Recent changes to several important standards used by solar installers means it has never been more important to be up to date, writes Robbie Nichols, the Clean Energy Council’s senior technical services and standards advisor.

Quite often we only think of the tools of our solar trade as being reliable pliers, screwdrivers and the ever-important battery impact driver. But while this equipment is used on a daily basis, one of the most important sets of tools an installer can have is access to the latest Australian Standards that relate to the day-to-day work we do.

This can be in the form of old-fashioned hard copies (as seen above) or as PDF files stored on your mobile devices. If you ask me, both options have their place.

For example, if you want to tab and highlight important or unusual clauses, hard copies are great, but for ease of searching for a clause or term, PDFs have it.

We often get installers calling or emailing the Clean Energy Council with questions that relate to standards. When we ask them, “Do you have a copy of the standard?” they often say, “No, they’re too expensive,” or “No, I just ask somebody on social media.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for peer-to-peer and industry support, however when it comes to meeting your obligations, you need to be able to know how to look up information and justify why you have installed something a particular way because you are the one who will be signing off to say you have complied with standards.

Having Australian Standards in PDF form on a tablet device can be convenient when onsite. Photo: Shutterstock.

With the ever-increasing compliance focus on our industry, we all need to stay in touch with what is happening in the world of standards. When you consider that most standards don’t change much during five to 10 years – and if they do, the amendments are free – the initial outlay paid for these documents compared to their lifespan may not seem so bad.

In a perfect world, we would all have free access to the standards we need, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Correct inverter settings crucial for compliance

There have been significant changes to some standards during the past few years, including major rewrites of AS/NZS 3000, AS/NZS 5033, AS NZS 4777.2 (manufacture standard), AS/NZS 1170.2 and even the new standard, AS/NZS 5139.

One of the key non-compliance issues identified most recently is the incorrect settings of inverters for connection to the grid. This has been reported as a major issue right across Australia, and state and territory regulators along with the distributed network service providers (DNSP) and the Australian Energy Market Operator are very concerned about it.

It is very important for us to do the right thing when setting and commissioning systems. This will essentially allow for more systems to connect to the grid and to stay connected through some of the voltage and frequency disturbances that can occur across the networks.

The publication of AS/NZS 4777.2 makes it easier for installers to comply using specific regional settings. The table on the left provides a list of the default power quality settings required when installing a solar system for each DNSP around Australia.

Inverters compliant with AS/NZS 4777.2:2020 will have region settings for Australia A, B and C available for installers to select from during commissioning. Selecting from Australia A, B or C will then load all the corresponding region setpoints for power quality response modes and grid protection settings onto the inverter.

Take note of major changes to important standard

The most recent standard to be published is AS/NZS 5033:2021, Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays. This standard became mandatory in NSW on the date it was published (19 November, 2021). For all other states and territories, the 2014 version (including amendments) or the 2021 version could be used in full up to 18 May, 2022.

From 19 May, 2022, the 2021 version is mandatory across Australia, and the 2014 version can no longer be used.

The 2021 version of AS/NZS 5033:2021 has undergone a major rewrite, with some of the most significant changes in the standard including:

  • Rooftop isolator requirements.
  • DC cable routing and installation requirements.
  • Increase in maximum PV array voltage for residential systems.
  • Earthing requirements.
  • Changes to DC optimiser and microinverter requirements.
  • Updated testing and verification requirements.

These are only some of the changes in the standard so you will need to obtain a copy of it to assess all new requirements.

The Clean Energy Council’s Technical Services Team has created additional resources, including advice documents and a continuous professional development course to assist accredited installers. We will also continue to work with industry bodies to provide guidance relating to the requirements of AS/NZS 5033:2021 as it rolls out across Australia.