In praise of solar – the Solar Revolution (4.9)

My first experience with solar power was as a fire spotter in east Gippsland in 1976. The tower radio was powered by a 6v motor-cycle battery which was in turn charged by a small photovoltaic (PV) panel measuring about 45cm by 10cm. The panel was unregulated and consequently often boiled the battery.

Six years later when setting up a ‘stand alone’ power system for my home solar was far too expensive, so we opted for a reconditioned ‘Windlite” wind generator. The hope was that after 20 years when the wind generator was due for an overhaul that PV would be cheap enough to cover the roof with panels. This turned out to be a trifle optimistic.

In 1986 I installed 2 30 w PV panels costing about $14 pw. But the big winner at this time was the installation of a solar hot water service which was a perfect match with our slow combustion stove. The stove with hot water jacket at the back of the firebox was used through the cooler months and the solar provided an abundance of hot water for the rest of the year. After 29 years of operation this service is still functioning well with minimum maintenance.

The wind generator was mothballed in 2000 and replaced with 6 80w panels, larger battery storage and was professionally installed. At an approximate guess the price of the PVs was about $8 pw. In 2012 our new retirement unit was fitted with 16 250w panels with a total cost for panels, inverter and installation at $2.5 pw. Since that time with the 30c kw subsidy we have had no electricity bills and have had cash returns of about $1000. A payback time of about 6 years.

In the last 3 years prices of PV panels has dropped substantially. With the loss of our subsidy at the end of 2016 we are planning on adding more panels to our system and changing as best we can to daylight consumption. Batteries, if cheap enough, are a distinct possibility. The solar revolution is upon us.