Solar panel installation: everything you need to know about the process

    Comparison State by State in Australia

    Introduction

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have emerged as one of the finest options for generating renewable and clean energy, relying less on utilities, and saving money in the long term by balancing energy expenditures.

    Because of these facts, house and business owners are becoming increasingly interested in this sector, because they want to learn how to install their solar system or because they are wondering about the procedure that must be followed to carry out a solar PV installation.

    This article will be a simple guide that you can read before choosing GoRun Solar, to understand the solar panel installation process better and in an easier way.

    Choosing an appropriate placement for the solar panels

    The tilt and azimuth (orientation) angles at which solar energy will be generated are extremely important. The best tilt angle in Australia varies based on the latitude of the city, but anywhere between 10 and 35 degrees is a decent starting point.

    The direction is very significant. The highest output can be obtained by orienting the modules to the south, or 180 degrees. Then there are orientations to the east and west. Finally, because north production is so low, it is the least ideal place for panels.

    These are general reference criteria, but it is critical to determine what type of installation it will be beforehand. Roof mounts and ground mounts are the two major types.

    Roof Mounting Systems

    Roof mounts are the most frequent in Australia since they often provide a higher return on investment and because many households do not have adequate space in their backyard to install a ground mount. Roof mounts are severely limited in terms of area, orientation, and tilt degrees. The panels must be installed on available roof faces with a predefined pitch and orientation, which is not always the best option. There may be various barriers on a roof, such as chimneys, vents, antennae, and so on, reducing the space where the panels can be installed. As a result, it is not always the best option.

    Ground Mounting Systems

    Ground mounts are not limited in this way, and they are typically situated at an ideal tilt angle and facing south to maximize the production of the solar panels. If space in your backyard is not an issue and there isn’t too much shade from adjacent trees, a ground mount may be a good option for you.

    Set up the Solar Mounting Structure and attach the Panels

    The first consideration in any solar installation is to construct the racking system. Assuming you are placing on a roof mount, you must first choose whether the racking is to be erected on a tilted roof or a flat roof.

    Roofs with Slopes

    A railed system is required for pitched roofs. Attaching a set of rails to the roof to hold the solar modules is what this entails. To attach these rails, flashings, screws, and bolts are utilised after drilling the roof and applying the sealant to prevent water leakages. Rafter spots must first be determined to insert flashings there, which offers more structural support for the system.

    Once the flashings are in position, we secure the rails with a set of clamps and fasteners, and then we install the panels on top and adjust them with another combination of clamps and screws.

    Flat roofs

    Meanwhile, a common practice for flat roofs would be to use a ballasted racking system, which uses a set of ballasted rocks on the rear of the panels to keep the system to the floor. Depending on the kind and manufacturer, a flat mounting racking system is typically mounted at angles ranging from 5 to 30 degrees. These systems can offer the option of installing dual-orientation (east-west) systems, which, while producing less energy than a south-facing system, can respond more quickly to consumption patterns.

    Mounts on the Ground

    However, if we are discussing a ground mount, the approach is unique. In that instance, a foundation must be dug into the ground to provide structural support for the modules. The type of foundation will differ depending on the type of soil, whether it is sedimentary rock, gravel, or clay. Helical piles or concrete piers are the most commonly used foundations. Following the installation of the foundation, a series of vertical mechanical aluminum pipes were erected. The rails are then arranged in a rectangular pattern to allow the panels to be installed directly on the structure.

    Interconnected solar panels 

    The most popular method of connecting solar panels is with MC4 connectors. It is critical to have a comprehensive understanding of the system configuration, including which panels will be connected in series in a single string and how many strings will be installed. It is typical to connect the string wires in series and then transmit them to a combiner box or directly to the inverter. This is accomplished by connecting the positive lead from one panel to the negative lead from the following module. However, for modest off-grid system applications, the connectors can be used to connect panels in parallel or to make series/parallel connections.

    When doing this, keep in mind that as long as the solar panels are collecting sunlight, they will have an open-circuit voltage waiting for something to block the path of the electrical circuit, so it is necessary to be cautious when handling them. Our trained professionals will perform these tasks efficiently and with ease.

    Maximum Voltage Capacity

    Another factor to consider while stringing modules is ensuring that the maximum output voltage of the string does not exceed the inverter input voltage, even when temperature changes are considered. This is accomplished by GoRun Solar professionals during the design phase.

    Grid-Disconnection

    It is also critical that the panels are not connected to the load during the installation stage. To ensure that no energy flows during the installation, the grid must be disconnected for safety reasons.

    Switch for Rapid Shutdown

    A current requirement is that the system contains a rapid shutdown switch positioned in an easily accessible location. This is critical for fire safety reasons since it ensures that if there is a fire in the house, the firefighters will have safe access to the roof by disconnecting the PV system via this switch.

    Setting up the inverter

    Following that, the inverter must be installed under the manufacturer’s specifications. Some pieces of equipment can be installed outside, while others must be installed indoors. Also, knowing which inverter layout you will be installing is essential before proceeding to the site.

    Inverters are classified into two categories. String inverters and micro-inverters are two types of inverters.

    String-inverters

    String inverters are the most prevalent, established, and cost-effective choice in the current market. This consists of power electronic equipment able to convert the direct current (DC) from the solar panels into the alternating current (AC) usually used to power appliances. The string inverter can accommodate a maximum number of panels depending on the power consumption and voltage input.

    Many of them also have several MPPT inputs, allowing you to join many strings without using a combiner box. MPPT is an abbreviation for maximum power point tracker, which is an electrical system capable of tracking the maximum point of operation from a string in particular. To avoid ohmic and voltage losses, these string inverters are typically positioned close to the main panel board.

    Micro-inverters

    Micro-inverters, on the other hand, are the cutting-edge technology solution for the domestic sector. These devices convert DC to AC at the module level, so each solar panel will have a micro-inverter attached. These micro-inverters are far more efficient in locations with different orientations and shading patterns, but they are more costly than string inverters.

    Battery-solar inverter connection (if applicable)

    If you decide to include energy storage in the system, the second step is to connect the inverter to the batteries. There are two basic approaches for this: DC-coupled and AC-coupled.

    Configuration with Direct Current (DC)

    A charge controller would be needed to utilize as the maximum power point tracker in the DC-coupled system, while the battery inverter would just do the DC to AC conversion from the battery bank. This arrangement is popular in stand-alone and compact solar PV and RV applications.

    Configuration with AC-Coupled Power

    There is also the AC coupled arrangement. There are two kinds of inverters in this configuration: string inverters and battery inverters. The string inverter would perform the same function as it would on a grid-connected PV system, tracking MPP and switching DC to AC. The battery inverter, on the other hand, is linked to the energy storage system, the fallback panel board, and the main panelboard.

    When the power from the grid is operational, the string inverter transmits AC power to the backup panel loads and also to the battery inverter, which uses this power to charge the energy storage system and to also feed the main panel board. When the power is turned off, the battery inverter disconnects from the main panelboard and begins producing its alternating frequency.

    The string inverter synchronizes to this new frequency, and the system goes into an isolated mode to feed the vital loads until power is restored from the grid. This system is primarily used for backup.

    Link the inverter to the bidirectional meter.

    In addition, another upgrade is required. Households generally have a meter installed to track energy usage, which is typically set up by the utility. However, when a grid-tied or grid-tied with battery backup solar PV system is installed, the household is transformed from a strict demand load to a load that can swiftly switch from load mode to generator mode. This means that your PV system will feed power back into the grid.

    Traditional metering systems can only track energy in one direction, presuming that the customer would always be consuming power. However, if the household or company is capable of acting as a generator in the electricity grid, a bidirectional meter must be placed to detect energy flows in both directions (as load and as a generator).

    To accomplish this, the PV system must pass a local electrical inspection and approval from the electrical utility to connect to the grid. It is critical to check on local jurisdictions to comply with your state’s laws, which will be strictly followed by GoRun Solar.

    Solar System Commissioning

    Finally, the final stage in the solar PV installation is to turn on the system. This is accomplished by flicking the breakers, verifying that the inverter does not generate any alarms and that it is properly synchronized with the electricity grid. 

    In this case, the configuration will vary depending on the case scenario and manufacturer; therefore, it is critical to consult the inverter’s handbook to properly set the system. If you are unsure how to handle this with the inverter, you should see a skilled electrician. But you have nothing to worry about because GoRun Solar installers are fully capable of handling this situation, making it easier for you. Because they do not require connection to the power grid, stand-alone or off-grid systems are easier to manage from a permitting standpoint.

    Conclusion: Maintenance of Solar Panels

    Once your PV system is operational, it is critical to understand that the narrative does not end there. In general, you will need to undertake basic maintenance procedures regularly to keep the solar system in top condition.

    Because there are no moving parts in a solar PV system, maintenance is extremely straightforward. However, a general examination should be performed at least once a year to ensure that all connections are in good working order. Cleaning is perhaps the most crucial element, especially in places where it does not rain frequently or is dusty. Dirt obstructs sunlight from reaching the panels, reducing solar production.

    To ensure that the warranty conditions are met, you should clean the modules according to the maintenance guidelines provided by the installer or the supplier.