Revised solar standard to promote safety, improve compliance

Tuesday, 23 November, 2021

Revised solar standard to promote safety, improve compliance

Standards Australia has published a revised solar standard with an aim to support users in meeting compliance requirements and promote consumer safety.

Almost four million solar PV panel systems have been installed across Australia in the last two decades[1]. Solar energy gained popularity in 2008 and 2009, thanks to government tariffs that offered up to 60 c/kWh for solar energy exported into the grid[2]. In the years prior to that, prices were as high as $15 to $20 per watt marking a significant saving and incentive to invest in solar energy. Since then, prices have dropped to an average of over just $1 per watt.

“With millions of solar PV panel systems being installed across Australia, clear and relevant standards are paramount in supporting safe practice for industry professionals, homeowners and businesses,” said Roland Terry-Lloyd, head of Standards Development at Standards Australia.

Overall, the recently published revised standard AS/NZS 5033:2021, Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays by Standards Australia Technical Committee EL-042, Renewable Energy Power Supply Systems and Equipment, aims to provide clear and relevant guidance to support safe systems and safe practices for industry professionals and consumers.

AS/NZS 5033 is referenced in AS/NZS 3000, commonly known as the Wiring Rules, which is called upon in legislation. Compliance with the requirements of both standards is essential. AS/NZS 5033:2014 will remain current for six months; it will be superseded by AS/NZS 5033:2021. Regulatory authorities that reference this standard may apply these requirements at a different time. Users of this standard should consult with these authorities to confirm their requirements. A contact directory of some regulators is available here.

The revision includes several other significant updates. The updating of requirements for micro inverter installations and DC conditioning units will enable greater use of technology across larger panels, supporting better safety outcomes.

“At the time the 2014 standard was written, solar panels were at most 250 W per panel, but technology is quickly changing, and it’s not unusual for panels to be greater than 400 W,” said EL-042 Co-Chair Sandy Atkins.

“Therefore, AS/NZS 5033:2014 was limiting for installation professionals,” Atkins finished.

Committee El-042 assessed different requirements around the world against Australian conditions, identified achievable safety outcomes and determined different solutions that industry can choose to best suit their installations.

“If you still want to use DC isolators then you can, but if you don’t, the standard allows for other solutions such as disconnection points,” Atkins said.

Australia previously had a limitation of 600 V for panels for houses but recently aligned with international requirements of 1000 V. Additionally, AS/NZS 5033:2021 also aligns with international standard IEC 62548:2016, Photovoltaic (PV) arrays — Design requirements.

“Solar is booming worldwide, so it’s important we align with international standards so that the Australian market can use international products and technologies as well,” Atkins said.

[1] Clean Energy Regulator, Postcode data for small-scale installations | Accessed: 29 September 2021

[2] Solar Choice, Solar panels cost data: Solar Choice Price Index | Accessed: 29 September 2021

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