Photovoltaic systems

Key points

  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems generate electricity from sunlight. Solar PV cells that capture sunlight are placed in panels, which are in turn placed in arrays, to deliver solar power to homes and businesses.
  • Australia is an ideal location for solar PV systems. One in 4 households now have solar panels on their roof – the highest uptake of household solar in the world (Clean Energy Regulator, 2020).
  • Solar PV systems can be stand alone or can be connected to the grid, with or without batteries.
  • Backup power will be needed when the sun is not shining, either at night or during lengthy cloudy periods. This power can be provided by the main electricity grid, batteries or a generator.
  • Financial considerations for buying a solar PV system include the upfront cost, any rebates and incentives, money saved on energy bills, and money earned through feed-in tariffs.
  • The payback period for solar PV systems is generally between 4 and 8 years for most Australian homes (depending on a household’s particular circumstances, such as electricity consumption or rebates).
  • It is important to get the right sized system for your household. Most households install a 3–5kW system.
  • The position and angle of the panels will affect their efficiency. Where possible, panel frames usually face north and are usually fixed at the optimum tilt angle, which depends on your location.
  • Systems should be installed by accredited installers, and regularly cleaned and checked.

Understanding photovoltaic systems

Solar panels capture the energy of sunlight which is converted into electricity. This is known as a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, usually called solar PV. Solar PV technology is a source of price-competitive, zero greenhouse gas emission energy for homes and businesses across Australia.

One in 4 households now have solar panels on their roof – the highest uptake of household solar in the world (Clean Energy Regulator, 2020). By installing solar panels, you can reduce both your power bills and your greenhouse gas emissions.

There are many brands and types of solar PV system available, and new technologies are continually being developed. Choosing the right system for your household can deliver cheap power for many years.

House with solar panels on the roof.

Australia is a world leader in household solar PV installations

Photo: Getty images

System components

A solar PV system has 2 main components: the solar panels and the inverter.

Solar panels

Each solar panel has solar ‘cells’ containing silicon, which convert sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Solar PV efficiency – the ratio of the cell’s energy output from the solar energy input – is the most common measure of performance. The performance of all panels initially degrades, but should stabilise over the first year.

There are several types of cells most commonly used for households:

  • Monocrystalline cells are sliced from a single large silicon crystal (an ingot). These are very efficient (15–20% efficiency).
  • Polycrystalline cells are made by pouring silicon into moulds (cast ingots). Polycrystalline cells have slightly lower efficiency than monocrystalline cells (13–17%); but this can be compensated for by using larger installations.
  • Thin film cells are made by spraying silicon onto a surface. These are less efficient than monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells and are more expensive than crystalline technology. Amorphous silicon was once the most widely used thin film technology. Thin film materials such as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide are now increasingly being used.
  • Building-integrated photovoltaic modules (BIPV), less common in Australia, are an application of thin film technology that integrates PVs with building materials such as roofs (for example, solar tiles or shingles), awnings, skylights and façades. Façade systems are better suited to regions where sun angles are lower, such as northern Europe.


The inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity for use in a home or business (normal household supply is 230V AC). There are 4 types of inverter most commonly used for households:

  • String inverters are single units attached to a string of solar panels; these are the most common type for households.
  • Micro inverters are attached to each panel; these are a good option when some panels are sometimes shaded but are more expensive than string inverters.
  • Battery-only inverters are paired with chargers to store ‘surplus’ electrical energy in a battery and release it later when it is more useful or economic.
  • Hybrid inverters combine a string inverter and battery inverter in a single unit.

A switch that connects the solar power to the grid and the inverter box which converts the solar power to electricity for use in the house.

A household solar inverter mounted beside an isolator switch

Photo: Maeli Cooper

Types of photovoltaic systems

Solar PV systems can be connected to the grid (grid-connected systems) or not connected to the grid (stand-alone systems). Some systems can also have battery storage.

Grid-connected systems

A grid-connected system is one where electricity can be imported from or exported to the electricity grid. Electricity is drawn from the grid at times when the household uses more electricity than the solar panels can supply, so power is always available. Electricity is also fed into the grid when the household uses less electricity than is being generated by the panels. Usually a payment or credit (known as a ‘feed-in tariff’) is made to the householder for this electricity fed into the grid.

These types of systems are sometimes described as ‘behind the meter’. This refers to the fact that a generator has been installed on the household’s side of their electricity meter, as opposed to upstream in the electricity grid.

Systems that feed electricity into the grid will include a grid-interactive inverter and a smart electricity meter. The smart meter can either allow for the total amount of electricity generated by the renewable energy system to be exported directly into the grid (gross metering), or measure the amount of electricity exported into the grid after household appliance consumption (import/export or net metering). Net metering will generally improve the payback period.


Check with your electricity retailer for details about the feed-in tariff and metering options available, and the criteria your renewable energy system must meet to feed electricity into the grid.

Standard grid-connected systems do not require back-up storage. However, the household will lose power if there is a power outage on the grid. This is because the grid-connected inverter cuts out for safety reasons (so powerline workers are not at risk of electrocution). If continuity of supply is critical for the household, a system can be specially designed using a grid-forming inverter and batteries for an uninterruptible power supply. However, this adds to the cost of the system and may not be possible at all locations.

A diagram shows the solar panels connect to the grid via a grid interactive inverter.

Solar PV systems can be connected to the grid for 2-way flow of electricity


Stand-alone systems

A stand-alone system is completely responsible for supplying all the energy requirements of a household, with no access to the main electricity grid. The most common components of a stand-alone solar system are:

  • solar panels
  • inverter to convert the panels’ DC electricity to AC (DC stand-alone systems exist but are less common)
  • second inverter-charger to convert the AC electricity back to DC for storing in batteries, and to establish a stable 50Hz for the AC supply (alternatively, a hybrid inverter can perform both roles)
  • battery
  • controller to manage battery charging and discharging (usually included with the battery)
  • back-up generator (usually petrol or diesel fuelled) used when the batteries are fully discharged and solar generation is at or near zero, or to charge the batteries.

Design your stand-alone power system to meet your annual and seasonal household power needs, taking account of local annual climate conditions. Excess solar electricity is stored in batteries for use when the renewable source is not available. Ensure the battery bank capacity is sufficient to get you through most days of the year, with relatively minimal requirement for back-up generation. It is a good idea to get professional advice from suitably qualified persons when designing your system.

If installing a back-up generator, make sure it is in a separate room or enclosure if possible. If it must be in the same room as the rest of the system, locate it as far away as possible from other components and cover it with an enclosure ventilated to the outside. This helps stop overheating and the build-up of exhaust fumes, as well as reducing fire risks from fuel leaks. Allow sufficient space around the generator for maintenance. Keep generator fuel in an approved container in a safe location.

Choosing and using a photovoltaic system

Take the time to consider a few things before purchasing a solar PV system, to ensure you are getting what you pay for and selecting the system that is right for you.

The quality of systems offered on the market varies enormously. You are more likely to end up with an efficient, long-lasting system if you choose a system:

  • that is from recognised manufacturers
  • has good warranty coverage
  • is on the list of Clean Energy Council approved modules, and
  • is installed by an accredited installer with proven experience.

If the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is – visit Scamwatch for advice on avoiding solar scammers and how to assess offers. Refer to References and additional reading for more information.

Size and output considerations

One of the most important considerations when deciding on a photovoltaic system for your home is what size system you should have. The SunSPOT solar and battery calculator can help you estimate what size system you need, the cost and how much you could save as a result.  


The size of a solar PV system is measured in kilowatts (kW). The amount of energy generated over time is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Most homes will be best suited to a 3 to 5 kW system (1kW of solar panels produces around 4kWh of electricity per day, and a typical home uses 15 to 20 kWh per day). Commercial and industrial installations are generally rated at 10 to 100kW.

There are various factors to consider, including:

  • your expectations – are you expecting to save money on your electricity bills, or offset all your grid electricity usage?
  • how much energy you use and when you use it – is your household large or small? Are you at home during the day or only in the evening? Do you anticipate increasing your electricity consumption in the future?
  • location – how much sunlight can you expect in your region and on the roof of your home?
  • physical space – how much roof space is available for panels?
  • project budget – how much do you have to invest and what payback period do you expect?

There are various solar calculators available, such as the solar and battery storage sizing and payback calculator from Solar Choice. You should also find out if your choice can be upgraded as technology improves, and if you can add batteries or more panels over time.

The best way to understand the options available and the best choice for your household is to obtain professional advice from an installer. It is best to obtain multiple quotes to find an installer offering the kinds of products and advice you prefer. The installer will analyse your solar resource, energy bills, consumption profile, and energy tariffs (and potentially require you to change to a different tariff) that may be favourable and available in your area. Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand the economic and reliability implications of any decisions you need to make.


The size of PV panels is often described as ‘kilowatt peak’ (kWp). This means the theoretical maximum output of the panels. The actual output of a system will vary depending on its location, siting and installation, and how much energy is lost in system operation.

The output power for solar PV can be described in monthly, seasonal or annual output figures. These are often based on ‘monthly peak sun hours’, which is defined as the number of hours in a month for your location in which an hour of sunlight provides 1000 watts of PV power per square metre. The amount of usable energy from the system will be lower than the output of the modules themselves because of energy losses in system components.

The Clean Energy Council has estimated the average energy output for solar PV systems in various Australian locations.

Average daily energy production of different sized PV systems in major Australian cities


1.0kW system

1.5kW system

2.0kW system

3.0kW system

4.0kW system







Alice Springs






















































Source: PV-GC spreadsheet based on Clean Energy Council GC Design Guidelines (2011).
Note: The rated output is that achieved in perfect laboratory conditions. The CEC design summary software takes these ratings into account when predicting average output for any given system.

In stand-alone systems with storage, the battery should be located as close as possible to the PV array to minimise power loss. The system designer determines the size of the cable to minimise power loss between modules and batteries. If the panels must be mounted some distance from batteries, they can be wired in series to allow higher voltage and lower current, thus reducing losses. An electronic device called a ‘special charge controller’ or ‘MPPT charge controller’ can optimise the DC–AC voltage conversion.

For grid-connected systems, the rated output of the inverter you install also affects the power delivered from your solar array. You can match the inverter size to the size of the PV system you want to install. However, if you plan to expand the solar array in the future or there is large variation in the expected solar resource, you may consider installing a larger inverter so you do not have to buy a bigger inverter at a later date.

Financial considerations

A solar PV system is an investment, and there are various financial considerations that need to be taken into account when deciding if such a system is right for you. Payback periods for solar PV systems depend on various factors, but are generally between 4 and 8 years for most Australian homes.

There will be upfront costs in buying any system and the cost of solar PV systems is continuing to decline. In addition, upfront costs may be offset by incentives and rebates offered by Australian and some state and territory governments. Financial incentives such as small-scale technology certificates (STCs), under the Australian Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (for systems smaller than 100kW), can reduce the upfront cost of eligible systems, and are usually built into the retail price. The benefit from STCs will reduce each year until the scheme finishes in 2030.

The upfront costs are also mitigated by your reduced energy costs (for both grid-connected and stand-alone systems), and the income you might derive from feed-in tariffs (for grid-connected systems).

Feed-in tariffs are the amount you get paid for exporting solar energy, which you do not use in your home and feed back into the grid. It is important to check with your electricity network operator whether you can connect your PV system to the grid. Without this, you will not be able to earn revenue from the energy you do not use. The grid currently has limits to the amount of PV systems it can connect without upgrading the grid equipment (and charging that upgrade cost to its customers). Some network operators may include additional conditions to grid connection, which may increase the installation costs of the system or reduce its operating revenue.

Feed-in tariffs vary across Australia, but are usually less than the retail cost of electricity and less than the cost of energy from your PV system, when lifetime costs are considered. Therefore, to ensure you get the greatest financial benefits of cheaper solar energy, it is usually best to consume your solar energy at the time it is being generated. This does not imply you should use more energy, rather you should change how and when you use electricity (for example, setting appliances like pool pumps or washing machines, to operate during sunlight hours).

Some state and territory governments offer additional incentives such as subsidies, interest-free loans, or higher feed-in tariffs, to improve the financial return even more. Retailers also sometimes offer different deals for homes with PV, including on-bill financing for the system itself. Some of these deals may offer better returns for generating at different times of the day.

Certain incentives are only paid if systems are installed to Australian standards and by industry accredited installers. Accredited installers and approved solar retailers can be found on the Clean Energy Council website.

Another option, if you do not wish to buy a system, is to lease one. Some retailers will install your system and then allow you to pay it off with a monthly payment. This will still save you money on your power bill, but not as much as if you paid for the system upfront. The Choice website has more information and analysis on leasing a solar PV system. Refer to References and additional reading for more information.

Siting and installation

The siting and installation of your system can have a significant impact on its efficiency.

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) provides a list of the relevant Australian standards that may apply to your solar installation. For example, if you live in a climate zone that experiences extreme weather events such as cyclones, your installer should consider how your panels will be attached to the roof safely so they do not blow off and cause damage during a wind event. Your installer should also consider the weight limit of your roof to avoid roof damage or collapse.  

Panel orientation

Solar modules produce most power when they are pointed directly at the sun. They should be installed so that they receive maximum sunlight. As a general rule for the southern hemisphere, install the solar modules to face north (towards the equator) to produce the most energy across the year. You may also consider facing some panels north-east/east or north-west/west to generate more electricity in the morning or afternoon, when your electricity demand is likely to be higher. An installer will be able to advise you on the best approach for your roof.

Tilt angle

Tilt angle (also called plane inclination or altitude) is the angle of elevation from the horizontal plane.

For grid-connected systems where you want to maximise your income from feed-in tariffs, you can increase your annual production by tilting your system to the location’s latitude. Ideally, the tilt angle should be within 10° of the site’s latitude, to maximise the amount of energy produced annually.

If you typically use more energy during peak times and want to reduce the impact of time-of-use electricity prices, then facing your array north-north-west and installing it with a greater tilt angle may be best. This is likely to generate more energy during peak times and offset peak energy use, but may reduce your total annual energy production. Your installer should be able to help you to assess whether this trade-off is a good idea.

For stand-alone systems, fairly consistent energy supply throughout the year is best: the tilt angle should be the site’s latitude plus 15°. This can be adjusted depending on your region and energy needs. If the main electrical loads are in the winter months when the solar resource is reduced, make the array’s tilt angle more vertical to maximise exposure to the low winter sun. If the site has major cooling and refrigeration loads, reduce the tilt angle (approximately -10° latitude ) to maximise output during summer when those loads are greater for longer.

Two diagrams show the ideal angles for mounting solar panels on a north-facing roof in winter and summer.

The most appropriate solar panel angle of latitude depends on whether you use more energy in summer or in winter


Shading and ventilation

Continued partial shading can damage the module itself. The effect of shading should particularly be considered when installing crystalline PV modules. Shading can impact more than just the cell that is shaded, because the cells in the module are connected in circuits. Sometimes shading can reduce the voltage of the entire string of modules if they are arranged in parallel. If shading is an issue, strings should have their own independent inputs.

A diagram shows the different solar cell arrangements including module, string and array.

Series or parallel configurations



The quoted output of a solar module is based on the module being exposed to full sunlight. Therefore, solar arrays should not be located near trees or other structures that shade the modules.

Bypass diodes will prevent one shaded panel affecting the whole string. Bypass diodes allow current to flow through them when cells are shaded, minimising the possibility of cell damage and allowing much of the unshaded portion of the module to continue to produce power. Inside crystalline modules, the bypass diodes are fitted across groups of cells. For thin film modules, the bypass diodes are an inherent part of the cell from manufacture, not a separate component.

Bypass diodes are housed in a junction box. Modules used in grid-connected systems have a junction box on the back with flying leads that allow modules to be connected together. These form strings of modules in the array.

A diagram of a photovoltaic electronics box.

The junction box sits on the back of the solar module


Ventilation is also a consideration. Crystalline modules can suffer at high temperatures or very sunny locations with intense solar irradiation (for example in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory). Monocrystalline modules have a slightly higher tolerance for heat. The standard test temperature for output of crystalline PV modules is 25°C, however the output power can reduce by up to 0.44% for each additional degree of heat. Heat can be mitigated by good ventilation at the back of modules to expose the panels to cool air.

Mounting arrays

Modules can be installed on the ground, on a wall or roof with a frame mount, or integrated into the building fabric.

Array frames can be fixed, adjustable or tracking. Array frames must be designed so that their installation meets the Australian wind loading standard AS/NZS1170.2:2011 Structural design actions — wind actions. Your installer should check the ability of your roof structure to withstand the structural wind loading arising from the PV installation for your specific location. It may be necessary to have the installation redesigned to suit your roof, or alternatively, to modify your roof to accommodate the installation.

Most household PV systems with frames are fixed at the optimum tilt angle, which depends on the location, type of load, and available solar input. The system designer selects the right frame for your system and will adjust the angle to your preference.

Adjustable frames allow the tilt angle to be varied manually to maximise output throughout the year. This type of framing is generally used for stand-alone systems that are installed on the ground, although many stand-alone systems also have fixed frames. Unless there is some guarantee that the tilt angle will be regularly varied for the life of the system (rather than the first few years of operation while the owner is still motivated), it is best to fix the array at the optimum angle.

Tracking array frames follow the sun’s path across the sky throughout the day and year. Frames can track on a single or a dual axis. They are controlled either by an electric motor or a compressed gas fluid in the frame that uses the heat of the sun to move the gas around the tracker’s frame as it follows the sun. Trackers are more expensive than fixed or adjustable array frames, but they provide more energy throughout the day. They are most beneficial at higher latitudes where the available solar energy is lower. Tracking arrays require maintenance and this may reduce system reliability.

If the array frame and module frame are made from galvanically different metals in contact with each other, the 2 metallic components will corrode. They must be separated by an isolating material to prevent electrochemical corrosion. This also applies when installing the modules and mounting structure on a metal roof.

A solar installer on a tiled roof works to install a solar PV system.

Fixing a solar PV system on a tiled roof

Photo: Caitlin McGee


When your new system is installed, you will be provided with warranty paperwork. This should include contact details for service and support. If something goes wrong, then your first contact should be the company who sold you the system.

Choosing an installer

The design and installation of solar PV systems requires a suitably qualified professional. The Clean Energy Council register lists accredited designers and installers who can ensure that systems comply with the appropriate Australian Standards.

The Clean Energy Council accredits and lists approved solar retailers – solar suppliers who are signatories to an industry Code of Conduct that governs their sales and marketing practices, reviews their financial history, and requires minimum whole of system warranties.

Under Australian Consumer Law the business who sells the product is bound by automatic guarantees irrespective of any warranties offered as part of the sale, and the consumer can claim relevant remedies from that business rather than other parties (for example, manufacturers).

Panel warranty

Most panel warranties have 2 parts: a construction/materials warranty and a power output or performance warranty.

The construction/materials warranty covers the actual manufacturing quality of the panel and warrants the panels to be free of manufacturing and materials defects for a given time. For most panels this is between 10 and 15 years; however, some manufacturers now provide manufacturing warranties up to 25 years.

The performance warranty covers the actual energy generated by the panel over time and is given in the form of a percentage after a certain number of years. This percentage reduces slightly each year, in line with the degradation rate of the panel. In Australia, industry standard is to provide a performance warranty of 25 years – specifically, that their capacity should not degrade lower than 80% of the performance when the panels were first installed. Solar panels have no internal moving parts and are generally quite reliable with little to no maintenance.

Under Australian Consumer Law, importers are responsible for manufacturers’ warranties, so it is important to know who your importer is because sending the panels back to the country of manufacture would be impractical.

Some manufacturers provide prepaid insurance when you purchase the system at no extra cost, which ensures the warranty will be honoured, even if the manufacturer goes out of business. Others provide comprehensive insurance, at an extra cost, which covers almost everything from theft to failure for a period of a few years. Read the fine print on all insurance policies, including excesses. If you suspect there is an issue with the panels, contact your installer to find out more about the problem before taking further action.

Inverter warranty

Your inverter lifespan will vary, depending on factors including ambient temperature, mains grid voltage and mains power quality. Repeated and large electrical spikes, caused by large loads like electric motors, can eventually cause damage to even the best equipment. Other factors that can affect lifespan are dust, heat, ventilation and pests such as mice or ants, so keep your inverter clean. A 5-year warranty is suggested at a minimum but 10 years will likely match its lifespan.

Installation warranty

The installation or workmanship warranty is the responsibility of the system installer and covers their workmanship, as opposed to the panels or inverters within the system.

Your installer or solar retailer should also help with any manufacturer warranties should a fault occur with a major system component.

System maintenance

Solar PV systems need to be looked after. As well as helping system performance, regular checks and maintenance mean the system is safe for everyone at home as well any electrical workers on the distribution network.

Your solar retailer or installer will provide a maintenance schedule for your system. The detail will vary but here are some standard recommendations for solar PV systems.

Cleaning and shading

Check your solar panels regularly for any obvious debris such as leaves or bird droppings that might affect performance. Anything that covers even a tiny part of a panel can reduce output. Loose things can be brushed away with a long-handled broom.

Also keep an eye out for shading issues as the sun moves throughout the year, or for overgrown trees that need a trim.

Solar panels can tolerate moderate amounts of grime without losing too much generation. If your solar panels are mounted at a slope of more than about 10 degrees, then most dirt and grime should wash off naturally when it rains. A bit of dust and grime on the surface of the panels is normal, and cleaning the panels more than once a year is probably not worth the cost or the risk.

Cleaning is recommended if the panels are particularly dirty. Washing solar panels generally involves getting up on your roof, so it is a job best done by a professional with the correct safety equipment. Your installer might offer a cleaning service alongside other checks, or they might recommend someone just for cleaning. There are plenty of specialist solar-panel cleaning companies. Some households schedule this clean once a year, and might combine it with other system checks.

Anyone cleaning your panels should:

  • be appropriately qualified for working at heights
  • use full safety gear, including sun protection, as they will need to get on the roof
  • avoid using harsh soap or chemicals – usually water is enough
  • not stand on, or place anything on top of the solar panels or related electrical gear
  • look out for signs of damage to panels or to wiring
  • look out for any birds or animals nesting underneath your panels
  • not make changes to your system unless fully qualified.

Getting your panels professionally cleaned is a good chance to get a visual inspection as well, for defects such as cracks, chips and discoloration. Any issues or deterioration can be logged, monitored and their effect on the efficiency of the system recorded.

Professional system check

Australian Standard AS/NZS 5033 recommends owners have their PV system and its components inspected regularly and annually, including DC isolators. Your installer might perform these checks, or there are also other businesses that service and support solar PV systems. Check that they have Clean Energy Council solar accreditation.

According to the Clean Energy Regulator, a professional check should cover the following:

  • Check that solar panels are clean, secure and free of defects.
  • Check that no parts have deteriorated or corroded.
  • Check that vents are free of debris.
  • Check that switches do not have any defects.
  • Check that wiring has not deteriorated or been damaged.
  • Run an electrical check to ensure all components are operating as intended.
  • Confirm fittings and cables are securely attached.
  • Review the inverter display panel for recorded faults.
  • Check that access to the isolator switches has not been impeded.
  • Make sure the emergency procedures for shutdown and isolation are clearly displayed.

The professional system check should inspect your inverter to review whether it is operating correctly and that the heat sinks and ventilation grills are clean. Anything that impedes normal air flow through the unit might cause it to overheat in hot weather and reduce the life of the inverter. You can do this maintenance yourself as well, making sure the inverter is free of dirt, dust, spiderwebs and pests. Check that the inverter is running normally by looking for lit error lights, or warning codes on the display.

House with solar panels on roof

Solar panels installed on the roof of a suburban house can capture abundant energy

Photo: Sebastian Mruga

Monitoring or management systems

Installing a monitoring system can give you early warning if your solar PV system is not performing well. Otherwise, you will need to wait until your electricity bill arrives to discover if there is a problem. Sometimes solar PV systems can even be switched off without an owner knowing, which means zero bill offsets.

There are a growing number of products on the market that can help you check your solar PV system’s performance in real time (refer to Connected home for more information). These devices have different approaches and functions, but can generally be classed as either monitoring systems or management systems.

A monitoring system lets an owner ‘see’ what is happening with their electricity, usually via an app or web portal. It can show when your solar PV system is not performing well and sometimes can offer ways to troubleshoot.

A management system lets a user control which devices switch on at what times. Management systems generally need to access your other appliances (for example fridge, washing machine, air-conditioner). The appliances can be turned off and on based on when the sun is shining to get the most out of the solar PV system. This can also be done remotely, and by a third party if you sign up to specific deals with an energy management company.

There are generally 5 types of monitoring and management systems:

  • appliance-level monitors and controllers that sit between the power outlet and the device’s plug (or are embedded directly in the device)
  • ‘floating’ wireless hubs, which work in conjunction with smart plugs and smart appliances
  • switchboard systems that clamp directly to circuits in the home
  • inverter-based systems that are embedded in the solar system itself, sometimes needing extra switchboard switches, interfaces or hubs
  • smart meter-based systems that use the home’s digital meter itself – only available where a smart meter has been installed.

Most of these systems need to access the internet either through wi-fi or mobile phone. Be mindful of security issues when connecting devices to the internet, for example, by following good password practices.

Disposal and recycling

Waste PV panels provide a significant opportunity to recover valuable resources, including glass, silicon and metals that could be recycled and used to manufacture a range of new products, including new more efficient PV panels.

Given its rapid uptake and installation of solar energy, Australia could potentially have one of the largest PV waste streams in the coming years – with possibly at least 100,000 tonnes of PV panels entering the waste stream by 2035 (refer to Sustainability Victoria for more information). These estimates may be conservative because they assume an average PV panel lifespan of 20 years, and the actual lifespan may be shorter if consumers and industry upgrade before panels reach their end of their life. Incentives to upgrade include improvements in panel efficiencies, significant reductions in purchase costs and the availability of PV integrated with energy storage systems.

Recycling services for panels and panel materials are not widely available in Australia, but continue to develop as more used panels enter the waste stream. There are a small number of recyclers and e-waste collectors that will accept PV panels, usually for a fee. These recyclers recover the aluminium frames and glass, and the inverters are recycled through e-waste recycling pathways. Businesses that focus on PV panel waste are also emerging, which offer pick-up and decommissioning services. It is expected that these activities will be expanded as the Australian and state and territory governments are working together to encourage the development of product stewardship schemes for PV panels. Refer to References and additional reading for more information. This will drive investment in new infrastructure for better waste management and recycling. When purchasing panels, ask the supplier if they are involved in a recycling program.

References and additional reading

Learn more

  • Review the Energy section for tips on reducing electricity demand and helping you make the most of your PV system.
  • Explore Batteries for ideas on integrating your PV system with battery storage.
  • Read Connected home for more information on metering and energy management.


Principal author: Dani Alexander 2020

Contributing authors: Joseph Wyndham and Nick Florin 2020

Previous authors: Geoff Stapleton, Susan Neill, Geoff Milne, Chris Reardon and Chris Riedy 2013

Updated: Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water 2023