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Beginners Guide to Solar Power

This page covers solar basics:

  • What is solar power
  • What are the benefits of solar power
  • The different types of solar power systems
  • How solar power systems work
  • Solar power systems; are they a worthwhile investment
  • Purchasing a solar power system; where to start

Solar Power, What Is It?

solar power new zealand graphic

Solar power is a form of electricity, created from solar panels via the photovoltaic process. Simply said, solar power is a product of sunlight, and solar panel systems transform sunlight into a source of usable energy. A solar power system is capable of powering an entire house or business.

A solar power system should not be confused with a solar hot water system. A solar hot water system uses sunlight to heat up hot water.

A solar power system doesn't emit any greenhouse gases whilst functioning, it's 100% renewable energy.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels consist of an aluminium frame, anti-reflective glass and individual silicon cells that are linked together. The silicon cells are made of multiple wafer-thin layers - silicon crystals are the main material of each layer, with semiconductive material added to each layer. The top layer has a negative charge, whilst the bottom layer has a positive charge.

When sunlight reaches the solar panels, the solar cells transform the light into electricity. The sunlight excites electrons in the solar cells, which creates a flow and the creation of an electrical current. Learn more or watch the video below.

What Are The Different Types Of Solar Power Systems?

grid connected solar power system graphic
Grid-connected Solar Power: The most common type of solar power system, and a cost-effective way to drastically reduce your power bill. With this type of system, solar power is either sent to appliances that are in use, or sent to the grid (and sold to your energy retailer). A grid-connected solar power system is comprised of solar panels, an inverter and connection components (no battery storage). Learn more here>

grid connected solar power system with solar batteries graphic

Grid Connected Solar With Battery Storage: Also known as solar hybrid systems. These systems are similar to grid-connected systems but have solar batteries for power storage. The battery storage enables more solar power to be used in the home and for power to be used during the night. The battery reduces the amount of power being exported to the grid, which is a good thing - most energy retailers pay small amounts for exported solar power. Certain battery configurations can provide power in outages or blackouts. The system is still connected to the lines which allows power to be drawn from the grid when required. Learn more here>

Off-grid Solar Power System: An off-grid system is fully independent from the grid. The system relies on solar panels and batteries alone. This particular system is popular with rural solar power customers, or for those who aim to be 100% self-sufficient. Learn more here>

How Much Does A Solar Power System Cost?



Installed, solar power system prices start from $6,500 inc GST. There are variables such as roof materials, roof angles, system sizes and additional features that determine the price of a system.

The most common type of solar power system in New Zealand is the 3kW system. Commonly installed on a corrugated iron roof, the cost comes in at around $9,000 inc GST, installed.

If adding a battery to a grid-connected system, a 4kWh battery unit installed will be priced at around $8,000 inc GST. Learn more about solar power prices>

How Does A Solar Power System Work?

how a solar power system works

  1. When the sun is shining, solar panels produce DC power. DC power runs along solar cables through to an inverter, which then converts DC power into usable AC power.
  2. The AC power then goes through the switchboard and is sent to any appliance that is in use at the time. 
  3. If there is excess solar power and batteries are installed, solar power will be stored. With a regular grid-connected system, solar power will be sent to the grid, in exchange for credit from an electricity retailer to the homeowner.

Is Solar Power A Good Investment?

solar power investment

A grid-connect solar power system is a great investment, typically earning a return on investment from 8% to 12% ROI. Your return on investment is likely to increase each year as the price of power from the grid continues to rise.

Including batteries can be expensive. However, it is a worthwhile investment for New Zealanders living in areas where power is costly, or for those who wish to live off-grid and enjoy energy independence and the safety it affords. Learn more about solar as an investment>

Where To Start If You Want To Buy A Solar Power System?

If you would like to find out if solar power is worthwhile, and discover ways to optimise a solar power system you can start by using the SEANZ solar calculator.

We've touched on the basics - thirsty for more information on solar power? We highly recommend the following pages:

If you are ready to go solar and live in any area of New Zealand, use My Solar Quotes. It's the easy and free online quote request form trusted by thousands of kiwi solar consumers. We will get 3 reputable companies to provide prices for any solar power system that meets your requirements. Proudly NZ owned and operated since 2012.