How Economically Viable is Solar Energy?

By Rich Bowden

A recent report by the University of Melbourne’s EnergyResearchInstitute has found that, not only is solar energy a viable form of energy, but that costs will compare favourably with traditional fossil fuel technology in the very near future.

The report, the Renewable Energy Technology Cost Review May 2011, was commissioned by  government climate advisor Ross Garnaut and included the current and expected future costs of three forms of renewable energy; wind, solar and thermal. [Read more…]

NSW Govt Opts for ‘Hardship’ Package for Out-of-Pocket Solar Customers

By Rich Bowden

The NSW Government has refused to back down over its controversial decision to reduce the bonus feed-in tariff offered to households for solar power returned to the grid from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 cents.

[Read more…]

Liberal Hammers NSW Govt Over Solar Rebate Backflip

By Rich Bowden

The newly-installed NSW Liberal Government has received widespread criticism for its recent decision to retrospectively reduce the tariff paid to households under the solar bonus agreement.

[Read more…]

Why Electricity Prices Are Rising…?

Click the image to enlarge… (it’s worth it!)

Daily Telegraph gets on its high horse about Solar Power and Electricity prices

I’ve been in Sydney for a couple of days (including a really interesting tour of Silex Solar’s impressive Solar Panel factory at Olympic Park).

I picked up the Daily Telegraph in the hotel this morning to see the front page screaming about electricity prices.

According to the paper, the only person who can bring NSW electricity prices down is the Premier: Kristina Keneally – and the Telegraph is demanding that she does something about it – or else…

Now I’m no fan of  the mob of incompetent cronies and hollowmen that has made up the NSW government for the past few years, but electricity prices are high because of massive demand and limited supply. That demand is created by the NSW public building black roofed McMansion hotboxes with 10kW air-conditioning as standard and almost no insulation or window shading – never mind double glazing.

Let’s take some responsibility for our actions and accept that if we create massive demand for something (through being hopeless at implementing simple energy efficiency measures) we shouldn’t be surprised if the price goes up.

The Telegraph’s solution to all this is for the State Government to hand out hundreds of dollars a year to people with high bills and stop encouraging people to invest in solar power by scrapping NSW’s Solar Bonus (Gross Feed In Tariff).

So let me get this right: the journos at the Telegraph think that the solution to high electricity prices is to reward the people who use the most electricity, and stop rewarding those people who choose to generate their own?

I say: just leave the market to sort itself out. High electricity prices (combined with intelligent rebates for energy efficiency) will encourage more people to be more energy efficient, which will reduce the demand for electricity and increase the supply from solar power, which can only push electricity prices down.

And don’t forget that the majority of the increase in electricity prices is to fund the building of more wires and poles to cope with “peak demand” periods. These peak demand periods are basically when the sun is at its hottest in the afternoon and everyone’s air conditioners are running full throttle. Power output from residential solar panels peaks at exactly the same time, helping to reduce peak demand. And because the solar panels are on your roof and any power exported will be used locally, they don’t need pylons and hundreds of km of power cabling to get the power to the end user.

ACT announces improved Feed In Tariff

The ACT government made a welcome announcement about their, already generous, Feed In Tariff, last week.

The main points were:

The FIT now applies to “community owned” solar systems. That means that if your roof is shaded and you want to club together with others in the same position and install a system on the local RSL (for example) there is nothing to stop you getting the FIT and sharing the rewards.

Or if you live in units, you can get a shared system on the roof of the unit block.

The Feed In Tariff will be applicable for systems up to a whopping 30kW, so it becomes quite an interesting investment proposition in today’s volatile market. ( This solar calculator will crunch the numbers if you’re interested).

They also announced FITs for large scale solar. here are the details:

  • An overall scheme cap of 240 MW of generating capacity;
  • Large scale generation category for generators larger than 200 KW (category cap of 210 MW);
  • Medium scale generation category for generators between 30KW and 200kw (category cap of 15 MW); and,
  • Existing micro generation category (household rooftop) up to 30KW (category cap of 15 MW).

Some of the funding has come from the axing of plans to fund a $30 “Solar Facility” in ACT (whatever that was meant to be – probably was gonna be a bunch of public servants running around and racking up platinum frquent flyer accounts writing reports and attending conferences on how to reduce CO2 emissions – if my experience at CSIRO was anything to go by…)

In summary – great news from the land of the public servants – now we just need Julia Gillard to make all their legislation redundant by announcing a national FIT … we can but hope.

Is Global Warming a Hoax and Solar Power a waste of time?

Most of my websites are all about energy efficiency and also using technologies like solar power to get your electricity bills down.

Of course, a huge motivation to do this is that many people believe that CO2 emissions damage the environment though global warming.

Other people are motivated financially. Others just like the thought of taking responsibility for generating the power that their household uses.

Whatever your personal view on Global Warming, you can’t have failed to sense a growing scepticism about the issue recently.

A lot of folks are wondering whether the whole thing is just one big hoax by vested interests. For example: Scientists who want research dollars. Or Pollies who want an excuse to collect more tax dollars.

So what’s the truth? Is it a hoax, or if you don’t believe in mass conspiracies, are the majority of climate scientists simply getting brainwashed by the research dollars waved at them?

Well, anything is possible!

I certainly live my life by the adage, that if the government, says something is a given – then usually the opposite is true…

Example BS pedalled by the government:

• the US Banking System being safe as (sub prime) houses,
• the need to be protected by internet censorship filters
• first home owners grants make houses more affordable
• Canberra is a nice place to live and work ☺

My personal take is that, yes a lot of politicians do get very excited at the thought that they can tax us more and use Global Warming as an excuse,

And yes – some scientists have a very vested interest in GW being real, but… I’ve never really been one for conspiracy theories.

And the mind boggling size of the conspiracy you would need to subvert the thousands of scientists who have contributed to the peer-reviewed science is just mind boggling. Forget the moon landing being a fake – this would be on a whole new level.

The other thing that has convinced me of the reality of global warming is a Pommie journalist called George Monbiot.

If, like me you don’t have the time or patience to read through the science and decide for your self if it is sound, you could do worse than to read Monbiot’s opinion. ( a quick Google will find these articles)

He has read the science, formed a very objective opinion. And he is scared witless about what the future holds.

He now makes it his mission to question the arguments against GW head on. He recently went into verbal combat with one of the world’s leading global warming sceptics, Australian, Ian Plimer on Lateline.

Have a look at the video and see what you think– If nothing else it is a fascinating showdown:

Ian Plimer and George Monbiot Battle on Lateline

NSW Solar Bonus Scheme

NSW gross feed in tariff

As the fireworks erupted from Sydney Harbour Bridge at 12:01am January 1 2010, the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme opened for business. It means that NSW solar panel owners will be able to collect 60c for every kWh produced for at least the next 7 years.

It will be available to panel buyers until all the installed generators under this Scheme  reach 50 MegaWatts.

Panel owners who are eligible are the small electricity consumers. They are those consuming up to 160 megawatt hours of electricity annually.

Generally, this includes typical households,schools, small businesses and most community organizations.

Under this scheme, people will be able to get Solar PV Systems and Wind Turbines up to 10 kiloWatts in size.

According to Energy Minister John Robertson, the industry is expecting to install around 33,000 new solar systems during the life of the program.

The government is banking on solar PV costs decreasing over the next few years. Many are expecting that within the next 3 to 7 years, solar energy’s unsubsidized cost to consumers will be near that of dirty fossil based generation.

But in the mean time, the NSW Gross Feed In Tariff is giving a head start to the NSW solar industry so they can tool up, scale up and bring costs down and ROI up for Solar PV buyers.

Let’s hope the Feds watch and learn!

NSW Feed In Tariff Surprise: It’s Gross (in a good way!)

Yesterday the NSW Government surprised renewable energy fans by switching the new feed in tariff from a net to a gross tariff.

This means that owners of solar systems in NSW will now get 60c per kwh for all the electricity they generate.

Previously you were only going to get paid for the power exported to the grid (i.e not the power you used in your house)

This makes a huge difference to the economics of buying a solar power system in NSW.

Plugging the numbers into my solar calculator shows that a good quality 1.5kW system will pay for itself in just over 4 years.

In fact you’ll be getting around $120 per month of income from the outset. And the benefits will only go up as electricity prices rise.

Even if you take out a $7000 loan at 7% interest the system would be cash flow positive from the outset. See for yourself here.

That’s a better return, and much lower risk than most other investments these days.

Have a play with our solar calculators to see if it makes financial sense for you. Just put ‘Feed In Tariff %’ as 100% and ‘Feed In Tariff Price’ as 60c and the calculator will work out the payback and monthly savings.

Solar Panel Scheme : terminated and to cost taxpayers $440 million

Since 2000, the the Solar Homes and Communities Plan started out as the Photovoltaic Rebate Program offering $4,000. The program was changed in 2007 and was receiving by then an average 153 applications per week.

As part of the Rudd Government’s election commitments, the program was allocated $150 million to provide increased rebates of up to $8,000 to 15,000 homes over five years.

The number of applications for the rebate grew from 420 per week in May 2008 to approximately 6,043 per week in May 2009. [Read more…]