Author Topic: Going Solar  (Read 3891 times)

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Offline Tassie Dave

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #60 on: November 11, 2018, 12:51:45 AM »
Are you guys stuck with only one electricity retailer? Here we can choose from many dozens.

Some of us can.  ??? Tasmania still has only 1. The same one we've had for over a century.

Offline wastrel

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #61 on: November 11, 2018, 10:28:53 AM »
Are you guys stuck with only one electricity retailer? Here we can choose from many dozens.

Who owns the facilities?

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #62 on: November 11, 2018, 03:36:31 PM »
Are you guys stuck with only one electricity retailer? Here we can choose from many dozens.

Who owns the facilities?
We have 4 separate entities in our electricity market covering the most populous parts of the nation:
- Generators - power stations of various types
- Distributors - the grid, poles & wires (there's a handful of these)
- Metering systems (a handful of businesses own all the meters, and the retailer pays them a lease fee for each customer)
- Energy retailers (there are dozens of these)

The historical legacy of former state owned vertically integrated businesses means in some locations there is still a monopoly, e.g. in Tasmania there is only one retailer of electricity. The market there is heavily price regulated by the state government which is the primary control mechanism keeping the monopoly in check. Their prices there aren't horrible by national standards but for new grid connected solar Tasmanians get a raw deal with a very low feed in tariff.

In more populous states the market has broken up significantly from the old state-owned days. There is still significant ownership overlap between the vertical segments, mainly those businesses who were formerly state owned monopolies.

As a consumer you need to deal with the retailer primarily for your energy plan, but occasionally you may need to deal with the grid distribution company, e.g. if the connection to your home has been damaged, or you want to know what's caused a power outage.

When I go to find a new electricity plan, there are literally thousands of options available. Working out which is the best option takes some effort, but at least there are some reasonable consolidation sites (a good one is run by the federal government) to provide as close to an apples with apples comparison but so many people choose not to bother to shop around.

In Australia it's called the "lazy tax". People can't be arsed to seek a better deal from their energy retailers, banks, insurance companies, phone and internet service providers.

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #63 on: November 12, 2018, 05:07:14 PM »
The plot thickens (for me).  We spoke to a solar contractor, and they said that our roof may not support all the panels necessary.  They are coming out Friday to check it out.

They said that they had a community solar farm built and about to be approved, and they want to know if I'm interested in that.  The solar farm has an agreement with NYSEG (the local power company) and provides them power.  I would pay for a share in the solar farm (somehow, will find out Friday), and NYSEG will credit my bill by however much I should get from selling that much percent of the power generated by the solar farm.  So basically, it would be about the same financially as having solar panels, but I wouldn't actually be getting any power from solar.  The power grid right around the solar farm would be getting their power from solar, though, so for the environment, it is still a good deal.  I thought that it might be a great idea, especially since I don't have to install anything.

Now, we come to the plot twist.  It turns out the reason my wife wants us to go solar is because she wants us to have power if the electric grid ever goes down for some reason (zombie apocalypse, etc).  I can see how this would be desirable.  The solar contractor said that we would need a backup battery system to accomplish this, and that they cost more.

When they come Friday, they will come with all of these options spelled out with costs and terms.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they say.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #64 on: November 12, 2018, 09:35:22 PM »
Now, we come to the plot twist.  It turns out the reason my wife wants us to go solar is because she wants us to have power if the electric grid ever goes down for some reason (zombie apocalypse, etc).  I can see how this would be desirable.  The solar contractor said that we would need a backup battery system to accomplish this, and that they cost more.

Not only would it require a battery (an expensive and rarely a cost effective option) but the inverter / battery combination has to be special type to enable this.

That's because it's a requirement (usually the law) that grid connected solar (and battery) be immediately prevented from delivering power to the grid during a power outage. Usually what happens during grid outages is your solar system's inverter will automatically shut down, meaning even though your PV panels might be under full sun, you will still be out of power.

This is to safeguard line workers doing any repairs to the grid.

Now there are some inverter systems which can automatically shut down the connection to the grid while still delivering power to the house from a battery, but not all such battery-inverter solutions can do this.

It can be a very expensive solution to achieve some power outage capacity. If this is what you want, you'll need to specify this capability as just having a battery doesn't automatically mean you can access its stored energy during a grid power outage.

To have some power during an outage it's often way cheaper to have a portable generator on hand so you can keep the important things running (e.g. refrigeration, some lights, computers if that's needed for work etc). This is of course an interruptible power supply (not UPS) meaning there is some time between between when power goes out and you get (some) power again. An extra option is to have a small portable UPS unit(s) to enable computers, routers, perhaps internet connected devices such as set top boxes etc to function during such outages, or at least buy time to enable a safe shut down. They come in various energy capacities and so may buy you a few minutes to a few hours.

Here's an item on UPS by one manufacturer - I'm not endorsing them in particular, it's just a reference to explain their basic utility:
https://www.apc.com/au/en/support/product-support/ups-buying-guide-for-selecting-a-battery-backup-system.jsp

Here's an item to explain some of the basic technical considerations with battery storage:
https://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/home-solar-battery-storage-backup

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #65 on: November 13, 2018, 12:07:07 PM »
Again, that was extremely helpful.  Now I'll be informed when I meet the person Friday and when I talk to my wife about it.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #66 on: November 19, 2018, 03:27:56 AM »
Again, that was extremely helpful.  Now I'll be informed when I meet the person Friday and when I talk to my wife about it.
How did it go?

Online 2397

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #67 on: November 19, 2018, 05:35:31 AM »
Are you guys stuck with only one electricity retailer? Here we can choose from many dozens.

I use the municipal hydropower company that also owns the power lines, and it can't get any cheaper because you have to pay for line use anyway, but there's a cap on the electricity price for municipal residents.

Doesn't stop others from trying to sell you electricity, though, and it's essentially a scam if they say they'll save you money. Unless there's some dramatic innovation that reduces the electricity prices to be consistently below the cap.

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #68 on: November 23, 2018, 02:06:27 PM »
Just for fun, yesterday I put my solar PV output onto PVOutput.org.

It shows historical and near live data on my and thousands of other solar PV systems throughout the world.

This is my "home" page:
https://pvoutput.org/list.jsp?userid=70875

You can drill down to 5-min production history and look at general trends over weeks, months and years, or see how your output compares with others nearby.

Here is yesterday's output chart:
https://pvoutput.org/intraday.jsp?id=70875&sid=62957&dt=20181123

It was a pretty good day for production at 6.14kWh for each kW of solar panel installed and a total PV production of 67.6kWh.

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #69 on: November 26, 2018, 05:03:47 PM »
Again, that was extremely helpful.  Now I'll be informed when I meet the person Friday and when I talk to my wife about it.
How did it go?

The good news is that I thought the representative was professional, informative, and a very helpful person.  I thought the community solar idea was good for us.  We would purchase 29 solar panels (of 600) on the roof of a storage unit and get all the credits that those panels earned toward our electric bill.  After all the tax incentives, it was going to cost about $16000, which they finance at a low interest rate of 3.99% over 12 years.  My monthly payment would come out to about the same as my power bill now, but in 12 years I would stop having to pay.  The system is under warranty for 30 years.

The bad news is that they have already sold most of the 600 panels, so we would have to "act fast".  My wife immediately thought it was a hard sell and doesn't want to do it.  The company has been in business 30 years putting solar on people's homes, but this is their first community solar installation, so there's no guarantee that it will work well.  They are waiting for the power company to come out and replace the connection to the grid with one that supports the two-way flow of electricity, so it isn't even turned on yet.

She said that our bi-level roof can't work with solar panels because one part of the roof shades the other, and I can see how that would be true.  Also, our roof is not south-facing, and there are some trees that will interfere with the sun that I can't cut down.

My wife asked her for references, and she sent them to us but we haven't called them yet (just got them today).  I think that if we talk to the references and wait until the farm comes online for real, my wife may come around.

I still need to look at my bill and see how much of my bill is for electricity and how much is for gas.  That could change the economics enough that we would be paying more for 12 years than we are now if a decent portion of our bill is for gas.
Quote from: Steven Novella
gleefully altering one’s beliefs to accommodate new information should be a badge of honor

Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #70 on: November 26, 2018, 11:59:31 PM »
We would purchase 29 solar panels (of 600) on the roof of a storage unit and get all the credits that those panels earned toward our electric bill.  After all the tax incentives, it was going to cost about $16000, which they finance at a low interest rate of 3.99% over 12 years.  My monthly payment would come out to about the same as my power bill now, but in 12 years I would stop having to pay.  The system is under warranty for 30 years.

There more I read what you're telling me, the less I like.

In principle I like the idea of community solar as it does enable many more people to directly benefit, especially when their own home is not suitable for a solar PV installation. But the numbers you mention don't stack up IMO.

You don't mention how much of your current annual electricity bill will be offset by the PV, since I guess at present you don't know your actual consumption and rates. Even at 100% bill reduction (assuming your bill is 100% electricity) then your payback is approaching 24 years. If it's somewhat less or not all electricity then it'll be longer than the life of project. For that sort of a deal I'd want to be getting very sizeable credits on my power bill, and not have to pay at all. IOW be paid as a net producer of energy and at a rate that makes sense for the upfront investment.

End of the day they are really just selling you shares in an energy generation business, and that's quite a different proposition to owning your own solar PV system. Actually, it sounds like they are selling you debt finance and the energy is just the product it's wrapped around.

Hence I would be treating it as an investment instrument just like any other (shares, stock, bonds, term deposits, private equity etc) and evaluate it accordingly, not only financially but also its suitability for you and your risk/investor profile.

IOW would your money achieve a better return doing something else? What is the risk premium? Liquidity? What happens if you move, especially out of the service area for that electricity provider? Are your shares trade-able?
 
If your money can do better elsewhere, that's what I'd be doing.

If you are not comfortable doing such analysis, get an independent professional adviser to help crunch the numbers. I think your wife is right to be cautious about the "act fast" message. Don't get the FOMO. Once you realise there are alternative uses of your money (or finance) to reduce your power bills, then these may be better options for you. And end of the day, if it's a roaring success and all the shareholders are happy, you can rest assured more will be built.


I'm still astonished at how expensive solar PV is in the USA compared with Australia, even with benefits of a large scale system.

I noticed this massive price differential once before when looking at US information. It must be the only tech that is much cheaper in Australia than in the USA. Usually it's the other way round.

https://news.energysage.com/how-much-does-the-average-solar-panel-installation-cost-in-the-u-s/

In that they say average price for a 6kW PV system in the US is US$13.2k

In Australia it's ~US$4k - US$6.5k


Interested in the 30-year warranty. I wonder what's really meant by that? That they warrant keeping the system running optimally for 30 years and absorb all the costs involved with that? At what level is the system warranted to operate at - all PV systems degrade in performance over time, that's normal but what are they claiming?

It will require some ongoing maintenance and some key elements will likely require replacement during that time, especially the grid tied inverters - they don't have lifespan that long. High quality solar panels have long lifespans of ~25-30 years but the controlling electronics not so much.

Offline bachfiend

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #71 on: November 27, 2018, 06:13:50 AM »
We would purchase 29 solar panels (of 600) on the roof of a storage unit and get all the credits that those panels earned toward our electric bill.  After all the tax incentives, it was going to cost about $16000, which they finance at a low interest rate of 3.99% over 12 years.  My monthly payment would come out to about the same as my power bill now, but in 12 years I would stop having to pay.  The system is under warranty for 30 years.

There more I read what you're telling me, the less I like.

In principle I like the idea of community solar as it does enable many more people to directly benefit, especially when their own home is not suitable for a solar PV installation. But the numbers you mention don't stack up IMO.

You don't mention how much of your current annual electricity bill will be offset by the PV, since I guess at present you don't know your actual consumption and rates. Even at 100% bill reduction (assuming your bill is 100% electricity) then your payback is approaching 24 years. If it's somewhat less or not all electricity then it'll be longer than the life of project. For that sort of a deal I'd want to be getting very sizeable credits on my power bill, and not have to pay at all. IOW be paid as a net producer of energy and at a rate that makes sense for the upfront investment.

End of the day they are really just selling you shares in an energy generation business, and that's quite a different proposition to owning your own solar PV system. Actually, it sounds like they are selling you debt finance and the energy is just the product it's wrapped around.

Hence I would be treating it as an investment instrument just like any other (shares, stock, bonds, term deposits, private equity etc) and evaluate it accordingly, not only financially but also its suitability for you and your risk/investor profile.

IOW would your money achieve a better return doing something else? What is the risk premium? Liquidity? What happens if you move, especially out of the service area for that electricity provider? Are your shares trade-able?
 
If your money can do better elsewhere, that's what I'd be doing.

If you are not comfortable doing such analysis, get an independent professional adviser to help crunch the numbers. I think your wife is right to be cautious about the "act fast" message. Don't get the FOMO. Once you realise there are alternative uses of your money (or finance) to reduce your power bills, then these may be better options for you. And end of the day, if it's a roaring success and all the shareholders are happy, you can rest assured more will be built.


I'm still astonished at how expensive solar PV is in the USA compared with Australia, even with benefits of a large scale system.

I noticed this massive price differential once before when looking at US information. It must be the only tech that is much cheaper in Australia than in the USA. Usually it's the other way round.

https://news.energysage.com/how-much-does-the-average-solar-panel-installation-cost-in-the-u-s/

In that they say average price for a 6kW PV system in the US is US$13.2k

In Australia it's ~US$4k - US$6.5k


Interested in the 30-year warranty. I wonder what's really meant by that? That they warrant keeping the system running optimally for 30 years and absorb all the costs involved with that? At what level is the system warranted to operate at - all PV systems degrade in performance over time, that's normal but what are they claiming?

It will require some ongoing maintenance and some key elements will likely require replacement during that time, especially the grid tied inverters - they don't have lifespan that long. High quality solar panels have long lifespans of ~25-30 years but the controlling electronics not so much.

I think the main reason for putting solar panels on your roof is to reduce your carbon footprint.  Saving or making money is a secondary consideration.

I installed 8 panels 8 years ago, which eliminated my electricity bill, and (with the very generous 40c/unit feed-in tariff) has left me with a plus $2000 credit, which I haven’t bothered claiming.  I decided to upgrade the system, replacing the 8 panels with 24 panels, causing me to lose the 40c/unit feed-in tariff, leaving me with just the 7c/unit my supplier ‘generously’ pays for unused power.  It looks as though most months I’ll still get a credit, or at worst a small debit on my current positive balance (today I generated 40 units, but used only 3 units).

It seems to me that the 600 panels have already been installed.  Buying 29 of the panels isn’t going to increase the supply of renewable energy.  I think you’re right - it should just be regarded as an investment, which has to pay and make a better profit than any other investment available.
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #72 on: November 27, 2018, 12:15:48 PM »
I think the main reason for putting solar panels on your roof is to reduce your carbon footprint.  Saving or making money is a secondary consideration.
You might think that but for the significant majority in Australia the primary motivations are reducing the cost of electricity and providing a hedge against future price increases.

There is recent published research on this:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032118303769

The study itself is behind a paywall but some of the content is in this article:
https://theconversation.com/are-solar-panels-a-middle-class-purchase-this-survey-says-yes-97614


As to whether solar PV will reduce carbon footprint, that very much depends on where you live and what powers the grid in your area. Those with grid supply mostly based on nuclear or hydro power or renewables (grid scale solar and wind) not going to create much impact to the carbon footprint by adding solar PV.

In many locations reliant on coal and gas, it most definitely will. This is most of Australia, apart from Tasmania (hydro) and increasingly South Australia where grid scale renewables now supply half of the State's power and are growing strongly. SA will likely be a net electricity exporter in the years ahead powered by renewables.

I installed 8 panels 8 years ago, which eliminated my electricity bill, and (with the very generous 40c/unit feed-in tariff) has left me with a plus $2000 credit, which I haven’t bothered claiming.  I decided to upgrade the system, replacing the 8 panels with 24 panels, causing me to lose the 40c/unit feed-in tariff, leaving me with just the 7c/unit my supplier ‘generously’ pays for unused power.  It looks as though most months I’ll still get a credit, or at worst a small debit on my current positive balance (today I generated 40 units, but used only 3 units).

You have a very light footprint which is commendable. Unfortunately we don't but with our system we will now be carbon neutral based on our grid energy export/import and the electricity supply mix in NSW (70% coal & gas).

That's all well and good but my system is first and foremost about saving money. My system will save me $3000/year.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2018, 12:20:02 PM by Alex Simmons »

Offline bachfiend

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #73 on: November 27, 2018, 07:07:50 PM »
I think the main reason for putting solar panels on your roof is to reduce your carbon footprint.  Saving or making money is a secondary consideration.
You might think that but for the significant majority in Australia the primary motivations are reducing the cost of electricity and providing a hedge against future price increases.

There is recent published research on this:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032118303769

The study itself is behind a paywall but some of the content is in this article:
https://theconversation.com/are-solar-panels-a-middle-class-purchase-this-survey-says-yes-97614


As to whether solar PV will reduce carbon footprint, that very much depends on where you live and what powers the grid in your area. Those with grid supply mostly based on nuclear or hydro power or renewables (grid scale solar and wind) not going to create much impact to the carbon footprint by adding solar PV.

In many locations reliant on coal and gas, it most definitely will. This is most of Australia, apart from Tasmania (hydro) and increasingly South Australia where grid scale renewables now supply half of the State's power and are growing strongly. SA will likely be a net electricity exporter in the years ahead powered by renewables.

I installed 8 panels 8 years ago, which eliminated my electricity bill, and (with the very generous 40c/unit feed-in tariff) has left me with a plus $2000 credit, which I haven’t bothered claiming.  I decided to upgrade the system, replacing the 8 panels with 24 panels, causing me to lose the 40c/unit feed-in tariff, leaving me with just the 7c/unit my supplier ‘generously’ pays for unused power.  It looks as though most months I’ll still get a credit, or at worst a small debit on my current positive balance (today I generated 40 units, but used only 3 units).

You have a very light footprint which is commendable. Unfortunately we don't but with our system we will now be carbon neutral based on our grid energy export/import and the electricity supply mix in NSW (70% coal & gas).

That's all well and good but my system is first and foremost about saving money. My system will save me $3000/year.

I live in Perth which despite being ideal for renewables (it’s one of the windiest cities of the world and enjoys a very sunny climate) gets almost all its power from coal.

I probably expressed myself poorly.  I should have said that ‘for me’ the most important reason for putting solar panels on your roof is to reduce your carbon footprint.  It means I can justify my flying to Europe next year business class as my carbon-offset (which I paid anyway).  But I’ve still saved a lot - no electricity bills for 8 years, a credit of $2000 plus and continuing freedom from electricity bills for the indefinite future despite my supplier doubling the daily service charge recently (which you can’t avoid, if you’re on the grid).
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Offline Alex Simmons

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Re: Going Solar
« Reply #74 on: November 27, 2018, 07:49:18 PM »
Yeah, the renewables mix in WA is definitely lagging considering the incredible opportunity in that state for grid scale solar and wind.

 

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