SolarQuotes Vodcast Ep. 25 – Sunburnt Solar Panels And Green Minions

Finn and Ronald cover the ongoing solar rebate fiasco in Victoria, a company claiming solar panel failure caused by sunburn, a questionable ad spruiking a super-cheap Sonnen battery deal and more.

00:09 – To kick off, Ronald explains the secret to healthy office plants. Judging by the weird voice he then used, we believe office plants will play a role in his secret plans for world domination. Then we get into discussing actual news.

Solar Victoria Disaster Continues

00:43 – Another Smart Energy Council organised rally was held last week, protesting the disaster that is the Victorian Solar Homes PV rebate. This time around, solar industry participants and supporters gathered outside Premier Daniel Andrews office in Melbourne. The Premier wasn’t around, but Solar Victoria staff were reportedly watching the event.

Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio said of the state of the industry:

“Our rebates have made it bigger and better and will continue to make it bigger and better”.

Finn was not amused.

“That’s a lie Lily .. Sound bite politics. It’s like if you say it enough times, people will believe you. It’s not true. Why aren’t the media questioning that statement?”

The reality of the situation is Victorians are losing their jobs due to the rebate mess and in some cases where they are keeping them, it’s because the solar business owner is going into debt to pay wages. One installer at the rally said he was paying wages from his mortgage offset account.

“Contrast that with a politician – absolutely no skin in the game, absolutely nothing to lose, everything covered by the tax payer,” says Finn.

Finn thinks the Victorian Government’s tactics are to just wait it out and hope it goes away.

“Once half of the industry is bankrupt and out of business, well, there’ll be plenty of work for the 50% that’s left,” says Ronald.

Finn says another example of the absolute incompetence of the bureaucracy is if you have a solar power system installed in Victoria right now, there’s a chance it will be inspected three times by three separate organisations.

  • Once by the Clean Energy Regulator.
  • Once because all solar PV systems in Victoria get inspected.
  • Once by Solar Victoria.

This is increasing the cost of solar power for everyone.

Finn also points out the next round of solar rebates will  be on September 1 – which is a Sunday. But Solar Victoria can’t tell installers whether the scheme will open on the Sunday or not.

“I think it’s an example here of the bureaucrats and the politicians who are rent- seekers destroying the risk-takers, who are the people that are creating the wealth, who are the business owners.”

Ronald just thinks it’s a case of the Government screwing up, they won’t admit it – and they don’t care.

R.I.P 3kW Solar Systems

06:48 – As time goes by, the level of interest in 3kW solar power systems continues to drop. Our latest Australian Solar Systems Interest Index (auSSII) report reveals just 3.5% of Australians using our quote service during July requested pricing on this system capacity.

“Unless you have a very limited amount of space on your roof, there’s no point in getting a 3 kilowatt system,” says Ronald. “Spend that little bit extra, because it’s hardly any difference in the price.”

Ronald recommends a 6.5 kilowatt system if that will fit, otherwise as much as you can reasonably fit on your roof.

Finn and Ronald also discuss the popularity of advanced system monitoring, while the proportion of Australians interested in a concurrent battery installation or getting a battery installed anytime soon remains quite low. It seems batteries aren’t quite as popular as some would have you believe.

“Batteries will be huge at some point – right now, quite dangerous to bet the farm on them,” says Finn.

Ronald agrees.

“Batteries will be a big thing, they just don’t pay now and they have to pay before they take off. Simple,” said Ronald

Read more from the latest auSSII report here.

Best And Worst Review Of The Week

As chosen by SQ team member Ned.

12:40Best Review – “Customer service at its very, very best” said a reviewer of AHLEC Solar in Queensland (an SQ client). The reviewer went into great detail of his experience and how Austin from AHLEC was with him each step of the way.

This became particularly important when the customer received his first electricity bill post-solar installation – double what it usually is. The electricity retailer blamed the system, but AHLEC Solar went into bat, dealing directly with the retailer – and proved it wasn’t. The problem was with the meter (it had been wired incorrectly) and that’s on the electricity retailer. Consequently, all the solar electricity that was being generated was billed as usage.

Even with this evidence, the situation moved slowly until AHLEC called in the Energy Ombudsman – then things moved faster. Still, it took over a year all told before the situation was sorted, bills reviewed and the customer provided some credit for the debacle. However, without AHLEC’s intervention, this could have taken far longer and had a different ending.

17:07Worst Review – a solar business many in the industry would be familiar with (not an SQ client) was blasted by a reviewer who said the business was “cunning, conniving and an absolute disgrace”. A financed battery system has failed on multiple occasions and its alleged the company now wants to wash its hands of the situation. Finn has reached out to the reviewer to potentially offer assistance.

Zappi Electric Charger Review

19:30 – The (somewhat oddly named) Zappi is a “smart” EV charger that can be configured to charge from excess solar electricity when it is available. Richard chatted to a Queensland owner of a Zappi who is very happy with its performance to date. Finn and Ronald discuss whether Finn should buy a Zappi charger given he expects to take delivery of a Tesla EV soon.

CSUN Solar Panels De-Listed

22:33 – Last week, the Clean Energy Council announced the delisting of all  China Sunergy (Nanjing) Co Ltd (CSUN) solar panels from the approved solar modules list. Finn acknowledges the task of listing panels approved for installation under Australia’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, ensuring they remain compliant and delisting when they don’t is one the CEC does particularly well.

Super-Cheap Sonnen Battery Deal?

24:08 – An ad for a 10kWh Sonnen battery deal in South Australia caught Finn’s eye. It states you can effectively pay $2,990 for the battery including SA’s battery subsidy, but further details required some digging around. It turns out to achieve this outcome involves joining the Simply Energy Virtual Power Plant program, whereby they’ll give you $7 a day for 2 years to be part of their VPP – which works out to be $5,100 over 2 years.

This and various other issues with the ad aside, Finn and Ronald think it could be a pretty good deal – but to do your sums and read the small print on the Simply Energy VPP (which Finn hasn’t done yet).

On a related note, Finn also discusses Tesla Powerwall’s “storm mode” and his experience during recent wild weather that blacked out thousands of properties across South Australia.

Sunburnt Solar Panels???

28:19 – It seems an Australian solar company widely known within the industry as being pretty horrible is having panel troubles. Ronald was informed someone’s solar panels stopped working after just 2 years and had “big holes rusted through them”.

The reason for this? The solar company involved apparently said this was because the solar panels were sunburnt. The company also said it wasn’t responsible for any related warranty claims because the systems hadn’t been serviced every year by a company-approved agent.

Finn’s advice to the affected system owner:

“I would be very confident a tribunal that understood Australian law would find in your favour.”

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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.


  1. Everyone is so fixated on solar subsidies…

    RONALD: Hi Martin, I’ll just stop you short there. We are protesting against the Victorian Solar Homes rebate. The Victorian solar industry would be much better off without it. It is a poorly designed scheme that limits the number of residential solar installations in the state and is driving perfectly good solar installers out of business through no fault of their own.

  2. Karl Fletcher says

    G’day Finn, enjoy your newsletters and videos, very informative and easy reading.

    On the topic mentioned this week with the AHLEC customer and their power supplier, I’ve got a similar story.

    When I took up your offer of the quote, went ahead with your recommended supplier, had the job installed, from then my problems started. My bills went wild, from $70 to $900, all with estimated readings, none were actual readings. We’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years, have no fences, live out of town, no reason for a meter reader to not have access, never had an estimated reading in 20 years, but from the day solar went on, our bills went nuts and solar credit readings were a handful of dollars. Took me more than a year to get the bills to stabilise and have proper on-site readings done, each time I asked for an actual reading, I was threatened with a $119 meter reading charge. By the time it settled I was so tired of it, I didn’t even try to claim any money back. My supplier is Origin Energy in NSW and they became complete mongrels when I went solar.

    So many people I have shared this story with have similar stories of their own, power providers try and scam the daylights out of new solar installations as some kind of punishment it appears. Even the big providers. Shameful.

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