A solar PV system will pay its own way in less than 10 years.
“Now is the best time to get a solar panel system,” says Michael O’Connell from the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), “because the rebates – if you qualify – are never going to get better.”
Until the end of June, owner-occupiers can get about $8800 back on a 1 kW solar panel system – that’s enough to generate about a quarter of the average family’s electricity needs. To qualify for the rebate, your household must earn less than $100 000 and the photovoltaics must be wired into the mains grid.
From July, the rules will change again. The government is ditching the means test, but cutting the rebate to around $6500 for a 1.5kW system, depending on the current price of Renewable Energy Certificates. Then, later this year, the Victorian government will introduce a ‘feed-in’ tariff for up to 3.2 kW systems. They’ll pay homeowners 60 cents per kilowatt-hour for any surplus energy they put into the grid.
Mr O’Connell says that while the tariff is not generous enough, buying a 1 to 2 kW system does make sense in the long term. “Under a good case scenario you can expect a payback period of around five to ten years, and the system should last about twenty years.
You can cut costs even more by teaming up, even with a handful of people in your street. “With bulk purchasing discounts, we’ve heard of people getting panels at massive savings,” Mr O’Connell says. Ask around: enviro-groups, specialist eco-retailers and councils – especially in the inner-northern suburbs – are all organising buying groups.
Solar power will always be a big investment, so do your research. Remember that you’ll need unshaded north-facing roof space to get the best results.
The ATA recommends that you choose well-known manufacturers who offer long-term warranties (up to 25 years). Be sure to get a few on-site quotes and use accredited, experienced installers; there’s a list on the Clean Energy Council website.