Having standards and regulators in place ensures consumers receive a product that is fit for purpose and most importantly, is safe to use and be installed on your property.
Are they important? You bet! They reduce the risk of fires and other potential issues caused by weather such as high winds and lightning.
In this FAQ article we are going to look at installer accreditation and Australian standards and what impact they have on consumers. The content here is most applicable to homeowners and residential systems and the purpose is to be informative. If in doubt it is best to talk to to your locally recommended and accredited installer.
FAQ Article Contents
Australian Standards and accreditation programs raise the quality of solar panel products, design, and installation practices. Older solar panels and installations may not meet today’s Australian Standards because they may be damaged, weathered, or due to an upgrade of the standards themselves. Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited installers have a responsibility to inform owners if their installation does not meet current standards.
The role of the Clean Energy Council (CEC)
The CEC is a not-for-profit membership-based organisation. They work to raise quality standards in the solar industry. They do this by managing a list of approved retailers and products, including solar modules. Most of the solar modules that we collect today are not currently listed on the CEC’s approved product list because they do not meet today’s standards. Even some of the manufacturers no longer exist!
The CEC also have an accreditation program for electricians and installers. They currently have over 7,000 accredited installers. To be eligible for government incentives such as Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), installers in Australia must be accredited by the CEC. These installers must adhere to current and relevant standards.
Key Relevant Standards
Here is a list of the key Australian and New Zealand standards that solar installers must refer to. We will not go into detail about the specifics of each standard; however, their topics are highlighted below.
- AS 4509 Stand-alone power systems
- AS/NZS 5033 Installation of photovoltaic (PV) arrays
- AS4086 Secondary batteries for SPS or; AS/NZS 5139:2019 Battery energy storage systems
- AS/NZS 5139:2019 Electrical installations- safety of battery systems for use with power conversion equipment.
Other standards may also be relevant such as wind loads, lightning protection, grid connections of energy systems via inverters and electrical wiring.
Upgrades to Australian Standards
The AS/NZS standards are constantly reviewed and updated, as necessary. Let us look at AS/NZS 5033 as an example.
- AS/NZS 5033 first published in 2005.
- Superseded in 2012 by AS/NZS 5033:2012.
- Superseded again in 2014 by AS/NZS 5033:2014
- Two amendments provided in 2018
- AS/NZS 5033:2014 Amd 1:2018
- AS/NZS 5033:2014 Amd 2:2018
As you can see, because of the above updates it is unlikely that a solar system installed in 2010 will meet current standards as they were updated in 2012, 2014 and two additional amendments made in 2018.
But what does this actually mean? Are the standards that important?
Yes, the standards and accreditation scheme are in place to help ensure solar installations are done correctly and products are safe to use. On a practical level they prevent your new solar panels from blowing off your house and reduce the risk of the installation setting fire to your home!
Let us look at AS/NZS 5033:2014 Amd 2:2018 as an example.
This amendment came into effect from 28th of June 2019. It simplified the process of selecting an isolator (an electrical switch used for load breaking) and takes thermal requirements into consideration.
The amendment outlines, in detail, new isolator product requirements and specifications that need to be met, ensuring they can operate effectively and safely in harsh Australian climates and hot weather. It also introduces a new method for correctly sizing and selecting an isolator depending on the solar system requirements. The amendment is important because it improves solar design and installation practices and reduces the risk of fire.
So how do they affect installations and end of life?
Solar installations may no longer comply with these standards because they become weathered, damaged, or due to an upgrade of the standards themselves. It is the responsibility of all CEC accredited installers to advise the owner of a system if it does not comply with the current standards.
Whether or not a solar installation meets current standards really depends on several factors including when the system was installed, its condition, the quality of the installation and the products used.
For this reason, the owner may decide to decommission the system and replace it with a new one that meets current product, installation, and design standards.
If you are unsure if your system meets today’s standards, it would be best to contact a reputable and CEC accredited installer.