Category: Blog – carbon reduction

Ways to go beyond carbon zero

What is a soil carbon programme?

Feb 3, 2022 by Mat Lutter

What is a soil carbon programme and what can it do to improve my farm and finances?

“Soil carbon sequestration is a naturally occurring process that involves atmospheric carbon dioxide capture and storage in soils. Carbon atoms constantly move from the atmosphere to the Earth and then back to the atmosphere. The world’s soil, along with forests and oceans, is a major carbon sink—it has the ability to absorb and store massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Because our planet and its atmosphere are a closed environment, the amount of carbon in this system does not change. Where the carbon is located, however, in the atmosphere or on Earth, is constantly changing. Since the industrial revolution, human activities, including conversion of grasslands and other ecosystems to industrial agriculture uses, have degraded soils and led to the release of billions of tons of carbon from soils into the atmosphere.”

There is a lot of misunderstandings and confusion about what a soil carbon programme is and how it works. Farmers know how to manage and grow a wide variety of crops and livestock, but are not always as knowledgeable about what is going on beneath the topsoil.

At the end of last year the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) streamlined further the application process to register a soil carbon programme for Australian Farmers.

If through better environmental practices, farmers can improve the levels of carbon in their soil, it can be worth hundreds of thousands, or possibly millions of dollars of carbon credits that can be claimed by the farm owner as part of a long term investment programme.

The registration process with the CER can be tricky, and involve a bit of effort and capital to set up, but once implemented, soil carbon can accumulate in the background with one or two soil sample audits, and after five to ten years, be a welcome top up to any superannuation or retirement fund! 

Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU’s) are drought proof, fire proof and have been rising sharply in value over the last year as large businesses want to buy them to offset their own carbon footprints to meet corporate goals. The farmer who successfully grows soil carbon can see unintended benefits of healthier soils, better crop yields, better water retention and cleaner run off due to the lack of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers the farm is now using.

Carbon farming is not for everyone, but If you or your farm manager is interested in finding out more about this process, ABS can help arrange an environmental audit of your current level of carbon in the soil, and provide a professional assessment of the potential returns and what the capital outlay is required to get registered.

If you would like an environmental assessment or to find out more about soil carbon, send us an email at or call 0434557094

For a more detailed explanation of soil carbon and soil sampling this you tube video is very helpful.

What is a soil carbon programme?

Soil Carbon Farming

Sep 29, 2021 by Mat Lutter

As a landowner you have hopefully profited from what you grow on your land, whether it’s livestock or crops. It’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears with many environmental challenges you didn’t expect.

But have you ever thought that under your feet is a microscopic crop that could yield 1000% or more return from your investment? It’s drought resistant and government backed; Soil Carbon.

The agriculture sector was responsible for 15 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, emitting 76.5 million tonnes.

Cattle and sheep account for 75 per cent of emissions in the sector. Assuming herd numbers recover from recent years of drought, emissions are projected to rise, reaching 82 million tonnes by 2030.

Proposed regulations in the EU and UK are recommending any imported goods into the zone will be liable to state its carbon emissions and any carbon offsets that may have been acquired to reduce it. This is a carbon tax that will hit farmers’ wallets. Leading supermarket chains here in Australia are already asking their suppliers what they are doing to offset their impact.

You already know your farm is vulnerable to climate change and it may have had a devastating impact already.

But there are things that can and should be done now.

ABS can help with some practical advice to farmers on how to reduce emissions and secure resilient income streams that may turbocharge your superannuation fund.

After an initial assessment, the key to gaining soil carbon credits can sometimes be as simple as minor changes to land management practices. Indeed, these can boost farm productivity and store carbon while improving water retention.  The additional carbon sequestered can be used to offset the farms own carbon emissions or sold to corporations who increasingly want them.

Curbing emissions today is the key to maximising this economic opportunity tomorrow.

Carbon farming is a long-term opportunity, not a get rich quick scheme. Unlock the hidden value in your land, help the environment recover and improve your own farms profitability.

Call us to find out more.

Our carbon cup runneth over!

Sep 23, 2021 by Mat Lutter

How can you tell if a company is serious about their carbon commitments?

Multi-national corporations have only in the last year or two have stepped up rhetoric and action to lower their carbon footprint and are in many cases participating in the voluntary carbon offset market. But is this a genuinely effective strategy or “greenwashing?”

green wash

We like to think of the carbon in the atmosphere as a bath that is being filled with multiple taps from around the world and it’s getting pretty full.

Reducing your business’ carbon footprint is of course a good thing, as it slows the flow of water from your own tap, but what really needs to happen is for people to start taking water out of the bath. This is what genuine carbon sequestration does, and as humans we need to punch more holes in the bottom of the bath!

carbon sink or carbon bath overflow
We need more carbon sinks, not baths overflowing with no where to go

Three simple steps to zero

  1. Get an accurate baseline of your current carbon footprint and form a sensible plan to reduce your power, gas and water and waste. This is typically easier if you are a small organization and not expensive to do.
  • Review the carbon content of the products or services you provide and include the fuel used to bring it to your office and/or customer. The level of complexity rises as businesses will need an on site audit and the consultant to work with your engineers or designers to understand the product and perhaps offer some simple ways to reduce its carbon content.
  • Do a comprehensive review of your upstream and downstream supply chain. Contact all your suppliers and ask them to provide you with a statement of their own efforts to meet your environmental and social governance goals. This can take some time to complete, but we are already seeing supermarket chains pushing this agenda down to the farms and food processors that supply them. Failure to comply could lose your biggest customers. Getting ahead of this can save your business a lot of potentially lost revenue or put you in the box seat for new contracts.
We need to have a holistic view when it comes to carbon emissions and how we reduce them

Driving to NET ZERO and BEYOND

Microsoft is taking the unusual step of taking the superhighway to zero, and they can afford it. In 2020 management approved a programme to find ways to not only be carbon neutral, but to effectively remove all the carbon the company has produced since 1975! This will in part be funded by a carbon tax on their suppliers, but also a $1bn innovation and low carbon fund. Perhaps one of the biggest problems in the carbon offset market is the lack of credible auditing to verify genuine carbon sequestration. Microsoft have decided to use global accountants Deloitte to write their sustainability report.

The problem now is going to be finding enough genuine carbon sequestration projects that can be verified as taking out enough tons of carbon to meet that 1975 to present goal! This is a constantly evolving market said to be worth $48 billion dollars in the next 10 years. Maybe humanity will find that bath plug and start making a meaningful impact on draining enough carbon out.

How can your business reduce its carbon footprint?

Aug 25, 2021 by Colin Gillam

Where do I start?

Reducing your personal or business carbon footprint is largely the same process, but focusing on different aspects of how you generate emissions in the first place.

Carbon Footprint Large
Carbon Footprint Medium
Carbon Footprint Small

Shrinking your footprint at home, can be simple lifestyle choices and habits. Shopping better and recycling more.

In the office, managers often don’t know where to start to shrink the corporate footprint as there are so many more moving parts. A move towards carbon zero requires a more organized regime, with annual KPI targets and audits. Sometimes customer pressure to go greener can be a huge driver. For example, large supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths will ask their supply chain what they are doing to lower their carbon footprint. Business managers need to have answers and a bold plan or they could miss out on business in favour of a greener supplier.

Carbon Border Tax

Some heavily polluting businesses simply can’t get to carbon zero. Talk of a carbon border tax for goods exported from Australia to the EU is new, and might be a powerful incentive to buy what’s called “carbon offset credits”. This creates opportunities for some businesses such as farmers, but not for most. To avoid being disadvantaged businesses need to start planning for a low carbon future.

Carbon Footprint Reduction

Establish a Baseline

To establish the businesses baseline carbon footprint, it is important to understand there are two sources, baseline, and primary carbon.

Primary footprint is the sum of direct emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels for energy consumption and transportation. The secondary footprint is the sum of indirect emissions of greenhouse gases during the life cycle of products used by an organisation. For the purposes of this discussion, we will just look at primary carbon.

Businesses typically emit exponentially more carbon than individuals — after all, industrial products and services often create very high amounts of carbon dioxide over their life cycle. The flip side to this is that businesses have the ability to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by changing how business is done.  There are often incentives which can be significant financially, but social and environmental outcomes offer more than just a feel good marketing opportunity. As consumers shift towards low carbon businesses, this creates new ways to deliver goods and services that are more sustainable. Businesses who have made the shift will be more competitive and increase market share.

The Tools and Help you Need

ABS has a carbon tracker and assessment tool that will cover your power and gas, water, fossil fuel usage and waste calculator. Once you have established what your base line is, its up to the business owners and stakeholders to decide an annual reduction target. We can help you write and implement that plan and what it will cost.

There are big subsidies for things like commercial solar and swapping power and gas contracts to renewable energy sources can get businesses off to a flying start. Often this can actually save businesses money from day one. Using less water, grey water recycling and reviewing heat management in production processes can be done sometimes with the help of a government grant and again lower overheads.

As the carbon shoe size starts to shrink there are unintended benefits. If you are an exporter you have reduced automatically your potential carbon border tax into Europe. If you would like to find out more about how going cleaner and greener can save your business money, contact us for a free no obligation conversation at

Carbon Footprint Take Action
Press the start button to start lowering your carbon footprint

Blackout protection from your EV?

Aug 24, 2021 by Colin Gillam

You want to do what with my EV?

Power my house and my neighbour!

We have spoken numerous times about the value of batteries for home and business. We offer these as a solution to people who have specific needs. In general they don’t offer a commercial return or pay for themselves in a reasonable time. So there needs to be another motivation for buying a battery. You can contact us to go through the options to see if this is the right decision for you.

What we have been recommending for the past 12-18 months is the concept of buying an electric vehicle and using that as your emergency battery. Note here EMERGENCY battery. Not an everyday battery.

Vehicle to grid.  Electric vehicle.

How would this work?

Why would I use my car instead of a dedicated battery?

In the words of Spock – “it’s very logical”!

A typical home battery is 10kWh and without subsidies will cost around $12,000-$15,000 installed. $1200-1500/kWh

A typical electric car now has around 60kWh of battery and costs around $50,000. $833/kWh

But the home battery can only be a home battery and at 10kWh might just be enough to get you through an overnight blackout assuming you paid for the blackout protection option (another $1,000-2,000) and hope the solar system charges it up the next day (assuming there’s enough sun). If you switch off unnecessary appliances it will obviously last much longer.

However an electric car can take you to work, the supermarket, holidays AND in an emergency provide blackout protection for your home. And not just overnight. It has 6 times the capacity of a typical home battery, so that means 3-5 days of capacity if you manage your energy well in a blackout. Of course the solar on your roof can extend this almost indefinitely.

Electric vehicle battery backup

More importantly, if you start to run low, you could drive to a friend or a public charging station and fill up the EV, go home, plug in and you have another 3-5 days of energy reserve for an extended blackout.

If your neighbour, friend or family are also without power, you could always go visit them, provide them with some temporary power, plug their fridge in for an hour or two to keep the food from going off, warm up the hot water tank and at least make them comfortable for a few hours until the power came back on.

It also provides a mobile medical equipment battery for home or if you know someone in desperate need.

This sounds impossible? No. This is happening now and in the US during the big cold snap, this is exactly what EV owners were doing. Many EVs now offer bidirectional charging or vehicle to grid capabilities. Many have a standard AC socket that allows appliances to plug in without an inverter. Some offer a DC connection only requiring an inverter, but it’s still possible to provide power to almost all household appliances.

What about Australia?

The largest supplier and installer of EV charging stations now offers this service.

Bidirectional electric vehicle charger

We mentioned earlier that this would primarily be an EMERGENCY use only option. The reason is that lithium batteries do have limited cycle capacity. That is the number of times they can be fully charged and discharged before they go below a practical usable level, typically 60%. Typically this is around 3,000-5000 cycles now. Note this is full cycles, so if you only use 50% each day then it takes 2 days to use one full cycle. So if you topped up and then used the energy everyday for home, this would increase the cycles and run down the battery warranty faster than you might like.

The final comment here is that you might get paid to make your EV and its battery available in an emergency or under a VPP (Virtual Power Plant) program and that might make the difference in sticking with your old petrol gas guzzler and swapping to a clean electric vehicle. Obviously the ability to generate your own “fuel” from your own solar system instead of paying extortionately high prices for petrol might make you jump to an EV even faster.

The only question now is, which EV will you buy?

Can I trust my solar installer?

Aug 3, 2021 by Colin Gillam

Over 2.5 million Australian homes and businesses have solar panels and on the whole, most are working fine.

However, like many industries with government subsidies, there are businesses and individuals who want to “game” the system or take advantage of consumers who lack the knowledge to make a good choice.

So how do you avoid the “cowboys” and con-men to ensure you get a quality solar system at a fair market price?

Some basics.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is almost always a con.

You can’t get something for nothing and despite generous subsidies, you can’t get a free solar system.  If you see “$0 upfront” the warning bells should ring as this is not free and is just a sales trick to get your attention.  Run away!

These guys are not only doing it for free, but are then giving you $1,000. Good luck with that.

A 6.6kW solar system for under $4,000 installed is either using really cheap components or cheap labour to do the installation, usually both.  That’s not a good combination and most of the fires caused by solar panels (not many but they have happened) are from these shoddy installations.  Don’t go there.

Fully installed and free shipping from eBay. Not sure how that works.

To get a guide to what you should pay here is a table of current average prices in Australia for a good mid-range to higher quality solar system after rebates.

As you can see, a rough rule of thumb is that a solar system costs around $1,000/kW installed after rebates.  A typical 6.6kW system from a reputable company is around $9,500 and after rebates ends up costing around $6,000-$7000.  To use car analogies, if you want a Kia then you might pay $5,000, but if you want a BMW you might pay $7,000 and if you want a Rolls Royce you can pay well over $12,000.

These prices in part are based on component costs, but also the quality of the installer, how much care they take to make sure the system is installed to exceed current standards and their qualifications.  Many “cheaper” installers subcontract work to unqualified labourers to do most of the work and they only use an electrician to check the connection to the switchboard and sign off the paperwork.  But if you pay someone $20/hour instead of $60/hour, expect there to be a trade off in the safety and quality of the work.

Cheaper installers will also not care what the system looks like.  Bits of cable and conduit running down your external walls at different angles are an eyesore to be avoided.

Other site specific issues adding to the cost include;

  • a tiled roof is more expensive than a tin roof,
  • 2 or more storeys requires additional equipment and time,
  • partial shading requiring optimisers,
  • multiple roof directions requiring additional isolators and cable,
  • old switchboard needing upgrading or not enough room for additional breakers

These can really only be checked and costed during a pre-installation site inspection so this is why accepting a quote should only be done after this site visit and the additional items included in the quote.

How do you avoid a shonky deal?

Due your research and due diligence.

Check the installers or solar retailers website.  How long has it been online?  Does it have genuine photos of their installations or just stock photos stolen from someone else?  Ask them about the photos and make sure they are genuinely their customers.

How long has the installer been in business and in the solar industry?  Ask for some sort of tangible proof.  While businesses and people do change jobs or industry, there should be some track record of what they have been doing.  Check LinkedIn to see their history.  Have they previously been in liquidation/receivership/banned from being a director?  Many unscrupulous companies deliberately go out of business to avoid their obligations for warranty and customer support, so it’s important to see how they have performed in the past.

Check for reviews.  Google reviews are usually a good place to start, BUT they can be faked sadly.  Solar Quotes has a list of installers and reviews, but note that not everyone uses Solar Quotes as this is a paid service for installers and some don’t need to pay to get work.  Just because they aren’t on Solar Quotes doesn’t mean they aren’t a great installer.

Check their memberships and affiliations with industry bodies.  Generally all solar installers and retailers are members of the Clean Energy Council and/or the Smart Energy Council.  While it’s easy enough to pay a membership fee, the Clean Energy Council has added another layer of consumer protection by offering an Approved Solar Retailer membership which has some quite significant checks on the solar business before being allowed to join.  So if you see Approved Solar Retailer on the website it’s another tick for the business as they have to conform to much higher policies and business practices.

Ask around.  Ask friends and family or Facebook groups for recommendations, but noting the human habit of not wanting to admit they made a mistake when listening to recommendations.

Make sure your quote is itemized with everything that is going to be installed so you don’t get nasty surprises in the final invoice.  While many installers will use a variety of solar panel brands and most are interchangeable and of a similar quality, there are differences in warranties and performance so get the datasheet of the panels they are going to use and make sure you understand what is being installed.  Inverters are a completely different matter and it is critical that the inverter quoted is installed.  There are a lot of very cheap Chinese brands available and while generally they are okay, they are not built to the same standard or tolerances of the better brands and non-Chinese models.  That said there are genuinely good Chinese inverters at a fair price as well as the European brands, so again this is something to check.

You don’t need to be an expert, but like with any large purchase, asking questions and being an educated consumer is always a good thing if you want to avoid problems in the future.

This might seem like a lot of time doing your homework, but given you are making a significant investment in your property or business and it is going to be there for 20+ years, it’s worth the time to get it right.

Finally, if you want to do your due diligence on us, give us a call or email for more information.  We are more than happy to answer any questions.

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 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 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!”


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.