I often stand and stare at the 16 panels that are mounted on my carport roof (the above photo was taken about a week after the installation by my daughter), and admire the technological brilliance and the manufacturing effort that went into making them. My solar installer, Energy Matters, imported them from Japan, as they were made by Sharp and not made in China like a lot of panels these days (it said made in Japan on the boxes they came in). The panels must have been made in a massive factory, hopefully powered by the very same modules that they manufacture, but do you think I could find a video of how they are made in said factory. The answer, alas, is no. However, I did find this cute little video on youtube that demonstrates how a small factory in the US makes solar panels from imported solar cells.
Six panels a day, can you believe it. I suppose when these things sell between $1200-$2000 each for the high wattage type, they would make enough profit to be viable.
Which leads me to another twist on the subject. I was contacted by the Alternate Technology Association the other day, of which I am a member, and was asked if I would like to participate in a survey. I jumped at the chance to share my experience.
A nice gent called Bob Johnstone gave me a call on Saturday morning, and we when through the list of questions. Here standard questions direct from the initial email. My responses are in blue.
The case studies will look into:
– motivation for installing solar system
Purely environmental, I wanted to make my house carbon neutral or as close as we could.
– the obstacles to installation (cost, information, location)
The information was all out there on the Internet, you just had to look for it. The $8000 PV rebate from the government helped, but I had planned the installation before the rebate was doubled in the May 2007 budget. I secured a loan at a slightly reduced rate for the installation.
– how household electricity consumption has changed since installation
Well, we have now generated 3.6 Megawatts of power since installation in September 2007. I believe that we export between 80-90% of the energy to the grid each day. We draw back from the grid during the night and are signed up with Origin Energy 100% GreenPower.
– how the feed-in tariff legislation affected plans to install
Firstly it made me angry because my system is rated at 2.8kW and the tariff in Victoria is capped at 2kW, so basically I won’t see a cent from the legislation. Once again it was not my motivation whatsoever for the installation.
– how the tariff impacted solar homes who installed systems before the introduction of the legislation
Don’t think Bob asked this question?
– what govt. incentive homeowners need to install more solar
I believe that the legislation needs to be changed from a net metering scheme to a gross feed in scheme, and remove the cap. That would drive installations through the roof, very similar to schemes in Germany, Spain and some US states. I also believe that the State Government needs to stop kowtowing to the Coal industry and Power companies.
– future plans for solar installation, in light of tariff (additional panels, disconnection, saving for future)
I have been told by my installer that I have room for 6 more panels on my system and that my grid-connect inverter could handle the extra wattage, so further down the track I may add extra to the system. However, I have found that as my kids begin to leave home, the energy consumption in our home reduces, so by the time the adult kids leave home, we might not need any extra wattage. We had a quick discussion on how to encourage adult children to leave home, and had a laugh about it!
– future plans for solar installation irrespective of tariff
None as yet, but I have hear on the grapevine that people are actually thinking about reducing their systems Kilowatt rating so that they come under the tariff cap. The state government are supposed to be promoting renewable energy, but obviously have their heads so far up the power and coal companies bums that they are scared to be bold and have the courage to make Victoria a world leader in renewable energy. I have been keeping an eye on a simple stand alone wind energy system, and am hoping that they will come down in price. That way I will have some power if I loose connection to the grid. Or I could simply modify my existing system but don’t have the funds for either at the moment.
Bob then thanked me for my participation, and I thanked him for allowing me to participate and have my say, and hoped that the information was useful.
I felt pretty good after the interview, which inspired me to write this post. Hope you enjoyed it.