – unless you’re running heavy users like swimming pools. Since solar power is only produced when the sun shines, you could be producing much more than you need.
Even though you get money back for the extra energy you produce (which goes back in the grid), it’s more cost-effective for most people to use solar energy as it’s generated**.
Your house might not use all the power you produce while the sun’s shining, but you can save it for later using a battery. It’ll let you use more of your solar power, but also means extra upfront costs.
Is there somewhere you can install your panels where they’ll get enough sun? Shade from trees and other buildings, as well as the direction your panels face are all important factors. It’s best to get an expert in for a professional opinion.
There are state and federal schemes that will subsidise your solar system, so long as you’re eligible for them. If you do decide to install solar panels, speak to your installer to find out if you qualify and how the subsidy will be arranged.
*Almost. Science gives the Sun another 5 or so billion years so if you’re banking on being around then, maybe factor that in.
**If you’re on a Premium Feed-in Tariff (PFiT), this might not be the case. Check your rates to decide how your solar is best used.