Getting the most out of your solar power system these days means putting the energy it produces to good use within your home or business.
Putting your solar energy into the grid, on the other hand, is akin to wasting it. What is solar self-consumption? Why should you care about it? And how can you maximise it?
Solar self-consumption is the act of using your solar energy to run devices within your home or business. Provided you have a net (aka bi-directional) energy meter, this will happen automatically when appliances are switched on in your home while your solar system is producing energy.
If no one is around to use electricity during the daylight hours and devices haven’t been scheduled (or are not remotely controlled) to come on, then whatever solar energy is not used then and there is automatically sent into the grid.
Unless you are on one of the state-backed solar feed-in tariffs programs once widely available in Australia, you probably have no reason to send your solar into the grid.
The last of these programs closed to new applicants several years ago, so if you’ve only recently had your solar system installed – or are still shopping around for one – then your solar feed-in rate is probably very low. In fact, most states these days have FiTs in the range of 6-8c per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – about 1/3 the price of what you pay for energy from the grid, which can cost anywhere between 20-30c/kWh.
In a nutshell, this means that every time you use a unit of energy from your solar system instead of purchasing it from the grid, you save 20-30c instead of earning only 6-8c. Clearly, this gives solar system owners a strong incentive to self-consume the solar energy.
Electricity retailers may offer plans that allow solar system owners to be rewarded for exporting their solar energy (or energy stored in batteries) to the grid during certain times of day.
This is known as spot market trading, and you can learn more about it here. Even where spot market trading is available, however, the primary way that most solar homes & businesses can save money is through self-consumption.
If there is no one around to use electricity during the day, there are a number of approaches you can use to try to ensure that your solar energy is being self-consumed. Some of these are: