SA’s Remote Solar Disconnect/Reconnect Explained

In this video, chartered electrical engineer and SolarQuotes founder Finn Peacock sets the record straight on “solar shutdown” capabilities in South Australia.

Transcript:

If you live in South Australia, you might have heard something pretty scary-sounding in the news recently.

“The government wants to shut down your solar!”

If you take the mainstream media’s word for it, Stephen Marshall himself has a big red button in his office that he can press at will and shut down every solar system in the state.

I’ll first confirm that legislation has indeed been enacted giving the electricity network the ability to send out a remote disconnect/reconnect signal that will turn compatible inverters on or off. But let me cut through the hysteria and drop a pallet load of knowledge on the situation to show you that it’s not a big deal at all.

Why Remote Disconnect Is Needed

Firstly, why is this necessary? To put it simply, Australia in general but especially South Australia has a crapload of solar generation capacity, which continues to rise every single day as new systems are installed on rooftops across the state. For a few hours in early October, solar alone met all of South Australia’s electricity needs. And in the very near future, we may have times where solar is generating more electricity than can be used or exported to Victoria. This can lead to an unstable grid and potentially blackouts.

So some legislation was hastily enacted to mandate that all solar systems installed in South Australia after September the 28th must be able to be remotely disconnected. It sounds scary, but let me jump in and separate truth from fiction.

SA’s Remote Solar Disconnect/Reconnect Explained

This remote shutdown requirement is only for systems installed in SA from September the 28th, 2020 onwards. So if you’ve already got solar, relax, these new rules will not affect you.

This isn’t just the Government trying to stop everyday Aussies from saving money with solar. It always surprises me how suspicious Aussies are of their government. Since these new rules were announced and enacted, almost every other day I’ve had a phone call or email from someone in SA ranting about how this is just “the man” trying to keep energy independence away from ordinary people.

All I’ll say on this is, speaking as a chartered electrical engineer who understands how hard it is to maintain a national electricity grid, the SA government has legitimate concerns about the stability of the grid that has led them to propose and enact this legislation.

The challenges posed by integrating renewables into electricity grids aren’t unique to our “Heaps Good” state. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if this remote disconnection requirement becomes standard for new solar systems around the world, not just in Australia.

Financial Impact: Minimal

I would honestly be surprised if this remote disconnection kill-switch was used by the networks more than two to three times a year for more than a few hours at a time.

In terms of the financial impact these new rules will have; the typical6.6 kilowatt solar system in SA will save a home around three to four dollars a day. If such a system is shut down two to three times a year for a few hours at a time, the total financial impact will be in the tens of dollars per year, if that.

That’s annoying, but it’s not exactly something worth storming Stephen Marshall’s office about. The bottom line is thatsolar is and always has been an excellent investment in SA. Don’t believe me? Give mysolar and battery calculator a whirl and see how much a system can save you.

Spoiler alert: the typical 6.6 kilowatt system can save you around $1,600 per year; meaning you can break even on a $6,000 system in under four years. Now, that’s not bad for something that will last 25 plus years on a roof.

And the even better news is that savvy solar installers can install a smart solar system that won’t fully shut down when the big red button’s pressed. These systems are designed to still keep powering your home on receiving the signal – they just stop exporting surplus energy. That means you’ll still be saving money with a solar powered home, even through these hopefully rare disconnection events.

A Good News Story

So while these new remote shut down requirements for inverters sound scary, I hope I’ve now reassured you that they’re nothing to worry about and indeed they’re even necessary.

It’s actually a really good news story. The fact that we’re the first in the world to occasionally have too much solar, it means that most of the time we have world-beating amounts of clean, renewable energy powering SA’s homes and businesses.

That’s something we should all be really proud of.

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