Monday, May 07, 2007

Adelaide the solar city

we want sliver cell panels

A federal Government media release on August 30 last year announced that Adelaide had been selected to host Australia’s first solar city trial. To quote from the release:

The Adelaide Solar City proposal will install solar panels in more than 1700 homes in north Adelaide, roll out 7000 smart meters and help people save around $200 a year on their electricity bills by changing energy use and adapting energy efficiency measures. The solar panels will be made in Australia by BP Solar at their Homebush plant in Sydney and the SLIVER ® cell technology will come from Origin Energy's Adelaide plant. Consumers will be able to purchase these solar panels using special discounted loans.

Apparently this proposal involves a consortium of businesses and local councils. The businesses include Origin Energy, BP solar, Delfin, ANZ and Big Switch. The councils involved are Adelaide, Playford, Tea Tree Gully and Salisbury. Unfortunately none of La Luna’s houses are in these council areas. Whether the discounted loans are available to house owners/managers outside those council areas is unclear. Presumably not. The period of the proposal is seven years, to 2013.

The Origin Energy site also provides some useful pricing on solar. They offer a hot water ‘solarise’ package for $2175 including all rebates and GST. A total home solarisation makeover can be done for $9875. Bearing this in mind, La Luna could provide solar hot water to all our homes over, say, a three year period, starting now. However, there’s another important issue to be considered, and that is the quality of the solar panels. Currently, we’re told, the cheap solar panels – presumably the ones being offered in this package, have a life-span of only ten years. If this is true, ongoing costs will prove to be a problem. The panels being sold as a part of this package come with a ten-year warranty, but the Office of Community Housing, who allowed us solar hot water on our Wilkins Street properties, built a couple of years ago, weren’t going to allow us the same thing on our yet-to-be built Klemzig properties, apparently because they felt that it wasn’t cost-efficient due to the short lifetimes of the panels. We’ve managed to do a deal, however, purchasing solar panels at the expense of floor coverings.

Most of our current homes use gas to heat their water, so the monetary and greenhouse savings would be less than would be the case with electrically heated water. If there are any electrically heated water supplies, I’d suggest they would be our top priority for conversion. We’d also have to look at it from the point of view of the property as a whole – whether we would consider that property to be a permanent part of our portfolio.

There are some questions we wouldn’t mind answers to. First, if we install solar hot water systems, would they be a step toward full solarisation, or would they have to be dismantled and replaced? Second, what kind of PV technology is used in these panels, and are there better more long-lasting systems commercially available [the commercialization of sliver technology still seems to be away into the future], and what about rebates on them? Also, from the Solar Cities perspective, how can La Luna get in on the act?



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