Introduction - Part 1 (goes to question 5)
In this post, I want to introduce the readers of SSM to a tennis mate of mine Brett Adams who is the Queensland State Manager of Green and Gold Solar, which is an Australian national solar installation company. Brett has been kind enough to answer a number of my questions (20 to be exact) primarily about the residential installation of solar panels.
Now, before any international readers click-off I just want to let you know that although this solar article is Aussie-centric, lots of the information will be relevant and interesting to anyone around the world considering solar energy to power their homes, so, please keep reading.
Gloomy outlook for consumers with rising cost of electricity
It's time to investigate the feasibility of solar once again
When I first started investigating solar energy for my home, several years ago now (and started writing about it over 12 months ago) the cost of a 5kW solar system was about 20k. Today, the cost is considerably less but is it still too hefty? That depends on several other variables and some important ones are:
how or can the costs of a residential solar system be off-set?
are electricity prices likely to keep rising fast?
who do you trust to install a system, which not only lasts but actually produces sufficient power?
will this purchase stand the test of time or will the technology become redundant causing me to regret spending thousands of dollars 5 years (or so) down the track?
For me, the answers to the above questions are still ambagious but as I keep researching solar energy I feel I'm getting closer to making a decision.
Honestly, just like many other people around Australia and the world I'm fed up with my electricity bill taking such a chunk out of my income each quarter. Only today, I saw another propaganda segment on TV about an ordinary family in Sydney who's power bill was around 4k annually. The choreographed news report demonstrated how by modifying her (the mother's) lifestyle like turning appliances off at the wall etc, her family was able to knock $500 off their electricity bill. Some may say, “how fantastic!” But, I say $3500 per annum on electricity for a family on the minimum wage is still too much, criminal, and corporate greed at its most proudest.
Therefore, because of rising electricity prices (due to corporate greed and the recently introduced carbon tax) I am investigating the feasibility of solar panels...again. And this time, I'm taking the readers of SSM along with me so they can get the same answers to the questions I asked.
Cost of living pressures realised as economy breaker
Before I get to the solar questions, I would like to mention another thing I saw on the news and read online. The former BHP Billiton chairman and National Australia Bank chief executive Don Argus wrote a politically stinging article last week about the Australian economy and indeed the world's current economic position. This prominent Australian businessman knows economics better than most, but I won't bore you with the politics or the finer detail because; quite frankly, these details aren't very interesting to struggling families and pensioners around this country and the world.
Nevertheless, I'm going to mention one small point Don Argus made in his essay, which illustrates to me that some people at the “big-end” of town are starting to understand the battlers plight in the lower wage brackets or even the fast growing middle-class poor. Don Argus made it clear last week that Australia's wages have not kept up with the growth in household expenses and this is one BIG reason why our economy is slowing.
Put directly in my words, the cost of living (electricity, water, rates, vehicle registration, parking fees, gas, fuel, fooood, yadda... yadda) is crippling the world economy and the average person or family has much less money to spend after all these expenses are accounted. That's why there's less money going around and that's why businesses small and large are suffering.
Too much profit is going to too few people in this world at the moment and this imbalance has been showing for many years now and our politicians have not done a heck of a lot to improve the situation faced by many low/middle income earners.
Why do we pay so much more for electricity?
One of the biggest utility rip-offs I see is the cost of electricity; particularly, in the western world where prices have rocketed. Did you know the cost of electricity in China for households is less than 1/3rd of Australian households? For example, if a home in Australia has a quarterly bill of say $600AU the equivalent power bill in China would cost less than $200AU – and where does China import most of its coal to power its electricity generators from... Australia. Australia has some of the biggest deposits of coal in the world yet Australian's pay more for power than most other countries.
It's definitely thought provoking isn't it? But, what can we all do about it? Maybe solar energy is the answer. To help me through some of my concerns about solar energy, I asked my tennis mate Brett from Green and Gold Solar the following questions.
Disclosure: I play tennis with Brett and last season I was his doubles partner and our team won the 1st Division competition, so I guess I'm partial to his point of view because I know and trust him. Also, I approached Brett (he didn't approach me) and requested he participate in an interview for a solar article I was writing for Self Sufficient Me and he readily accepted.
Furthermore, I personally am considering buying a solar system (not necessarily from Brett’s company, it's likely though) but I haven't committed to anything and I will not be receiving any special discounts, favours, or advertising payment from Brett's company by including Green and Gold Solar in this post.
Finally, any information presented in this article is to be used as a guide only – whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information in this article is correct, no responsibility will be taken for the accuracy of any information given at the time of publishing or which subsequently becomes outdated or incorrect in the future. If you are after an accurate quote and further information for your own solar system install then please consult your solar representative.
Solar questions & answers
Q1 - Are there different types of solar panels, if so, are they pretty much all the same?
Answer - Yes there are 2 main types: monocrystaline and polycrystalline, but they are pretty much the same as far as I am concerned for our customers in South East Queensland and Central Queensland. In regards to all the different manufacturers, yes there is a lot of difference between some of the cheaper Chinese panels compared to the Japanese and German ones that we use.
Q2 - The new feed-in rate under Queensland's Solar Bonus Scheme has dropped, as at 10th July 2012, from 44c per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 8c/kWh. What does this mean for people without a solar system but who may be considering one in the future?
Answer - The drop in the tariff certainly puts an end to the days of people installing huge solar systems on their rooftops (when they only really needed smaller ones) and making great profits from the government subsidised feed in tariff scheme.
The industry will not be as “crazy” as it has been; however, the introduction of a carbon tax in Australia has certainly made this industry viable. People will be getting systems to minimise their electricity bill especially with power prices going up 30% from 1st July 12. So, to re-iterate, people will be getting systems to minimise or off-set future price increases.
Q3 - Did I need to have a solar system installed or just ordered to beat the tariff cut-off on the 10th July?
Answer - Those people who lodged a network application to buy a solar system prior to the cut-off have until 30th June 2013 to have it professionally installed and they will still receive the government tariff at the rate 44c/kWh for power they send back to the grid.
Q4 - What if I've physically missed the government tariff cut-off date and can only get an 8c/kWh feed-in rate for the extra electricity I send back into the grid – should I just give up on solar then, will it be worth getting?
Answer - No, don't give up. Please see my answer to question 2.
Q5 - What does the drop in feed-in tariff mean for Green and Gold Solar QLD – sad, happy, indifferent?
Answer - As a company, we are ok because hopefully now there will be some sustainability in the industry as the 44c/kWh was not sustainable. I would, however, liked to have seen a 1:1 feed-in tariff (FiT) which basically means the electricity the home solar system feeds back into the grid is equal to the rate consumers pay for their electricity (roughly 22c/kWh at this present moment).
End of part 1 - go to part 2
This article is continued in part 2 and covers questions and answers from 6 - 20. Questions about solar panel installation costs, energy output for a 5kW system, solar panel tips, dodgy installers, and more are answered. Go to Part 2 now.