The Residential Solar project is an initiative to promote, inform and coordinate potential purchasers of solar systems in the Blue Mountains and Central West NSW. We hold information events and provide independent advice to households, landlords and businesses on sourcing the most appropriate system for their needs and recommending local installers.
Thinking about installing solar power at your home or business but aren’t sure of all the details?
With the right advice it’s a great time to invest in solar PV and we’re here to help.
We have been working with local solar installers to identify the best solar systems currently on offer. We can assist homeowners, landlords and businesses who want to understand how to take advantage of the latest rebates and tariffs, as well as provide first-hand experience from many BMRenew members who have installed solar already to choose the right sized system for your needs.
We’ve contacted every local solar installer and can recommend some special offers. We can also suggest financing opportunities.
Going solar in the Blue Mountains
Why go solar in the Blue Mountains?
Most of the power generated in NSW is produced by burning coal. Mining coal scars our landscape, burning it releases CO2 contributing to climate change, plus a range of other pollutants that are injurious to people’s health. Buying the coal from miners means recurring costs. Solar panels harness the energy from the sun with no pollution and no cost for fuel.
A solar installation comprises the panels that generate the electricity, the inverter that converts that electricity to the voltage used by the electricity grid, installation materials and labour to safely install the system and the connection of the system to the power grid.
Which panels are best?
Every home has different requirements, for example, some locations have shade at times of the day. Others might have a limited space for panels. This means that the best panel will vary for different people. BMRenew considers the best panel will be the one that offers best value in terms of:
Best value for a site with limited space and a need for a high level of power generation will mean a high performance panel with excellent efficiency. But this comes at an additional financial cost.
Other locations may have plenty of space but a limited budget. These sites might require a lower cost panel.
In each case the answer might vary, but BMRenew does have some general guidelines:
- Factory branded (as opposed to installer white-label rebranded) panels mean you know what you are getting, and the manufacturer has a brand to protect or establish. Installer rebranded panels can come from various manufacturers with no guarantee of consistency apart from the testing done by the installer.
- The vast bulk of panels are now made in China, and these panels can offer good quality and performance similar to those made in Germany, Japan or the USA.
- Panels have a useful life likely to exceed 25 years and most manufacturers offer warranties longer than a decade. This means it is sensible to choose a supplier likely to be in business long term, should warranty service be needed.
Which inverter is best?
In the same way that particular site requirements mean that the best panels vary, so to with inverters.
Again, BMRenew can offer some general guidelines:
- Factory branded (as opposed to installer white-label rebranded) inverters mean you know what you are getting, and the manufacturer has a brand to protect or establish. Installer rebranded inverters can come from various manufacturers with no guarantee of consistency apart from the testing done by the installer.
- Inverters are reasonably complex electronic devices, and like other modern electronics they have a limited lifespan. Generally, a high quality inverter can be expected to last 10+ years, but it is quite likely that your panels will outlast your inverter.
- Inverters are the item most likely to fail or require repair. This means it is sensible to choose a supplier likely to be in business long term, should warranty service be needed.
Which Installer is best?
In the Blue Mountains there are quite a few local installers, plus many Sydney based installers will travel.
BMRenew believe that choosing a local installer is the optimum decision.
The benefits of a local installer include accountability. If something goes wrong you know where to find them, plus they typically take a very involved, hands on approach to your install. Some national chains simply sub-contract all their installations, with attendant risk of quality problems.
Local installers also understand local conditions, which can be more trying than those in Sydney with some pretty severe storms, winds and occasional snow.
An intangible benefit of choosing a local installer is the support for quality employment in your local community that comes with spending our money locally.
BMRenew recommend you only deal with a Clean Energy Council accredited installer.
Feed-in tariffs and other incentives
Solar power has a long history of incentives and government support. In recent years it has been fashionable to provide this via a feed-in tariff – a payment made to the household for excess electricity they send to the grid. While in the past these have sometimes been quite high, the maximum rate now in our area is only 8c per kilowatt hour, and possibly trending lower. Considering the cost for you to buy a kilowatt hour is around 30c, 8c is not very generous. Note also that this tariff is linked to the energy supply company. Origin, AGL and Energy Australia all offer feed in tariffs, some smaller companies do not. It is important to review whether your current energy supplier is the most supportive when you are considering solar panels.
Apart from tariffs, the Federal Government offers an incentive called STCs (Small-scale technology certificates) that are issued by the government when you install a green power producing system. These can then be sold to polluters to help them fulfil their renewable energy commitments. The market price for these varies, and your installer will be able to advise how many STCs a system will be eligible for, and to arrange their sale as a discount off the installation price, if desired. This discount could be quite substantial, with a 2kW system in Katoomba expected to be eligible for 41 STCs with a sale price of about $37 each (as at June 2014). Note that most installers quote a price with the STC discount already included.
What size system do I need?
In an ideal world, we would be seeking to install panels on every suitable rooftop. Due to the costs, combined with the way the electricity prices and feed-in tariffs work, it is slightly more complicated.
The most economically advantageous solar set up will be one that exactly matches your day time energy usage, so that you do not need to buy any power from the grid while the sun is out.
This is trickier than it sounds, as your day time usage can be difficult to calculate, and can fluctuate with the seasons and the weather. Households where there are people around during the day will also use more power than a house where everyone commutes to the city. To calculate your day time usage, head out to the meter box in the morning and record the setting. Do the same at dusk and you can work out that day’s usage. Do this for some representative days, week days and weekends, and you will get an idea of what your usage is like.
To save you the trip to the meter box, there are wireless displays available that can help. Search the Internet for Efergy or Watts Clever for examples.
Once you have an indicative daily usage, it is possible to calculate what size system you need using the local insolation.
Insolation is the term used to describe how much solar energy falls on a particular place on Earth. By recording the insolation in a spot over many years, we can get an average to calculate how much electricity a solar panel will produce. For the Blue Mountains, the insolation rate is about 4 (actually, slightly more, but 4 is a conservative number). This means a 1kW solar system will produce about 4kWh of electricity each day, averaged over the whole year. It’s also worth noting that this average is made up of considerably higher figures in summer, and lower in winter.
Because of this, many people install a system a little larger than their average use would indicate, to make up for the lower production in winter.
Who are the Installers?
The following is a list of all the installers we know located in the mountains. This isn’t an endorsement, but might save you some time if you are pursuing multiple quotes.
|E-Smart Solar||✔||✔||1800 376 278|
|Sun Kissed Solar||✔||1800 786 547|
|JBEC||✔||0414 541 342|
|Solar Connections||1300 431 366|
|Energy Wise Living||02 4704 9030|
Who does BMRenew recommend?
BMRenew don’t make any recommendations, each house will have different characteristics, and the offerings by different installers may be better or worse for each site. We recommend you gather a number of quotations in order to best understand which system offers the best value in your circumstances.
I have more questions!
This short page can only cover some general aspects of the getting solar power in the Blue Mountains. Members of the Co-op have an online discussion space where they are welcome to post questions.