Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Solar Panels Have Arrived

Yep, there they are.  Aren't they beautiful. All twenty of them.  Our roof is ideally place as the the length of it (or at least half) is North facing.  Can't do much better than that.  This has been a very long process and there arrival has been much anticipated for over 5 months.  That's 5 months of keeping a secret and not blurting it out to all of you that they were coming. OK, so i told a few of you.  Well, maybe just a few more than just a few.

I paid my deposit in September and have been waiting for first one installation contractor and then another. Good thing is that these installers were contractors for Simply Energy.  I didn't have to deal with them directly. I had a SE Solar team i could harass, loudly and often. Read "very often".

The first contractor took his sweet time and then had no panels, made appointments for installation and didn't show up (even when i had taken a day off work) and then they lost their very large contract with one of Australia's largest energy retailers. So sad, Not.  I wasn't the only unhappy customer it appears.  I waged my phone war and just before Christmas i received a $500 credit on my energy bill for my inconvenience.  They offered me the chance to pull out of the contract but i really wanted the deal they offered me.  The new installer took only a few extra weeks as i was assured i was "on top of the list"  and that new plans had to be lodged and approved by the energy provider as well. So i cant complain, again, can I?

You bet i can.  Since i am known for having more front than Myers I'm going to push for every cent of compensation I can.  For almost all of spring and summer i could have been earning free energy up there. Tom was home all day running air cons, TVs, gaming consoles, projectors and burning every light in the house (during the day).  Yes, i know what you are thinking but you don't live here, with them.  Aspie's are very "Switched On" and apparently blind to black balloons.   I've negotiated with SE that when the energy provider finally switches over the metering to solar, my last two quarters will be reviewed and another credit WILL arrive.  If not, i think they had better get a large supply of oil. I feel more squeaking coming on.

I'm not very environmentally conscious, am I?  I could be personally responsible for the energy and oil crisis, all on my own!  (Kick me, this is no laughing matter)
So why did i choose Simply Energy (SE).  Well apart from them being my current energy retailer that gives me a very nice 30% discount off standard rates (if there was a better deal elsewhere, id be with them) they made one very important sales point that made a lot of sense to me. There are many many solar companies in Oz.  Each one trying to out do the other with gimmicks, cheaper panels etc and annoying us all with those cold calls right on dinner time most nights.  The truth is that many of these companies come and go in the blink of an eye.  So how good is your warranty going to be when they are out of business. Good luck getting service or replacements in a hurry.  Choosing a large retailer gives you peace of mind that they will actually be in business to honour their warranties.

My SE system warranty is:

Panels (Power Output Warranty) 25 years 
Inverter 10 years
Racking 10 years

Workmanship 10 years 

I have it in writing that if anything goes wrong it will be replaced there and then.  No sending off to China for parts with my system down for a month.  You know that i made them spell out these warranties in writing, in a personal email to me, so that i can flash it their face when and if i ever need to, now didn't you?.   Did you know i was like this?  Is this a personality flaw?  I could be very annoying but I'm also a handy person to know. I get things done.

For all the tech heads out there this is what i had installed.  I have PDF's full of serious writing, scribbly graphs and circuit diagrams but i haven't done Gavin's Blogging Course and i don't know how to import them into a post. I've left all this technical stuff to Rob, he's the electrician.

CNVP High Performance 60 cell Optimal Premium Poly Crystalline 156×156mm Solar Photovoltaic Module 
Model Number:CNPV-245P
Power Range

These are Tier 1 solar panels which represents only the top 2% of manufactured panels.  Tier 1 panels are fully manufactured using robotics (precision and quality control) by a company that has over 5 years experience in the industry (read, not a fly by night operation hoping to make a quick buck).  The silicon used by a Tier 1 manufacturer is of a higher grade and will out perform and outlast the majority of cheaper panels on the market which are rated as either 2 or in some cases 3.

My panels are actually much smaller than the ones that were first quoted way back in September.  Even in that short time (though it felt like 100 years) there were technological advances that reduced the size of the panels.  Smaller size = less materials which is better for the environment.

ABB String Inverter PowerOne PVI-5000 - TL OUTD 5KW

Both Rob and I are pleased that the inverter is an ABB product.  We both work in the electrical industry and ABB products (including the switchboards that we build for them) are good quality.  Best of all it comes with an RS485 Communications Interface allowing it to be connected to smart phones, laptops or PC's.  Rob was especially pleased about this one.  The more techy i can make this the more interested he will be in reducing our power usage.

OK, so what's my feed in tariff??  It was a very lowly 8 cent/kW but from 1st Jan 2015 it dropped to 6.2 cents/kW.  No one is going to get rich with this kind of rate but what it will do is cover the cost of my system so that in five years, i will own it outright.  My calculations are based on an average of 3.7 hours of sunlight per day.  We all know that throughout spring, summer and autumn we get more than that in Melbourne so these calculations are quite conservative. The trick is to understand your system and how and when it generates power (solar hours.)  The less power you use during these solar hours the more power is returned to the grid.  This returned power can be maximised by having the largest system you can afford.  As we both work and hopefully (fingers crossed) Tom will soon have at least a part time job, there will be less usage during the day and we will have our only little power station up there on the roof.  It was only on for a moment during testing and it generated 3.6kW.  Until the inspector passes the installation it cannot be switched on.  I think im still looking at mid March before its up and running.

Did i tell you that my "Deal" with Simply Energy includes an INTEREST FREE loan for five years.  I've checked the pricing, quality and warranty of my system against other suppliers and it was comparable after the Govt Rebate (SRES) of around $3500 on a 5kW system.  Given the success of the rebate scheme it has been recommended that these government incentives be phased out and so it was a good time us to purchase and take advantage of the interest free loan.  The reduction in my energy bill will more than offset the monthly payments.

If you are considering getting solar panels, i highly recommend this government site 

Installing your Solar Panels

This is all part of my master plan to be prepared for retirement when we will have a lower earning capacity. The government might want me to work till 70, but really, I'm tired already.  Part of making our home more affordable, productive and efficient is not only paying off the mortgage (about 8 years) but also retiring some of our very old appliances.  My fridge for example was still working.  It worked ALL day and ALL night. That compressor never stopped and it was so loud.   So, as i have furnished every other item in this house over the last 20 years, the lovely people at GE have once again offered me a 5 year interest free loan.   If you couldn't have guessed, I HAVE NEVER PAID A CENT INTEREST IN 20 YEARS.   They must hate me.  I really don't know why it is so hard for people.  Total bill divided by number of payments, set up a direct payment online weekly (or whatever you pay period is) and then let it roll. The weekly amounts are so small i hardly miss them.  I usually take off 12 months and pay a little extra than calculated so it is paid well in advance.  Emergencies happen in life and you need to be way ahead at all times.

Rob insisted on buying a fridge with an inverter for efficiency and quietness.  I was focused on those stars and the Energy Consumption.   There were many fridges to choose from that were larger and cheaper but this one was the only one in this class of energy efficiency.  You should see how power hungry those ones are that have an ice maker in the door.  Rob's eyes were going Ga Ga but i said NO!  This one has the fridge up top and the freezer down below.  I like the working height of the fridge as i use it more often. Im going to get old, remember!  We also updated our oven to one that was more efficient.  The old one was leaking heat and took almost 15 min to pre-heat to 200.  20 years was a good innings.  My thinking is that while we are both working we should update these items rather than leave it for an emergency purchase. Rob has fixed this fridge several times already.

The next step is to make our house more efficient so it uses less electricity.  I know what you are thinking. "Turn a few things off" i hear you shout.  Well i'm working on it, OK!  The lights are all LED and im planning a few whirly gig thingys on the roof to moderate the roof cavity temperature and also looking at insulation. We purchase some individual room coolers instead of trying to make the big split system cool the whole house.  If you want to know anything at all about this topic, then go to the guru Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and check out his ebook on the subject of saving power.  I could not possibly compete.  All his advice is for normal suburbanites who just want to save money, if not the world.

So, you will be getting future posts on our journey with solar energy.  I can't tell you its going to be interesting to anyone but us but perhaps you'll enjoy the ride as Rob makes his way to "Off Grid Power Storage". More about this in next post.  See, he's getting interested already!

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz 


  1. Congratulations Lynda, I am jealous. At our first farm in Spain we were entirely off grid, we lived way out in the sticks and no chance of having mains electricity. We had four 1.5kva panels and six deep cycle batteries. I quickly learnt to do washing at two in the afternoon when the sun was at it's strongest. We had a gas cooker and a gas fridge as it would have required double the amount of panels if they had been electric plus I don't like cooking with electricity. There was only three weeks of the year when we would have to top up the battery's via a generator and that was in November when we would have fog. I would love to have solar again.

  2. That sounds ideal. Wait for my next post Anne. I visited an off grid home just a bit of town.

  3. congrats on getting your solar! i did all the quotes there were quite a few & then i liked the one that i found locally but alas i still can't afford it, what i don't like about it is the fact that it's not true solar as you're still connected to the grid during sun up, wouldn't it be great if we only had the solar during the day & then had the power at night? plus if there's a blackout you still don't have power :s anyway mines on the back bench for now, too many other things to get done around here.
    have a great day

    1. Oh i agree Selina, it is disappointing. Stay tuned to next post, as we visited an off grid house near here last Sunday as part of our councils Eco-Living series and they havent had to turn on a generator since they built the house 2.5 years ago. Its all battery storage. Yes it is pricey, isnt it but my system works out that i will end up owning it and be no more out of pocket than i would have been. Crazy. I should have done it sooner. Rob is going to work on another off grid system with battery backup for blackouts.

  4. At the end of the day, my friends, an off grid system all comes down to the batteries. At the moment the single cell batteries are very expensive. SE and many others have told me that this technology is moving fast and that by the I own my system, they will be smaller and cheaper. Panels, i think will always be available. My husbands employer has a factory full from when they were going to make it big in solar and it didnt go ahead. We have our eye on them. Watch Germany - there is plenty of info online. They a leaders in this field.

  5. Sounds great that the solar is now installed...I would love it but it's not in the budget even an interest free loan at the moment. God knows why in Qld why the Govt stopped the rebates since we have so much sun....seems silly to me not to use a natural resource. Great idea to replace all those appliances before they fall apart and cost too much money to run too. Looks like you are getting well prepared which is a good thing. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

    1. click on the link above Kathy re phased out and you will know why they have done this. Its not about renewable energy, what's cheap for customers or the environment. It always comes back to industry $$$$$.

  6. Congratulations on the solar panels, well worth it. I love the way you research things and get things done. A force to be reckoned with .
    Im such a lazy blogger at the moment hope all is well in the Dyson household, say hi to everyone for me x

  7. Great post Lynda. I look forward to hearing how things go when it is all up and running.


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