Solar power systems : switchboards and meters

 

In order to install a grid connected solar power system at your premises, you will need to have a compatible switchboard and meter. The following information will help you determine if your meter and switchboard is compatible and approximate pricing for upgrades if required. 

 

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Switchboards

 

Switchboards are the part of the building where the circuit breakers or fuses are housed. They may be in the same enclosure as the electricity meters or located separately from the meters; for example, near the entrance to the house or garage.

 

In most Australian states, houses constructed since at least 2002 will have a compatible switchboard; however two spare spaces are required for solar breakers. If only one space is available the electrician can often upgrade without significant work.

 

IMPORTANT:  If you determine your switchboard does need upgrading; consider the cost of doing so not just part of your solar power investment, but also to help ensure your house's overall electrical infrastructure is as safe as possible - protecting your assets and more importantly, your family. 

 

Old switchboards can be a fire risk and a shock hazard!

 

The following photos show a variety of switchboards where upgrades may or may not be required. 

 

Solar-ready switchboard example

 

All relatively recently built homes have a compatible switchboard type. A standard installation is one where two blank "poles" (spaces) are available for the solar circuit breaker to be installed. In some situations (depending on the install location), one "pole" may be sufficient.

 

 

Possibly solar-ready switchboard examples

 

While this switchboard is full, 2 lights may be able to be wired into the one switch to make room or an additional housing could be added to the right. 

 

 Switchboard possibly solar compatible

 

3. Upgrade with additional housing.  In the event that there is no space for additional circuit breakers in the existing board, another housing could possibly be added next to the existing one. 

   

 Switchboard possibly solar compatible

    

Incompatible switchboard requiring major upgrade

 

If fuses (a now outdated and less effective form of circuit protection) are present, then the switchboard will require a major upgrade

 

 Switchboard not solar ready and requiring major upgrade

 

Switchboard upgrade costs

 

REMEMBER:  If you determine your switchboard does need upgrading; consider the cost of doing so not just part of your solar power investment, but also to help ensure your house's overall electrical infrastructure is as safe as possible - protecting your assets and more importantly, your family.  

 

Please note: costs mentioned below are only approximate and are based on best available information at the time of publication. If your switchboard does require upgrading, an Energy Matters certified electrician will be able to do the work for you to ensure your switchboard is compliant. We do not include this additional work as part of our solar contracts and an accurate quote can be provided by our electrician/contractor on/or before the day of installation.

 

State Approx Cost 
(minor upgrade)
Approx Cost 
(major upgrade)
NSW $200-$400 $900-$1400
ACT $200-$400 $800-$1400
VIC $200-$300 $800-$1000
WA $200-$400 $800-$1200
QLD $200-$300 $800-$1400
NT $200-$300 $800-$1400
TAS $300-$400 $850-$1000
SA $150-$500 $500-$1200

   
Old switchboards can be a fire risk and a shock hazard!

    

Meters

      

To access the full value of the solar energy being generated by your system, it is a requirement that your meter be changed to a two-way (bi-directional) meter; one that not only reads your consumption, but the amount of electricity you are exporting to the mains grid. A system may be installed prior to the bi-directional meter, but in the interim, any surplus power you generate will spin your current meter backwards; i.e. just provide a credit at the current market rate.

     

Costs vary by state and distribution network provider. If there is a cost, it is paid to your electricity retailer and is added on to your next electricity bill. Energy Matters does not perform the changeover, but will assist in meter changeover arrangements.

 

 Please note: costs mentioned below are only approximate and are based on best available information at the time of publication.

     

State Approx Cost
NSW $400
ACT $400
VIC $250-$350 (Note: there is no direct charge if you're eligible for a Smart Meter - contact your distributor for details) 
WA TBA
QLD $150 single phase - $300 three phase
NT $100
TAS FREE
SA $425 single phase - $795 three phase

 

Do you have further questions about switchboards and meters in relation to solar power? Contact our friendly team for advice.

 

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