Monday, February 28, 2011

Large scale solar - some exciting news!

Last month saw a very positive piece of breaking news in the solar industry with the ACT Government passing legislation to introduce a feed in tariff (FiT) for medium scale solar in the ACT.

The gross FiT is now available for installations 30kW to 200kW in size, and specifically opens the market to larger commercial and industrial applications.

John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society said, "[t]his is an important move because it allows greater economies of scale in deployments, and also targets a part of the market where the electricity demand profile closely matches solar energy production."

The scheme start date and FiT rate have not yet been announced, but it is expected to start shortly with an initial rate of around 34c per kWh to be paid.

We're thrilled with this news which finally presents an incentive for larger scale solar installations - something we believe is very necessary to push clean energy progress forward. As touched upon in our previous blog, smaller scale solar installations can be less efficient and there is no logic in limiting solar generation in this way. We hope to see other states follow ACT's example.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sydney's energy shortage: treat the cause, not the symptom

We've come across an interesting opinion piece from The Age's Christine Rau which discusses the predicament of finding an energy efficient way of regulating the temperature of your home, particularly in crowded neighbourhoods:

Whilst she makes some excellent points about the building quality issues that are prevalent in new suburban neighbourhoods, we believe that her proposed solution of getting the government to pay for solar panels to place on rooftops to cool these buildings can be improved upon.

The main concern we have with this idea is that because they are inefficient and require massive amounts of heating and cooling, we should address the symptom, not the cause. Even in these crowded neighbourhoods there is room for shading, for sun-sails and window-shades. Next time you drive past one of these neighbourhoods, have a look at the roofing - it is almost always dark or black. Paint the roof a light colour, stick in 30cm of insulation (the recommended level in Europe now) and watch that power bill fall through the floor as both heating and cooling requirements are diminished.

Another concern that we have is with the concept of getting the government to fund this. Why should the government fund the cooling of the building we have chosen to live in? If a taxpayer choses to purchase or rent a well-designed home, why should their tax dollars go towards putting solar panels on the roof of a poorly designed home or commercial building?

The next issue we have with the argument is that the power industry in NSW is privatised (rightly or wrongly), and hence it is not the responsibility for the NSW government to install generating capacity on people's roof tops.

Finally, if we need GigaWatts of solar power, why place it on roof tops at all? Not many residential roof tops are the perfect orientation for solar power, and there are inefficiencies involved in running many small solar installations. If the government is going to get into this game, it really should be in the form of solar farms that are installed on the ground or on the top of very large buildings and warehouses where the efficiencies of scale can be harnessed.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cool down your house and save energy

The temperature is rising all over Australia and it seems the only option is to crank up the air conditioning as high as it'll go, but there are many other ways to cool your house down which use far less energy and won't leave you with a huge power bill.

Property journalist Caroline Boyd has come up with some excellent tips to cool down your house in what's shaping up to be a scorching hot summer:

You would also be wise to invest in a Current Cost EnviR from SmartNow. You'll be able to see how much energy you're using in real time, and what it's costing you, to ensure that you're not faced with a colossal energy bill at the end of the season.

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