With
increasing concern about fossil fuels leading to global warming, and with some
corporate and government interests pursuing a nuclear future, we’re keen to
share our experience of solar electricity.

It works! Each
year now for ten years in a row our house has had a surplus of solar power by
generating more electricity than the household has used. We receive a credit
for putting electricity back into the grid and it’s put an end to us paying for
electricity.

While it may
be difficult to find people who want to live next door to nuclear power
stations, there is no shortage of suburban rooftops suitable for solar power
stations. Grid connected
solar electricity systems are priced from around $5,000, while one that
generates a similar amount as our average electricity consumption would cost
less than $12,000 (after government rebate). This is a capital cost of about
$2.30 per day, or less than the price of a cup of coffee at a cafe. For that
you can have a solar power station on your roof, generating the premium green
power and cutting your electricity bill.

The benefits
go beyond free electricity. Solar power is the premium green power because it
is renewable, abundant and non-polluting. Unlike electricity from coal, there’s
no smoke and no greenhouse gases. Unlike electricity from nuclear power,
there’s is no radioactive legacy for future generations.

Solar
electricity panels pay off their energy debt (ie the amount of energy needed to
make them) in 18 months to two years. A further benefit of solar electricity
systems is that they generate electricity right at the time when there is peak
demand – on hot days in summer. Little or no maintenance is required and the
solar panels are designed to last at least two decades.

Ideally a
premium rate would be paid for the buy-back of solar electricity put
back into
the grid. The most successful schemes overseas have used such
incentives to
encourage the installation of solar electricity. Japan and Germany have
led the way, and in 2005 Germany installed over half of all the solar
photovoltaic panels installed worldwide. The equivalent of over 400,000
systems
the size of our two-kilowatt system were installed in Germany last year.

For more of Stuart and Wendy’s experiences, go to Green Makeover

Peter Fray

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