Lightning Solar & Electrical

Solar Export Limiting

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LUKE COVE
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PUTTING THE TRUST BACK INTO SOLAR & HELPING YOU BUILD A BETTER LIFESTYLE

Solar Export Limiting: Why You Should Know About It

As the demand for solar across Australia increases, new rules and limits are set by energy providers, government bodies and installation overseers to ensure everything is kept safe.

This is exactly where the solar export limit comes in. Love it or hate it, the export limit might be your only option for installing solar at your property. Now, if you have been given an export limit try not to stress. There are different options you can take and it’s certainly not the end of the world. 

I’m going to run you through the best options you can take to maximise on a solar export limit. Sometimes it isn’t really as bad as you think. 

However, It is really important to know what you are dealing with here. First of all I’m going to take you back to basics to find out exactly what a solar export is and why you should know about them. 

Now if you are interested in solar but unsure if you are going to require a solar export limit, speak to one of my design engineers who can give you a free energy assessment here.

Table Of Contents

What Is Solar Export Limiting?

Solar export limiting is where your local electricity provider sets a limit on the amount of energy your solar system can export into the grid. Typically, this is around 5KW. You have a set limit on how much energy you can export (‘sell/send back’) to the grid. 

A lot of Australian homes are not allowed to ‘send back’ more than 5KW of their energy to the grid. This may only really affect you at peak times e.g.during the middle of the day when energy consumption is lowest and production is highest. 

So if you are looking for a system that is bigger than 5KW, then you may get hardware installed that limits your solar inverter from over exporting to the grid

The reason why solar export limiting is in place is due to so many homeowners being able to produce their own energy. This means on a very sunny day lots of homes are producing a surplus of excess energy the power will get sent to the grid and electricity lines. 

When too much energy gets sent at one time it results in power surges and issues. There is also a drop in the quality of the electricity as well. Not only this, but some of the power lines are old and it could result in power cuts.

Is solar export limiting good or bad?

We will go into much more detail below but in short, there are arguments for both good and bad. It does mean for some that the feed in tariffs are lost. However, we could argue that feed-in tariffs really don’t matter as much as you think. 

Unless you’re exporting a significant amount of energy to the grid then you’re not really going to make much or take advantage of the feed in tariffs. 

With solar export limiting your excess energy is capped. Any power that cannot get through is usually lost or wasted in the inverter (usually through heat). However, like I mentioned above… There are a few ways to get around this. 

Let’s run through the positive and negative impacts of solar export limiting.

solar export limiting restricts you from exporting power to the grid

The Negative Impacts Of Solar Export Limits

Reports False Data

Severely impact the data from your solar system so you are unable to see if your system is performing or underperforming. All the data will ever show is your cap at 5KW

If your system is capable of producing more than this, you will never know… It would also be hard to see if there are any issues with the system at peak performance as well. 

One way to look at it is like a car. You are capped at going 50kms, therefore you never know the true potential of what the car (your system) can reach. It might be that you are able to produce a whole lot more energy than you think. 


This is probably the biggest issue for me. However, the only plus side is this only occurs when you begin to export. So, if you self consume all of your energy and don’t let it get to this point you can really maximise your savings.

Lose/Waste Energy

If your system produces more than 5KW but has an export limit, then energy is going to get lost or wasted. What’s more, it’s impossible to find out the amount of energy you are losing each day. It could be something really small or it could be a huge amount that’s wasted. 

Without having knowledge or data, it’s hard to say really how much energy is being lost. Of course, if it’s a great amount surely you would want to put that energy into storage for use at a later date. 

Again, even systems such as SolarEdge panel optimisers or monitoring can’t overcome this issue. The same applies for Enphase full visibility micro inverters

May have an export limit of 0

It could turn out that your home may even be excluded from exporting excess energy to the grid. If this happens, you are allowed to install a solar system to your home but won’t receive any feed-in tariff at all. 

Any energy that you export will get lost or wasted immediately. For anyone who has a 0 export limit, please keep scrolling as we do have some easy to fix solutions to overcome your issues below. It’s definitely not the end of the world.

The Positive Impacts Of Solar Export Limits

Solar export limits allow for you to install a bigger system

For me, this is something that is becoming more and more important as we move into a digital age. I cannot stress this enough, future-proofing your home with a big enough system should be a massive point to consider. Here’s why…

We have been ripping off 7-8 year old systems from our old customers to install a much bigger 10+kW system. This is because the average 4-5kW system we installed back then simply isn’t producing enough energy to make a difference anymore. 

Only one thing has changed. Our customers’ energy consumption is much higher compared to 8 years ago. Now think about the way we consume energy today vs in 10 more years. We already have smart phones with big batteries, laptops, air fryers, smart TV’s and smart fridges all plugged in at once. 

In 10 years time we will have a much bigger energy consumption as I imagine we move further into a digital and renewable age. Especially with the huge increase in demand for electric cars and EV chargers

Future-proof your home. 6.6kW might be enough now, but it’s not going to be enough in 10 years. Make sure you are buying a system that’s going to generate enough energy for as long as the warranty lasts.

Protects the grid from issues

The reasons why these limits are in place is to prevent power shortages and issues. If everyone were able to sell their energy at the same time it can cause stress to the power lines. This will result in long/short term issues. 

This is the biggest reason why solar export limits are in place today. It would cause more trouble if we kept having power cuts when it gets really sunny and everyone begins to export. 

Just remember, exports are most common in areas where a lot of homeowners have all installed solar. If you know your neighbours are all reaping the benefits of lower energy bills then you might need to consider if you’re going to get capped.

Limited export means more power for home

If your system has a limit on how much it can export then it means more power will get used in your home instead. Long term benefits would be a more energy efficient system. It also allows you to focus on increasing your self consumption which in turn provides a better return on investment.

How Does Solar Export Limiting Work?

Solar export limiting works by installing a smart energy meter to your switchboard. When the energy passes through signals are sent to the inverter from the smart meter. Once your export limit has been reached, the smart meter will block any more energy from being sent to the grid. 

This energy then gets wasted or lost usually as thermal energy (heat). The smart meter may cost you a little bit extra to your system as well. 

Other ways may include software that is set up to block your inverter from exporting your limited amount.

How Much Power Can I Export To The Grid?

Depending on whether or not you have an export limit, you should be able to export as much power to the grid as you can.

However, some areas won’t allow this and will instead cap you using solar export limiting. If you live in an area with a strong grid connection and not many people have solar then your limit will be less.

Homeowners who live in built up areas where solar is popular may have stronger solar limiting. Additionally, if you live regionally and the grid network is old, fragile and has a lot of issues you may have a solar export limit. Here are areas with the best and work export limits.

Some areas with little or no solar export limiting:

  • Tasmania 
  • NSW AusGrid network – East side of Sydney, Newcastle and Merriwa areas
  • VIC United Energy Network – East Melbourne, Port Phillip Bay and Bayside Peninsula

Areas with some solar limiting but can still see good feed-in tariffs

  • South Australia Power Networks 
  • Jemena Network (North & West Melbourne)
  • Ergon Network (South East Queensland) 
  • Horizon Power (Western Australia)
  • Endeavour Energy (West Sydney)
  • AusNet Network (Eastern 3rd Of Victoria)
  • EvoEnergy Network (ACT)

Locations with high export limiting

  • Western Power In Western Australia (Perth & South WA)
  • Powercor Victoria (Western Vic & West Melbourne)
  • Essential Energy NSW (Regional NSW)
  • NT PowerWater (Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine)
  • CitiPower Victoria (CBD & Metro Area)

How To Overcome The Solar Export Limit

Ok, so pretty much the only way around export limits is to increase your self consumption (the amount of energy you use whilst its being generated) during the peak hours of solar generation from your system.

For most homeowners, you might find you use most of your energy in the mornings or evenings when your system production and the sun is at its lowest. During the day, when the sun peaks to its highest and your system begins to produce a lot more, your self consumption is at its lowest. 

So essentially, we need a solution to overcome this problem. Fortunately, we’ve got a few.

Invest in an EV car charger and power your vehicle when you begin to export

Electric vehicles have significantly increased in demand over the past 2-3 years. This is because they come with a wide range of benefits for the homeowner and are also affordable. With this, they provide a return on investment meaning you can make your money back. 

One solution is to install an EV charger at your home. The best EV charger we’ve found in Australia is the Zappi V2 home charger which has an awesome feature. When your solar system begins to export to the grid, Zappi will switch on and automatically start charging your car. 

This means, before you reach your solar export limit, you are putting that excess power into your car for you to use at a later date. It’s an excellent feature and can help increase the return on investment from your solar and your electric vehicle.

Install a solar battery like Sonnen or Tesla Powerwall 2

Another solution to overcome solar export limiting and similar to an EV charger is to store the energy in a battery for use during those peak evening and morning hours. Homeowners that already have a battery know it gives you full control over your power and allows you to maximise your savings. 

Some of the best solar batteries available in Australia are Sonnen and Tesla Powerwall 2. Both of these batteries can overcome any solar export limits you face. Simply because instead of exporting the energy to the grid, it will get stored in your solar battery instead.

I’ve written a review on Tesla Powerwall 2 here and a full Sonnen battery review here. Please feel free to give them a read if you are considering a solar battery.

Conclusion

Well, there are both sides of the arguments for and against solar export limiting. I think it’s definitely something to consider when you are choosing the right solar system for your home. 

Export limiting can also help you get a bigger system signed off for your home, so you can use it in your favour. However it may negatively impact some homeowners who aren’t allowed to export any excess energy to the grid. Especially when it comes to the reporting or data of your systems performance. 

Well you might think this is horrible but it doesn’t actually matter that much. Most homeowners don’t even have a system big enough to produce a significant amount of excess energy. However, this is soon to change in the next 5 years as we move into a more digital and renewable age.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. If you have an export limit, let us know what it’s done for you 👇 .

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Written By:

Luke Cove
Managing Director
Lightning Solar & Electrical

local brisbane cec installer

14 thoughts on “Solar Export Limiting”

  1. Quick question / statement…
    My understanding is the power back to the grid is capped to 5Kw per phase.
    Therefore, with a three phase system the total max power back to the grid would be 15Kw as there are three phases.
    I like to keep things simple and balanced.

    1. Your understanding is not quite right. The limit capped is based on who owns that section of the grid and how much power that grid can handle an influx of during peak solar production The power has to go somewhere, if its not been consumed, it has to go into batteries, or its limited, whether they cap you at 5, 10, 15 for single phase, and 15, 22, 30 for three phase, or higher for commercial, its not a multiplication of 5 from a single phase. Ie in Melbourne in the east they are all capped at 5kw single phase systems, yet here in the north west on Jemena, we can install a 10kw system, however regardless of your size, ultimately its the wholesale network that decides if you application will be allowed and whether you can export to the grid. It depends on a saturation point. they may decide they have too much solar in your area and give you an export limit of 0. If you look at the aemo website for realtime grid. When the sun is shining solar only accounts for a small chunk of Vic’s power, yet when its windy, wind generation accounts for 22 percent and dramatically drops the whole sale power, most of the time we still rely on gas and brown coal. So in the peak of the day when demand is low, there is a flood of solar with no where to go, so they scale down other generators, and install big battery projects, currently there is 22 planned for Vic alone, to soak up some of this extra power. Yet in SA solar accounts for 90% of there grid when the sun is at its peak, yet at night its gas and batteries. Look up who owns the poles and wires connected to your home, and you will be able to find out their limits on your area. If you install a battery as part of your system with limiting on export, you can install quite a large array that exports to your battery, to your house and then to the grid if any is left, which will get you around some of your export limits.

  2. Thank you so must for your information
    That your shared . It gives me the understanding on how solar system work.
    Especially on the export and import

  3. If my excess energy production (I have a 10kw system) over the 5kw allowed to be exported to the grid, is apparently still exported to the grid and I am being charged a service fee for every kw – does this mean that I am effectively being charged for power I supply to the grid for free? Ergon will not give me a straight answer.

  4. Hi there

    Can you clarify for me the terminology ‘5kw limit’?

    I am assuming that this value is not the total amount I can pass to the grid but the transfer rate. That is I can transfer only up to 5kw even if my array shows at a given time it is generating, say, 6kw? The reason I ask, and assume this is the case, is due to my supplier, ActewAGL, allowing feed in tariffs of 12c for first 8kw then 7c for any remaining amount transferred each day. Thank you.

  5. Can they control your Pv array too ..I notice my pV 1 is shutdown PV 2 does all the work ..my inverter status is all green go ..no faults just I notice on readings parameters ..PV 1 is basically shut down only produces 5 volts ..I’m not happy ..I have 5 kw H system growatt new

    1. No they can’t control your PV. You should still be getting voltages on PV-1, the wire of your PV-1 (string) is broken from somewhere. If not so get your Charge Controller checked for damages. Since your system is new, it should all be under warranty.

  6. The above has helped considerably with all you have explained. But this 5Kw max export is that a day, month, quarter. I am still learning about this as we have just installed 3 x 6.3kw units to cope with all our electrical stuff. I live in an area where if a cyclone comes, I am flooded and could be land locked for 3 – 6 weeks and there are 5 of us, so 2 freezers, and 2 fridges are required. Also have 4 air cons too but not all on at once.

    1. Hi Barb, I’m so confident to say its Kilo watt per hour (kwh) I don’t know why everyone drop the h after kw !!?.
      I exported 795 kw? per 90 days for $0.067 per kw? (6.7 cents per kw?). so if you divide 795/5kw? if its per day=159 days but i’m only exporting that in 90 days so that will tell me for sure its 5kwh.

      1. Corrections. Hi everyone. After more investigation the truth is yes some electricity providers has a limitation to how much you can export per day in single phase only yes your system may produce 5kwh so with full sun of 5 hours equal to 25kwh per day but they only pay you for to 5kw/day and some others they have no limit to how much they pay you for exporting your extra kw especially on 3 phase connections like what I have.

        1. You’re still confusing the issue – the 5kW is usually the inverter rating on a single phase, not how much it produces.

  7. Hello!! Love the blog. Thanks for sharing. At Astral Solar, we believe and promote using natural solar energy to enlighten residential and commercial space.

  8. You say “This energy then gets wasted or lost usually as thermal energy (heat)” Do you mean excess energy not converted by the inverter is heat in panels?? I don not believe it.
    In other way, my question is. When limiting injection to grid inverter works better than when inyect all production?
    When limiting injection, temperature and current goes lower. This is good for interter live… In other way, MPPT has to limit productio. My question is if this is good or bad -or nothing- for inverter life.

  9. I was wondering if energy retailers had a limit when injecting energy on the grid ? (Is it 5kW ? Does it depend on the location/contract that the energy retailer has? For exemple Telstra has a injection limit ?

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