Search Results for: nsw

Is WA’s Support of Solar Utilities at the Expense of Domestic Projects?

When we think of Western Australia we generally consider mining booms, expanded gas projects, black swans and the West Coast Eagles football team (and Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh for those of us with age on our side).

But as an Australian leader in solar technology? After a recent government decision to close down its solar feed in tariff scheme because of its (wait for it) popularity, the expected answer would generally be no. However recent developments in the West have shown government-owned corporations partnering up with the private sector to lead the state down the path of potentially being one of the country’s leading exponents of renewable energy.

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Subsidies in Frame as Silex Ends Local Solar Cell Manufacture

By Rich Bowden

Solar industry news in NSW this week has been dominated by the announcement by Silex Solar, the last company to manufacture solar cells in this country, that it will discontinue the production of locally made cells. (Note the solar cells are the black, round, saucer sized, plates of silicon, which make up solar panels).

In an announcement earlier this week, the company said while it would continue to manufacture solar panels at its Homebush, Sydney plant, it would do so with solar cells from an as yet unnamed overseas country (read China). [Read more…]

How to Spot a Solar Cowboy

By Rich Bowden

OK so you’re almost ready to make that big decision to install solar panels to save on your sky rocketing power bills while doing your bit for the environment. But, mindful of recent poorly-regulated installation disasters (who remembers the Pink Batts saga?) you’re leery of the same type of dodgy operators who may operate on the fringes of the solar industry. Obviously safety and correct installation of panels are two of your main goals and you want to avoid the “solar cowboys” from getting anywhere near your roof.

Easier said than done (I hear you cry). What does a “solar cowboy” look like and how do I find quality solar installers?

Well one way is to seek the advice of an expert and I’ve managed to nail down founder Finn Peacock to answer some common questions:


Can anyone install solar panels?

Finn Peacock: In theory yes – if you can climb on a roof, drill some holes, assemble the racking, screw the panels on to the racking and connect the panels to the racking, you can theoretically install the actual panels yourself.

But – and it’s a big but, working on a roof is really quite dangerous, and if you haven’t got a lot of experience drilling holes and/or lifting tiles etc, you may regret it when the rains come. Also when the solar panels are being connected up electrically (before they are even connected to the grid) you can have a voltage build up of several hundred volts and that can quite easily prove fatal.

Remember – solar panels will create a voltage even when they are disconnected from anything else – so you really do have to know what you are doing. Also there are certain ways you need to earth and protect the solar panels, which if done incorrectly will either leave you with an under performing or dangerous system, or both. And when it comes to installing the inverter, you start dealing with mains electricity and it is technically illegal in Australia for anyone other than a qualified electrician to do that. So, yes, if you live for danger and don’t mind breaking the law you could theoretically save a thousand dollars or so and go the DIY route. I obviously cannot recommend this though!



How do I know if a tradesperson is qualified to install solar panels?

FP: Ask them for their CEC accreditation number then go to and look them up. Check that they are qualified to install systems. Some CEC accredited people are only qualified to design systems.


How do I find a reputable solar installer in my area?

FP: If you’ve got a friend that has got a system and they had a good experience, then find out who did it and get them to quote.

I’d also recommend getting at least 3 quotes to compare that one with, which is why I started of course! Just go into the site, add your postcode, fill in the required details and up to three quotes from installers in your area will be made available.


What guarantees do I have that the work will be up to an acceptable standard?

FP: The install has to be signed off by a CEC accredited installer, so I’d hang around for the inspection and make sure that he actually has a good look over the system. Also be aware that technically the guy installing the system doesn’t have to be accredited as long as he is “supervised” by a CEC accredited installer. So make sure that the supervisor really does supervise the install (or ideally actually will do the install). There are some known cases where cowboys will leave the apprentices to do the install and just get a CEC accredited installer to sign the paperwork at the end with a very superficial inspection at the end – if at all.


Is there an overseeing industry regulatory body?

FP: There is the CleanEnergyCouncil, although some other industry bodies are trying to start even more stringent certification schemes, with AUSES and SEIA leading the charge.


Do you provide a rating system for solar installers?

FP: I think the best way to judge any company is to read uncensored reviews by past customers, so I publish thousands of these for all solar companies (not just ones in the SolarQuotes network).


 I’d like more information about the types of solar panels available. Where can I find this?

FP: I’ve brain dumped all my knowledge here and I’ve got a really cool solar panel performance comparison tool coming in a few weeks which will be able to be linked to from that page.


 I keep hearing that I may be eligible for state and federal government solar rebate schemes. Where can I find easy-to-understand information on this?

FP: I’ve explained the ins and outs of solar credits here and solar feed in tariffs here on the website.


Thanks to Finn for taking the time to share this information with us. But have we missed any important questions that you’d like to see answered? Please let us know and we’ll seek to answer them for you.

Also feel free to join in any of our discussions on our FacebookPage.

BP Solar Stops Making Residential Solar Panels

By Rich Bowden:

bp solar

An old school BP Solar panel – now a collectors item? (Credit: Thomas Springer)

The news that BP Solar will close its global distribution for residential solar panels and related PV products in favour of large scale projects has raised eyebrows amongst solar analysts throughout the world.

The announcement came after the company had been in the business of marketing PV products for thirty years, making it one of the world’s acknowledged leaders in this field. A company spokesperson was reported by wire news agencies as saying late last week that “…we think we can have a much stronger business going forward focusing on developing projects,” as he added that the company is now looking to concentrate its interest in this field.

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Australian Researchers Break World Record for Solar Panel Efficiency

By Rich Bowden

Now this is the sort of news your correspondent likes to deliver. After weeks of wading through government reversals on solar feed-in tariffs, reporting on the various sniping at the edges of the solar industry and talking about savage cuts from state and federal governments affecting the Australian renewables sector, here comes a really positive development.

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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…]

Solar Power Installation Tale of Woe

I just received a long email in response to my blog post about what to watch out for with ultra cheap solar power systems.

After reading the email (published below) – It sounds to me (without knowing any other details) that the fundamental problem here may have been that the system was not properly designed by a CEC Accredited Solar Designer. (note: A CEC Accredited Solar Installer is not necessarily qualified as a Designer –  so always double check). If a CEC accredited designer had done the most basic calculations on this system initially – then the oversizing problem would have been avoided.

The moral of the story: Always ask to see the design document for the system you are about to invest thousands of dollars in. And make sure that that document is signed off by a real person who is CEC Accredited as a Solar Power System Designer.

Here’s the sorry tale as told by Phill in his email: [Read more…]

Will Solar Power Save The Planet?

I suppose some would call me a “Greenie”.  Heck, I call myself that sometimes.

Like any good Aussie, I love the outdoors, the sunshine and the surf. I’m deeply grateful for the beauty and majesty of our planet. It pains me when I see it being brutalized, plundered or wasted in the name of laziness or greed.

And I do believe that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. I believe that a lot of the political and economic tension that our world currently faces could be reduced with more responsible use of the limited resources we have at our disposal.

And I believe solar power will play a central role in an improving the relationships with our political neighbours and our natural world.

But, I don’t believe solar power is the answer to all our problems. I don’t believe solar power is the great savior of our planet. I don’t believe solar power is right for everyone. I don’t believe we should make too big a deal of solar power.

Why not? Because it’s too easy. [Read more…]

Got A Shaded Roof? Then don’t buy solar without a Suneye shade analysis.

Shade is the number one enemy of a high performance solar power system.

If your roof has substantial shading between 9am and 3pm then installing solar panels is probably going to be a really bad investment.

If you are confident that your roof roof has absolutely no shading, then solar can be a great investment thanks to the current handouts by the Federal and State governments in terms of Solar Rebates and Solar Feed In Tariffs. [Read more…]

Are you getting the best Solar Panels? The Top 10 Things To Check

the best solar panels

How do you know if they are going to perform on your roof?

There are a bewildering array of solar panel brands out there. How do you sort the wheat from the solar chaff and be sure you are getting the best solar panels for your roof?

My advice is go thru the spec sheet for each panel and judge them on the following criteria.

If you haven’t got a spec sheet, then get another quote!

If the spec sheet combined with the quote doesn’t have the answers, call up the solar supplier and ask. If they don’t know the answers, that’s a bad sign.

The Top 10 Criteria [Read more…]

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