SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 20 – Fishy Figures

Finn and Ronald discuss the latest solar panel torture testing results, the Victorian solar rebate (subsidy), rooftop isolators, a forecast based on very dodgy figures and more.

This week’s vodcast kicks off with Ronald recounting a recent experience involving beans and KFC. Ronald thanks the donor. Again, you’ll just need to watch the video as is always the case with anything relating to Ronald’s almost disturbing affinity with cheap legumes.

2:04 – Finn and Ronald discuss a recently published report prepared for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) – a forecast for distributed energy resources and electric vehicles in Australia. AEMO commissioned the report to help it determine what grid demand is going to be from solar, batteries and electric cars out to 2050 for planning purposes.

“The numbers looked a bit fishy to me,” said Finn of the report.

.. and they were. For example, the solar cost figures were double what they should be for the current period and the battery figures were half of what they are.

“Most of the calculations in this report are worthless,” Finn states (along with some other choice words I won’t repeat here).

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5:25 – There’s a continuing push to ditch the rooftop DC isolator requirement for solar power systems, which Ronald refers to as “fizzle boxes” – the weakest link in any DC solar power system.

Both Finn and Ronald believe dumping the requirement is a very good idea and are glad to see the Clean Energy Council getting on board with the rest of the industry.

“Just to repeat what we’ve said before, New Zealand have exactly the same standard, but when they read it they crossed out the bit that said rooftop isolators are mandatory and I think their exact words were – that’s a stupid rule,” said Finn.

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6:30 – An article on the standards gap holding back solar homes from becoming smart homes attracted a lot of feedback. The article is basically about scheduling devices to power on and off based on the availability of home solar electricity output.

“It shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s really, really hard to do because there are no standards,” says Finn.

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9:23 – Victoria’s coal fired power stations have been found to be the most unreliable in the National Energy Market (NEM).

Ronald points out while coal is being propped up all the way to the grave, renewables have a much tougher time when it comes to integration into the NEM. Finn says we should be building cleaner dispatchable power in anticipation of coal plants closing down, rather than as a reaction to plant closures. Ronald states this isn’t expensive when the savings on health and environmental costs are taken into consideration.

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12:15 – Best and worst reviews of the week as chosen by SQ team member Ned.

The worst review of the week was in relation to concerns a customer had with rain and his solar panels. He was advised by the installation company that the next time it rains to climb up onto his rooftop and take a photo – which is a really, really bad idea.

It will come as no surprise that this solar business (not an SQ pre-vetted installer) ranks in the bottom 4% of all installers reviewed on SolarQuotes according to SQ’s AusRanking figures.

“Personally, I would not choose to go with this company based on those metrics,” says Finn.

Best review of the week – Goliath Solar & Electrical received a glowing review from a customer who said the company was excellent throughout the whole process; keeping the customer informed, being punctual and tidying up after themselves.

“Panels are looking great and already generating great returns,” says Sam (the customer).

Finn says Goliath Solar & Electrical, which is a SolarQuotes client, is a smallish business fanatical about install quality and customer service – and is very reasonable on price. SQ’s AusRanking puts Goliath Solar in the top 4% of all installers listed on SQ (clients and non-clients).

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15:25 – Finn and Ronald discuss the next phase of Victoria’s Solar Homes Package, which is changing from a rebate arrangement to a subsidy; i.e. the value of the incentive (up to $2,225) will be taken off the up-front cost of going solar at the point of sale.

Given the new approach to the way the subsidies will be issued (limited numbers each month), Finn believes it is overly-complicated and will throw a spanner in the works.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” says Finn.

Ronald thinks there should have been a lower rebate/subsidy and just let it run.

Some Victorian solar installers have also raised the issue of a significant administrative burden being placed upon them, which has a cost.

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19:29 – The pair chat about Ronald’s article on the results of a new solar panel reliability scorecard. Ronald outlines the four torture tests the panels were subjected to and that GCL, JA and Longi were a top performer in all tests.

“Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean every panel you get from them will do this well in the test,” he says. “But it does show they know how to make panels that last, so it’s good evidence the panels will be good.”

Ronald also explains a few caveats regarding the testing.

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24:10 – Finn’s article – Good People Making Bad Decisions: A ‘Community Solar’ Case Study also attracted a lot of attention last week. It’s Finn’s views on a case study published in Renew magazine involving the purchase of a very expensive home battery system.

Finn laments solar battery fetishism.

“Batteries are great, they are going to be important, but you shouldn’t be buying them over and above just basic efficiency upgrades for your home – and most Australian homes, let’s be honest, need those efficiency upgrades,” he says.

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26:43 – What it costs solar companies in the USA to get sales is truly mind-boggling – a major player is paying an estimated USD 90c a watt. That’s around $1.29 Australian per watt at current exchange rates (around AUD $7,740 for a 6kW system) – and that’s only the cost involved in acquiring the customer! Australians can purchase that same size system (and even larger) at what it costs a U.S. company just to gain a paying customer.

Finn says SQ’s installer clients using our sales leads service should be able to acquire customers for around just 4 – 5 cents (Australian) a watt.

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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.

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