Category: Blog

Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Jul 12, 2021 by Colin Gillam

What does it really mean for me?

Over the years as it’s become obvious to any thinking person that global warming due to human activities is having devastating impacts around the world, many governments and some global companies have made commitments to reducing their contributions to the problem.

We have had numerous inter-governmental summits (Kyoto, Rio, Paris) and annual conferences where lots of people spend lots of time committing lots of money to doing lots of things to slow down global warming.

Sadly our Australian Government is not ideologically committed to this despite the droughts, bushfires and other clear signs we are in trouble.  Our Pentecostal “Christian” leaders are assuming the second coming will save them before it’s too late.

However, for the rest of us who have our feet on the ground and want to leave our children and grand children a viable planet to live on, it seems too hard at times.  We are told the cost to our economy is too great if we reduce our emissions.  But as with so much else, the truth is far different than the rhetoric.

There are so many economic and scientific articles contradicting that view with only fossil fuel industry reports supporting it, that any average person can see the vested interests and paid opinions are only about protecting profits, not the environment.

The bad news for Australians is that at both the production (things we dig out of the ground and manufacture or export) and consumption (things we buy locally and internationally and consume) parts of our economy we are near the top of the list for carbon emissions.  Our coal and gas fired power stations plus the coal and gas we export to other countries to burn are major contributors to this.  With no obvious signs that this is going to change in the near future, we have to look elsewhere to make a difference.

Many of us feel the little things we do make no difference, and of course that is the subtle message coming from various sources to try to stop us taking any action.

But it is the little things we do every day, and repeat, and that are done by everyone in your family, your neighbours, your town, city state and country that do make a difference.  It’s simple maths at the end of the day.

To make it really simple I have rounded off numbers so it’s easy to do the maths in our heads!

In total Australia accounts for 550 million tonnes of CO2e each year which means each person is responsible for 22 tonnes.

What we can do?

Plant a tree.  Trees will absorb around 20kg/annum and around 1 tonne over its life.  So we would each need to plant 1,100 trees AND not cut down any to break even. However, 1 mature tree produces enough oxygen for one person, so even if you can’t plant 1,100 trees, planting a few still makes a difference.  If we all planted 10 trees per year (or paid farmers to do this on our behalf – they need all the help they can get), by 2050 that’s 300 trees each and 6 tonnes/annum and we are almost a third of the way there. How about starting a community garden with fruit trees you can pick from fresh and in season or encouraging your council to plant more shade trees in the local streets, reducing heat in summer while encouraging native birds and animals as well as bees to come back.

Drive less.  Cars produce around 200gm/km when driving.  If you drive 20,000km in a year that’s 4 tonnes of CO2e.  But if you walked, caught public transport and reduced this by 50% then you will reduce this by 2 tonnes per year.  We are up to 8 tonnes of savings and you have become slimmer and fitter by doing some more walking which means you are likely to live longer and see the fruits of your work.  In the near future you could also swap to an electric vehicle.  Instead of buying a home battery, your electric car could also provide power in a blackout as the battery is around 8-10 times the capacity of a typical home battery.

Buy locally grown and seasonal foods.  This is not a discussion about the banned pesticides and questionable food standards of other countries, BUT Australian grown foods are generally far safer to eat than imported foods.  However even here much of our food ends up being transported an average of 2000km from farm to manufacturer, to distribution centres, supermarkets then your home and adds a huge amount to emissions.  Buying locally also encourages smaller and more sustainable practices in farming rather than wholesale clearing of land, large commercially driven monoculture production and high use of artificial fertilisers which all seriously impact the soil and air quality.  It’s estimated around 4-5% of our emissions could be reduced if we bought more local foods.  That’s the equivalent of around 1 tonne of CO2e and gets us to 9 tonnes.  Not to mention seasonal and local foods employ local people and are SO MUCH tastier as they are fresh and haven’t been sitting in cold store or on a ship for 2-6 months.

Residential solar installation
Residential solar is an ideal way to invest in your home and save money on energy bills

Putting up solar to reduce your energy costs and emissions.  This is obviously not always possible or practical but is definitely high on the list of things to do if you can.  The typical 6.6kW solar system being installed today will reduce emissions by almost 9 tonnes per annum and with an expected life of around 25 years, that’s 225 tonnes in total.  A 10kW solar system reduces emissions by over 14 tonnes/annum.  That would take you to being carbon negative by 1 tonne per year, not to mention the $2500/annum you would save on energy bills.

Vote with your pocket.  By this I mean choose what and who you buy things from based on their environmental and sustainability commitments. Tasmania’s clean green image has recently been tarnished by the salmon farming scandals, so don’t buy farmed salmon and these companies will get the message as demand and profits drop. Your superannuation or shares are being used by large companies to make profits and return dividends to you.  But some still haven’t got the message, so change your investments (renewable energy companies are doing very well) or at the AGM ask questions about the company’s plans for global warming and sustainability.  If enough people put pressure on, the executives and boards will have to change course as they are accountable to ALL shareholders.

And there it is.  Some minor changes to how each of us thinks AND acts, a small investment in solar for our homes which pays for itself very quickly and each of us can be carbon neutral in a very short period of time.  There are no major sacrifices to make as each of these changes has positive benefits for you and your family, friends and community.

Of course there are numerous other positive and practical things you can do. Design, build or renovate your home to minimise it’s embodied energy and need for heating and cooling. Good passive solar design, insulation, double glazing, thermal mass, use of renewable and recyclable materials, ensure all appliances are electric and install more solar panels to provide the energy you need. Don’t install gas – it’s not renewable and you can’t generate your own. Don’t accept single use anything, go op shopping and repurpose, have your own garden, compost food waste, pressure your council to recycle more.

Maintaining the status quo and doing nothing will hurt all of us long term. 

Don’t leave it to someone else, speak up and take positive action.

Leave a legacy your grandchildren will be proud of.

If you want more help on going carbon neutral, give us a call on 0431010323 or email info@abses.com.au and we can work with you on positive energy solutions.

How much should I pay for a solar system?

Jun 25, 2021 by Colin Gillam

It depends!

While not the answer you want, there are just too many variables to give a simple answer.  And comparing your quote to someone else’s isn’t helpful without knowing their exact circumstances and the equipment proposed.

This blog will give you some information that hopefully lets you make an informed decision.

A well designed and installed system should last more than 25 years and be an extremely reliable clean power source. Saving some dollars on the installation is very often a mistake that comes back to haunt buyers. When it stops working, you stop saving.

Some questions first.

Do you own your home and intend to stay there for the foreseeable future?  If so then spend a bit extra and get a better quality system.

Is the solar for your business?  With accelerated depreciation and potential reduction in demand charges as well as energy use, a cheap solar system pays for itself in 3-4 years, but a better quality one pays for itself in 4-5 years,  As above, it depends how long you intend staying at the premises.

Do you want/need a battery for blackout protection?  Then consider a multimode inverter even if you delay the battery purchase for now.

Are you going to buy an electric vehicle in the near future?  Oversize the solar by as much as you can afford.  Feed in tariffs have been going down, so putting any excess into a battery or EV is a smart move. Some EV’s have  “bidirectional” battery charging capability that means you can effectively use the car battery in the event of a blackout.

Can you reduce your energy costs easily first?  Do you need help reducing energy costs?  If so see the link at the bottom of this blog.

The most expensive way to go solar is on the cheap.

There is a fair bit of truth in this. You would not expect a Chinese Great Wall Ute to perform as well, or last as long as a Toyota HiLux, or be the same price.  

A cheap Chinese inverter (Sungrow, Goodwe, Solax) wholesale is $1100, a good mid-range (Huawei, ABB, Delta) is $1500 and European brands (Fronius, SolarEdge) $1900.

Most Chinese panels prices are within a few cents of each other (they are usually priced in cents per watt) but there are differences in quality. Acceptable, but slightly cheaper brands include Suntech, Seraphim, Yingli and Risen (costing less than 35 cents per watt).  Mid-range brands include Jinko, Trina, Canadian (it’s made in China), JA Solar and Longi (35-40 cents per watt).  Other brands (LG SunPower) can be twice the price ($1-1.40 per watt). 

If you want Australian made, then Tindo can help but you are paying the same price as the LG or SunPower without the same reputation (90 cents to $1 per watt). 

Note here that some of the more expensive brands offer a lower priced panel with their badge on, but similar quality to the mid-range panels.  However, they still tend to be 20-50% higher priced for a similar product performance wise.  Compare product and performance warranties as these give some indication about the manufacturer’s confidence in their product.

Tile versus Tin Roof makes a difference

To install properly on tile roofs takes even the best installer longer.

Tile roofs are a pain to work on as it’s very easy to break tiles, brackets for panels are more expensive, you have to grind tiles to make them sit flat so it’s more work and more expensive than a tin roof.

Getting up to a 2 storey roof requires a scissorlift and extra edge protection and will generally cost more unless the installer is trying to cut costs and potentially breach health and safety rules.

Even the cable and isolators can vary by 100% because there is cheap that says it meets standards and there is quality that installers will put their reputation behind.

Good initial design is very important for production yield and payback

Shadows at various times of the day require optimisers, $70 extra per panel plus installation. Do you want a good monitoring system so you can see consumption as well as generation (most inverters offer an app so you can see generation only but not consumption), minimum $160.

STC (Small-Scale Technology Certificates – green credits) discount is different in each zone and can be up to 50% more in Zone 1 than Zone 4.  Prices also vary from day to day and brokers charge a fee, so when you see the spot price, that’s not necessarily the price the installer or retailer is paid.

Professional installers versus cowboys

If you had all the car parts from BMW factory to build a new car, and had the choice between an ex BMW engineer to put it together, or the garage round the corner who can do it for half the cost, which would you choose?

Do you want cheap labourers with no training doing most of the work and being signed off by someone who turns up just to say they attended the site? Or do you want an experienced installer who takes pride in their work and has been doing this for 10 years or more?

Don’t even get me started on preapprovals, variations and other potential costs.  But as a guide, below is my checklist for every installation. It takes time and care to make sure things are done properly.

A good installer/designer will take account of all these things before doing a formal quote so they don’t underquote and then have to cut corners to make a profit.

So how much should a solar system cost? 

It depends.

Your best bet is to get a few quotes from reputable companies and compare apples with apples then you will know if you are being ripped off or it’s a fair price.  But always keep in mind you will usually get what you pay for, and the most expensive option long term is usually the cheapest price.

Feel free to contact us for more information on how going solar will benefit you.

If you’re not ready for solar just yet but want to save on your energy costs, we offer a free energy broking service and have saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.  Click here for more details.

Solar Panels Face North East West

Jun 23, 2021 by Colin Gillam

Solar panels facing North, East, West and which is best?

Solar panels facing North, East and West

I thought some real data rather than just talk may be a useful guide for people thinking about their options.

Some preliminaries;

A good, ethical installer and designer are really your best friend in your decision making. They are out there but get recommendations from friends or go to somewhere like SolarQuotes.com.au as this is by far the biggest source of referrals and feedback in Australia.

These notes are general and based on Melbourne so it will be slightly different for your location.

Traditionally when solar panels were very expensive, people wanted to get maximum bang for their buck and usually could only afford 2-3kW. Facing them due north achieved this goal.

Now solar panels are cheap and given you will no doubt will want and EV sooner rather than later (a big battery you can use for blackout protection – another discussion), you should put the biggest sized solar system you can fit or afford. Solar hot water used to be a cost effective solution, but now the panels just take up space you could use for PV so don’t install solar hot water anymore (sorry to the SHW installers but it doesn’t stack up anymore). Use a heat pump hot water system run it as much as possible during the day as it then acts like a storage battery absorbing excess solar electricity. Same with your heating and cooling – have them on timers so you maintain your house at a comfortable temperature during the day and then in the evening you need less energy to maintain the temperature – but you all knew that anyway.

So N, E, W or other?

I have put some images in this post so you have the numbers in more detail.

However, in summary, facing north will still give you the most energy overall. BUT because most of this is right in the middle of the day you may only use 30-55% of the energy and export the rest and with FiT going down this becomes almost worthless. Time to get an EV.

East facing gives you more morning energy especially in summer, but less in the afternoon and West is the opposite. If you have a hot westerly facing home needing lots of summer AC go west young man/woman/prefer not to say.

If you want to maximise self-consumption and not waste your energy by giving it to greedy energy retailers, the best compromise is a mix of East and West facing panels. In winter you will self consume 78% of the generation compared to just 55% for North facing panels. Most solar inverters can manage 2 different directions without a problem, but if you also put some facing a third direction you will need additional equipment which increase the cost per kW significantly, so stick to 2 directions where possible.

What about South you ask. Well for our FNQ and Darwin cousins, they can face them anyway they like and get more or less the same results, but from the Qld border and down, without putting panels on a tilt frame, performance drops dramatically so your ROI will blow out.

Happy to answer any questions on this and note it’s based on real data so any discussions are around the data, not opinion.

Good luck with your solar systems.

N Series Solar Panels

Jun 18, 2021 by Mat Lutter

What does this mean?

Solar panel efficiency has increased substantially over the last year or two, with most manufacturers offering more power per panel in the same size frame. Now over 350w of energy per panel should be usual for all equipment lists, or its old inventory. This does not increase the customers optimal system size, just the number of panels on the roof will be less to get the same output.  More importantly for our customers, the increase in volume production means the longer lasting N series technology is replacing the older P series, without increasing panel cost.  What is “P”series? There are detailed technical explanations at the link below. Essentially, it means more energy efficiency, less degradation per year for longer system life.

What is the difference between N series and P series technology?

There are three really important things we tell our customers and prospects about decisions regarding solar installers;

  • The right equipment
  • The right installer
  • The right balance of system.

The last one is perhaps the hardest for the customer to be expected to understand, yet the most important, because it’s all the hidden stuff that goes on the roof, and the cabling and isolators that run inside your building. This is often where corners are cut, and can seriously affect the quality of power output, reliability and most of all system safety. “The most expensive way to go solar – is on the cheap!” – is a truism.

This article is only to focus on the new  panels we are recommending. There are plenty of very good panels out there, the evolution of solar panels is rather like your mobile phone. They got better and better until the marginal difference between brands, and technical specification becomes so small it is hardly noticeable.

Customers don’t look at their phone and say, “how long will it be before this thing has paid back what it owes me?” We find, most of our customers really care about “how long it will be before that stuff on the roof has paid me back!”

Equipment

ABS has chosen the Jinko Tiger Series as best value for money.  It utilizes Jinko’s leading technology and is the most efficient panel they offer into the Australian market.

The Tiger Series cell technology comes in the more efficient and durable N-type, without going into too much technical detail it has a 30-year performance warranty and an annual degradation rate of only 0.4% after the first year. To be clear, there are slightly more efficient panels available from other manufacturers, but the significant increase in cost, for a very small performance boost increases the customer payback by a year or two which really isn’t worth it. Conversion efficiency has to do with the ability of the solar cells to convert the sunlight hitting them into energy and there is a trade off between this and cost per watt to the customer.

Just to labour the “return on investment” point for a moment, high efficiency 400W+ panel could cost $300 or more while a common 350W panel will typically cost closer to $150 per panel. This equates to roughly $0.42 per Watt compared to $0.75 per Watt. This is about saving the environment, but also about saving money!

We will save the discussion about the heart of your solar system, the inverter for another blog, and you can be assured as a CEC approved retailer we are fastidious about using only the best Australian approved balance of systems.

Saving Money on Energy Bills

Jun 17, 2021 by Colin Gillam

Did you know 70% of homes and businesses are still paying too much for their power and gas? With so many of us now working from home, our heating and energy bills have gone up significantly. My own research found me a 20% cheaper deal.

As an energy management and solar company focussed on delivering our customers lower energy costs, we have partnered up with one of the easiest to navigate energy sites so you can check if there is a better deal for you, or your business. For just a few minutes of your time and no cost, you could claw back hundreds or even thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money by cutting your annual energy spend with a few clicks. We promise no call centre will contact you whatever you decide.

Click on the link below or send us your bill directly and we can do a free solar estimation of what your home needs to go green and reduce your bills even further. With up to 50% of the cost of solar now government funded it’s well worth a look.

info@abses.com.au

https://abses.com.au/reduce-your-energy-bills-now

Power Blackouts and Battery Backup

Jun 17, 2021 by Colin Gillam

I am following up the posts regarding the loss of power during the storms last week and said we had been testing a backup battery that would provide emergency power for most appliances.

As most “solar” batteries are $8-10,000+ installed even after rebates, this is beyond the justification of most people who only need emergency power for that once a year (or every 2-3 years) event that takes out their power for a few hours to at most a day or so.

There’s no perfect solution unless you want to spend big bucks like $25,000 or more and then you can virtually go off grid.

However we started testing this Ecoflow battery about a month ago because we thought it ticked a lot of boxes.

Peak power at 3300 watts and 1800 watts continuous with 1260Wh capacity so will run your kettle, toaster, microwave, air fryer, heater and fridge without a problem. And before the keyboard warriors jump down my throat, no it won’t run them all at once (but see my comment below) and no it won’t last long if you run them all continuously. But that’s not what you do normally anyway and certainly in an emergency you prioritise. You boil the kettle (2-3 minutes uses 60Wh), heat up something in the microwave (60Wh), keep the fridge going but adjust the temp a bit (60-150Wh) and so on. Appliances don’t run continuously so when calculating how long a battery will last you need to look at these numbers, not just take their peak load and divide this by the battery capacity. And if your priority is a medical one (CPAP or nebuliser) or just keeping communication going by keeping the router and mobiles phones online, this will last almost indefinitely.

Anyway so far this battery has taken everything we could throw at it even running a fan heater and a small induction cooker (at the same time) until we ran it flat to see how long it took and then how long it took to recharge. The claims by the manufacturer were correct and this is one reason we were impressed.

The other reason we liked it was instead of being permanently connected to your home and needing an electrician to wire it up, if you needed something for camping, boating or to loan a friend who lost power (and you are ok), this is a portable unit that plugs into 230V to recharge and you just plug appliances into the multiple sockets available. It means you can get good value and multiple uses from it rather than a single function battery. It will recharge from a solar panel which you could buy from a camping or outdoor centre for $150 making it very versatile.

Retail price is $2400 and online they are $2200-2600. So we approached the importer and asked for a group buy price delivered to Melbourne (but we could organise other places as well). It’s not cheap, but it’s not junk either. If you are interested, the price to Melbourne is $1995 including delivery and you can pickup from me or else arrange your own freight. I can probably deliver if you are in the eastern suburbs.

Anyway, message me for more details and I will send you the product brochure so you can see what it looks like.

Hope this helps people during the next blackout.

blackout battery generator