As renewable sources of energy are gaining popularity through the rise of a “green conscience” and the support of the government through incentives, the average size of a solar power system is also getting bigger. Only five years ago, most households were buying 3kW solar power systems which are approximately 12 panels. Now, a 6.6kW solar system size has become the most commonly requested system size for new buyers as well as those looking to replace their older systems.
There are a few reasons for the increased system size demands which mainly revolve around the substantial decrease in the manufacturing cost of solar systems which consequently made solar panels much more affordable than they were only a few years ago.
The cost of solar power systems keeps falling as a result of which bigger systems are becoming more affordable. More panels mean more STCs (the Federal Government’s ‘rebate’) which consequently means a bigger point of sale discount for the customer.
A 6.6kW is a great size for anyone thinking about adding a battery to their solar system. Solar suppliers and their customers have done their research and over the years have worked out that a 6.6kW provides a better value. A 6.6kW system size essentially means 6.6kW of solar panels installed on the roof with a 5kW inverter.
The efficiency of the inverter drives the efficiency of a solar panel system because inverters convert Direct Current (DC) (as produced by the solar panels), into Alternating Current (AC) (as used by the electric grid). This leads many to wonder what effect over-sizing or under-sizing an inverter will have on overall system efficiency. This article sheds some light on this issue, hopefully helping shoppers to make better decisions in regards to their current or future solar photovoltaic installation.
Inverter under-sizing – sometimes referred to as ‘overclocking’ – has actually become a common and widely accepted practice in Australia.
You may be wondering how this panel to inverter combination came to being. According to the Clean Energy Council guidelines as well as the network distributors (the companies that own the poles and lines), this panel to inverter ratio is completely legitimate. The rule is that you are allowed to have your solar power system over-sized by 133%. This means that you can get an inverter with 5kW capacity and add 6.6kW of solar panels (5kW x 133% = 6.6kW).
Insights and Benefits of a 6.6kW solar system size
Maximizing STCs: The 6.6kW Advantage
One of the reasons 6.6kW solar systems are soaring in popularity is their ability to optimize Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) without necessitating an upgrade from a 5kW to a 6kW inverter. What does this mean for you? A savvy savings of a few hundred dollars, and from a ‘value for money’ vantage point, a reduction in the cost per watt of your solar system.
The Economic Logic Behind 5kW Inverters
Contrary to what one might assume, 5kW inverters aren’t as pricey as their 6kW counterparts. This economic sweet spot is further sweetened by the extensive array of 5kW single-phase inverters available, driving competitive pricing. Noteworthy network distributors, such as Western Power, often impose a 5kW inverter limit but greenlight panel oversizing up to 133% of the inverter’s capacity. A simple math would reveal: 5kW×133%=6.6kW5kW×133%=6.6kW.
More Power, More Savings
In essence, the 6.6kW solar system offers unparalleled value, granting you more energy for every dollar spent. The strategy of solar inverter under-sizing (or, viewing from another angle, solar panel array oversizing) isn’t just a fleeting trend in Australia – it’s a well-established practice prioritized over inverter oversizing.
Inverter Efficiency: The Operational ‘Window’
The heart of a solar system, the inverter, thrives within a defined operational ‘window’ (typically outlined in its specifications). As the energy input from the panels oscillates, the inverter’s prowess in converting DC electricity to AC fluctuates. However, as long as this input remains within this predefined window, the inverter operates at its peak.
When Might an Installer Suggest an Undersized Inverter?
There are scenarios where your installer might lean towards an undersized inverter. This is especially the case if your location, climate, or the orientation of your panels predicts lower solar irradiation. Sometimes, this means installing more panels that sync with a smaller inverter. Yet, even under ideal conditions, under-sizing the inverter can boost the system’s overall performance.
Over-sizing Inverters: A Future-Forward Thought or a Misstep?
While an inverter with a capacity exceeding your solar panel array might sound promising for future expansions, it’s not always the best choice. An oversized inverter might not extract the maximum energy yield from your system, especially if the size difference is substantial. Inverters can handle power inputs lower than their nominal capacity, but there’s a threshold. It’s crucial to engage in a candid conversation with your installer about how different inverter sizes might impact your energy yields over the next 5-10 years. Weigh these insights against the price tags of different system configurations to make an informed decision.
Your Solar Investment: Asking the Right Questions
Before you finalize your solar system choice, ensure you’re armed with the right questions. How would your energy output vary with an oversized inverter compared to a ‘right-sized’ or undersized one? A comprehensive understanding will ensure you strike the perfect balance in your solar investment.