SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 33 – Dynamic Solar Stuff

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In episode 33, Finn and Ronald discuss dynamic solar energy export limits, 25-year solar panel product warranties, 7 ways to get rid of unwanted solar panels and more.

Dynamic Solar Export Limits

1:20 – High grid voltages are becoming quite a challenge, a situation resulting from a large number of solar power systems pushing voltage up as they export energy to the grid.

SA Power Networks is planning to address overvoltage by having a central “command and control” that monitors the network and directs solar inverters in various locations to reduce their output when necessary, or permits inverters to increase output when the situation allows for it.

Ronald doesn’t seem particularly thrilled with the prospect. He points to the example of California where the contribution of solar is greatly valued and therefore the grid is being upgraded to accommodate it rather than finding ways to curtail exports.

“I’m just heavily implying that if we valued the clean electricity properly, a lot of our grid overvoltage problems would disappear because we would make damn sure that we weren’t wasting this clean electricity unless there was no other effective choice,” he says.

Battery Storage Standards

3:58 – There’s been a lot of kerfuffle about the release of a standard for battery energy storage system installations in Australia. While it’s not mandatory yet, it will likely be at some point.

One of the contentious issues is a requirement to place non-combustible material behind a battery when it is being mounted against a combustible wall. The sheeting needs to extend 600mm either side and 900mm above the battery. Also causing concern are clauses relating to where a battery can be installed.

“If the manufacturer can prove that they’ve gone above and beyond in testing, I think they should be able to get away from the standards,” says Finn.

Three brands Finn has confidence in with regard to fire safety are Tesla, LG and Sonnen.

Q Cells Boosts Product Warranty In Australia

7:44 – Q Cells recently made a (somewhat confusing) announcement regarding an increase in product warranty on a couple of module lines for Australia from 12 years to 25 years. Q Cells is not the first company to lift a product warranty to 25 years (or more). Finn and Ronald discuss when 25-year product warranties may become the norm rather than the exception.

What To Do With Unwanted Solar Panels

10:37 – Poor quality solar panels may fail early. Even good panels will ultimately fail after decades of service. What do you do with these panels if you’re stuck with them for whatever reason? Finn and Ronald run through seven things you can do with unwanted solar panels, plus mention some rather novel uses.

Ronald also comments on fears of solar panels becoming a toxic waste problem in the years ahead.

“Solar panels are the least toxic form of electronic waste there is,” he says. “The only thing that’s dangerous is there is still some lead in the solar that’s used – perhaps one gram per solar panel. If you threw solar panels into a landfill, there would be less lead in the solar panel than average dirt.”

Best Review Of The Week

15:18 – This week’s pick of the pack was a review for NSW-based Banana Solar.

The reviewer purchased a 7kw solar power system costing $7,300 and says he experienced outstanding service from beginning to end. The company went above and beyond even though the installation turned out to be quite complicated.

An interesting part of the process was Banana Solar flying a drone over the home’s roof so the company could build a really accurate 3D model. The reviewer also purchased Solar Analytics, which makes Finn very happy as he’s a big fan of solar consumption monitoring.

“So, he is using that information to turn off energy gobblers he didn’t even know were on and to optimise when to use things,” states Finn. “The other thing is if anything goes wrong, he will get a very early warning.”

The reviewer is expecting simple payback of just two years on his PV system, which is very impressive. His $1,200 quarterly energy bill dropped to $300 after the installation.

Worst Review Of The Week

17:22 – After-sales service is an important part of the solar experience and this reviewer reports having a very poor one with a company that isn’t a SolarQuotes recommended firm.

The solar power system started tripping out after 19 days of operation. The reviewer says it took 100 phone calls and 25 emails before a technician attended and diagnosed inverter failure due to too many solar panels being on one string.

A new inverter was sent, but there were problems with getting it installed. After a hearing was scheduled with Fair Trading, the company suddenly became eager to resolve the issue.

The saga took around 6 months to resolve.

“I don’t understand how an accredited designer can get a design wrong,” says Finn. There’s so many software tools- even available for free, where you’d say, ‘I’ve got this many panels, in this configuration with this inverter’ – and it will say, ‘Boom, yes, that’ll work’.”

Tonsley Hydrogen Project A Waste Of Money

19:04 – Ronald isn’t at all impressed with a tax-payer supported hydrogen electrolyser project in South Australia.

“It’s very expensive and basically, if you’re a private company and you want to build a hydrogen making machine, that’s fine; but the State Government here in South Australia has given 4.9 million dollars to a project which has negative environmental benefit and will never pay for itself.”

One of the commenters on Ronald’s article about the Tonsley Hydrogen Project said “green hydrogen” is just a back door for “blue hydrogen” and blue hydrogen is actually brown hydrogen – it’s produced using coal.

NZ Closing In On Renewable Energy Goal

22:00  – New Zealand’s target of 90 per cent of electricity to be sourced from renewables by 2025 looks set to be achieved. 84% of electricity consumed in the country came from renewable energy sources last year.

Solar energy is still a bit player in the country, but Ronald thinks that will change. Finn reminisces on his attempt at establishing SolarQuotes in the land of the long white cloud, a venture that wasn’t successful due in part to the tiny market in NZ at the time.

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