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Solar4Ever Pricing Guide- 2018

Solar Panels (Inverters and Installation further down)

 

Before we go into individual prices for panels and inverters, let's look at the cost breakdown for a good 5kW inverter and 6.6kW of 'big 3' brand name monocrystalline panels.

 

Fronius Primo 5kW (non hybrid) inverter $2,020
22 x Canadian Solar 300W monocrystalline panels $4,695
Tile rooftop rail, clamps and other fixings $660

DC, AC and Earth cable, isolators, breakers, conduit, labels etc $550
CEC accredited electrician, designer and installer, 8 hours $720
Electricial apprentice, 8 hours $200

Total $8,845 inc GST of $804

 

Purchase 118 STCs from you (rebate) at $33 (no GST) $-($3894)

 

Price you pay $4,951 including GST of $804.

In the current highly competitive WA market (we see that once Australia's No.1 solar company True Value Solar have decided to close down, following closely after Euro Solar ) you would get a few hundred dollars off that price, but for example sake, it's close enough.

 

So how can we or any other solar installer sell the same sized system for under $3,000?

 

Easy, put in a cheaper inverter and cheaper panels.

 

If we swap out the Fronius Primo inverter for a perfectly good alternative (Goodwe, Growatt, Sungrow, Zeversolar, etc) then the inverter price goes from $2,020 to $1,120. Maybe stick on another $100 to upgrade the warranty from 5 years to 10 years to level the playing field with Fronius and its now $1,220, but it is still saving $800.

 

Now we check the wholesaler bulletins and see what panels are on special. What this means is that they have too many in stock of an older model and containers of the latest model on the way so the prices are cut. So, right now, ET 270W panels are on special at $152 each. Let's use that. We'll need 24 of them instead of the 22 Canadians which will add $60 to the rooftop fixings bill and there will be $66 less rebate, but overall the cost saving is $921.

 

So with $800 saving on the inverter and $921 on the panels, that makes a price $3,230. Again, discount a few hundred dollars, and it's below $3,000  and it's still got a manufacturer 10 year warranty on all of it.

 

You will note that this was achieved without compromising on any installation materials or labour. If we threw in the 'B' team and cut a few corners on materials we could take another $500 off the price. If you want that, then please call someone else...there are plenty of them out there !!

 

Individual panel and inverter pricing.

As you can read in our 'Products' section, there are several different types of solar panel installed on people's rooftops these days. You have regular blue polycrystalline panels (polys) that are the cheapest to make and the most price sensitive volume area of the solar market. The big three brands in this category are Canadian Solar, Jinko and Trina and the panels are usually around $190 for a standard 275/285W (60 cell) poly and $220 for the physically larger 72 cell 330/340W model.

 

Is there any difference between a Canadian, Jinko or Trina poly? No, none at all, same as with any other poly from ET Solar, GCL, Talesun and the rest of the Tier 1 companies that make polys. They pretty much all have the same build quality, same frame, same cells, same warranty (10 years), same heat and shade performance.

Where you pay $10 or $15 a panel more for a Q.Cells or Winaico poly, both of which are slightly better made than the mainstream and also offer a better warranty, conversely, you pay the same amount LESS per panel for polys made by the slightly less well-know brands (FYI, that's less well known to you and internet forum readers, but very well known in the worldwide solar industry) because they have to use price to compete here.

 

A small step up from polys in terms of performance in the heat, space efficiency on your roof and to most people's eyes, good looks, are the black monocrystalline panels (monos). As in the original example you are paying $213 for a 300W 'big 3' branded panel, but there again, you can get a Suntech. Longi or ET or other equally good 300/310W mono for $15 to $25 less per panel, or pay $35 more for a Q.Cells.

 

Another small step up in terms of performance in the heat, and also now, in shade, which ultimately means a little bit more output each year, are the half-cell panels. This is where they take the existing 60 cells and laser them in half to make 120 cells (or 72 cells cut into 144 half cells). They also wire the panel up with two junction boxes and six strings of cells instead of the usual 3 strings. More diodes, more strings, means that as a passing cloud shades part of the panel, the power loss is reduced. It also means that they operate cooler so temperature losses are lower. That's the basic theory anyway and everyone is jumping on the technology. REC led the way with their half-cell poly, and their 295W black framed panel at $215 is still very popular, especially as it not only comes with a 12 year warranty, but we can give an extra 3 years because our installation director Nathan 'did the REC course' and got REC accredited. It's great to see smart marketing in action isn't it!! Nathan came back from the day long course and said 'it's just a solar panel' but he's a bit like that with all of this stuff.

 

REC also recently released their half-cell mono panel, a 320W beauty at $290 each, and Q.Cells also have their Intersolar expo 2018 'best panel' winning Q.Peak Duo, also a half-cell mono but 325W at the moment with 330W coming in 2019 at $300 each. There are half-cell polys from Canadian Solar ($240 for a 340W half-cell poly (144 cells) and many more are coming. It's probably fair to say that over the next few years, all regular polys and regular monos will be dropped in favour of the half-cells with the exception of LG and SunPower who were already achieving this level of efficiency and heat/shade output with their own technology since about 2014...but you pay at least $370 for even their regular panel and $500 each for the top of the range ones. Half-cells, especially the monos, are finally able to match these premium brands, but its been a very long time (in solar terms) coming.

 

Solar inverters
Now that the horror days of Gen 1, mostly Chinese solar inverters, are finally behind us, there are a small number of perfectly good products left standing. The majority of these Gen 1 brands like JFY, Solar King, Solar River, Eversolar, CMS/Eaton, Sharp and many more... are now gone.

 

The ones with their reputations totally intact were the ones who came late to the party and learned the lessons of the forebears before releasing any products here. Hence, Huawei, Goodwe and Sungrow have excellent reputations, while Growatt and Delta are still very much still alive and kicking, but having to continually defend themselves with 'we are much better now'...and they are.

 

A 5kW single phase model of any of these inverters costs about $1,200 for a non hybrid, and about $1700 for a hybrid. Three phase versions are typically an extra $500.

They all include WIFI so that you can see your current and historical data on your smartphone or web browser and most send you these reports automatically by email every day or monthly if you prefer. Two, that we know of, have a genuine Aussie office (Goodwe and Delta) and the support (including remote fault diagnosis and firmware upgrades) has been superb.

 

If you are convinced that a European inverter must be better quality than a Chinese made one, then your choices are limited to Fronius, ABB and SMA with SMA already making some of their inverters in China including their low cost Zeversolar brand range. As you saw at the top of this page, the top selling Fronius is $2,020. It's not a hybrid, so it can't connect batteries, same as any other non hybrid, and our experience of it is that it fails just as often as the current Chinese products (about 1 in 250 per annum) but it is made in Austria, which is almost Germany isn't it? SMA quality are is still as good as ever, whether its from China or Germany, and ABB are one of the biggest brands in the World, but they were hospital passed a really horrible inverter (Aurora) that is made in Italy, and are trying to re-build confidence in their brand with new models. By all accounts they are good but we were burnt so badly by the 'Aurora experience' we haven't felt the need to go there when we have Fronius already. However, the new 5kW ABB Uno sells for $1,740 so there is a saving there.

 

Hybrid inverters are the ones that not only manage your solar panels, they also allow you to plug a battery into them and store your surplus solar instead of sending it to Synergy for a 7 cent per kWh credit on your bill. That's not to say that if you buy a non hybrid you are locked out of batteries for ever, as you can always connect another inverter to your switchboard (its called AC coupling) when the time is right. Tesla Powerwall 2, SMA Sunnyboy Storage, and Goodwe to name just three all have these products. It's currently about $2,000 more expensive to do it this way than a hybrid, but no doubt, over time, this premium cost will diminish.

 

Huawei have an excellent single phase hybrid range (2kW to 5kW) with a three phase range due around January 2019 (possibly December 2018). We are expecting the 3 phase 5kW hybrid to sell for about $2,500.

 

Goodwe also have an excellent couple of single phase hybrids with their 3 phase models (5kW, 8kW and 10kW) due slightly before Huawei.

 

Fronius are releasing their single phase 5kW hybrid before June 2019 and a three phase version before the end of 2019 (or at least that seems to be the plan).

 

There are also quite a number of single phase hybrids from Sungrow, Delta, Solax, Solis, Growatt but to date, we've not installed any of them, so can't comment on whether they are any good or not.

 


Solar Batteries

For any battery system to work, you need to have the inverter/battery system smart meter. This measures your power use in real time and informs the inverter as to whether to store surplus solar power in the batteries, or release it for use in the house. These meters should not be confused with a non hybrid smart meter (e.g. Fronius) whose only purpose is to provide data about your consumption but is redundant when you install a battery system.
Meters typically costs between $150 and $400 and $150 to install in the switchboard and wire back to the inverter.


AC Coupled batteries

Enphase 1.2kWh inc wall mount bracket  $2560 each

SMA SunnyBoy Storage 2.5kWh   $2160

SMA SunnyBoy Storage 5kWh   $4060

Batteries only that need to connect to a hybrid inverter or DC to DC coupler

LG Chem 6.5kWh  $4440

LG Chem 9.8kWh  $6900

LG Chem 9.8kWh  $7100 (High voltage version)

Samsung/Sungrow 4.8kWh  $4270

GCL 5.6kWh $3820

 


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