Are you considering powering your home with PV panels? If your answer is yes, you might have to consider upgrading your switchboard and meter. Circuit breakers or fuses are housed in switchboards. This is usually placed either in the same frame where the electricity meters are located or separately placed. You can spot the switchboard somewhere near the entrance of the house. You must have a PV-compatible switchboard to install solar panels.
The new houses constructed in Australia usually have a compatible switchboard. To install PV two spare spaces should be available in the switchboard for solar breakers. The switchboard with spare space is termed a compatible switchboard.
The second type of switchboard is that it can be converted into a solar-ready switchboard with a minor up-gradation. In this case, the switchboard must be full, but you can add an additional housing slot.
The third category of the switchboard needs a major up-gradation. If the fuses are used in the witch board, such board is incompatible. Moreover, these types of switchboards won’t give effective circuit protection.
Like switchboards, the meter also matters while installing PV panels. Different types of meters are available; broadly they can be divided into three categories. Firstly, an accumulation meter helps you to track the total electricity usage regardless of when you use it. Secondly, interval meter that gives you the usage of electricity every 30 minutes. These are electronic meters, programmed to show the date and time as well as total Kilowatt hours.
The third one is a smart meter. Both interval meter and smart meter record the imports from and exports to the state’s electricity grid on a half-hourly basis. Then, what makes smart meters different? The major difference is that it can be monitored at a remote location which removes the need for ‘estimated’ meter reads. A smart meter or advanced meter is the standard metering for solar installation. The smart meter is equipped to handle two-way energy flows; so that the customers can access the feed-in tariff.
Unfeasible or older style switchboards
The older style switchboard may create difficulties while installing solar panels. These switchboards may pose problems to implement Meter Control as additional space, wiring and components will need to be fitted. Usually, it may end up in additional upgrades to current standards once work has commenced.
Switch Board up-gradation cost in Australia
In order to install a grid-connected solar system, either you will need a compatible switchboard or an up-gradation to the existing switchboard. The following chart will help you to get an estimate of the up-gradation cost in Australia.
Switchboard up-gradation cost in Australia
|State||Approx Cost (minor upgrade)||Approx Cost (major upgrade)|
Meter up-gradation cost in Australia
|QLD||$50 single phase – $200 three phase|
|SA||$325 single phase – $695 three phase|
Advanced (Smart) Meter in Western Australia
Advanced meters or smart meters are radio frequency-enabled with s Network Interface Cards (NICs). The unique feature of this meter is that instead of being read manually, the meters will automatically communicate electricity meter information. It is an innovative and novel way to monitor your energy usage. There are certain features that help you to where you could receive an alert if your electricity use looks higher than usual. Time of use tariffs and an early warning fault system are some of the other features included in this smart meter. Smart or advanced metering has been used across Australia.
Western Australia now prefers to install smart meters during the new solar installations. The government is also supporting greatly to the deployment of smart meters. Smart meters are in use in the areas like Perth metropolitan and the regional centres of Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie. PV magazine reported in 2019, the plan to install a total of 238,000 advanced meters in Western Australia. The magazine further reported that “Advanced meters will also enhance the utility’s ability to detect safety issues on its network, such as neutral faults, while enabling WA homes and businesses to have greater visibility and control of their energy use, including managing rooftop solar electricity systems and batteries via new retail products and services”. In short, the deployment of smart meters is an important step in unlocking future energy opportunities for WA households.