It was an enlightening discussion in many ways. I finally understood what STC's (Small Technology Credits) were and why they were so important for reducing the cost of installing solar. I also discovered how grid-connected solar is meant to reduce your electricity bills. I was glad to have the information explained with diagrams so I could ask questions. All the information I read previously started to make sense.
With the price they were offering (a saving of about $1200 AUD for a cash sale) anyone would think it a perfect opportunity to jump at. I must say, we are dearly tempted and still undecided. But there are still two areas I have not reconciled yet. Firstly, is value - what exactly are we buying and how do we reduce our electricity bills. Lastly, does it really meet the need intended?
Let's start with value: it's simply the best offer around. But in that offer comes two possible inverters, made by two different companies (one Asian and one Australian). I've done my research and the Asian made inverter has a reputation for breaking down. The Australian inverter does not. I discovered later (after more research) the man I was talking to was only a sales person, not the accredited solar installer that would have to design the placing of the panels on our roof, and what pieces of equipment were required. He informed me, they may need extra things that didn't end up being quoted in the price.
So what I got was a piece of paper stating what equipment would be installed, labor included, but still had no idea of the final price or what equipment would ultimately be needed. There's a vast difference between quoted offers and and paying for an operational solar system. Once you've signed that piece of paper and put down your deposit, that's it - you're committed. I would go with them if only they'd been more precise with details, and sent an accredited professional to tell me exactly how my system was going to fit on the roof. He didn't even get up on the roof.
In all fairness to solar installers though, a lot of different factors determine whether you get the value from your system or not. You could have the best equipment, skilled installers, a roof plastered with as many panels as could fit - and if your outside temperature is constantly above 30 degrees Celsius, with little wind to cool the units down, those panels won't work effectively as in ideal conditions. Same amount of money invested, but less efficiency produced.
A lot of people shrug it off and assume that's just the price of renewable energy. I guess it is too. However it's also a bit of a design flaw. Especially in the advertising of what could "possibly" be saved on electricity bills. Apparently, the best way to reduce your electricity bill is NOT to use your household electricity during the day. Because that's when the panels will be at maximum production and can feed back to the electricity grid.
I've read a little about power travelling along cables (whether it's generated from solar or fossil fuels) losing a certain percentage to entropy. So more power has to be generated to replace the loss. It's not a huge amount compared to what power makes it through, but entropy does add up. I would think, efficient use of resources would encourage maximum electricity being used, closest to the source generating them. It's not like grid connected solar is the same as stand alone solar - where you may need to charge your batteries during the day so you have electricity at night. We have an electricity grid to plug into any time.
Less waste to entropy, would mean less demand to generate more electricity, because you're not losing entropy when the sun is feeding power directly to your house. But I gather there isn't a lot of money to be made from efficiency. The more I investigate grid connected solar, the more I realise it's about complementing fossil fuels and our existing economy - not standing apart at all. It seems consumers go to the expense of buying solar panels, taking all the financial risks that involves - only for the purpose of sending power back to the grid so we can buy it back.
My brain is still trying to rationalise that one aspect alone, LOL.
Which brings me to my second irreconcilable issue: the ideology behind grid connected solar. Does it really meet the need? We're told the need is two-fold, to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and to save the planet. In it's current form however, renewable energy seems very dubious. The same wasteful fossil fuel system designed for profit, has been given a new logo called Green Energy, thanks to renewable energy input. Some might suppose, what then is a better system?
I will never claim to be a genius or a scholar, but as a gardener, I've observed the best solar around! Have you noticed all the pictures of flowers in this post? They've been directly powered by the sun too.
Above is a Day Lilly. A very beautiful flower - but only opens for one day and then dies. The power of the sun makes it bloom, but it also kills it. Maybe there's a lesson to be had in that too? Everything lives and dies under the sun for a purpose. We may have more opportunities than a Day Lilly, but I wonder how many of us appreciate the wonders that come down from the sky, has more value than a dollar sign?
I've been observing my Day Lillies opening and closing for the past week, each one unique and beautiful. No-one paid me for that privilege either. Maybe I'm onto something? ;)
PS: I know there will be some people reading who have grid connected solar. Bear in mind, this post is not a reflection on your individual choices but rather my coming to terms with understanding the process. I keep looking for that golden nugget of truth, but all I see is a lot money used towards generating the same old problem. For anyone who has grid connected solar, does it feel weird sending solar power to the grid only to get mostly coal power back again?
Has anyone chosen not to make the savings on their electricity bills, to use their grid connected solar more efficiently (ie: use it during the day when the sun is available?)
Also, before all the jokes start about powering my house with flowers (that thought even amuses me, LOL) it's really a metaphorical example of how far we've moved away from the natural solutions we supposed.