Does your hybrid solar system really need backup?

Did you know that adding batteries to your solar does not automatically mean it is blackout proof?

The holy grail of affordable on-grid energy storage has finally arrived! Well, it’s almost arrived. Actually, it might be a couple of years before it really arrives and most Australians can get their hands on low cost energy storage systems such as the Tesla Powerwall, but they are coming and they will eventually be here. Adding batteries to your home solar (AKA a hybrid solar system) means that you will no longer be forced to sell electricity for 6-8c and buy it back, at night for 30c. Hurrah!

But when the holy grail does arrive you will have a choice, so take care that you do not choose poorly.

While a bad choice is unlikely to cause you to crumble into dust like the Nazi villain at the end of the second worst Indiana Jones movie*, if you what you decide is wrong for your particular circumstances you may live to regret it. Actually, I can almost guarantee that you will live to regret it, as it is really not a life and death decision. Unless you go about it in an astoundingly bad way, such as cutting power cables with an axe and then licking them to see if they are live, I can pretty much guarantee you will still be around to either rue or feel chuffed about your choice. [Read more…]

Will The Tesla PowerWall let you go off grid for $3500 ?

tesla powerwall

Will the Tesla Battery lead to a stampede of people leaving the grid? Photo: Tesla

[Update: Since I wrote this post (on the day the Powerwall was announced) Tesla have added some technical details that open up the possibility of installing the Powerwall for a much lower price than this blog post estimates. But – and it’s a big but – the cheaper installation will not allow you to go off grid. More details on the alternative install option here]


So Tesla has just announced a 10kWh home battery pack that costs US$3,500 (AUD$4,500) . The Tesla PowerWall will mount unobtrusively on the wall of your home and store your solar energy, so you can use it at night or when the grid goes down.

Lots of twitterers are proclaiming that Renewable Energy utopia has arrived. You’d be forgiven from thinking that, thanks to Tesla founder Elon Musk, all we have to do to divorce the grid is shell out three and a half grand.

Look – I don’t want to piss on anyone’s parade. This announcement is massive in lots of ways which I’ll get to soon. But you won’t be able to go off grid for that kind of money (yet).

Here’s what Aussie homeowners should know about the Telsa Powerwall [Read more…]

Why Are Solar Owners Charged GST On Money They Never Spent?

I have a 6kW (24 panel) solar system on my roof.

My last quarterly electricity bill is here. The good news is that it was for only $33.60.

electricity bill including GST

My latest electricity bill. Notice how the GST is way more than 10%

The interesting thing is the breakdown of the $33.60. If you look at the bottom of the bill, I paid $12.68 in electricity charges but a whopping $20.92 in GST (highlighted in blue on the bill).

You don’t have to be great at maths to know that 10% of $12.68 is $1.27 not $20.92 [Read more…]

How To Divert Your Excess Solar PV to a Hot Water Cylinder.

a diversion sign

Is it worth investing in a system that will divert your excess solar electricity away from the grid and into your hot water system?

This guest blog post has been written by experienced solar installer, electrician, solar company owner and all round good guy, Mark Cavanagh from MC Electrical in Brisbane.

Mark answers a really common question we are getting here at SolarQuotes: “Can I divert my excess solar energy into my hot water cylinder instead of selling it to the grid for a pittance?”

Take it away Mark:

With the reduction of the solar feed in tariff across Australia, and battery storage not economically viable yet, there has been an ever-increasing interest in developing ways to use the electricity you produce rather than feeding it back to the grid for 8c per kWh. [Read more…]

How I got a $33 power bill with solar – even with a crappy 8c buy back rate

Update: This post was written in 2015. It is still worth a read to understand how solar affects your bill – but if you want to browse all my recent bills you can do so here.

I got my quarterly electricity bill last week. It was $33. I was so happy that I tweeted AGL.

AGL’s reply is priceless:

I’m guessing AGL don’t get a lot of compliments on Twitter! I also posted a scan of my bill on SolarQuotes’ Facebook page:
[Read more…]

ACT Feed in Tariff lives again!

Canberra sign

ACT does it again!

So you think Canberra is just a source of hot air when it comes to renewable energy initiatives? Believe far reaching projects like viable community solar power just a dream in the nation’s capital? Do you expect little, or nothing, with Greg “The Human Backflip” Hunt in charge of proceedings?

Think again readers for Canberra has just announced a truly progressive ACT Feed In Tariff policy that will allow more residents access to community solar power, even those without solar panels. [Read more…]

How to unlock a great solar payback (even with crappy rebates).

solar panels and a key

The key to good solar payback is system sizing.

Occasionally I venture out of my straw-bale, solar passive eco-cave and meet real people, in person instead of over the interwebs. When they inevitably ask me the standard icebreaker “what do you do?” and hear that I’m in “solar power”, the usual response is: “Oh – that must be a tough industry, now that the rebates / buy back rates have all ended?”.

The reality seems to be that most people who don’t work in the solar industry seem to use the words “rebate” and “feed in tariff” interchangeably. And who can blame them? Both are essentially government cash handouts.

Of course the truth is that the Solar Rebate“, is actually still available through the Federal government. The government frowns upon anyone who calls it a rebate, preferring the term “Financial Incentive”. But all that really matters is that you can get about $700 off the upfront cost of every kW of solar you buy. For a typical 3kW, that’s a $2100 subsidy. [Read more…]

Solar power users left fuming at betrayal in the West

WA premier ripping up contract

This numpty thinks he can rip up 75,000 commercial contracts!

It was a grim atmosphere here at the SQHQ bunker earlier this week as Finn popped his head around the corner to deliver the news of the solar power betrayal in the West.

He was talking of course of Premier Colin “The Backstabber” Barnett and his chair sniffing mate “Two-up” Troy Buswell to slash the feed-in tariff in Western Australia from 40c to 20c in the next year. The decision, which (call me cynical) coincides with attempts to bend over backwards for the state’s fossil fuel giants, will affect 75,000 WA households that installed solar from mid 2010 to 2011 on the promise of the 40c level. The cuts renege on a 10-year agreement to maintain solar feed-in tariffs in WA. [Read more…]

South Australia Feed In Tariff Ends In September. What you need to know.

If you’ve opened any South Australian newspapers recently you’ve probably seen adverts from solar power installers screaming about the “IMMINENT REDUCTION IN THE SOUTH AUSTRALIA FEED IN TARIFF!!!”.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not one to bombard you with pushy sales spiel, or use impending rebate cuts to pressure anyone into buying solar.

But what I will do is calmly go through the facts about the looming SA Feed In tariff reduction, and crunch a few numbers, so you can decide if you want to get in on the SA solar action before the 30 September 2013 deadline that a lot of solar companies are getting all worked up about.

[Read more…]

How Much Will You Get Paid For Your Solar Electricity?

Hint: It’s a bit more complicated than you might think!

By my reckoning 25% of people buying solar power systems want to save the planet as a priority. The other 75% want to save their bottom line and saving the planet is a nice side-effect.

I get a lot of emails saying: “Help! My bills are [insert large number here] dolars a quarter – what size solar system do I need?”

The answer to this question is quite longwinded – but if you want to understand whether a solar system is worthwhile for you financially – you need to understand this stuff! So I made a video to help explain. If you are considering buying a solar system I strongly recommend watching this:

[Note: Since I made this video the Victorian and QLD Feed In tariffs are no longer more generous than the rest of the country – they are both 8c per kWh at time of writing!]

[Read more…]

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