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The Accusation

Again today I got a phone call from a customer asking if it was true that Energex are really trying a last ditch effort to kill off solar by limiting the size of domestic solar inverters to 3.5kW. The short answer is no* – if you are one of the lucky ten per cent of Queenslanders who live in the South East. However, unscrupulous solar sales companies have once again been hitting the Brisbane solar market warning that “Energex are about to kill off 5kW solar systems”. These lying, thieving Gypsies are “pressuring selling” customers into committing to solar before September 1. Excuse me – I obviously needed to vent.

Not Guilty – but*… The 3.5kW limitation myth seems to be based on two misconstrued facts.

Ergon

Firstly, outside of the glorious southeast, the remaining 90 percent of Queensland are under the electricity distributor Ergon. Ergon’s electrical network covers a vast, mainly rural area, and, as a result, their infrastructure is not nearly as robust as Energex’s. Ergon’s grid is just not coping with the strain that large solar systems are putting on their network. As a result, on the 1st of July 2015 Ergon introduced a limitation of 3.5kW for residential solar systems.

Power Factor

Secondly, on the 1st of October, Energex are introducing mandatory 0.9 power factor correction on systems over 3kW. This will only impact on the peak output of a solar system. The two scenarios that will be most affected are:

  • A 5kW inverter with 6.5kW of panels all facing north.
  • Micro-Inverter installations.

The point of this “power-factor correction” is not so much about the grid saturation crisis that Ergon is facing. It’s more about leveling the playing field for Energex so that we produce power with a similar power factor to what our appliances consume. It will also help protect Energex’s grid in peak solar production times.

Grid Saturation

In Energex’s area, – thanks to the much dissed “gold plating” of the grid – we are not yet at the point of saturation. As of July 2015, Energex has around 290 000 customers with solar connected. They estimate that there are over 900,000 homes suitable for PV systems, and they acknowledge the market is far from being saturated. In this document Energex solar PV connections forecast July 2015, they explain “Energex has placed a constraint on the model which limits the size of residential connections to 5kW by the year 2020 – after which they remain at an average size of 5kW for new systems.”

*With the coming power factor changes, it is a good time to look into solar. If you are going to go solar, – but not just now –  get an electrical contractor (like us) to put in a “no obligation” application to Energex before September 30. But no pressure, solar will still be viable post-September 30.

Contact MC Electrical

Mark,

MC Solar & Electrical – 07 3268 3836.

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Patrick
Guest

Hi Mark, I note the most recent Energex/Ergon standard for Micro Embedded Generating Units (0 – <=30 kVA) lists two means of complying with the power factor requirements. Instead of a fixed 0.9 (lagging) power factor, there is a voltage-dependent power factor that can be used (varies between 0.95 leading and 0.9 lagging). See page 11 of: https://www.energex.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/340603/STD01143-EE-EX-Connection-Standard-for-Micro-EG-Units-V3.0-2.pdf I understand the Fronius is capable of supporting this variable power factor. How recent is this new method of compliance, and is this now the standard for new installations? Cheers.

Patrick
Guest
Thanks for the reply, Mark. If it helps, I found these documents on the configuration of voltage-dependent power factors: – http://www.fronius.com/cps/rde/xbcr/SID-CAF67668-39653CEE/fronius_australia/Quick_Guide___Reactive_Power_settings_in_dependence_of_the_grid_voltage_according_to_ASNZS_4777.2.2015_1171326_snapshot.pdf – https://www.fronius.com/cps/rde/xbcr/SID-0BEF0E9E-431DDA43/fronius_deutschland/42_0410_2015_358334_snapshot.pdf (Fronius Service Menus, see p. 63, p.76). Apparently this occurs by setting the React. P Mode to “Q/U” and configuring the Energex’s reactive power/voltage function as a four points, between which linear interpolation occurs. As I understand it, these settings are a win for the customer, as they allow a 5kVA inverter to deliver its full rated capacity (up to 5 kW), where the grid voltage allows. They are also a win for the distribution company, as… Read more »
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