I knew it!  You can’t trust them as far as you can throw them.

“Hear Ye, Hear Ye, gather ‘round all yea true believers and install solar power stations and reap the treasure trove of free energy and generous rewards from thy trustworthy Government  and most honourable power companies!”


What an absolute con job…

Anything that sounds too good to be true is normally too good to be true and this, like the insulation scheme and most, if not all other schemes thought up by stir-crazy politicians, is doomed to fail on a massive scale.

Now there are great stories where people I know have had their solar hot water systems on their roof for 15 years or more and they’re working beautifully. That’s great (for you) probably because the system was built using top quality products and installed by professionals.

Today we have a plethora of Fly By Nighters using dodgy equipment manufactured who-knows-where, by who-knows-who and with guarantees that are only going to claimable against the Solar Fairy, because most of the companies that either supplied or installed will be out of business.

But what about the governments and power companies that encouraged and subsidised this scramble and all their promises of buyback?  This year the Queensland Government reduced the BuyBack from 44 cents/Kwh to 8 cents!  AND, even the 8 cent rate is to be reviewed mid 2014!  To what?  NIL?

And be careful. I’ve heard of instances where Agents and Salespeople have TOLD prospective buyers that “this house comes with a massive 44 cent/Kwh feed in tariff rate – you will pay nothing for electricity and even get a payment each month!”.  Aaaahh – sorry boys and girls – my sources tell me the 44 cent rate is attached to the Account Holder (a real person or entity) and NOT the property, so the benefit doesn’t change hands on sale or lease.  As soon as the Account Holder changes, the 44 cent rate ceases.

Promises are disappearing before our very eyes and causing “recovery of investment” times to extend from 3 years to 10 years and beyond.  Even those estimates don’t often include the fact that a lot of the panels and inverters being used today are crap and will have to be replaced sooner rather than later. Add that little nuance into your calculations and you see that you are probably far better off talking to a qualified electrician and your power company to see how many things around your home can legally be wired up to off-peak power.

Go through your house and install power saving lights everywhere. Install smart equipment that turns off everything that normally goes to standby.  Far smarter way to start saving money.

Just to make feel even better and this may just be a wee red herring but …never say never!

The following point’s been raised with me in discussions with an Accountant. I wonder if the “supply” you make to the power company and the “payment” they make to you, and expressed on your Bill as a discount is a “discount” or a “payment” under the various Tax Acts?  Imagine that? Imagine the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or the infamous American IRS or whatever nasty tax collector you have in your country deciding that this IS in fact income, and demands that you declare the income on your tax return? And pay tax on it?  That would throw your cost recovery calculations out the window. Sure, there may be deductions against that income (depreciation of plant and equipment) but think of increased accounting costs!

A few years ago I made a lot of enquiry about fitting both a solar hot water system and solar power plant on the north facing roof of my house.  I must’ve spoken to a dozen companies that were advertising at the time, including some very old and trusted names.  I was so confused in the end, I decided to talk to a solar engineer.

Quite a few points were made.

Shade trees or tall buildings either side of your house will dramatically reduce the panels exposure to vital sunlight.

Unless the panels are made to follow the sun’s track, they only produce maximum power for a few short minutes when the sun’s rays are as close to 90 degrees as they can get.

Because my roof was steeper than just about flat (wusses), they all wanted “danger money” into the thousands of dollars extra to install.

A 3Kw system, if not a tracking system, not installed on a perfectly angled north facing roof, and with some dirt and dust on the panels, will be lucky to peak at 2Kw.

Leaf litter, bird and bat poo, dust, grime and especially mould growing on the panels will greatly reduce their effectiveness.  Who feels like climbing on their roof once a week to polish a dozen or more solar panels?

The engineer spoke about “phase limits” to do with domestic power systems.  Sorry went over my head but you are limited to just how much you can “pump” back into the system.  Once you go over a certain level, you have to change a whole bunch of things and that seemed to add up to another large lump of money up front for not a lot of return.

Ask your insurance company whether they actually pay for damage to panels and related systems from falling tree branches, airborne storm debris and hail stones.  If they say they DO cover them for all sorts of damage make sure it’s absolutely clearly outlined in your Policy document or  have them write you a letter, referring to your Policy and clearly setting out what they will and will not cover and noting if there are any limitations or conditions.  One “condition” that was mentioned was “no cover if panels have been on the roof for more than ten years” Nice!

And lastly, from a real estate agents point of view, some of these installations are just plain UGLY.  Have you seen some of them in your area where the panels are clearly visible from the street, canal, lake or waterfront?

They are NOT attractive things and whilst some savings MAY be there (and I’m yet to be convinced) I’m sure buyers will be put off by the sheer negative visual impact.

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2 thoughts on “SOLAR SCHMOLAR

  1. 12 Nov 2012 – From Cameron Hanover in the USA – China’s $20 billion solar industry is avoiding loan defaults and mergers by taking aid from local governments, preserving jobs at money-losing companies such as LDK Solar Co., the world’s second-biggest maker of solar cells.

  2. The government rebates for rooftop solar panels will be cut in half a full 6 months earlier than previously announced. The solar power industry is livid!

    Gillard Government Minister Greg Combet said that the scheme would finish up in January 2013 “due to continued strong demand for household solar”.

    I told you you can’t trust them…

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