Solar power

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* [ Online calculators to help scale a solar PV system] * [ Online calculators to help scale a solar PV system]
* [ Solar Power For Your Home] by David Findley * [ Solar Power For Your Home] by David Findley
- +* [ Renewable Energies For Your Home] by Russel Gehrke
[[Category:Solar power]] [[Category:Solar power]]
[[Category:Greenprint]] [[Category:Greenprint]]

Revision as of 19:41, 14 March 2011

Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect. Photo: Reuters
Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect. Photo: Reuters
Australia's solar energy potential (NASA)
Australia's solar energy potential (NASA)
Greensborough house 2 1.98 kW array
Greensborough house 2 1.98 kW array
Ivanhoe house 9.8 kW array
Ivanhoe house 9.8 kW array
Knoxfield house 2.4 kW array
Knoxfield house 2.4 kW array
Greensborough house 2.5 kW array
Greensborough house 2.5 kW array

Solar power is produced from the sun with zero carbon emissions.


Sunnier Times Ahead

A turbulent future of violent storms, devastating drought, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels is inevitable if climate change is left unchecked

"Human activities led by burning fossil fuels is “very likely” to account for most of the warming in the past 50 years" - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, February 2007

The need to address ‘climate change’ NOW is an opportunity to change direction and embrace a truly sustainable path.

Electricity produced from the sun emits no greenhouse gases. The sun is the only perpetually renewable source of energy which the planet possesses and should be around for another 4 billion years.

"The whole world in half a year uses about the same amount of energy as the solar energy that hits Australia in one summer day"Professor Ian Lowe, 7:30 Report 31 January 2007

Solar power plants could power Australia Some of the largest investors and power companies in the USA have realised that solar thermal power is a probable replacement for coal, nuclear and oil - Professor David Mills, a world leader in solar research states. Professor Mills has left Australia for California, which has the target of 33% renewable energy by 2020. Australia’s renewable energy target is 2.5% by 2010.

How can we use solar power?

We do not have to wait for solar power stations. We can install our own solar modules, which convert sunlight directly into electricity.

A solar array cleanly produces electricity when the sun is shining and any surplus electricity can be exported to the grid. At night, when the sun does not shine, electricity is imported back from the grid. An alternative arrangement is the installation of batteries, which store the electricity generated during the day for use at night.

To use solar electricity which is generated as direct current (DC), we convert the DC to alternating current (AC). The device which converts DC into AC is known as an inverter and is easily installed.

The power from the solar module is proportional to the amount of light shining on it. The key requirement for a suitable solar site in Australia is a north facing roof or ground space that is not shaded during the day.

Solar modules, often referred to as PV (photovoltaic) panels, have no moving parts so there is nothing to wear out. It is estimated that they should last for 50 years or more. Solar modules can withstand a wide range of climatic conditions, including snow, frost, hail and high temperature.

How many solar modules do I need?

Consult your latest electricity account for your average energy use over the last 12 months. It is then a simple calculation to work out the number of solar modules required to meet your particular energy needs.

For example,

  • If your daily energy use is 10 kilo watt hours (kWh) = 10,000 watt hours (Wh)
  • Using the weather conditions in Melbourne where the yearly average hours of sunshine per day = 4.79 h
  • Modules are available in sizes from 2 – 250 Watts. If we choose 175 W solar modules,

Number solar modules = Daily Energy Use (Wh) / ( Module power (W) X Hours of sunshine (h) )

= 10,000 / (175 * 4.79)

= 11.9, therefore install 12 modules

Personal experience over a full year of use of a typical 1kW (6 x 175W polycrystalline panels - 1050 notional watts) installed system in suburban Melbourne has shown that 4.20 kWh per day is a more likely outcome. This produces a figure of 13.61 (14 installed panels).

Purchasing Greenpower if you have solar panels installed

When you install solar panels you create renewable energy certificates (RECS). You can keep the RECs for your panels as an investment and trade them when a carbon trading market is eventually established. They are increasing in value; the price as at March 2008 is $44 per REC. If however, you assign your RECs to a power company (that is perhaps subsidising the installation of the panels) then they get carbon credits for them, which will reduce the amount of greenpower they purchase from other sources. Essentially RECs are used by companies to offset their carbon emissions rather than reduce or eliminate them.

If you elect to also purchase greenpower, then you pay an additional premium for power. If you have solar panels it may be better to lobby for an increased feed in tariff rather than purchase greenpower.

Feed in tariffs

An increasing number of countries have introduced legislation to paying producers of green power (e.g. from solar panels) a feed in tariff which ensures you are paid a premium price (up to 3 to 4 times the retail rate) for your green power.

Legislation for feed in tariffs is about to be enacted in South Australia and Queensland in March 2008.

Things to watch out for

  • Solar energy companies processes

Solar energy companies are relatively new on the scene and often have poor processes and high staff turnover. Understand the installation and end to end process so that you can get in touch with them when things are taking too long. Try and get a direct number if you can.

  • Cosmetics - How will the solar cells look on your house

Get advice from the installation company regarding placement and size and mock up how they will look on your house - take a photo and photoshop the cells onto the roof. Show your wife/partner. This may save you 10 tonnes of grief.

  • Understand your electricity companies charges

They are all different and all seek to confuse charges to make comparison difficult. Some companies force you onto a different plan just because you have solar cells. This spreadsheet was up to date at time of writing and is an excellent comparison.

  • Don't underestimate how good it makes you feel to generate your own power

With the generous rebates its definitely a worthwhile investment - but the joy I get from checking the meter every now and then and seeing that I'm generating stacks of free power is gold.

Further information on sustainability ideas

ATA Alternative Technology Association

Purchase from your local newsagent:

Grants and funding


See also

Other references

Personal tools