Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Solar energy - it works for me

Recently, when a guest was reluctant to plug a new laptop into a power socket in our house, I realised just how little people understand solar energy. Yesterday, Harvey Norman announced that it had placed a substantial order for user-friendly solar panels to supply to customers in addition to kitchens, bathroom items, hot water and air conditioning systems.

Perhaps people’s perception of solar is about to change! 

When the first few solar panels were installed on the roof of our weekender we constantly reminded guests to turn off the lights. Now that the weekender is our home we have a larger system, a lot more appliances and to date, have not run out of power since the upgrade two years ago.  

Although all our lights are purchased because of their ability to use less power, we still explain to visiting children that our power is limited and they therefore should not leave lights on in our house. Although, it is not crucial to turn lights off these days, it does create an awareness of using electricity which children seem to take for granted – they don’t pay the bills.  

More appliances do not translate into using more power as most new appliances’ power consumption has dropped in recent years due to technology. All the very high powered, unnecessary appliances like microwaves, dryers and air conditioning have not been purchased while electric blankets and irons are used sparingly. But we continually run a couple of computers, printers, wide screen TV, stereo, washing machine and fans all without problems. Our heating is wood, our cooking is wood or gas and our hot water is a separate solar system backed up with a gas system for when we have lots of guests.

Today solar panels are cheaper than ever, perhaps because of the demise of the solar bonus scheme (good idea, bad management) and installers who bought up big are now discounting. 

We were not part of this scheme as we do not have access to the grid. We store the solar power we produce in batteries so we, unlike most people, will not be paying any more for our power this year. 

A friend has calculated that he has halved his power bill by buying a solar system off e-bay and installing it in their house in Sydney after the solar bonus scheme was discontinued. His system is connected to the grid and he only gets six cents rebate but he calculates that with the rising cost of electricity, the cost of the system will be paid off in a couple of years. 

By producing solar power on site and using it you are not only reducing the amount you use but you may be reducing the amount lost from transmission lines.  

People in NSW who have installed solar panels that feed into the grid have started a petition for a one for one feed in tariff, which occurs in other states in Australia.

Campaign for a one for one solar feed in tariff
The people of NSW request a fair price for the electricity they create through solar photovoltaic panels. At present the people of NSW will only receive between 5 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity that they feed into the grid from their solar panels, but this is at the discretion of their electricity retailer. More information and online petition at

Harvey Norman invests in solar panels
Diversified renewable energy company, CBD Energy Limited has received a 5MW order of solar equipment from Harvey Norman Commercial Division. The equipment will be supplied from US based, Westinghouse Solar Inc. with which CBD is planning to merge in the third quarter of 2012.

"In addition to supplying kitchen, bathroom items, hot water and air conditioning systems, we have established a solar business, which we believe will be a market leader," said Harvey Norman commercial division franchisee Alan Stephenson said in a statement.

$450m solar project for outback NSW
June 9
Sydney Morning Herald
A $450 million solar project, to be built across two sites in Broken Hill and Nyngan, will generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes when completed by the end of 2015.

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