Good Solar Guide Introduction

The Good Solar Guide Contents | How To Use This Book

I first entered the Australian solar industry in 2007. Back then, a grand total of 1,115 solar systems were in operation across the country and, by today’s standards, most of them were tiny. Early adopters were paying around $10,000 for a four-panel solar array on their roof – that’s $2,500 per installed panel – and systems would take 30 years to pay back their cost.

Fast-forward just ten years and there are over 1.7 million systems in use, with an average size of 15 panels. There are now more solar panels than people in Australia.

Today, in 2018, the approximate cost to install a big 5 kW system is $6,500. That’s $325 per panel compared with $2,500 per panel ten years ago. At these prices, many people are paying the cost of their systems back in under four years and getting tiny bills along the way. To put it into perspective, in just ten years we’ve gone from 0.01% to over 17% of Aussie homes having solar.

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’re one of the 83% of Australians who haven’t yet installed solar. You no doubt know that Australia is one of the most sun-blessed countries on the planet. You can see that it makes a hell of a lot of sense to collect that sunshine and use it to power your home – especially given our increasingly hot summers, and with ever-rising grid electricity prices.

But you haven’t put those panels on your roof yet.

My job is not to convince you to go solar

Let me put you at ease. Although I love solar (and as you read the rest of this book, I hope that becomes apparent), the aim of this book is not to convince you to go solar. There are plenty of books, blogs and company brochures that declare solar power the answer to all the world’s ills. They imply that you must be a complete dunderhead (or worse, a planet-hater) if you haven’t installed the magic panels on your roof yet.

This book is not like that.

I can’t advise whether you should go solar or not because I have no idea what your situation is. I don’t know how much energy your home uses, when you use it, what your roof looks like or how long you plan to be in your home. Solar is not for everyone, and it may not be for you.

My aim with this book is to give you all the information you need to decide for yourself whether solar makes sense and, if it does, show you how to buy a kick-ass system that will last for decades – at a great price.

If the simple analysis we do together shows financial returns that you are happy with then we’ll get into the details of how to buy a great solar system, looking at:

  • how many panels you really need
  • whether you should get batteries too
  • which panel and inverter brands to consider and which you should avoid
  • how to find a great installer and a good deal, and
  • how to make the most of your installed system to minimise your future bills

The result should be that your home is blessed with tiny electricity bills for decades to come.

If you follow the steps in this book and you end up in any other situation, please go to Amazon and leave me a one-star review, or shoot me an email at [email protected] and we’ll work out how to fix your situation together.

The genesis of mass market solar

In 2006, I was working for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in their Renewables and Energy Efficiency Division. Back then, as I’ve already pointed out, solar cost $10,000 for a tiny four-panel 1 kW system with a 30-year payback. Not the world’s most compelling offer!

But in May 2007, six years after he created the Renewable Energy Target, Liberal Prime Minister John Howard (just before the election – go figure) announced an $8,000 rebate for anyone installing solar panels. At a stroke, Honest John had reduced the simple payback for solar from at least thirty years to a much more attractive five years.

Whenever free government cash is announced, business soon jumps in to help relieve the treasury of their crisp $100 bills as quickly as is humanly possible. Lo and behold, within weeks, from my ivory tower at CSIRO I started to see brand new solar companies beating a path to unsuspecting Aussies’ doors offering to install a kilowatt of solar for prices as low as minus $500.

That’s right: they gave you a $500 Myer voucher and a 1 kW solar system on your roof. All you had to do was surrender your $8,000 rebate to them.

And that was the birth of the mass adoption of solar in Australia.

I remember thinking two things at the time:

  1. This market is likely to grow fast.
  2. This market is going to have a problem with shonks selling crap to reap the generous rebate. This market is going to have a problem with shonks selling crap to reap the generous rebate. This market is going to have a problem with shonks selling crap to reap the generous rebate. This market is going to have a problem with shonks selling crap to reap the generous rebate.

To cut a long story short1, I quickly left CSIRO and set up a solar website to give people advice when buying solar.

Fast-forward nine years and that website (SolarQuotes.com.au) has grown to become the most popular2 solar information site in Australia. One in thirty homes in Australia has registered with us to get quotes for solar, and along the way I’ve answered tens of thousands of questions from solar buyers via email, Facebook and blog comments. More importantly, I’ve used this interaction with real Aussie families to develop a seven-step process to help Australians specify, buy and use a solar system that will lock in low bills for decades.

That seven-step process forms the basis of this book. My hope is that it can be the go-to guide for anyone installing solar, with the result that they pay a fair price for a great system that delivers tiny bills.

1Visit www.solarquotes.com.au/about for the full story

2Ranked number one on Alexa.com for most visitors in Australia of any solar-specific website. Checked January 2018.

Questions or feedback about the content on this page? Contact me.

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