Don’t let the sun go down on me

Posted on: May 22, 2009

A Rainbow at Sunset & a natural Palette by Monday Morning Photography from flickr

Oh woe. I had the best of intentions. This morning we had an assessor come by to assess our site for solar panels.

After getting very excited about the idea, following the info meeting I attended, my housemate and I went to have a look at the dimensions of our 2 storey roof by walking a couple of streets away where there was a clear view of it. It was then I realised I had totally overestimated our amount of roof space, forgetting that our second storey is much smaller than our first storey. And furthermore forgotten that we already have a solar panel for our gas boosted solar hot water, smack bang on the north facing second storey roof!

Anyway, I was still hopeful. The assessor climbed up to view our roof and did lots of measurements to figure out what we could fit. There are 2 types of systems available. The cheaper one (amorphous) require 8 panels to provide a 1kw solar power system. The more expensive one (monocrystalline – costing about $1000 more) require only 6 panels to provide a 1kw solar power system.

We do not have room for 8 panels, so it would be the more expensive system for us.

We could install it on our first storey roof, but it would have to be the WEST facing roof. It’s not due west, it’s kinda more northish-west but it’d still mean about 20% loss of capacity. Also, it’d hang over the edge of the roof alittle. Which means that when it rains, some water would just run straight off the panels and onto the ground instead of getting caught in the gutter. Not ideal really.

The monocrystalline system would cost us about $2500 after the rebate, or if we sell our ‘RECS’ (essentially carbon credits type things) we could get some money back and it’d cost us about $1800 all up. But, I have mixed feeling about selling the RECS. Basically I don’t want to sell them because they’d end up being bought by some evil company to boost their carbon credit quota. I’d much prefer to either surrender them or just hang on to them. But how about if selling them was the only way we could afford the system?

Furthermore, at the moment there is no obstruction to sunlight on our west facing roof. But behind the fence that faces that roofline, is a great big empty backyard and a very run down house that has been sold. Someone has moved in it at the moment but I can’t imagine it will stay there long, the place is falling apart and when it went up for sale it had preapproval to knock the house over and build two houses there. Imagine if we spent $1800 and someone built a two storey townhouse behind us blocking the sunlight! Plus I calculated (possibly not very accurately) that it’d maybe take us like 7 years for the system to pay itself off and who knows if we’ll even still be in this house in 7 years time.

Anyway, so after a long evening of discussion, debate, research, calculations and recalculations, I’ve come to the conclusion that we would be better off at this point in time to spend the money on getting a rainwater tank. It pains me to not be able to take up the government rebate of $8000 for our own 1kw system BUT we have a basic plan that we need to sit down and flesh out more and most importantly IMPLEMENT!

This includes:
– and use this to help us grown some of our own food throughout the year

We already have gas boosted solar hot water which is good because hot water can really eat up electricity if it is electricity powered, so at least that’s something but we can do more:

Our current average daily use of energy is 8.33kw per day between 3 of us = about 2.77kw per day each. I have heard that the average Australian household (2.6 people) use on average 16kw per day = 6.15kw each. Yowch! What on earth are those people doing? Still, I know there is room for us to do better than 2.77kw per day each. I really wish it could be easy to install a system so that you could just flick a switch and everything in your house, bar the fridge, could be turned off on your way out. Anyone know of such a magic switch?

Monitor our daily electricity use and buy green power to 100% offset our carbon emissions and use this as motivation for us to further reduce our electricity use!

In the meantime I’m going to hope
– that our government will some day sooner rather than later, will look to our European counterparts and similarly provide Australians with a PROPER incentive programme to install solar panels
– technology will speed along and we’ll need solar less panels to generate more energy
– some kind of green renewable energy will become more readily available soon or
– maybe one day we’ll sell this townhouse and buy a nice big house with a big north facing roof that we can afford to put a 3kw solar power system on and generate all our own electricity and get paid for feeding it back into the grid, ala Gavin of The Greening Of Gavin blog!

Go Gavin! I totally have solar panel envy. Alas. In the meantime, getting a rainwater tank is a very good move right?


2 Responses to "Don’t let the sun go down on me"

Oh… it happens, though. We aren’t eligible for the rebate anymore which, while it means on the one hand that we are fortunate enough to have a substantial income, the lack of rebate really does put solar power out of reach. Our power usage has been jumping around like mad, and I can’t work out why. We’ve nearly doubled our power bill in the past year (5.5 kw per person, right now), and I’m not sure how! (actually, my partner admitted to running a ‘couple’ of extra computers I didn’t know about…). Our current and our new house are both gas hot water, so we won’t be converting to solar any time soon. I’d prefer to take the insulation rebate! Very excited about that! Other than that I’m patting myself on the back for buying a very small place with only a small garden out the front, and a dead patch in the paving out the back the perfect size for a decent-but-manageable vegie garden. I think your rainwater tank sounds awesome!

Moo, I was so excited for you. Now I feel sad that you can’t get some PV action happening at your place.

Go for the rainwater. You will need it after your permablitz!


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