A Guide To Regulatory Changes Part 1 : Remote Disconnection & Reconnection - Goliath Solar & Electrical

A Guide To Regulatory Changes Part 1 : Remote Disconnection & Reconnection

Considering A Solar System For Your Home?

No doubt you’re already feeling confused enough after conversations with multiple solar companies – so many panel recommendations and varying quotes for inverters to mull over! Not to mention everyone claiming to be Adelaide’s best solar company or Adelaide’s number 1 solar installer.

As you spend countless hours trawling the internet, solarquotes.com.au and whirlpool forums, you find yourself even more confused than when you first started. Then, just when you’ve had enough of reading about solar panels and check your Facebook or Instagram feed to switch off, you can’t escape solar companies’ targeted marketing all over your screens!

What’s Holding You Back?

You all have friends or family members bragging about how low their bills are since installing solar. Still, what seems unclear are the murky hidden truths about solar and some of the negatives that come with it. We get it. With all the information and offers vying for your attention, it can be hard to find clarity or confidence.

Time and time again we have customers calling that we’ve quoted over the years who have had reservations about solar’s longevity, holding off for fear their solar installer won’t be around when something goes wrong, (which by the way, happens more frequently than you might think).

Our Straight Forward Approach

At Goliath Solar & Electrical we believe in honesty and transparency as the core values of our business, which has helped us survive the roller coaster that is the solar business since we started in 2012. It’s important for us to set clear expectations on what can affect your solar system’s performance, outside of panel and inverter failures or installation issues.

Solar is a major financial investment, and we understand it takes time to save or shoulder the burden that can come from loan applications. Solar is one of the biggest purchases you will make, so it’s important you have confidence in the products installed, after-install support from the company installing and more importantly, the electricians installing your system.

In case you aren’t aware, we only ever use our own in-house, trained, full time employed electricians who are all CEC approved installers. Every company loves to draw attention to their own full time employed CEC approved installers during the sales process, yet how many introduce you to their team of (so-called) employed installers on their websites like we do at Goliath?

The truth is most solar companies will only show off their office and sales staff online, simply because they will usually subcontract out your install to whoever has the ability to install or sometimes just cheapest tender they can get.

Recent Changes To Solar – The Fine Print

In full transparency, what you won’t read too much about or have too many solar sales businesses discuss with you are the recent changes to all new solar installations in South Australia, which were introduced on 28th September 2020. 

We believe all our customers should know about these changes, which are all part of the Regulatory Changes For Smarter Homes.

Now this may not be discussed frequently during your quoting process with multiple solar sales companies, or in many cases, may only be mentioned once you’ve signed along the dotted line and paid your deposit. This is because these regulatory changes will at some point, if not now but later, impact the energy savings you’re making simply because you have solar installed. Shock horror, some companies prefer to hide this information away from customers.

Another implication of the changes means that if you don’t have internet at your home or business you may actually be unable to have solar installed at all, unless you have enough room in your meter box for even more new digital smart meters! 

In this blog post we will cover the first of two main regulatory changes that are currently in play and will have most impact on your solar installation and solar savings.

Remote Disconnection & Reconnection

Being in business since 2012 we have ridden the solar roller coaster of ups and downs. We have seen Feed In Tariffs go from 44c+ per kWh down to 6.8c per kWh, back up to 24c per kWh and back down to 6.8c per kWh! We have installed solar system on residential homes up to 30kW more than export limits set, where home owners think they can only install 6.6kW systems!

Being an electrical company first and foremost, whenever solar installations would slow down we’d go back to electrical work, while solar companies around us started closing and along with them, any chance customers had of claiming warranty on failing solar panels and inverters installed by operators who were long gone. 

So when the Regulatory Changes For Smarter Homes were first announced, we were pumped as the changes still allowed solar installations that wouldn’t affect solar savings as heavily as we had seen in the past. More importantly, although the remote disconnection and reconnect changes would only affect new solar inverter installations, they would also keep our existing 2,500+ South Australians customers inverters running more frequently!

Why The Changes?

So let’s look at why remote disconnection and reconnection has been implemented. While Feed In Tariffs are still healthy in South Australia, power prices seem to only go up, we have an abundance of sunny weather and our friends and family keep telling us how great solar is. The conditions are perfect for installing solar, right? Well South Australians seem to think so – our state continues to install solar at an increasing rate with no sign of stopping.

Now as great as it is having so many homes and businesses adopting a greener electricity energy source, our network just isn’t built for the influx of solar going back into the grid – especially during the peak Autumn to Spring sunlight hours of 10am to 3pm. So with this in mind there were two options open to the government: a) ban any new solar installations or b) adopt some changes to help protect the grid, and thankfully we’re totally on board with the latter.

Protecting The Grid

Remote Disconnection & Reconnection was introduced so that an approved agent now has the ability to turn your inverter off remotely for a period of time via a signal to your inverter to help protect the grid.

To do this you must have installed an approved inverter (no issues with the popular Fronius, Sungrow and SolarEdge inverters) and an approved agent. All inverters used by Goliath Solar & Electrical have the availability to access the signal, using SA Power Networks as the agent.

Also of most importance you will require an internet connection at your home or business and your inverter must be connected to your inverter via Wi-Fi or hard wired connection.  Essentially your inverter will be connected no differently than the 2 ipads, 3 mobile phones and 2 smart tvs in your home all watching Bluey via a Wi-Fi connection!

If accessing the internet isn’t an option, the next best thing is for your inverter to be remotely shutdown via a new digital smart meter. Now this option sometimes isn’t possible as it can require additional meters and relay control in your meter box. The main reason this is highly unlikely to work is that most meter boxes can’t accommodate the additional wiring and extra meters required.

So our advice is to look at the option of connecting your inverter to your internet via a stable Wi-Fi connection. Unfortunately hot-spotting your inverter to your mobile phone or pocket Wi-Fi won’t suffice as it’s not a stable fixed connection.

The Impact

The aim of this initiative, although it sounds world-ending at first, is to­ further reduce rolling blackouts and protect the grid, which in turn assists in your solar inverter operating on sunny days and helps you reduce your electricity bills. As a state, we require this regulation to help continue solar uptake and protect our network.  

We’ve talked in the past (and continue to educate prospective customers during the quotation process) about the pain of your solar system turning off or ramping down on sunny days, aka Solar Saturation or Over Voltage.

There are no indications of how many times your inverter could be switched off, however since inception on 28th September 2020, we are yet to see any inverters remotely shut down. Early reports are it would only occur under rare circumstances and as a last resort to protect the power supply. 

Still, we anticipate through open discussion with those in the solar industry, electricity retailers, metering companies and the solar bible that is @finnpeacock, that it could be up to 5 to 10 times a year that your inverter is remotely shut down.

How The Changes Affect Your Solar Savings

Now true to our core values, we don’t want to sugar-coat anything for a sale. So let’s look at the solar savings implications on a few of our most popular sized systems in Adelaide: a 6.6kW using a 5kW inverter and a 13kW using a 10kW inverter. Let’s say the worst case scenario is that your solar is remotely shut down for 1 hour at midday once a week, every week of the year. Currently you get a 12c Feed In Tariff from Lumo who are also charging 34c per kWh.

So assuming the worst case electricity usage scenario occurs while you are cranking the aircon, cooking up a storm with the electric oven and hotplate going, plus doing a load of washing and dryer all at same time! Your total usage is 10kWh of drawn electricity for the hour-long period that your inverter was shut down.

So with the 5kW inverter you have lost 5kWh@ 34c = $1.70 in savings for a single week. $1.70 x 52 weeks of the year is a total yearly potential loss of savings of $88. 

For those familiar with our real life 6.6kW case study, our customer saved $1,807 so take away the potential $88 loss of savings and you are still looking at potentially saving $1,700+ each year.

And with the 10kW inverter you have lost 10kWh@ 34c = $3.40 lost savings. $3.40 x 52 weeks of the year is a total yearly potential loss of savings of $176.80

Now our real life 13kW case study customer resulted in yearly savings of $3,614 so take away the potential $176.80 loss of savings and you are still looking at potentially saving $3,400+ a year off your electricity bill.

So as you can see we don’t anticipate a huge effect on your solar performance and savings, just a somewhat annoying one!

Is There A Work-Around?

Now this is the point at which the devil on your shoulder chirps in, Why don’t we just disconnect our inverter from the internet so our inverter can’t be remotely shut down? As great an idea as this sounds, we strongly suggest against this as a business and as decent humans. The regulations have been set to encourage more rooftop solar, help protect the grid and your sola­­­­­­­­r system.

Without these changes, existing solar systems installed could consistently ramp down or even worse, shut down on sunny days and the network could put a ban on new solar systems being installed. Now the relevant agent (SA Power Networks in most cases) will be notified when an inverter is no longer connected via internet and could request (if consistently not connected) that your inverter be shutdown 24/7 and we don’t want that.

So our advice is please, please, please ensure you follow the rules and keep your inverter connected to your internet by keeping your router turned on at all times. We have multiple tools and videos to assist in reconnecting your inverter to your internet in the event of changing to the NBN, moving internet providers, WiFi password changes or simply needing to refresh the connection.

Consumption Devices

We should mention there is a solution which can reduce the likelihood of your inverter being shutdown completely. Sorry it’s taken 10 minutes of reading to get to this point, but I mean how can you be educated if you take short cuts?! 

By installing a consumption device in your meter box such as a Fronius smart meter or SolarEdge modbus wattnode meter, instead of your inverter shutting down, the device installed has the ability to zero export and keep your inverter operating. So by having one of these devices installed your inverter will still stay on during a disconnection event and your homes electricity usage will still come from your solar panels, you just won’t be able to export any excess solar being produced into the grid for the disconnect event.

Costs do vary from $300 to $500 installed for single phase homes and $700 to $1,000 for three phase homes. This is why sending us a picture of your meter box open when requesting a solar quote helps us give an indicative price based on the room required to install such devices.

So in the scenarios mentioned earlier when we discussed the 10kW load, there would be no loss of savings whatsoever in either scenario in the event of a remote disconnect. After all that reading you’ve now learnt there’s potentially no loss of savings or impact with the changes which at first seemed world ending and potentially pushed you away from choosing solar!

Things To Remember

In closing some important points to keep in mind no matter who you chose to install your solar system with, as we understand we can’t win them all!

• Keep your home internet turned on at all times.

• Look to install a consumption device if you want to “stick it up ‘em”.

• As a state we really need these regulations to ensure you can have a solar system installed and that it will continue to work!

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