Connection Process Comparison: Residential vs Commercial Solar PV System
This blog will explore the connection processes of both residential and large-scale solar PV systems, and what you can expect when investing in your own system.
Connecting Residential Solar PV Systems
1) Feed-In Tariff Online Application
Once you have decided on your chosen solar PV system, you’ll need to apply for your state’s feed-in tariff.
Through the Renewable Energy Buyback or Solar Bonus Schemes, homeowners who own renewable energy systems like solar or wind can export any excess electricity they generate to the grid and receive payment from their power provider.
Prices per kWh or unit of electricity are anywhere from 5 to 10 cents, depending on your state and energy provider.
You will need to apply for your feed-in tariff through your electricity supplier. In some cases, your solar provider may be able to do this for you with your permission.
2) Network Provider Application
Once you have successfully submitted your application, you may receive an email from your electricity provider instructing you to apply to your state’s network operator for approval. Once again, your solar provider should complete this on your behalf.
Depending on site layout and system size, your application may take up to 30 days to approve, although two to three weeks is typical.
3) Technical Data Review
If you’re investing in a battery storage system; if your house is in a semi-rural location set back from the street; or if your inverter is over 5kW in size, your network operator will need to review the technical data your solar provider has provided.
Only once your Technical Data Review has been submitted will your solar PV system be approved.
4) Meter Upgrade
Investing in a new solar PV system for your home will require you to purchase or update to a bi-directional meter.
This will monitor and report both the incoming and outgoing electricity, and your electricity bills will then take into account the lower amounts of electricity you’ll need to buy from the grid, plus credits for the electricity generated by your solar power system that you don’t use.
All meter upgrades and reprogramming are completed by your network operator as instructed by your electricity provider. All associated costs are charged by your electricity provider, and will appear on your next electricity bill.
On the day of install, your solar provider’s installers will connect your inverter to the grid and commission your system.
Connecting Commercial Solar PV Systems
Small Commercial Solar Installations
In most states, the process for connecting residential and small scale commercial systems (usually under 30kW) is more or less virtually identical.
The only difference in the process and installation is that a small commercial sized system will require the following additional applications:
1) Structural Assessments
Structural Assessments involve both a physical site visit and detailed analysis of your roof using satellite imagery. This allows your solar provider to identify any potential obstacles (air conditioning vents and antennas), ascertain your roof type (tin or tile) and orientation (north, south, east or west), plus check the suitability of a solar installation.
2) Council Development Approvals
Whether you’re required to seek Council Development Approval or not will depend on your building. Factors that can impact this include your state or territory’s building codes and regulations and if your building is within a conservation or heritage overlay.
3) Building Permits
In general, a state or territory Building Permit is required before any building work can begin. There are certain exemptions when a Building Permit is not required for solar, usually related to the location of your business or the size of your planned solar PV system.
It’s also worth noting that even if your solar installation does not require a Building Permit, if the installation of the system requires modifications and/or additions to your building, this work may require a separate Building Permit.
Commercial Solar Installations Over 30kW
Choosing to install a large commercial solar PV system (usually over 30kW) will require the same Structural Assessments, Council Development Approvals, and Building Permits that small commercial solar PV systems do, in addition to the following:
4) Application Fees
While small commercial system and residential systems are free, application fees for large commercial systems start from $5,000.
5) NER Engineer Sign Off
If your planned commercial solar PV system is above a certain size, you may also be required for your design to be reviewed and approved by an NER Engineer, which will also incur a fee.
6) Installation of Additional Componentry
While a solar PV system only needs panels and an inverter to “work” your Network Operator may require you to install additional componentry or complete extensive testing before your system can be connected.
This can include grid protection, export control, power quality logging and witness testing.
Depending on the size of your system, installation may take anywhere from just one day to several weeks.
Thankfully, when completed by professional, knowledgeable installers, the process should only cause minimal complications.
When your solar PV system is ready to be connected to the mains, your business’s power will need to be switched off. However, this should take no longer than one hour, and your installer will try to work around your schedule in order to minimise the disturbance to your business.
The Bottom Line
While the process for connecting residential systems and small commercial systems process is virtually identical, the process for installing large commercial systems is much more complex.
Whether you choose to install a 5kW residential system, or a 600kW large-scale commercial solar system, the success and ease of installing and connecting your system depends on the skill and experience of your solar provider.
With over 10,000 installations across Australia, Infinite Energy is one of Australia’s largest and most reputable solar providers. For more information about whether solar is right for your home or business, click here for a no obligation call back.