SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 27 – Thermal Events

Finn and Ronald chat about payback on solar vs. batteries, the cheapest electricity plans for solar power system owners, the stoush between Walmart and Tesla and more.

Investing In Solar Only Vs. Solar + Batteries

0:33 – Finn’s video and accompanying transcript shows simple maths comparing the payback of solar panels with a battery – in this case the Tesla Powerwall 2; the cheapest battery system available in Australia that includes a battery inverter.

“As we’ve said before an unsubsidised battery and even a subsidised battery are not even close to paying for themselves,” states Finn, referring to payback occurring within the warranty period.

You can see the solar and battery numbers here.

Finn and Ronald then discuss some of the comments that followed the post, which included claims of batteries being cycled more than twice a day on average.

“My response always to that is – that’s amazing, please can you show me the data that shows how you do that; because I can’t work out how that could happen.”

Finn says information has never been forthcoming.

The pair are also curious about a couple of claims made by battery owners on the pension who say they receive a higher pension as a result of installing energy storage.

Some comments also made mention of the potential for Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) providing a better return on storage. Ronald and Finn acknowledge the possibility, but say the time to buy a battery is when these VPPs are available – not on the promise of this occurring.

“You wait until they are available, then you select a battery that will help you take advantage of them,” says Ronald.

Finn also explains how it’s possible to get a battery in South Australia for around $400 per kilowatt hour (but you’ll need to buy solar as well) and how you can add another 5kW of panels to that system for around 30c a watt.

On a somewhat related note, Finn mentions SwitchDin partnering with Amber Electric for a virtual power plant pilot project involving Amber Electric customers who have already installed battery storage. Amber Electric will provide SwitchDin Droplets at no charge to 10 eligible customers – learn more about this (and what a droplet is) here.

The Cheapest Electricity Plans For Solar Owners

9:46 – Ronald crunched a bunch of numbers and found in 3 out of 5 Australian capitals where there is electricity retailer choice, Origin Energy has the cheapest electricity plans for solar power system owners – but he warns:

“Watch out for Origin Energy. On the comparison tools they will have a really high feed-in tariff, but they won’t give it to you. Not unless you buy a system from them.”

Even so, Ronald says Origin does quite well for solar owners.

Finn is impressed with his electricity retailer Amaysim, which he noticed had lifted its feed-in tariffs and reduced its usage and daily rates since he signed up; so he called Amaysim and asked to switch plans.

“I think the lesson is that even if your electricity retailer is rated as being the cheapest, it’s still worth every 12 months just checking what their rates are,” says Finn. “Because if they got better, I don’t know any retailer that is going to put you on a better rate – you’ve got to actually asked for it. But it’s easy.”

Best And Worst Review Of The Week

14:05Worst review – this one comes from Finn, who isn’t impressed with Diamond Energy, the electricity retailer for SolarQuotes’ head office.

Finn details his experience with Diamond Energy since the new office was established late last year. The first quarterly bill was far higher than it should have been and the reason provided was it was an “estimated bill”, given difficulties with meter access.

Finn offered to take a photo of the meter reading every quarter, but Diamond wouldn’t allow it. Diamond Energy instead offered a smart meter that could be read remotely – and said it would be provided free of charge.

The smart meter was installed and Finn received the latest bill from Diamond Energy last Thursday. It was sky high again – boosted by a charge of $250 for a meter change. Finn quizzed this and was told the meter was free, but charges associated with installation were $250. Finn objected and the $250 charge was struck from the bill.

Finn’s rating of Diamond Energy – two stars.

17:00Best review as chosen by SQ team member Ned. A big thumbs up for Geelong Solar Energy from a customer who had received quotes from three different suppliers. While all the quotes were within a few hundred dollars of each other, the reviewer says Steve from Geelong Energy was “very patient and well informed”.

Folding Solar For Proposed Humungous Australian PV Project:

18:18 –  Sun Cable is planning to build a 10GW solar farm near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, along with 20-30 GWh of battery storage. The proposed project will export electricity to Singapore via a HVDC cable thousands of kilometres long.

The solar panels used will be part of a modular system developed by Australia’s 5B that incorporates a concertina-type racking system complete with ballast.

Ronald’s a little skeptical as to whether the Sun Cable project will go ahead given the amount of money that will be needed.

Solar Powered Drone Manufacturer Sets Up In Brisbane

21:22 – Ronald thinks solar powered UAV technology is the wave of the future – saving money, saving fuel and saving lives.

Victorian Solar Rebate Update

22:33 – The fiasco continues. Finn criticises what he calls a “tone-deaf tweet” referencing Solar Victoria boss Stan Krapn and claiming success with the Solar Homes program given Victorian solar workers are losing jobs, businesses are closing down and some in the industry have been seeking support from organisations such as Beyond Blue.

“The Victorian solar industry was going great before you guys got involved,” says Finn. “Now you’re trying to spin that its somehow gotten better when its gotten objectively worse”.

The next rebate “lottery” won’t be on the previously announced date of September 1 (which is a Sunday) – it will instead be launched on the Monday (September 2). No word yet about any improvements to rebate allocation levels.

 Walmart Challenges ‘Negligent Tesla’ Over Rooftop Solar Fires

24:38 – Walmart was threatening to sue Tesla over solar power systems that Walmart says caused a number of rooftop fires at its facilities. All solar power systems installed under a lease or license with Tesla were subsequently been switched off by Walmart.

Here’s a link to Walmart’s suit.

“One thing I thought kind of amusing was the Tesla lawyers referred to the rooftop fires as ‘thermal events’,” says Finn.

Finn and Ronald discuss the situation, including a fair point made by Tesla.

Added note: since the vodcast was videoed, Walmart and Tesla have issue a joint statement regarding the situation. Looks like some of the heat has come off the stoush.

Finn also chats about the status of his Tesla EV order.

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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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