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going solar – one

with 2 comments

As our housing co-op is considering going solar in a small way, house by house, to test the waters, to check out its efficiencies, viability and so on, I’ve decided to post some occasional pieces exploring the current situation, re technology, subsidies and the like. this is mainly for my own edification and education.

I’ll start with some recent news. The state government here in South Australia has extended the solar feed-in tarrif for another two years, though the rate will change from october 2011, going down to sixteen cents per kilowatt-hour of energy fed into the grid [plus a 6c contribution from electricity retailers]. the previous amount was considerably higher. In fact, the government was considering an increase in the tarrif, from 44c per kwh to 54c, with a complete cut-off to new customers at the end of September, but there were concerns:

This presented a very real threat of creating another boom and bust scenario all too common in Australia’s solar sector and risked locking out tens of thousands of households from making the switch to solar post-September.

According to a newsbite I looked at this morning, but which has since irretrievably disappeared into cyberspace, the government was going to kill the scheme because demand was outstripping supply to an unsustainable degree, but now they’ve come up with a compromise solution, reducing the tarrif considerably but still providing some incentive. Many, though, feel that this government decision will massively damage solar businesses after October.

In any case our co-op  is looking at this from a slightly different perspective. As a co-op, we won’t benefit from feed-in tarrifs, though individual tenants will. Our co-op as landlord will bear all the costs of purchase, installation, repair and maintenance, while selected individual tenants reap the benefits, if any. In fact, our experience with solar has been quite negative thus far – or mixed, perhaps. Of our 20 properties, six have solar hot water systems. We don’t have any full PV systems. Five of these HWS’s were integrated into the housing design, the sixth was retrofitted [and has caused no end of trouble]. Of the five integrated systems, the first two, in two houses built together, have caused problems, while the other three, in three more recent houses built together, have worked well as far as I’m aware, though I might need more info on that. In any case, the problems with all three of the not-so-functional systems appears to be the gas back-up system, or the solar-gas interface.

Presumably there’s no comparison to be made with a full PV system, but these can cost up to $17,000, and currently our co-op, though it has more than $100,000 in the bank, is going backwards in terms of maintenance and upkeep and property improvements, with an expenditure coming up which may be as much as $25,000, for repairs and improvements to the back of one of our properties. If we paid something like the above price for, say, PV systems in four of our properties in the coming year, while continuing to lose money on everyday maintenance, we’d leave ourselves seriously exposed. So my task is to take a closer look at our finances, and at market prices, with any subsidies that might be  available, for the purchase, installation and maintenance of photovoltaics.

All this, then, by way of an introduction.

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Written by stewart henderson

June 27, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Posted in environment

2 Responses

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  1. I just installed a 1.5kw solar system for someone. They paid less than $5000 for all the parts, and $1300 for the installation, and they get to keep the STCs. SInce the system was installed before June 30, they get the 5x multiplier for the STCs, so they will get $6200 back from the government.

    adinov

    June 29, 2011 at 12:44 am

  2. Hello Alex, thanks for visiting.
    I need to get my head around a few things – how big or adequate, for starters, a 1.5kw system is, and then all the stuff about STCs. You seem to be saying that the overall cost of the system plus installation was around $6300, and that, due to the generous STC provision, they will get more or less all of that back from the government, so that the cost will be effectively nil? I feel my sceptical antennae being overloaded…

    luigifun

    June 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm


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