70 Hours without Power + PV Synopsis February



76MW registered in January, 90kW PV system sold using PVsell, Top Solar Hot Spots, 70 hours without facebook
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Where did the sun go?


70 Hours Without Power

Last month, SunWiz experienced first-hand the crippling impacts of a blackout. Following a massive multi-day rain storm that cut off roads in both directions, the power went out right at the moment we were making preparations for high water. In my neck of the woods (the hinterland of Byron Bay), a blackout isn’t such an uncommon occurrence – we lose power twice or thrice per year. We usually light candles, converse with each other, and retire to bed early – only to be woken in the middle of the night by all the lights and appliances switching on when the power resumes. In this case, after 16 hours of candles, conversation, and sleep, we made a rare visit to our next door neighbour, spending the afternoon connecting over a few bottles of red wine.

What made this different was the severity and duration of the power outages. It’s was 70 hours (3 days) without electricity, though some were without for 5 days. When I called to check on the power status, a recorded message informed me that I was one of 18,000 people from Tweed Heads to Bellingen without power, and there were tens of thousands more in South-East Queensland. Apparently the duration of the blackout meant batteries went flat on mobile phone towers, leaving Energex to install portable generators and then run up and down mountains to refuel them.

Losing power makes you realise how much we rely upon it. My first-world list of complaints includes loss of internet, loss of mobile phone coverage (my rural booster went out), loss of facebook (of greater concern for my neighbour’s teenage children who thought this was the foretold-but-delayed apocalypse). After three days, a refrigerator full of warm food really smells.

But perhaps the greatest impact has been the loss of running water. 9km from the nearest town, we live on rainwater and even though our 37,000L tank is now full (twice over), without electricity to pump the water up to our second storey Queenslander, we were  reduced to collecting buckets of water with which to bathe, wash dishes, and flush toilets.

And call me a solar geek but I was also upset about losing $5/day in feed-in tariff payment from my solar power system  (is Essential Energy liable for lost revenue?). We have a 3kW system, and our low-energy lifestyle and solar hot water systems means we produce twice as much electricity as we consume. The morning after the storm cleared, I first though the storm had damaged my system, for its solar inverter was showing a fault light. It took me a moment to remember that that the fault light on my solar inverter was not because there was something wrong with my system but something wrong with the grid. You see, in order to protect the lives of linesmen working to clear faults on the grid, typical solar power systems shut down during blackouts, even during the day. So, for all of the energy available on site, I wasn’t able to use it… hence no running water (or facebook).

A battery backup system can provide power in such cases. But its quite an investment just to avoid the occasional inconvenience of a blackout, particularly if they only last a few hours. Widespread grid interruption events like this are likely to become more common due to climate change. Having already taken a step towards energy independence, I think its time to step towards grid independence. Fortunately, there’s a new suite of products on the market that do more than just provide power during a backup, they can also power your home entirely at off-peak rates, and ensure your electricity retailer doesn’t buy your excess solar power for a pittance and on-sell it to your neighbour at a markup. 

A battery-based low-voltage Grid Feed Inverter typically provides the following functions:
·         Provides continuous power when the grid is down.
·         PV continues to operate during outages
·         Can be used with or without PV,
·         PV can be AC Coupled with a Grid inverter or DC Coupled.
·         Export excess PV after Self Consumption
·         Charge batteries from Grid OFF Peak for use during peak periods.

Some brands are able to be retrofit to existing systems regardless of the inverter, some only work work with the same brand of inverter, and some are all-in-one units that replace your existing inverter. The most common solutions currently available in Australia are:

  • Selectronic SPPro: can be retrofit to an existing system, though combining with a Kaco grid-connect inverter enables additional features including enhanced battery utilisation and greater configuration. Can perform grid demand management and export control. About 7000 units already deployed.
  • SMA Sunny Backup: available in 8kW, 44kW, and 110kW units, compatible with SMA grid-connect inverters. About 3000 units already deployed.
  • Nedap Power Router (distributed by SETEC) – an all-in-one unit (options 3kW, 3.7kW, 5kW) with or without storage that is currently available and looks great.
  • Zen Residential Freedom Powebank – about to go into production, provides 14-20kWh of energy storage, allows grid support (network controlled discharging).
  • Sol-Ace Sun-Sink and Grid Demand – currently being produced and available in 5 & 10 kWh units, with prices starting from $3000.

Market Synopsis

PV Market

  • January saw 76MW of PV registered across Australia, a similar figure to December
  • Though Queensland is rapidly shrinking, half of Queensland installations are now post-Solar Bonus Scheme.
  • The average system size is now 3.5kW, and is again on the rise in NSW and WA. 1.5kW systems are only installed in 10% of cases.
  • In the few months of its operation, Greenough Solar Farm has already generated more solar electricity than all other LRET-creating solar systems combined.
  • Our new interactive service allows PV companies to quickly perform SWOT analysis on any of the top 200 market players.

Want more information? Subscribe to Insights

STC Market

  • 7.4M STCs were surrendered in the Q4 2012 surrender period. This still left over 20M STCs available for Q1 2013 surrender, plus whatever is created in the coming months.
  • The government has still not yet announced the STC target for 2013, though the STC price has risen
  • Our Q4 surrender wrap shows the volume of STCs surrendered by each liable entitiy. .
  • The weekly and monthly STC creation tally are displayed on our website – check in regularly.

Want more information? Subscribe to ClearView.  

Solar Hot Spots

Now there’s no solar multiplier, where should you target your sales? This information could help:

  • Four postcodes in NSW had bumper fourth-quarters, with installation rates higher than ever before.
  • The top NSW postcode in Q4 was in the Northern Rivers – but one Tasmanian postcode installed nearly as much.
  • Bundaberg’s new solar panels will be clean – over 1.6M installed in the last quarter. 
  • My favourite place in Victoria had cumulative growth of 25% in the last quarter.

Want more information?  Subscribe to Solar Hot Spots.

PVsell News 

Geoff Bragg of New England Solar Power said of PVsell “I don’t know what you did, but for me PVsell is now faster than ever before. Confirmed a sale of a 90kWp system on a University College this week on the back of PVsell analysis”

We’ve made the following additions to PVsell over the last month:

  • Tranferred to a faster, more reliable Australian web server.
  • The addition of a monthly production graph, which meets the CEC design requirements at time of quoting
  • The ability to override our performance calculations
  • The ability to download graphs, and to email results directly to customers
  • Integration of disclaimers on your printouts
  • Finer control over what staff members can and can’t change in PVsell.
  • We have helped demonstrate how quickly PVsell can ‘vet’ potential leads, so you can concentrate on real customers. 

Want to be more strategic? Subscribe to PVsell

SunWiz Activities

In the last month, SunWiz has:

  • Prepared the system design of a 500kW ground-mount solar farm
  • Prepared the system design of 100kW and 50kW systems as part of a tender
  • Assisted the APVA with the development of a great new source of solar information
  • Commenced work on the program review of the National Solar Schools Program
  • Ghost written two articles for publication in the newspaper, and one on a blog
  • Prepared O&M Manuals for seven commercial installations
  • Assisted with the grid connection process of multiple 50kW installations
  • Prepared the forecast of installations over the next five years (with Nigel Morris)
  • Assisted as an expert witness of a legal case
  • Survived three days without power

To learn more about what we can do for your solar business, visit www.sunwiz.com.au

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