GoodWe Australia operations and service manager Mike Zhang talks with EcoGeneration about the outlook for residential solar and the benefits of getting the best fit for storage.
The residential solar PV market in Australia has slowed since the peak in 2011 and 2012. What is your outlook for the future?
Thanks to the rising awareness from Australian people and communities on embracing clean energy, we believe the residential market is still growing; nevertheless, growth is not as high as in 2011 and 2012. From GoodWe’s perspective, we think the current market is even better than before as it becomes more rational. Without the huge government feed-in tariff incentive, people are starting to consider solar installation more carefully, rather than the “rush installation age” from the last few years. Now people can make a more informed decision after comparing different products on the market.
I am glad to see such a trend leading the whole solar industry to a healthier and more sustainable development model. We have seen that commercial and utility-scale systems are increasing over time, which means it’s not easy for the residential market to return to its golden age. However, it is still the major market we focus on and we will continue contributing to the solar industry. Our increasing sales of small residential products proves that. Meanwhile, it is not wise to ignore the impact caused by the rising cost of electricity.
What is the best way to make the benefits of storage clear to consumers?
Actually, that is what we have been doing. We give our consumers a detailed estimation on their load profile for general use at the beginning. This load profile is able to cover consumer’s power usage on a yearly basis.
Usually consumers use their electricity bill as the sole reference for estimation. In our professional view it does not work precisely as it does not contain key information such as the actual electricity usage data. And what is worse, the power suppliers do not reveal such information on the bills until you approach them to do so, which makes long processing delays.
To help our consumers have better understanding of storage products, we have developed a new monitor system which can record at the energy meter and report to our database regularly. Besides that, we have launched a new product enabling our consumers to monitor usage load on a minute-by-minute level and view the load curve on our web portal. Based on this detailed data, our consumers and retailers are confident about choosing the best option on solar panels and the size of batteries that suit their needs best.
What work are you doing to help installers understand storage?
Nowadays installers are increasingly becoming interested in storage systems and are eager to learn more about this new technology. We provide ongoing professional training for our installers nationwide to ensure we always deliver quality products and services to our end users, particularly with the present market trend shifting from normal grid-tied to storage. We provide our comprehensive installation guide to all installers on our database.
GoodWe offers regular training sessions (CEC accredited points) to installers on product design, installation and commissioning across Australia. In order to give them a better picture about our products, we offer practical opportunities for installers to commission GoodWe products. Our scheduled training provides up-to-date knowledge to assist installers to set up the storage system from the beginning until the end without any hassles and we update them with the latest system upgrades in hardware and software. They get a clear understanding on how the whole system works and are able to answer various questions from consumers in relation to the system maintenance.
What benefits of solar PV are sometimes overlooked by system owners? How could they get the most out of systems?
A PV system is a reliable investment. If the electricity prices keep rising as reported, and total system equipment and installation costs keep dropping, the payback time for investing in a solar system will be sharply reduced. To these customers who have solar systems for a few years and have the high feed-in tariff incentive, they can just pay a very limited amount to upgrade their solar system to include storage, thus saving more money on electricity bills.
How can an owner know if the installed system is operating properly?
We note that most inverters come with different ways of monitoring. To record the accurate data and performance on a day-to-day basis, we always recommend customers to connect inverters to their home ethernet or wifi. Such connection will enable consumers to monitor their system online through our apps and website portals. In the event that they find some unknown problem and need our assistance, our technical support engineers can access their database and get it rectified. By this way we work with our customers to ensure they are making the most of their solar assets.
Do users understand energy management systems?
It is not a novel topic. Energy management systems gain more popularity in the market. We know there are some companies working on such technology now. GoodWe has also invested in developing our own smart device for fulfilling the energy management systems for over two years. Our management device as well as the smartphone app are well-designed to satisfy our customer’s individualised power demand through our integrated solar system.
There are going to be many utility-scale solar projects built this year and next in Australia. What are the challenges to such steep growth?
Finance is always the first challenge in the utility-scale solar projects. From my perspective, ensuring a project’s healthy finance from the start until completion is a big task for the project organizers. Furthermore, although there are plenty of well-trained engineers on residential and commercial levels, skilled engineers with prior experience on the utility scale level are in high demand.
Are you gearing up for a busy few years?
GoodWe is growing. We have been trading in Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and other countries around the globe. We are proud to have become one of the top three quality inverter manufacturers throughout China and offer a full range of products covering single-phase residential market, three-phase commercial market as well as the residential storage market. In the upcoming years, GoodWe will continue introducing more products with new technology. In July we will launch the new retrofit storage solution (S-BP), which is an AC coupling solution for customers with an existing solar system who wish to upgrade to storage.