**Welcome to Project Helios**
We are not advocates of manmade climate change or global warming theories and we do not support a carbon tax or emission trading scheme which benefits the powerful and corrupt.
Our philosophy is quite basic; If you can clean something up, then why not do it!
This project is a Photo Voltaic Solar generation system feeding electricity back into Queensland's Ergon Energy grid
We began at a local "Agro Show" and quizzed at least 5 vendors selling Solar Systems.
Most sold small 1.5kW systems [because that's where the highest Federal Government [REC] Renewable Energy Credits are.... once you go over 1.5kW... the credits drop off - but I'm putting the cart before the horse.
Let's start again....
.... and taking this one step at a time
First step was to get the last 4 electricity bills and make a spreadsheet
We totalled our household use on Queensland Tariff 11 excluding the Hot water system, which is on a separate "cheaper night rate" meter, and our figures showed a usage of 11,800kWh of electricity per year, that's an average of 32kWh per day. Next we checked how much SUNSHINE we get per day which is capable of making electricity. For the Bundaberg area the accepted average is 5 hours per day.
It's easy to see that a small system - say 3kW x (times) 5 hours will produce 15kW of power per day.... what did we say we used? THIRTY TWO PER DAY...
Whoops, we're going to need a bigger system!
And that's how you begin, first you check what you use and see how large a system you would need to offset all of it, then look at the cost. Can you afford to buy enough panels to offset all of your account or just some of it? The choice is yours.
Below are some photos of the installation process. If you want more information see the section after the photos, there's pricing and which companies we used as well as information to help you make the right decision on Solar Power Generation. We understand that it's a big financial investment and we all want to make the right decision, so we're constantly updating the Statistics, and Let's Talk About Money sections below with hard data.
**Below you will find the annual production figures for the first 4 years**
Here are some photos of the installation
SILEX SOLAR- Australian made panels was our preferred product. We try to buy Australian Made whenever we can so we we were prepared to pay a premium for Australian made panels (rather than some of the cheaper imports on the market).
Just like cleaning up your nest... buying Aussie Made makes good sense.
Now let's talk performance - During the 6 months Aug2010 to Jan2011 we had the highest rainfall, tropical storms and floods in 100 years - the silex panels have produced an average of 22kwh per day over that 6 month period.
What that proves without any doubt is that they are capable of taking the slightest brightness in the sky and converting it to electricity. We are very impressed and once again draw your attention to this brilliant - Australian Made - product.
The Aurora inverters are made in Italy by Power One and imported by Solar Inverters Pty Ltd in Sydney [it seems no inverters are made in Australia??]
We did have a minor problem with the inverter (installation problem - not a fault with the inverter). The importer & inverter warranty company was straight on to the problem, arranged pick up, repair and return - even their phone staff are actually trained to help fix your problem... what a refreshing change.
We were back in production quite quickly so we would highly recommend the Solar Inverters Pty Ltd products and their after sales service.
The Installers and your rights
We used AgriSolar Australia but they were only in the game for a couple of years and have moved on to others things as too many competitors entered the market.
In regional Australia a company sells you a system but they generally don't provide any 'employees' to do the job! Instead they contract with one team to put your panels on the room and then contract a licenced electrician to finish the install and paperwork/application to the electricity company. So be prepared for Contractors doing parts of the job.
We had some delay in getting the new Net Meter installed as the paperwork was delayed by the electrical contractor... So get Involved! Ask the electrical installer about the Forms which need to be lodged - try to ensure it gets into your suppliers local office - the depot which will send a truck and men to install the new Meter.
Don't rely on people's say-so... maybe you can hold back a sum of money until the application is accepted and meter installed? Let's face it making power on the roof but being unable to sell it into the grid is NOT a completed contract. The installation contract is complete when the Electricity company leaves your property and you're officially selling power into the Grid.
Be firm with the company that you contract with to ensure your rights are protected. A respectable company will accept your interest and your knowledge - a fly-by-nighter will think you're too much trouble. If they have a policy of seeing everything through - including the paperwork and quality of workmanship of their contractors they'll stand your scrutiny.
Be a good consumer instead of complaining after the event. Know the process, know your rights, be aware of the pitfalls, protect yourself. You don't have to be the customer from hell but if we all demand excellence from Solar companies it should sort the opportunists from the competent ones.
It took 8 weeks from sign-up to install complete and during that time we received the power company (Ergon) contract in which they acknowledge our system and agree to the financial arrangements.
We had a period of two months with the old meter and that meant our system was making electricity spinning our meter backwards during the day and then running forward during the night.
Ergon then fitted an IES meter which makes the Net calculations - and from this they calculate our refund cheque for exported electricity.
What about the Cost?
In August 2010 the retail price for 32 SILEX panels (with inverter & installation) was $32,000 then depending on where you live you will be entitled to REC 's from the Federal Government. After REC's we paid $22000 for our system.
REC's are complicated and depend on your location and also on how large a system you purchase. Installers will get you to "sign the REC credits over to them" which is ok as it saves you finding the money up front but just be aware of how it works! Check and see if they're passing the right amount on to you. This Federal system was meant to help the householder afford Solar... it wasn't designed to line the pockets of installers. They're entitled to a reasonable profit of course but you need to be a smart consumer and ask the right questions.
From 0 to 1.5kW system you get a LARGER Renewable Energy Credit from the Federal Government, then after that, the credits drop.
**Due to increase in demand, the price of Solar Panels has dropped since our install [Aug2010]... but so have the Federal Government rebates and the State Government Purchase price for exported power**
What about the performance?
The system has been running for over 5years now and although we're in 'sub-tropical' Queensland we do have a mix of brilliant sunny days and cloudy overcast days which results in highs and lows in our monthly figures but if you average out the years, they're pretty much the same.
We record the Inverter and Electricity Meter readings at 5pm each day and this data builds into the tables below.
Even on a dull day our system will still generate power - Typically it will produce 8 or 10kwh of electricity per day on rainy days but if extensive cloud cover sets in we can have days of near zero production! This proves that light is working on the panels even if they can't see the sun. We think that's pretty impressive.
These are our major findings to date;
During Winter the system is switching on before 7am and it's still running at 5pm.
Even on dull days the panels produce electricity
We've become quite power conscious - major electrical appliances like dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer are used after dark but that's the only change we've made to our personal habits.
As the sun moves higher into the sky (spring/summer) we see a steady rise in the production each day.
The floods & record rainfall from November 2010 to February 2011 broke the drought and our averages dropped.
Year 1 the system AVERAGED 22kw hours of production per day.
Year 2 it was an AVERAGE of 22.8kw hours per day and;
Year 3 was 23.1kWh ... looks like those might be the true readings for this area... not the 25kWh "promised" in the Sales Brochures! But we're not complaining and we're happy with our Yearly refund cheque.
Year 4 average daily production was 24kw - we did not have a major wet/storm season and this may have resulted in better figures.
For analysis, there are annual production and export statistics for our first 4 years at the bottom of this page.
We don't brag about one-day Highs we're just hoping we did the right thing in investing in solar, we are like the rest of you - we simply didn't know how it would go. Our figures show a slight increase in production each year and also slight increase in the amount we export back to the grid.
We will update this pay annually from now to show our final costings.
Updated: 2015 - no further updates
How does SELLING Electricity work?
Grab a coffee and relax as it will take some time to get your head around all this.
Our panels are rated at 170Watts, so 32 x 170 = 5440Watts - that's 5.4kW (kilowatts) maximum it could make each hour.
Bundaberg averages 5 hours per day where the sun is strong enough to produce electricity via this photovoltaic system.
So 5.4kw x 5 hours = 27kWh of power per day is what they expect we would generate... More on a bright, sunny day…. Less on an overcast day.
Our electricity usage was 32kWh of power every day - [above average, running fridges, a spa, air conditioners when too hot or too cold... enjoying life!]
Simple math shows that if we use 32 but can make 27 off Solar we would only buy 5 per day - this would reduce our quarterly electricity bill from $600 to $60.
BUT wait there’s more and this is where selling excess electricity to the grid comes in.
Image this happening hour by hour (I'm rounding figures to keep this simple)
If during the day the house is Drawing 1kw for an hour and the roof is producing 5kw, we have an excess of 4kwh that is exported to the grid in that hour. Now remember those Average 5 hours of Bundy Sunshine per day? Our excess 4kw x 5 hours = 20kWh of surplus electricity is left over, available to export... and it's this excess that we're selling to Ergon.
Now think about night-time. From 6pm through to 6am our Solar system is asleep and we have nothing to sell so instead the house is buying electricity from the Grid.
The result is that during the day we're racking up credits and then at night we put in some debits and a typical day could be: Earn $8 and pay $3 so my Ergon account is $5 in credit for that day.
The next day it might rain and we won't generate much electricity… and so on. Day after after day these debits and credits are racking up and the Smart Net Meter records your Exports to the Grid and your Purchases from the Grid.
Let's talk MONEY and how we're calculating PAYBACK!
We are happy to report that Ergon Energy's bills are accurate and clearly show the full credit for exported power. The cheque arrives automatically as promised each October.
We outlaid $22000 for this system and we're calculating how long it's going to take us to 'pay ourselves back' for the investment.
Prior to solar:
The electricity account was $660 per quarter = $2640 per year
Our 5.4kW system has completely cut out our electricity bill ! - i.e. we generate enough from the roof that we do not pay Ergon for electricity and each bill arrives showing an increasing credit amount.
Savings Year 1. No electricity bill = Saving $2640 PLUS cheque received $523: Total savings year 1 = $3163.
Savings Year 2. No electricity bill = Saving $2640 PLUS cheque received $760 : Total savings year 2 = $3400.
Savings Year 3. No electricity bill = Saving $3470 PLUS cheque received $590 : Total savings year 3 = $4060.
Savings Year 4. No electricity bill = Savings $3636 * PLUS cheque received $181 : Total savings year 4 = $3817.
System cost $22000 Less Y1 $3163 saved, Y2 $3400 saved, Y3 $4060 saved, Y4 $3817 saved = $7560 Owing... so about another 2 years and it's paid off.
We had initially budgeted on a 9 year payback and we're currently ahead of that.
Based on current return the full investment will be repaid in less than 6 years.
Electricity prices increased substantially from July2012 [as Carbon Tax charges were passed on to consumers]... this will make our Payback calculations a little fuzzy but we're pretty close.
A wild and crazy optimist would brag about making $5 per day and multiply by 90 days in the quarter and expect over $400 a quarter in credits. Being a realist you will know that it rains or will be so hot or cold that you run air conditioning for 6 days straight. There are just so many factors which effect the dollars in the equations and every household will be different.
But here's the most sensible tip of them all.
Under OUR scheme - DON’T do the washing, ironing, clothes dryering, dish washering during the day - keep the house just ticking along at the minimum - So that hour by hour you’ve got excess to “sell”.
If you waste the energy during the day on chores which could be done after 6pm, then you’re effectively costing yourself 44cents for that power aren’t you?
If you're on the new schemes with only 8c per kw rebate... then YOU DO all your work during the day.
So that’s what selling to the grid and maximizing YOUR credits is all about.
Additional Notes & References;
We receive quarterly electricity accounts which are in CREDIT... at the end of 4 quarters (the anniversary of our connection) Ergon sends us a cheque for the credit we have accumulated. That clears the account to Zero and we start again for the upcoming year.
We contracted with Ergon Energy Queensland for an export price of 44c per kwh up to the year 2028.... in 2012 that Export purchase price was reduced to 8cents!... but then again Solar equipment prices have dropped significantly since we installed.
Some folks have queried the electricity buy/sell information so I'm adding two links to help explain the Queensland Government Net system which I might have oversimplified above.
The first site is a Qld Government website see Qld Government Solar Bonus page.
|DATA from AVONDALE Queensland|
|**No further data will be added*|
|DATA from AVONDALE Queensland|
|**No further Data will be added**|