SolarQuotes Episode 16 – Finn And Ronald Go Nuclear

Finn and Ronald discuss fuel efficiency standards, the rise and fall of SMA, big renewables in Australia, new SQ installer reviews features, nuclear power in Finland and more.

00:39 – Ronald talks about his recent post on proposed vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Contrary to some of the misinformation that has been published around the place, such standards are not a tax, Australians wouldn’t have to buy an electric car and petrol/diesel powered vehicles would still be available – including utes.

“It’s not a disaster” says Ronald regarding the standards. “It will save Australia money, cut pollution and by cutting pollution it will save lives – and of course greenhouse gas emissions will be cut”.

Finn asks if the cost of fueling a gas-guzzling ute will increase – to which Ronald answers “no”. In fact, he says it could decrease. However, he points out that an electric ute will offer far better performance on the road and the cost of purchasing a gas guzzler could increase. Check out the segment for more information or Ronald’s detailed article on vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

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4:05 – Solar inverter manufacturer SMA isn’t doing as well as it used to. The company’s image and sales have taken a beating since deciding to make many of their inverters in China says Finn.

“Basically, they grasped defeat from the jaws of victory.”

However, the company is reversing that decision and moving production back to Germany.

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7:13 – Ronald and Finn chat about a huge wind and solar energy project for Western Australia’s Pilbara region – the 11GW+ Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH). The facility may also feature what will be the world’s longest High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) line to export electricity to countries such as Indonesia and Singapore.

“It’s not without risk,” says Finn about the project. “But we should get absolutely behind it.”

Ronald also clarifies his position on green hydrogen – which may also be generated at the facility.

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9:04 – The latest on a large-scale vanadium redox flow battery project in Port Augusta. Finn really likes this technology for utility scale storage as the electrolyte can be refreshed and mechanical repairs can be carried out.

“The battery can in theory go forever, compared to lithium-ion that might have 10,15 years life before it needs replacing,” he says.

Ronald points out the challenges with capital expenditure in terms of these sorts of batteries – not such an issue for large companies that can borrow money cheaply, but may not be such a good purchase for smaller companies relying on higher capital costs.

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11:33 – Best and worst reviews of the week as chosen by SQ team member Ned.

The worst review was from an off-grid system owner who claimed negligence by a vendor (not an SQ client) over a generator purchase. After multiple issues, the vendor allegedly walked away from the problem – leaving the buyer with a “boat anchor”. Finn and Ronald’s advice – go to consumer affairs.

Best review – Essential Solar (part of the SolarQuotes pre-vetted installer network) received praise from a customer who recently had a system installed. While Essential Solar weren’t the cheapest quote; the system was installed rapidly and the customer was guided through the process “very comprehensively”.

“This is a point about SolarQuotes that some people misunderstand,” says Finn. “Some people think it’s a get the cheapest system service. It’s not.”

Finn says from the data we see, price is important, but not the primary driver.

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14:56 – Finn discusses some of the new features on SolarQuotes’ solar installer reviews, including a timeline feature for ratings and “Ausranking”. This shows where a particular company ranks out of all installer reviews on the web site – client and non-client installation companies. Different timeframes and number of reviews can be selected for making comparisons. This is just the beginning – expect more exciting new review features in the coming months.

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18:02 – Finn and Ronald chat about the UN Secretary-General’s call to end fossil fuel subsidies and to stop building new coal plants. While the Secretary-General said pollution should be taxed, not people, Ronald states this approach needs to be navigated carefully as it can lead to deficits in government revenue.

Finn also runs a video that accompanied the article above showing Bill Nye ” The Science Guy” getting all fired up about climate change – including Mr. Nye dropping a few f-bombs.

“That’s the language I think we have to start using,” says Finn. “We should be on a war footing”.

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21:32 – Solar power in the UK again set a new peak generation record recently. Ronald and Finn make some comparisons between the UK and Australia on solar power. Both nations have similar levels of installed capacity, but Australia’s per capita figure is significantly higher – as it should!

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22:55 – Powering Finn’s Land (Finland) – Ronald challenges Finn on his conclusion that Finland needs nuclear power given its long-dark winters.

“No way nuclear can pay for itself at the current prices,” says Ronald. “Or even at what I call the very optimistic price of around 8c per kilowatt hour for the new reactor they are planning to build.” You can read Ronald’s analysis here.

However, Finn says he believes we shouldn’t be demonising nuclear based on safety or cost.

“We need all the tools at our disposal and we should be developing these reactors and getting the cost down and getting the safety up – even though it is the safest form of electricity generation already.”

The debate then continued. Finn also touched on the possibility of installing solar panels on a chunk of land he inherited in Finland.

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About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. We must never forget Chernobyl. A very good production is being streamed at the moment, a timely reminder of the horrors.
    In Kakadu National Park the indigenous owners refer to the areas of the park where uranium is found, as sickness country.
    When living in Kakadu, the ponds of tailings from the uranium mine, overflowed during the ‘wet’ seasons releasing these tailings into the pristine river system. Were the public ever told about this? Of course not.
    I’m sorry Finland has long, dark days but in Australia we should harness the wind and the sun for energy and leave the uranium in the ground.

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