Solar lighting: Mandarin 2 adds style to practicality

The Victorian Premier’s Design Awards are currently being judged. Not your usual port of call for this correspondent I hear you say but bear with me readers! That’s because one of the many excellent designs under consideration is the Mandarin 2 solar-charged light which is flying the flag for solar lighting under the category “product design”.

Described on the Design Awards site as a “simple” design that “works” under the toughest of conditions, the Mandarin 2, as its name implies, offers a robust solar lighting alternative to more expensive and polluting energy sources such as kerosene. The handheld solar charged light is described as durable and reliable and ticks that important box for SQ readers — powered by renewable source — solar. [Read more…]

Are “Munchen Solar Panels” Actually German? And Are They Any Good?

A German and Chinese Dude

Are Munchen Panels German or Chinese or Both?

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of emails along the lines of:

Hey Finn, Have you ever heard of Munchen Solar Panels? Are they any good? I really want “German Engineered” Panels and these look better than any of that Chinese engineered rubbish!

Well, the short answer is this: “Munchen Solar? Never heard of them. (and btw there are some great Chinese panels out there..)”

But after the quadzillionth email asking the same thing, I thought I’d do some digging to try and discover why there is a sudden spike in interest for these I’ve-never-heard-of-them-before German sounding solar panels. [Read more…]

Think solar is expensive? Be glad you’re not American!

Our American friends may get dirt cheap Nike runners, Levis jeans and iTunes downloads compared to us Aussies, but at least we can get some comfort from the fact that our solar systems are a helluva lot cheaper than theirs!

This infographic from those nice people at US site does a great job of spruiking the benefits of solar power, but also gives an insight into just how cheap Aussie solar is.

A big part of the price discrepancy is that the permit system for solar power is a bureaucratic nightmare in America. If you buy a 3kW solar system in the US you could pay $12,000 for it, of which $3,000 is permit paperwork! Compare that to about $5,000 in Australia of which about $0 is permit paperwork. In most states in Oz your installer simply fills in a 2 minute form online and gets ‘permission to connect’ within a day or so.

Here;’s the lovely infographic in all its glory – just be aware that the prices only apply to the US! [Read more…]

Can Cheap Solar Panels Get Any Cheaper? Hell Yeah!

a solar panel

Panel prices have dropped 80% in 4 years – can they get any cheaper?

If you want to buy some absolute junk you can currently buy bottom end, ultra cheap solar panels for $0.50 per Watt. But I wouldn’t recommend it.  Unless you want to risk your roof turning into a giant barbecue.

Most solar panel factories have been losing money hand over fist for at least the last couple of years. Many of the largest companies have lost many hundreds of millions. This has led many observers to believe that solar panel manufacturers will have to start raising prices in order to survive. In fact there is evidence of this starting to happen with panel prices rising slightly in the first 2 months of 2013.

So is this the end of dirt cheap solar panels? [Read more…]

Should you buy the cheapest solar system on the market?

(This post was written in 2012 – but the principles still hold true!)

Everyone loves a bargain. Especially me! But are those solar systems advertised at jaw droppingly low prices a great deal or a future headache?

I feel quite strongly about this – so I decided to make a video. Here it is.

And here’s the transcript if you prefer to read rather than watch: [Read more…]

Pay-As-You-Go Solar Arrives In Australia

Sim Cards

PAYG Solar Too?

Have you considered installing a domestic solar system but have been put off by the initial cost? Then the recently-announced unveiling of a radical new pay-as-you-go plan in Australia may be for you.

According to an April 21 report in the Sydney Morning Herald, an American company, Sungevity Inc., has teamed up with Lismore-based solar installer Nickel Energy to set up an Australian subsidiary, Sungevity Australia, which offers free solar panel installation. [Read more…]

Interview with Paul O’Reilly of the Rainbow Power Company

Rainbow Power Company Logo

Rainbow Power Company – one of Australia’s oldest solar companies

In this, the first in what we hope will be a number of interviews with solar opinion leaders, business people and experts in the solar industry we chat with Paul O’Reilly, director of the Nimbin-based Rainbow Power Company. Sit back and enjoy as Paul talks feed-in tariffs, the almost constant boom and bust cycles in the Australian solar industry and his optimism for the future.

The solar industry must have changed a lot since Rainbow Power Company first set up? Do you think this has been for better or worse?

[Read more…]

How you can save $2,000 when going Solar

Thinking of buying a solar power system to kill your electricity bill?

Then this one simple action could shave a whole kW off the size of solar system that you need to buy to get that magical zero dollar electricity bill.

[Read more…]

Don’t Make these 10 Mistakes When Buying a Solar Power System

1. Buying the cheapest – because it is the cheapest.

If a solar system seems too cheap to be true, then it is probably is!

Here are 4 ways they get the price so low:

a) The solar company is buying absolute junk panels and inverters on the spot market in China

[Read more…]

2 Reasons to be wary of Ultra Cheap Solar Deals

Thanks to Mark for sending these pics in from his “Great Value” solar install…

In a hurry to install this boys?

That might hurt your efficiency…

Installed with love?