How Your Solar System Works

How Your Solar System Works

It can be a daunting task researching the many parts of solar power, from the basics of components till the conclusion of a complete scientific and statutory processing of what is known as the solar industry.

Let’s take this journey together, starting with the most simple explanations of how your home solar system works.

The Components

The four main components of a home solar system are the solar panels, solar inverter, switchboard, and smart meter.

The two secondary components are an AC isolator and a DC isolator. Both are safety components and are required in most countries, including Australia.

Previous to November 2021, a DC isolator was required on the roof as well as on ground level. New standards were put in place that simplify the process of installation, with some extra rules added to provide safety for emergency services workers during emergencies.

For example, if a system does not use a rooftop DC isolator, and the PV (photovoltaic) array is more than 1.5 metres away from the inverter, a designated point of disconnection from the array, like a plug and socket, must be built into the design.

Or, when cables pass through a ceiling cavity, they must clear the ceiling by at least 600mm. This is to avoid creating a hazard for emergency services workers in the case of a fire.

The final component is consumption monitoring. It is optional.

Consumption monitoring shows what your solar system has generated and what your home has used.

Consumption monitoring requires one CT (current transformer) for a single-phase inverter or three CTs for a three-phase inverter.

A current transformer is used to measure the current of a circuit. It measures the magnetic field generated by the flow of electricity and converts it into a signal for the energy meter.

The current transformer works on the principle of electromagnetic induction, making an electro-motive force by moving a magnetic field around an electric conductor, and creating a current by moving an electric conductor through a magnetic field.

An induction coil, which is a transformer for producing a high voltage from a low voltage, winding, is wrapped around the conductor carrying the current, and a second winding transformer is connected to the energy meter.

SolarEdge and Solar Analytics are two examples of consumption monitoring options available. The benefit of SolarEdge consumption monitoring is a SolarEdge system uses power optimisers that are installed on the underside of each panel. This enables individual panel level monitoring.

The added benefit of consumption monitoring is you know exactly how your solar system is performing, as well as if it’s performing as expected. This helps significantly when it comes to maintenance as problems can be spotted quickly, such as if the system is underperforming, or with panel level monitoring on a SolarEdge optimiser-based system, it will show which specific panel needs maintenance.

Consumption monitoring is highly recommended, though optional for your solar needs. However, consumption monitoring is standard and expected when it comes to best quality solar. It just adds a layer of understanding and guarantee.

How location affects production?

Solar radiation is daylight. It is present even on cloudy days.

A solar panel is made up of solar cells. Solar cells are silicon wafers. Each silicon atom is surrounded by electrons. When the solar cell is hit with solar radiation, the electrons move from their place. When another electron enters the previous electrons place, energy is created. We capture this as electricity. This is known as the PV (photovoltaic) effect.

When a solar panel overheats, it becomes less efficient. The perfect conditions for solar production are sunny and not too hot.

A solar panel in Alice Springs will perform better than a solar panel in Hobart.

Importantly, a solar panel will perform better on a summer day than a winter day. A solar panel will also produce electricity even on cloudy days.

Sunny but not very hot days are ideal for solar production.

Quality products will give the best bang for your buck.

The upfront cost of quality solar will substantiate the smaller cost of cheap solar by way of the long-term integrity of your solar system.

Quality products are made to last and are made to withstand all weather conditions.

The benefit of a quality solar panel comes down to a better temperature coefficient and panel efficiency. A panel with a better temperature coefficient will be more efficient than a panel with a less good temperature coefficient at converting sunlight to DC electricity. A panel with a higher efficiency will produce DC electricity more easily than a panel with a lower efficiency.

The benefit of a quality solar inverter comes down to its ability to withstand weather conditions, its advanced algorithms that allow more efficient conversion of DC to AC, heat management solutions that enable the longevity of the inverter, protection devices that protect against power surges, and built-in monitoring capabilities that provide real-time data on the inverter’s performance, enabling proactive troubleshooting and maintenance.

Finally, quality panels and inverters provide good warranty terms. This means, along with the benefits mentioned, that the longevity of your system and of your solar production is guaranteed.

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