Is so­lar right for you?

With power prices on the up, it’s a good time to gen­er­ate your own elec­tric­ity.

Element - - Finance - By Andy Ken­wor­thy

Back in the 70s, the first photo voltaic so­lar pan­els (PV) to pro­duce elec­tric­ity used to re­quire di­rect sun­light. These days, mod­ern PV pan­els pro­duce on even the cloud­i­est of days. As those who’ve been sun­burned will at­test, we have some se­ri­ous so­lar ra­di­a­tion go­ing on here, mak­ing our homes prime can­di­dates to be turned into mini elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tors.

PV has been pro­moted as an eco-friendly form of en­ergy gen­er­a­tion. Stud­ies done in the UK and US sug­gest that the over­all eco­log­i­cal im­pact of pro­duc­ing, in­stalling and us­ing home PV is much smaller than for large-scale power gen­er­a­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion.

The price of PV pan­els has plum­meted, fall­ing around 60% in the last 18 months. Along with this the ef­fi­cien­cies in out­put have in­creased, and new PV pan­els can even be­come the roof­ing ma­te­rial for your home.

On-site power gen­er­a­tion also has the at­trac­tion of gain­ing some in­sur­ance from ris­ing power prices. This is ei­ther through sav­ing the en­ergy pro­duced by PV pan­els in large bat­tery banks (which will push the ini­tial cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture up sig­nif­i­cantly) or, ide­ally, by sell­ing the power pro­duced on your roof back to the large elec­tric­ity re­tail­ers. This is, how­ever, pro­vided that the re­tail­ers keep agree­ing to buy it, some­thing for which they are not legally obliged to do.

Some elec­tric­ity sup­pli­ers cur­rently make this pos­si­ble, al­though the prices they pay vary. The cur­rent pay­ment for power de­liv­ered to the grid is be­tween $0.10 +GST and $0.15 +GST. This is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the re­tail price, which is about $0.23 +GST. This is cur­rently un­der re­view by the Elec­tric­ity Author­ity, which is tak­ing sub­mis­sions un­til Oc­to­ber 30. Find out more at

The con­tin­u­ing roll-out of smart me­ters and its po­ten­tial to al­low more flex­i­ble use of the ex­ist­ing power grid could add to these op­por­tu­ni­ties in the com­ing years, as could an in­crease in the use of elec­tric cars whose bat­ter­ies could also be har­nessed to store power for times when the sun isn’t shin­ing.

Of course, all these en­ergy cal­cu­la­tions en­tirely de­pend on a home’s en­ergy use, so re­duc­ing that use to a min­i­mum should be the pri­or­ity to min­imise fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal cost, what­ever sys­tem you use to power your home.

All this makes PV so­lar en­ergy gen­er­a­tion well worth con­sid­er­ing.

Fit­ting the new C21e so­lar roof tile on the Zero En­ergy House (ze­roen­er­gy­

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