Solar Export Limiting: Why You Should Know About It
As the demand for solar across Australia increases, new rules and limits are set by energy providers, government bodies and installation overseers to ensure everything is kept safe.
This is exactly where the solar export limit comes in. Love it or hate it, the export limit might be your only option for installing solar at your property. Now, if you have been given an export limit try not to stress. There are different options you can take and it’s certainly not the end of the world.
I’m going to run you through the best options you can take to maximise on a solar export limit. Sometimes it isn’t really as bad as you think.
However, It is really important to know what you are dealing with here. First of all I’m going to take you back to basics to find out exactly what a solar export is and why you should know about them.
Now if you are interested in solar but unsure if you are going to require a solar export limit, speak to one of my design engineers who can give you a free energy assessment here.
Table Of Contents
What Is Solar Export Limiting?
Solar export limiting is where your local electricity provider sets a limit on the amount of energy your solar system can export into the grid. Typically, this is around 5KW. You have a set limit on how much energy you can export (‘sell/send back’) to the grid.
A lot of Australian homes are not allowed to ‘send back’ more than 5KW of their energy to the grid. This may only really affect you at peak times e.g.during the middle of the day when energy consumption is lowest and production is highest.
So if you are looking for a system that is bigger than 5KW, then you may get hardware installed that limits your solar inverter from over exporting to the grid.
The reason why solar export limiting is in place is due to so many homeowners being able to produce their own energy. This means on a very sunny day lots of homes are producing a surplus of excess energy the power will get sent to the grid and electricity lines.
When too much energy gets sent at one time it results in power surges and issues. There is also a drop in the quality of the electricity as well. Not only this, but some of the power lines are old and it could result in power cuts.
Is solar export limiting good or bad?
We will go into much more detail below but in short, there are arguments for both good and bad. It does mean for some that the feed in tariffs are lost. However, we could argue that feed-in tariffs really don’t matter as much as you think.
Unless you’re exporting a significant amount of energy to the grid then you’re not really going to make much or take advantage of the feed in tariffs.
With solar export limiting your excess energy is capped. Any power that cannot get through is usually lost or wasted in the inverter (usually through heat). However, like I mentioned above… There are a few ways to get around this.
Let’s run through the positive and negative impacts of solar export limiting.
The Negative Impacts Of Solar Export Limits
Reports False Data
Severely impact the data from your solar system so you are unable to see if your system is performing or underperforming. All the data will ever show is your cap at 5KW.
If your system is capable of producing more than this, you will never know… It would also be hard to see if there are any issues with the system at peak performance as well.
One way to look at it is like a car. You are capped at going 50kms, therefore you never know the true potential of what the car (your system) can reach. It might be that you are able to produce a whole lot more energy than you think.
This is probably the biggest issue for me. However, the only plus side is this only occurs when you begin to export. So, if you self consume all of your energy and don’t let it get to this point you can really maximise your savings.
If your system produces more than 5KW but has an export limit, then energy is going to get lost or wasted. What’s more, it’s impossible to find out the amount of energy you are losing each day. It could be something really small or it could be a huge amount that’s wasted.
Without having knowledge or data, it’s hard to say really how much energy is being lost. Of course, if it’s a great amount surely you would want to put that energy into storage for use at a later date.
May have an export limit of 0
It could turn out that your home may even be excluded from exporting excess energy to the grid. If this happens, you are allowed to install a solar system to your home but won’t receive any feed-in tariff at all.
Any energy that you export will get lost or wasted immediately. For anyone who has a 0 export limit, please keep scrolling as we do have some easy to fix solutions to overcome your issues below. It’s definitely not the end of the world.
The Positive Impacts Of Solar Export Limits
Solar export limits allow for you to install a bigger system
For me, this is something that is becoming more and more important as we move into a digital age. I cannot stress this enough, future-proofing your home with a big enough system should be a massive point to consider. Here’s why…
We have been ripping off 7-8 year old systems from our old customers to install a much bigger 10+kW system. This is because the average 4-5kW system we installed back then simply isn’t producing enough energy to make a difference anymore.
Only one thing has changed. Our customers’ energy consumption is much higher compared to 8 years ago. Now think about the way we consume energy today vs in 10 more years. We already have smart phones with big batteries, laptops, air fryers, smart TV’s and smart fridges all plugged in at once.
In 10 years time we will have a much bigger energy consumption as I imagine we move further into a digital and renewable age. Especially with the huge increase in demand for electric cars and EV chargers.
Future-proof your home. 6.6kW might be enough now, but it’s not going to be enough in 10 years. Make sure you are buying a system that’s going to generate enough energy for as long as the warranty lasts.
Protects the grid from issues
The reasons why these limits are in place is to prevent power shortages and issues. If everyone were able to sell their energy at the same time it can cause stress to the power lines. This will result in long/short term issues.
This is the biggest reason why solar export limits are in place today. It would cause more trouble if we kept having power cuts when it gets really sunny and everyone begins to export.
Just remember, exports are most common in areas where a lot of homeowners have all installed solar. If you know your neighbours are all reaping the benefits of lower energy bills then you might need to consider if you’re going to get capped.
Limited export means more power for home
If your system has a limit on how much it can export then it means more power will get used in your home instead. Long term benefits would be a more energy efficient system. It also allows you to focus on increasing your self consumption which in turn provides a better return on investment.
How Does Solar Export Limiting Work?
Solar export limiting works by installing a smart energy meter to your switchboard. When the energy passes through signals are sent to the inverter from the smart meter. Once your export limit has been reached, the smart meter will block any more energy from being sent to the grid.
This energy then gets wasted or lost usually as thermal energy (heat). The smart meter may cost you a little bit extra to your system as well.
Other ways may include software that is set up to block your inverter from exporting your limited amount.
How Much Power Can I Export To The Grid?
Depending on whether or not you have an export limit, you should be able to export as much power to the grid as you can.
However, some areas won’t allow this and will instead cap you using solar export limiting. If you live in an area with a strong grid connection and not many people have solar then your limit will be less.
Homeowners who live in built up areas where solar is popular may have stronger solar limiting. Additionally, if you live regionally and the grid network is old, fragile and has a lot of issues you may have a solar export limit. Here are areas with the best and work export limits.
Some areas with little or no solar export limiting:
- NSW AusGrid network – East side of Sydney, Newcastle and Merriwa areas
- VIC United Energy Network – East Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and Bayside Peninsula
Areas with some solar limiting but can still see good feed-in tariffs
- South Australia Power Networks
- Jemena Network (North & West Melbourne)
- Ergon Network (South East Queensland)
- Horizon Power (Western Australia)
- Endeavour Energy (West Sydney)
- AusNet Network (Eastern 3rd Of Victoria)
- EvoEnergy Network (ACT)
Locations with high export limiting
- Western Power In Western Australia (Perth & South WA)
- Powercor Victoria (Western Vic & West Melbourne)
- Essential Energy NSW (Regional NSW)
- NT PowerWater (Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine)
- CitiPower Victoria (CBD & Metro Area)
How To Overcome The Solar Export Limit
Ok, so pretty much the only way around export limits is to increase your self consumption (the amount of energy you use whilst its being generated) during the peak hours of solar generation from your system.
For most homeowners, you might find you use most of your energy in the mornings or evenings when your system production and the sun is at its lowest. During the day, when the sun peaks to its highest and your system begins to produce a lot more, your self consumption is at its lowest.
So essentially, we need a solution to overcome this problem. Fortunately, we’ve got a few.
Invest in an EV car charger and power your vehicle when you begin to export
Electric vehicles have significantly increased in demand over the past 2-3 years. This is because they come with a wide range of benefits for the homeowner and are also affordable. With this, they provide a return on investment meaning you can make your money back.
One solution is to install an EV charger at your home. The best EV charger we’ve found in Australia is the Zappi V2 home charger which has an awesome feature. When your solar system begins to export to the grid, Zappi will switch on and automatically start charging your car.
This means, before you reach your solar export limit, you are putting that excess power into your car for you to use at a later date. It’s an excellent feature and can help increase the return on investment from your solar and your electric vehicle.
Install a solar battery like Sonnen or Tesla Powerwall 2
Another solution to overcome solar export limiting and similar to an EV charger is to store the energy in a battery for use during those peak evening and morning hours. Homeowners that already have a battery know it gives you full control over your power and allows you to maximise your savings.
Some of the best solar batteries available in Australia are Sonnen and Tesla Powerwall 2. Both of these batteries can overcome any solar export limits you face. Simply because instead of exporting the energy to the grid, it will get stored in your solar battery instead.
Well, there are both sides of the arguments for and against solar export limiting. I think it’s definitely something to consider when you are choosing the right solar system for your home.
Export limiting can also help you get a bigger system signed off for your home, so you can use it in your favour. However it may negatively impact some homeowners who aren’t allowed to export any excess energy to the grid. Especially when it comes to the reporting or data of your systems performance.
Well you might think this is horrible but it doesn’t actually matter that much. Most homeowners don’t even have a system big enough to produce a significant amount of excess energy. However, this is soon to change in the next 5 years as we move into a more digital and renewable age.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have an export limit, let us know what it’s done for you 👇 .
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