Saturday, August 27, 2011

Catching Some Rays... A Million Or So Of Them

It's been a fairly average winter here in Adelaide. Some good rain, but also some nice bright skies. Already the temperature's starting to hit the 20's... very nice indeed. It's well and truly on it's way to Spring, and I've just realised that I clocked up over 1 MEGA WATT HOURS (that's 1 miilion watt hours, or 1000 kWh) of electricity generation since April when I installed the system. That's generated during the darkest part of the year. Bweeeerrrgghhh [evil laugh].... my plan to take over the world is working.... one Watt at a time.

At 8:00am you don't generate a whole heap of power... but it's only just getting started

Solar's definitely become popular these days - and I'm amazed to see how many panels have sprung up all over the place. To all those that have Solar-enabled your homes. Well done. I do wonder what will happen when all of the great deals come to an end however. October's the deadline for when you can no longer add panels to existing systems without losing the great feed-in rate. Part of me wants to beef up my system to a 3kW set-up... (from a 2.1 kW) but the majority of me wonders if the price of panels will go through the floor and the economics of it will suddenly change post "the good deals". Also - people don't stay in their houses that long...

An Interesting But Almost Unrelated Fact
Adelaide's first electric power station opened only in 1900, and was located in Grenfell Street (in the heart of the city). It's initial purpose was to power the new-fangled electric street lights. It started off having a capacity of 0.280 MW... and to put that into perspective that's only about 130 times bigger than the system I have on my roof.... and that was powering the whole city centre.
Source: Paul Scott's Historic Adelaide website.
 Actually, many of you may not be aware the the Adelaide Electric Supply Company's power station is now the Tandanya Aboriginal cultural museum. I never knew that, and happily walked past there many times without realising it had once been a power station! 

And on the question of power in Australia... it's funny how things change. Back in the 90's everything looked rosy, and you might be forgiven if you felt that prices were going to continue to fall in real terms...

Just over a decade later, the picture looks dramatically different, as shown below, with an overall 30% increase in the over 4 years (by the way, whoever produced these graphs was being a little disingenuous as the vertical scale is manipulated to appear overly dramatic).
Source: Energy Market Outlook, 2010

Still my point is that we are often unaware of these trends, or even the historical perspective, as we live through our lives. We are at the mercy of a shallow memory, knowing only that electricity is getting expensive now. Will it continue to get more expensive... it certainly seems to be that way. Especially with the drive to reduce carbon emissions... but I would caution about betting too much (or investing too much) on what is maybe going to happen. These economic systems are very complex, and depend on many factors rather than just a simple policy decision of the day.

Anyhow - I think if you haven't put panels up now, or haven't ordered new panels to be put up, then you've most probably missed the boat. Of course, it would really suck if power prices suddenly started getting cheaper... naw... it's still good for the environment regardless.

Although, I'm quite happy with our system whatever happens. I still maintain that the main advantage of solar panels is that you suddenly start thinking about your power usage. And that leads to changes in behaviour. I don't want to get political in this post, but it seems to me that people are inherently lazy. And greedy. The best way to encourage widespread changes in behaviour is to link it to money. Either making money or saving money. However, for all those that are out there that do the right thing on principle alone, please keep doing what you're doing. It's an important service to us all.

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