SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 26 : Zen And The Art Of Solar

Discover what’s happening with the CEC and Facebook, Victorian solar rebate fiasco update, “blue hydrogen” peril, a beautiful off-grid solar power system and more.

Ronald has had a few days off, during which he’s been studying Zen Buddhism. But his new-found inner peace was no match for what was to come.

Solar Fiasco In Victoria Continues

00:42 – Finn and Ronald discuss the ongoing farce in Victoria related to the Solar Homes rebate for PV. Last week, the state’s Opposition attempted to trigger an inquiry into the scheme but was defeated by Labor with crossbench MP support.

Finn asks Ronald:

“Why do you think they would vote against an inquiry into such a disastrous scheme?”

Ronald’s reply:

“Maybe they thought they were doing a good thing. Or maybe it’s just horse trading. Hey, if you vote against this, we’ll support you on something you like.”

Finn wonders if the crossbench MPs involved really realise they are hurting the residential solar power industry in Victoria by voting against the inquiry. He says he doesn’t think it’s possible for a human being with any empathy to vote against the inquiry if they had spoken to installers in Victoria.

While an inquiry would have taken some time, it would have put enormous pressure on the Victorian Government to alter the scheme in the interim.

Finn and Ronald also discuss Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio’s recent comments in Parliament about the the “success” of the scheme and the Clean Energy Council’s presence in all this.

The Clean Energy Council And Facebook

08:43 – On a related note, last week the Clean Energy Council’s CEO issued a statement saying the CEC would not be participating in installer Facebook groups any more.

“It’s 2019 – people communicate on Facebook,” says Finn. “If you want to understand and engage with the 6,000 solar installers you represent, you’ve got to be where they are – which is on Facebook.”

Finn senses a growing chasm between the CEC and solar installers; providing a couple of examples of how the CEC has been getting installers off-side recently. This includes making the Approved Solar Retailer program mandatory in Victoria and trying to make it mandatory elsewhere.

As a result of these and other issues, Finn says he won’t be renewing SolarQuotes’ Clean Energy Council membership.

Best Review Of The Week

11.12Soltek Energy, based in Sydney, won high praise from a customer who was impressed with how the company operated from the get-go. While there were a couple of minor issues associated with the solar power system installation, these were quickly rectified. “An excellent experience all around (from a perfectionist),” said the reviewer.

Longi’s Hi-MO X Solar Panel Launch

13:06 – Finn and Ronald chat about the launch of the Longi Hi-MO X in Australia and seem pretty impressed with the panel. However, Ronald says the term “shingle” describing the types of cells used in the module is unfortunate given its association with a disease.

The new Longi solar panels have an impressive efficiency of around 20%. Finn mentions the “father of photovoltaics”, Professor Martin Green, recently stated 40% efficient solar cells aren’t all that far off.

Dr. Finkel On Hydrogen – And Coal

15:48 – Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Alan Finkel, has suggested Australia needs to seriously consider “blue hydrogen“, which is hydrogen produced by burning coal; specifically lignite. This is high-moisture content coal that also generates a high level of carbon emissions.

Ronald points out the hydrogen doesn’t come from the lignite, but from the water produced in the process. He’s dubious of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to capture the carbon emissions from such a process as suggested by Dr. Finkel, which will make this form of hydrogen production very expensive.

Finn and Ronald fear the CCS aspect will then be dumped, but production of hydrogen using this particularly filthy form of coal will continue – with the emissions released into the atmosphere.

As for the much-hyped upcoming demand for hydrogen from Japan, Ronald says:

“Why do we suddenly start believing politicians when they’re from another country,” he states. “I’ve lived in Japan, their politicians are politer but they are still politicians. They don’t tell the truth.”

Solar Cashback For Commonwealth Home Loan Customers

19:45 – If you have installed a solar power system of at least 5kW capacity and have a mortgage with the Commonwealth Bank, you may be eligible for $500 from CBA. Ronald also mentions CommBank’s involvement with coal, which the bank says it will be dropping entirely by 2030 (with caveats).

The Sexiest Off-Grid System?

20:48 – Finn describes what he says is the most beautiful off-grid system he’s ever seen. The system was installed by Josh Sheppard Electrical for NRG Solar.

Finn comments that while you can buy all the components you need for an off-grid solar power system on eBay and install it yourself, it’s far better to call in professionals for a tidier (and safer) job.

“Setting your house on fire accidentally – not worth it,” says Ronald.

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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. Des Scahill says

    It seems that both Finn and Ronald have simultaneously remembered that science has proved that stupidity is contagious. The only possible way one can avoid it’s malign influence is to remove one’s self from it’s presence as soon and as fast as possible whenever it is encountered.
    [ ]

    At least, that is how I interpret Finn’s intention not to renew Solar Quotes membership of the CEC, and Ronald’s sudden interest in Zen Buddhism. Both have merely followed their own path to achieve the same end result.

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