One of Australia’s largest grid-connected residential solar and storage systems has been installed at a home in Victoria’s Gippsland region, including 32kW of PV and 60kWh of battery storage.
The size of the system, installed by local outfit Gippsland Solar, is almost on par with the size of the Traralgon house, which is a Victorian era stately manor with half a dozen (each) bedrooms and bathrooms, and multiple living areas spread across three rambling storeys.
“This is by far the largest domestic job Gippsland Solar has done,” the company’s technical manager, Shane Clayton, told OSOTG – and they have done more than 5,000 household systems in Gippsland alone.
But given the energy consumption of the house – driven mostly by its extensive and hard-working heating and cooling systems – it could, and probably should, have been bigger.
“In an ideal world, we would have put 60-70kW of solar on this house, but we couldn’t,” said the company’s technical manager, Shane Clayton, in an interview with One Step Off The Grid on Tuesday.
“There were a lot of technical challenges.”
One of those challenges was finding usable roof space, because – despite the home’s sizeable energy consumption – the owner did not want any PV panels visible from the front of the building.
And on the roof areas that could be used, there were significant shading issues, depending on the season.
In the end, Gippsland Solar settled for putting a total of 32kW of LG neon R 365W panels on the available space, and – to get around the shading issues – used SolarEdge inverters to ensure the system continued to work at full capacity even when some panels were blocked from the sun
(Those interested can watch this video from the SolarEdge monitoring platform, posted on Facebook by Gippsland Solar, showing a week’s worth of instantaneous performance, with light blue indicating higher performance. It illustrates how the output of every panel varies as the shade impacts the solar array.)
As for the battery system, that is made up of 6x LG Chem 9.8KWh batteries, with the ability to provide back-up in the case of grid supply issues. The system is also fully monitored by Gippsland Solar, a service the company provides for 10 years, for every solar system it installs.
So what made this home owner decide to install solar and storage – and what will it mean for the family’s energy bills?
Clayton says that in this case, as in the vast majority of household solar installs his company had done, the motivation was largely financial.
“The biggest driver for the solar industry – especially down here – is firstly financial. (Home owners) see installing solar and possibly batteries as taking back their own energy; and insulating themselves from any future grid problems.
In the case of the Traralgon house, the motivation was the same, with a bit of concern about the stability of the local grid, and the potential for blackouts.
“This customer is going to retire there, so he sees it as a long-term investment – a longer-term plan. And with a 25 year life on the solar, and a minimum of 10 years on the batteries, the financial side will look after itself,” he said.
Clayton says the system, while not big enough to take the house completely off grid – heating and cooling and all – or off-set all of its consumption, it would cut its power bills significantly, and could keep the basics powered in the case of any network outages.
“There’s a good chance this customer will end up doubling the battery capacity,” he added. “The ability to arbitrage with the battery system, charge it off-peak and discharge at peak, especially in winter, will be important.”
Clayton said that interest in battery storage in the residential sector was growing steadily, both for new rooftop solar installations, and existing systems.
“(Battery storage) has been a much bigger growth area in the domestic side than in commercial,” he told One Step.
“I would says that about eight to 10 new inquiries from residential customers ask about batteries – most are seeking information only, and are unaware of the cost.
“There might be one to two out of the 10 that go ahead and decide to invest in a battery.”
As for the cost, Clayton believes the industry is seeing “a bit of a plateau” on battery pricing, and is not expecting to see much in the way of price reductions in the near future.
This means that, financially, its “hard to have that argument” for most households, particularly while the pay-back on solar alone is so good.
But for those customers less focused on financial return, and more focused on insulating themselves from electricity price fluctuations and supply problems, there is little standing in the way.