Common myths about solar power and the truth behind them
Solar energy is Australia’s preferred energy sources, with around 76% of Australians selecting it in their top three preferred sources of energy, according to the Climate of the Nation 2022 research report. Here in WA, over 30% of homes in the South West Interconnected System (the ‘SWIS’) now have rooftop solar panels.
Solar power makes sense in WA with all the sunshine we receive but there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation around it. Take a look at these common myths about solar energy and the solar power facts you need if you’re thinking about installing solar panels.
Myth: Solar power is for everybody
Actually, not every household is suited to solar. The cost of solar is a barrier for some households – and the benefits of solar power will depend how you use electricity in your home.
To work out if installing solar panels is a good option for you, take a look at your electricity consumption patterns. If you have advanced metering infrastructure (also known as AMI or a smart meter), you can use My Account to take a look at exactly how you use your electricity by looking at how much you use and when across each 30-minute period or interval. This information is generally available to view the next day. If currently you’re using, or are able to use, most of your electricity consumption during the day when the sun is shining, solar energy could be a good option for you.
If the cost of solar has been holding you back but you’re keen to explore how to better manage your electricity costs, a time of use electricity plan, such as our Synergy Midday Saver, could be an option. This electricity plan charges different rates for electricity based on the time of day it is used, with lower off peak electricity rates available, which can assist if you can shift your electricity use to take advantage of the cheaper rates.
Myth: The more homes with solar, the better for the grid
Solar energy is a great source of renewable energy – but the boom in solar power installations has also created a new set of challenges for the electricity system as a whole.
With more renewable energy than ever before in the grid, it’s important that the supply of electricity to WA homes and businesses is as reliable and stable as possible at times of peak demand to avoid blackouts.
Over each day, the supply and demand in the electricity grid goes up and down - you might have heard of the Duck Curve. Keeping the grid balanced is an ongoing challenge as more rooftop solar panels are installed across WA.
Myth: Installing solar panels is the only way to invest in renewable energy
Solar is one of the most popular ways for people to invest in renewable energy but the good news is that it’s not the only option.
If your motive for investing in solar power is related to the environment, you might like to consider other options. With products such as Synergy NaturalPower and Australia's national accreditation program GreenPower, we have options for households and businesses to invest in renewable energy without installing solar panels. These products means everyone can invest in WA’s renewable energy future by offsetting a percentage, or all, of their electricity use with renewable energy.
Myth: Changes to the feed-in tariffs mean it’s not worth installing solar anymore
If your panels generate more electricity than your home needs while the sun is shining, that leftover power is exported to the electricity grid.
When the Distributed Energy Buyback Scheme (DEBS) replaced the previous Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS), the feed-in tariffs for exporting excess solar energy to the electricity grid changed. This shift has led some people to believe that it is no longer worth installing solar.
With the right habits in place, you could find that the difference between the DEBS and REBS schemes would be minimal anyway. The best way to maximise the benefits of your rooftop solar panels in by using your solar generation to power your home.
For example, if you set a timer for your washing machine to run at lunchtime, you wouldn’t need to use that amount of power later in the day when the sun goes down and you’re drawing from the grid, unless you have a battery storage system.
Find out more about how to be a solar super user or explore how to use your solar data to change your energy habits.
Myth: You won’t receive any more power bills with rooftop solar panels
You should be wary of any solar provider that makes claims like this. While installing solar panels could help you to save money on your electricity bill, the benefits you could enjoy really depend on how – and when – you use electricity.
Daily supply charges for electricity from the grid will still be payable as well as charges for any electricity you need to draw from the grid. Remember that solar power works during the day when the sun is out. You will also need power when your solar PV system isn’t generating solar energy, such as at night or on cloudy or rainy days. At these times, you'll generally have to draw power from the electricity grid or a battery storage system, if you have one.
It’s important to understand what makes up your Synergy electricity bill including the supply charges and other fees.
Myth: It’s easy to disconnect from the electricity grid with rooftop solar panels
Installing solar can be a good first step for those who wish to rely less on the electricity grid to power their homes but just having solar doesn’t mean that you can completely disconnect from the grid. As we have already mentioned, unless you also have battery storage installed, your household will still need to draw power from the grid at various times when your solar power system isn’t generating electricity.
While it is possible to go completely off-grid with solar power and battery storage, it costs more than most households are generally willing to invest.
You may also need to buy a back-up generator for overnight, cloudy days and the winter months. If you want to cut back on how much grid-based electricity you use, the best way is to use the solar power your solar panels are generating during the day.
Myth: You’ll automatically save money on electricity by installing solar panels
The best way to make the most of your solar PV system and tap into potential savings on your electricity costs is to use as much of the solar power it generates as you can during the day. If you’re still running a lot of power-hungry appliances at night, unless you also have a solar battery, your solar energy won’t be used to power those appliances and you will need to buy that electricity from the grid.
You could make some small changes to your habits to help make the most of your solar energy. For example:
- Run your appliances (such as your dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer or slow cooker) during the day when your solar panels are receiving maximum sunlight, especially between 10am and 2pm.
- Keep electricity usage to a minimum at night if possible.
- Charge your phone, laptops and other devices during the day.
Choosing energy efficiency appliances can also help to manage your electricity use.
Myth: The more rooftop panels you have, the more you’ll save
If you're planning on installing solar panels, make sure you have the right number of panels to suit your electricity needs.
Think of choosing your solar PV system as you would choose a mobile phone plan. You wouldn't sign up for a $200 mobile plan if you only use $50 each month. In the same way, you don't need to cover every inch of your roof with panels if you don’t use the equivalent amount of power.
Having a solar PV system which is properly sized to suit your needs is the simplest way to get the best return on your investment.
Myth: All solar installers are the same
While many solar installers offer similar products and similar deals, if you look beyond the surface, you’ll find that they have many differences, particularly with the warranties and after-installation service they offer. Some things to know:
- Make sure your solar installer is accredited by the Clean Energy Council. This means they have been certified and trained based on industry best practice. It also helps ensure your system complies with all relevant Australian Standards.
- Some solar customers have run into trouble when their solar provider has gone out of business. Make sure you choose a company with a solid reputation and experience.
- Your solar installer should also be able to advise whether you need approval from your local council, which is rare unless you have a heritage-listed home.
Take your time and don’t be rushed into a decision. Read our top tips to choose a solar supplier you can rely on.
Myth: Cheap rooftop solar panels are the same as more expensive ones
Remember that solar is an investment, not a quick fix. You probably wouldn’t buy the cheapest car in the car yard just because it’s a great deal, so you shouldn’t go for the cheapest possible solar power system.
Choosing the cheapest solar PV system could end up costing you more in the long run.
Some solar installers can cut corners to offer cheap solar systems, for example the costs of labour to instal the solar panels. This can then result in an unsafe or substandard installation. Choosing a reputable solar provider is the first step to make sure that you are getting a quality solar power system that suits your needs, not just the cheapest one available.
Learn more about solar power and decide whether investing in a solar power system is the a good option for you based on the way you use electricity at home.