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Local Power negotiated a Buying Group Offer for interested Brisbane home owners and community groups who would like to generate electricity by installing PV solar panels on their roof.

A Buying Group is a way to achieve significant savings in price, by buying the components in bulk, installing them in bulk, and doing all the administration and rebate paperwork in bulk and at community rates. 

All savings were passed onto the Buying Group, apart from a transparent administration fee to cover costs.  The Local Power Buying Group #1 closed on 12 February 2008 with the majority of the 140 installations completed by July 2008.  Buying Group #2 closed on 5 December 2008 with 130 orders and the majority of installations were completed in April 2009.  Buying Group #3 closed on 22 May 2009 with over 100 orders.

If you would like to learn more about the Local Power Buying Groups please click on the Buying Group Offer link in the left menu.  If you are just interested in being on our mailing list to get updates, please leave your email address and other details here.

What is PV Solar?
PV (PhotoVoltaic) solar panels generate electricity directly from sunlight, which can then be used to power your electric appliances and lights.  Click on this diagram to see a bit more information on how it all works:

In a grid connected PV system, the type that Local Power is interested in, excess electricity which is not used at the time it's generated, can be fed (& sold) back to the electricity grid to be used by other homes and businesses.  With a large PV solar panel system and an energy efficient home, a home can generate more electricity than it uses, effectively becoming self sufficient in electricity using renewable energy. 

If there is an electricity blackout, the grid connected PV system turns off as a safety measure to protect the linesman working on fixing the grid.  So having a PV Solar system won't spare you from future blackouts.

In a standalone PV system, usually out in the bush where there is no electricity grid, there are additional components like batteries.  In that case, the excess energy is stored in the batteries and used at night time and on cloudy days.

Doesn't the government offer incentives?
There are three different incentives which help decrease the cost of a PV Solar system and help pay for it over it's lifetime.  These incentives are Rebates, RECs and Feed-in tariffs (FiT).

With these various incentives, the costs of PV solar systems have come down to the point that many homes and community groups will be able to afford to install PV solar and make a positive contribution to the environment by reducing greenhouse gases.

In May 2007 the Federal government PVRP rebate for PV solar system increased again to up to $8000/home for a 1kW system (with no additional rebate for larger systems) & $12000 for community groups for a 2kW system.  In May 2008 this rebate was renamed as the SHCP and became "means tested" at $100,000 family income because it was becoming "too overheated".  This rebate will end in June 2009 and be replaced by the Solar Credits Scheme.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are also created when PV solar systems are installed.  Some solar installation companies rebate these back to the customer to reduce the price of the system.  RECs have a market based price, so can change from week to week.  For a 1kW system recently selling the RECs has attracted an additional $990 incentive.  Larger systems have received an additional $990 for each additional kW.  RECs are not means tested and are payable to anyone who installs PV Solar or Solar Hotwater including residents, businesses and community groups.  You can read some more information about RECs and their historical price by clicking here

From July 2009 the SHCP $8000 rebate will end, but for 3 years RECs will have a 5x multiplier applied to them for the first 1.5kW of any system, before tapering off in each subsequent year to 4x, 3x, 2x and finally no multiplier.  At the current REC price a 1kW system will attract an incentive of about $4950, while a 1.5kW system will attract an incentive of about $7425.  For a more details comparison of the current rebate and the modified REC scheme please click here.

Feed-in tariffs
The Queensland government has implemented a "Feed-in tariff", which is where electricity retailers pay more than the retail price for renewable electricity generated from PV solar systems.  This helps to reduce the financial payback time of a PV solar system.

The SA and Queensland governments have implemented a feed-in tariff with 2 times the SA retail rate, i.e. 44c/kWh, but only for the energy which is exported to the grid (import-export or net scheme).  You can read about the details of the Queensland 44c/kWh FiT scheme here.  The Victorian Government scheme will be 60c/kWh (import-export) but system size will be limited to 3.2kW.  The ACT government will implement a feed-in tariffs with 3.88 times the ACT retail rate which is around 57c/kWh for all the energy generated (gross scheme).    The WA ALP has an election policy of a 60c/kWh for all the energy generated (gross scheme).


What benefits do they provide?
As a sample here is some positive environmental impact of each system.

- 1.5kW - generates around 2196 kWh/year
- save 30% of average electricity use* or between $469 to $718/year (50% export at 44c/kWh)
- save around 2 tonnes of CO2/year = leaving an average car in the garage for 5 months
- save 7275 litres of water/year which the coal fired power station would have used

- 2kW - generates around 2928 kWh/year
- save 40% of average electricity use*
- save around 3 tonnes of CO2/year = leaving an average car in the garage for 7 months
- save 9725 litres of water/year which the coal fired power station would have used

- 3kW - generates around 4392 kWh/year
- save 60% of average electricity use*
- save around 4 tonnes of CO2/year = leaving an average car in the garage for 10 months
- save 14450 litres of water/year which the coal fired power station would have used

Feed in tariffs, if implemented properly, have the potential to save even more of your electricity bill, which will reduce the financial payback time of the PV solar system even further.

* average electricity use is for a household who uses electricity for hotwater and cooking. households with solar hotwater or gas hotwater and cooking use around 50% less electricity.


Embedded or Embodied Energy
The energy used to manufacture a product is called the product's embodied energy. Obviously, PV solar panel manufacturers have to use energy to make their product, and this energy will probably be generated by fossil fuels, with the attendant emissions of green house gases (this fact is sometimes used to downplay the value of PV solar panels).

But the good news is, after the first few years, modern solar panels have already generated more than enough energy to compensate for the energy that went into their manufacture (inclusive of solar panels, frames and inverters). After that, and for the rest of their life, the panels are producing free (no greenhouse gas cost to the environment) renewable energy.

PV solar panels are generally warranted at having a life of 20-25 years, but are likely to still be working in 40 years, although at a much lower level of efficiency.

Efficiency of PV solar cells
There are several types of PV solar cells, many made of Silicon which is also used to make computer chips, although other materials have also started to be used due to shortages in Silicon.  Different material combinations have different levels of efficiency in converting sunlight to electricity, and are improving over time as manufacturing processes improve.  Crystaline Silicon based cells have dominated grid connected and standalone systems to date.  Some commercially available ones include:

Monocrystaline Silicon - 12-15%, although 24% has been obtained in the lab
Polycrystaline Silicon - 11-14%, although almost 19% has been obtained
Thin film amorphous Silicon - 6-8%, although almost 13% has been obtained
Cadmium Telluride CdTe - 7-10%, although 16% has been obtained
Copper Indium Gallium diselenide CIGS - 8-12%, although almost 19% has been obtained

Will Sliver technology make solar power much cheaper soon?
Local Power is excited by and has been following the Origin Sliver technology, needing 90% less Silicon. Unfortunately we have heard that it's still a few years away from commercial rollout, and won't be 90% cheaper. 

There is lots of solar innovation happening all over the world (general process improvements, various other compounds in thin film, multijunction etc.).   A lot of ground breaking solar research has also happened in Australia at UNSW (PERL and finger) and ANU (Sliver). 

Although there have been shortages of silicon wafers in recent years, suppliers are rapidly increasing production capacity which will also help in lowering prices.  Prices for solar are likely to drop 50% over a decade or so, which has probably been the long term price trend.  By then however, governments probably won't want to offer generous rebates (currently $8000).  Local Power believes that the time is right to go solar now.

Here are some more links to Sliver information
Origin Energy Sliver website
PESwiki - Sliver Solar Cells
Cosmos Magazine - Slicing the Cost of Solar Power
ABC Catalyst - Sliver Cells


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This site was last updated 25/08/10