For everyone who is confused –17 Solar myths busted
Let me guess – you have 10 tabs open in your browser.
Your brain is pretty much fried reading about solar.
You know you want solar for your home. You know that it’s good for the environment. But there is still a giant blob of confusion and skepticism in your head.
At first, it feels you are ready for it. Then, you hear something else. And, you hear something again.
“Is it for me?”
That’s the question you are trying to answer for yourself.
Here is the undeniable truth: There are 1.5 million homes in Australia with solar panels. In August alone, another 5500+ homeowners installed solar.
Can 1.5 million homeowners be wrong?
The Internet is full of information on both sides of the issue. What is the reality?
The reality is that few solar myths tend to keep homeowners, who can benefit from solar, from having solar.
Who benefits from solar myths? Power companies – if you know what I mean.
So, without further delay, here are the 17 solar myths that you should ignore and stay away from…in no particular order…
1. Solar is too expensive
Cost of owning a solar panel system has dropped significantly in recent years. There is only one reason: solar is on the move. Check out the graph below to see what I mean.
So far more than 250 million solar panels have been installed worldwide (@ 250 wat i n 65000 MW.
Looking at the graph, for example, at $101.05 per watt, 4000 watts of solar panels back in 1975 would have cost around $400K. Today, you can buy it for under $2000.
According to Vishal Shah, an analyst from Deutsche Bank, 80% of the global market will be at grid parity in 2017.
Grid parity is when the cost of electricity from solar panels is equal or less than the cost of electricity from the grid.
Few Australian cities achieved grid parity before rest of the world caught up; thanks to some of the highest electricity cost in the world.
What all this means is that solar panel price today is cost-effective in Australia.
It may be cost-effective but can you afford? In other words, how expensive is it? Let’s check out the up to date price…
It is no secret that the latest average price per kilowatts of solar panels is between $2000-$2300 in Australia. Let’s settle at $2200 per kW for this example. (This means $2.2 per watt, which is much higher than $0.447 reported in the graph. Remember the cost in the graph is only the cost of the hardware, doesn’t include other soft costs)
A 4-kilowatt system would cost $8800.
However, you don’t pay that much. The rebate scheme, called STC, drops that price quite a bit. Depending on where you live and the market condition, rebate usually stays between $700-$750 per kW. So, let’s look at the final price.
Cost of 4 kilowatts system before rebate = $8800.
Rebate = $725 X 4 kilowatts = $2900.
Cost of 5 kilowatts system after rebate = $5900.
A 4 kilowatts system in Melbourne would have cost you $10459 (after rebate) in 2012.
2. Solar will drop my bill to zero.
Not going to happen and you don’t want it anyway. Here is why,
- Zero electricity bill means cutting your ties with electricity company: going off-grid. That’s lot of money into batteries and alternate back up power generator.
- Solar is the cheapest when you stay connected to the grid: grid-tied solar system. 99% of the installations are grid-connected.
So, you’ll continue to pay for energy that you import when the sun is not out.
3. Solar panels are not efficient enough at 16%.
SunPower, one of the best solar panel producers in the world, makes solar panels that are 22% efficient. The problem? They are 40% more expensive then the normal standard panels. (Just so you know: SunPower panels are more than just high efficiency panels.)
The point is; efficiency has nothing to do with the value of solar panel. It is the wrong metric to go after. Here is why…
- You can buy 12 solar panels with 16% efficiency, or,
- You can buy 10 panels with 22% efficiency;
You can make up for the lost efficiency by adding a panel or two, essentially resulting in the same output from both systems.
If you are confusing solar panel efficiency with solar cell efficiency, read the first half of this post: Solar panel efficiency is not important.
And if you’re relating performance and reliability of a panel to its efficiency, they are not the same.
4. Maintaining solar panels can be a big hassle.
Solar panels are a dumb thing. They do nothing but lie down on your roof. There are no moving parts inside them.
Dust, leaves, bird’s aachi (aachi is Nepali for waste)? All that is taken care of by the mother nature. Your solar panels are inclined at an angle, which makes them self-cleaning when it rains.
Even then, when you look at the whole year, the amount of power loss from the soiling is insignificant. According to a research done by University of California, panels lost a little less than 0.05 percent of their overall efficiency per day.
Although solar panels are designed to handle extreme weathers, you may occasionally have to replace bad panels, which is almost unavoidable. Avoid cheap panels to reduce the risk of such event.
5. Solar panel technology is not reliable.
Solar panels come with 25 years of output warranty and at least 10 years of product warranty. Check out this datasheet and scroll towards the bottom.
Can you remember last time you bought something with warranty that long?
6. Only off-grid solar system will save our planet.
For each kWh of coal power you avoid, you’ll prevent 1.3 kg of CO2 emission into our atmosphere.
An average Australian home uses about 18 kWh of energy per day.
If you stay connected to the grid with solar, you can feed excess electricity to the grid and help your neighbor power their house with solar as well.
Staying connected to the grid has both financial and environmental benefits.
7. Solar panels don’t work in winter.
The angle of the sun is lower and towards north in winter. A north facing solar panel can produce quite a bit of power in winter as well.
I agree the days are shorter, thus the total output will be less compared to summer.
Colder temperature is ideal for solar panel because there is less heat related loss in the power generation.
Here is a chart that compares solar irradiance for each month of the year for various cities.
8. It takes more energy to produce panels than energy it will ever produce
Referred to as “Energy payback”, solar panels can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to offset the energy that was used to manufacture it.
Solar energy production varies with location (irradiance), and technology of solar cell.
Chart below shows the energy payback and CO2 savings for one-megawatt solar panels (that’s about 4000 panels today). Wacker Polysilicon did the study
9. You need an “eco” personality to own solar panel.
Today solar has become more of a financial than an environmental decision. As long you see the need to secure yourself from the rising cost of electricity, nothing else really matters.
10. Solar panels are of little use without the batteries.
As I mentioned in #2, more than 99% of all solar installations in Australia are done without any batteries. Payback time for such battery less systems can be between 5-10 years.
If you are home in the afternoon, you can offset most of your afternoon import from the grid by using solar power, directly from the solar panels on your roof.
11. Solar electric system will work during blackouts.
A battery-less grid-connected solar system will shut off during blackouts. This feature, called anti-islanding, is built into an inverter to block any solar electricity feeding into the grid. It saves those working to fix the grid from electric shock.
If you live in an area where blackouts are frequent, and you need back up, you may consider a grid-tied system with battery; it’s called hybrid solar system. The hybrid inverter disconnects your grid power during blackouts and relies on battery storage to supply power for the house.
The downside? Hybrid systems are not cost-effective today…
So, what percentage of 1.5 million solar systems in Australia works during blackouts? Less than one percent…
12. Solar is for the riches.
There was time when solar was so expensive only the wealthy could afford it. In 2000, cost per watt was close to six dollars; in August 2016 it dropped to less than fifty cents (USD).
Falling price combined with financing options with no money down have spurred solar growth like never seen before. Solar is no more only limited to the elites of our society.
13. Solar panels are poorly installed, so it’s a high risk.
Clean Energy Council (CEC) is Australia’s peak body for solar. A CEC accredited installer (or designer) is “a tradesperson who has demonstrated their competence in the design and/or installation of solar PV systems.” Or, simply, a CEC accredited installer knows what he is doing.
All solar companies are required to work with the accredited installers and designers in order to claim solar rebate. Your chances of getting duped in the installation are slim going to none.
All you have to do is make sure you pick the right solar company for your project. (If you want to get free solar quotes from solar companies that we trust, simply fill out this form here)
14. The government rebate is over; I missed the boat.
As of October 2016, the rebate is still active. If you buy solar in 2016, you will get “full” rebate, after which it is set to phase-out 1/15th every year until 2031.
What is essentially over is the generous Feed in Tariff (FiT) scheme. Please don’t confuse rebate with this.
Rebate is something you are entitled for when you buy solar panel; rebate helps pay for solar panels.
FiT is the rate you get paid for exporting extra solar power into the grid. Few years ago, these rates were generously as high as sixty cents in states like Victoria. Today, the incentives are as little as nothing to as high as six cents in most states.
You may have missed the boat in FiT, but the rebate is still as real as a dog bite.
15. The only way to save money with solar is by pushing the electricity back to the grid.
If you understood what I said in #14 about feed-in tariffs (fit), you know that this isn’t true.
Today, the best way to save money in your utility bill with solar is to self-consume the electricity it produces. Reduce the import of expensive electricity with your solar power.
16. Believing that all Chinese panels are bad, or Chinese solar panels should be avoided at all cost.
I grew up in a country that is geographically located between China and India. There were always two kinds of Chinese products in the market: Original Chinese products and duplicate Chinese products. That is true, even today.
There are original Chinese solar panels and then there are duplicate Chinese solar panels.
CEC, the peak body for solar, maintains a database listing of 5033-compliant solar PV modules for Australia and New Zealand. The list has more than 30000 modules from hundreds of companies, and good size of it is Chinese panels.
Chinese or not, you should focus on what’s more important: Which Tier panel? How long has the manufacturer been in business? Etc.
17. Solar panels work at night.
You must have figured this one out by now.
Solar panels do not work at night because this is no light.
Do solar panels produce in cloudy days? Not much, although they can produce 10-20% of their normal output.
Honestly, I have had my own share of solar myth when I first started. I know how hard it is to unlearn something because it wasn’t right what you learned in the first place.
Reading blogs and news about solar can be a good learning experience if you are starting out your solar journey.
But, sometimes, it is easy to fall prey of misinformation originated by someone who doesn’t directly benefit from the growth of solar industry.
I would like to hope that these 17 solar myths were able to put you back on track about solar.
One of the things I do is help homeowners, genuinely interested in solar, get quotes from solar companies that are in my network of trust. The companies are CEC certified and they only use CEC accredited designers and installers.
If you want to find out how much your solar power system will cost, fill out the form in the link.
I will have three solar quotes on your way.