A guide to solar power in NSW

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New South Wales has its fair share of sunshine, so why not make the most of it with solar? With well over 1.5 million homes and businesses already taking advantage of the sun’s natural power, it’s worth considering if solar power can help you save as well. In this article, Canstar Blue looks at the NSW solar market and discusses what you need to know before considering solar installation.

How much do solar panels cost in NSW?

A solar system in New South Wales starts at around $3,000 for a small 1.5kW system, up to $13,000 for a 10kW system. While system size is the main factor affecting the price of solar, it may also depend on inverter type, panel quality, installer demand and job difficulty.

The table below shows the price of solar systems in NSW compared to the rest of the country. As you can see, NSW customers benefit from comparatively low solar system prices. That said, the system average in the below table from Solar Choice is heavily skewed by the high price of solar in the Northern Territory (around twice the price of NSW).

1.5kW 2kW 3kW 4kW 5kW 10kW
New South Wales $3,078 $3,545 $4,729 $5,233 $6,041 $13,218
National average $3,737 $4,300 $5,368 $6,369 $6,973 $14,859

Source: Solar Choice – November 2016 solar price index. Prices are after applied discounts.

Solar rebates and incentives in NSW

Many people believe that the days of solar rebates and incentives are well behind us – but they are wrong. Granted, modern solar incentives are nowhere near as enticing as they once were, but there are still two major schemes available: Small-scale technology certificates and feed-in tariffs.

Small-scale technology certificate (STC)

When you install a renewable generator – be it solar, wind, hydro or other, the federal government awards a number of STCs in proportion to the expected energy output over the life of that generator. These certificates can be sold for around $40 each, serving as a form of rebate.

The number of STCs a solar customer receives depends on the installed system size as well as the location – the sunnier the area, the more STCs. Australia is split into four STC zones with zone 1 receiving the most STCs and zone 4 the least. The majority of New South Wales sits in zone 3, but the North-West area of the state is situated in zone 2.

Feed-in tariffs

If your panels produce more electricity than what’s being consumed, the excess is exported back to the electricity grid. Your electricity retailer will pay you with a small deduction on your bill for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity exported – usually around 6 to 7 cents per kWh.

The Solar Bonus Scheme in NSW ends in December 2016 and all customers who were receiving a government subsidised feed-in tariff of 20c or 60c per kWh will be automatically transitioned to their retailer’s standard solar offer. You can read more about the Solar Bonus Scheme and see what feed-in tariffs NSW retailers offer here.

Is solar power still a good investment?

Now that the last of the premium subsidies in NSW have come to an end, can solar panels still save you money? While solar might not be the same sure-fire investment that it once was under previous generous government incentives, the falling price of solar, rising electricity rates and competitive feed-in tariffs means a solar system can still save you money. In addition, complementary solar technologies such as storage battery systems may mean we could be living independent of the energy grid and energy retailers all-together within a few decades.

What to consider before getting solar

While solar can often be a valuable investment, it’s not for everyone. Price, rates, rebates and tariffs are of course important things to keep in mind, but you should also consider the following before getting a quote:

Do you live in a sunny area?

Solar panels obviously need sunlight to work – the sunnier your area, the more you stand to save with solar panels. The sunniest parts of New South Wales are west of Dubbo. Areas along the coast receive less sunlight, particularly from Wollongong to the Victorian border.

Do you plan to lease or sell your home?

A solar system usually adds value to your property, but the amount it adds largely depends on the property market – not the value of the system itself. With that in mind, if you’re considering installing solar before selling your home, talk to the real estate first to see if that will

What size solar system should I opt for?

A solar system will produce approximately four times its listed capacity each day. For example, a 3kW system will produce around 12kWh of electricity. The average household will use around 16 to 20 kWh of electricity per day – however only a fraction of this is used through the middle of the day when solar is at maximum output. Unless you have a generous feed-in tariff or solar storage system, a large solar system might cost you more than you will reasonable recoup in bill savings.

Is your roof suitable for solar?

Virtually any roof is suitable for solar, however note the following:

  • Solar panels must be installed at a particular angle to operate correctly. If your roof is not at this angle, the installer may charge more to have angled mounts installed
  • Your roof should be in good condition before installing the panels so as to not undermine the roofs integrity
  • Your roof needs to be clear of shade from surrounding trees and other obstructions

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