20161231 December 31 key date if you have solar

Anyone who has participated in the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) needs to be aware that the scheme will conclude (as per its original design) on December 31st, this year.

This means that if you currently receive either the 60 cent or 20 cent Feed-in Tariff, from January 2017 onwards, you will notice a significant increase in your monthly or quarterly electricity bill.  There are a couple of actions that you should think about to reduce the impact on your finances.

The Scheme was intended to assist consumers to purchase a solar system and to pay it off, through selling their generated electricity at the rate of 60 cents per unit (a kilowatt hour – kWh), or for those joining the scheme later, 20 cents per unit.  So if you purchased a 2 kW system five years ago, for example, you will have received enough from the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to have paid for the system, plus received about half of that value again.  The idea was that you could put the extra return towards maintenance, or expanding your current system.

The most important thing is that your electricity meter needs to be changed.

Currently your meter is called a “Gross” meter.  It measures all the solar energy generated going out to the grid, and you get paid for it at the FiT rate.  It also measures the energy that you buy from the grid.  When you use energy in your home, you pay for it through your monthly bill, at between 25 cents and about 35 cents per unit.

You need your meter to be changed to a “Net” meter.  This will allow you to use as much as you can of your generated solar energy within the house during the day, with only the EXCESS being sent to the grid.  You will receive only 5-7 cents per unit for this energy, or nothing.  Although that doesn’t seem fair, that rate is about twice the rate that wholesale energy is purchased by retailers, so it is not as bad as it could be.

If you don’t change your meter, you will receive NOTHING for any excess energy, which is a bad outcome all round.

Some retailers (like Origin, which took over many of the Country Energy consumers) have programmes to replace meters.  Others are doing nothing.

So if your retailer is offering to swap your meter, you should consider doing so.  If they aren’t talking to you about it, you need to talk to them!

The costs of changing the meter are estimated to range from $300-$600, depending on your situation.  Obviously if your retailer is going to swap it, you should read the fine print, in case there is an unacceptable contract cost or something else that would surprise you in a bad way.

A major problem is that there are only so many qualified electricians who can swap meters, and they are rapidly being booked up to make the change before the end of the year.  There may also be a shortage of Net meters, so there is no reason to delay – contact your retailer as soon as possible and start the discussion.

Once you have your new Net meter, the other thing that you need to do is to try to use as much energy during the day as possible, and the least at night when you have to purchase it from the retailer.  Obviously if you can use your own energy during the day, then you don’t have to buy it, which will help your electricity bill.  Even so, you will still find that your monthly electricity bill might be over $100 (or even $200), whereas currently you may not be paying much at all.

Clean Energy For Eternity (CEFE) is very keen to support you through this period as the Solar Bonus Scheme comes to an end.  We are looking at the possibility of further bulk-buys to expand current systems (so you can use more of your own electricity during the day), and eventually at battery storage systems.   CEFE feels that at the moment, battery systems are still too expensive, although you expect prices to drop a lot over the next few years.

If you think that you might eventually look at a battery system, you need to have at least 3 kW of solar installed – ideally at least 5 kW.  PV systems are now much cheaper than when you first joined the SBS.  As an indicator, an additional, good quality, 2 kW system will cost about $3,500, and a 3 kW system about $5,000.

Be very wary of companies offering much cheaper systems, as the quality of some components is very suspect.  Most installers these days are well-regulated, so the quality of their work is acceptable, but you still need good components to make the investment worthwhile.  Remember, your solar system should be expected to perform for 25-30 years, but it can only do that if it is regularly inspected and cleaned, and there are no failed components (like panels or inverters).  A competent solar installer can carry out an inspection and panel clean for a fairly modest fee.

IMAGINE…and we did!

Australia’s first completed community-owned solar farm is now a reality at Tathra on the NSW far South Coast, helping to power the Tathra treatment plant. The 30kW solar farm is an initiative of community climate action group Clean Energy for Eternity, Inc and consists of 120 panels of 250W capacity arranged to form the letters of IMAGINE. It is clearly visible from the air on the approach path to Merimbula airport.

The installation is expected to generate an average of 40 MWh annually over its 25 year lifetime.

It will be officially opened on Tuesday, March 24 at 10.00am.
As CEFE President Dr Matthew Nott explained:

“In 2006 over 3,000 Bega Valley residents formed an IMAGINE human sign on Tathra Beach.”

“Shortly after CEFE was formed and adopted its 50/50 by 2020 target as an aspiration for local communities like Tathra. That is, 50% reduction in energy consumption and 50% renewable by 2020.”

“A local solar farm was seen as key strategy for reaching that goal, along with solar bulk buy programs and putting solar PV on community buildings”

“We are proud of what we have achieved in our local area over the last eight years– over 30 surf clubs, RFS sheds and community buildings now equipped with solar PV.”
“And now, finally, we have our IMAGINE solar farm.” Continue reading IMAGINE…and we did!

20081123 Clean sweep of beaches

Coastal communities are embracing green change, writes Carolyn Boyd (Sun Herald)

LIVING in a coastal community and having young children has spurred Matthew Nott into action on climate change. The orthopedic surgeon from the tiny community of Tathra on the NSW Far South Coast is the driving force behind a move to introduce clean energy to the Bega Valley.

The movement started out relatively small – raising $20,000 to install a wind turbine and solar panel on the roof of a surf club. But now, under the banner of Clean Energy for Eternity, the group’s aims have grown and Nott says the next step is raising about $8 million to build a community-owned solar energy farm.

The Federal Government has committed $100,000 for a feasibility study into the project and has promised another $1 million.

Nott wants to establish a model other communities can follow. “We want to set ourselves up as a centre of excellence for renewable energy,” he says.

The Tathra community has already won plaudits for caring for the environment. Last year, it beat more than 100 other entrants to win Keep Australia Beautiful’s NSW Clean Beach Challenge.

When the award was announced, judges called Tathra Beach “the pearl of the South Coast”, adding “Tathra has some fantastic community involvement in some great environmental outcomes, including the dune restoration and bush regeneration, which has taken place right along Tathra Beach”.

The median house price in Tathra is $375,000. Property available ranges from a basic three-bedroom house for $265,000 to a 19-hectare eco-getaway with an innovative, two-bedroom, corrugated iron home that runs on solar power and has a separate studio with bathroom. The asking price is $1.38 million.

Real estate agent at Marshall and Tacheci, Robert Tacheci, says the stretch of coast between Bermagui and Tathra is attractive because it has a raw beauty and is home to a community that is environmentally conscious and has diverse cultural interests, including art and music.

“I think the community goes with the area,” he says. “That you’ll find the people who’ll go for the area tend to have that taste because it’s one of the last little unspoilt bits [along the coast].

“If you were to follow the Princes Highway up and down the coast from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ve actually got this little bit that was somehow bypassed. That seems to have left an area that people are really drawn to for that reason.”

Further north, at Batemans Bay, the local Coastwatchers Association successfully pushed for the 85,000-hectare Batemans Marine Park, where the commercial fishing practices of trawling, long-lining and dredging are banned.

The group’s next campaign is convincing government and landholders that the region’s forests should not be woodchipped.

In Batemans Bay, the median price of houses is $312,500 and as the economic downturn bites, many properties on the market are subject to substantial discounting.

Coastwatchers president Mark Flemming says he is not opposed to development but would rather housing was built on already degraded farming land set hundreds of metres back from the water and off coastal dunes.

Flemming welcomes moves by developers to recognise better environmental principles in housing design.

“There’s no doubt that using intelligent design at subdivision stage is a really good idea,” he says.

“We think a subdivision should be designed so that those sort of issues can be taken into account, [including] north-facing blocks.”

20080101 Surf clubs champion clean energy

a219854c44The Tathra Surf Club’s switch to renewable energy in 2006 received great support from the community of this town on the NSW south coast. The wind turbine and solar panels installed on the roof save the surf club nearly $1000 per year in energy costs, are a highly visible demonstration of how renewable energy works and save our atmosphere about three tonnes of CO2 each year.

The installation was part of the LifeSaving Energy campaign by Clean Energy for Eternity, a community group on the NSW south coast.

According to Matthew Nott, spokesperson for Clean Energy for Eternity, the project received a lot of positive feedback. “What this project has done is show people how easy it is to install renewable energy onto a rooftop. The technology is ready to go and the equipment was installed quickly and easily.”

In fact, the project went so well that Matthew started thinking of an ambitious campaign – to switch every surf club in Australia to renewable energy.

“It makes for a strong statement – 305 surf clubs in Australia set up with renewable energy,” says Matthew, “And I wonder how many surf clubs there are on the planet?”

Clean Energy For Eternity first plans to switch all seven surf clubs in south east NSW to renewables by the end of 2008, before going national with the LifeSaving Energy campaign.

To raise money for the project, Matthew’s team started the LifeSaving Energy Big Swim, a series of 7-kilometre swims around south east NSW. The first Big Swim across Lake Jindabyne raised $20,000, just enough to install 2kw solar panels and a 400w wind turbine on Jindabyne surf club.

More Big Swim fundraisers will be held throughout 2008 in NSW, each linked to one lucky surf club. A Big Swim in the Bega River is even raising money for a wind turbine for Tathra Primary School (“This 7-kilometre swim is on the June long weekend in water that may be as cold as 10 degrees!”)

And Matthew has much bigger ideas in the pipeline.

“I am looking forward to working with Surf Life Saving Australia to set up a national LifeSaving Energy Big Swim, with surf clubs in each state holding a Big Swim on the same day to raise money for surf clubs. That will have some impact.

20070120 Tathra SLSC gets SMH coverage

lifesaving_energy_small_01Wendy Frew Environment Reporter Sydney Morning Herald

SURF clubs, best known for saving lives, are now saving energy. The Tathra club, in a campaign it hopes to take national, will today unveil a $20,000 renovation that includes a wind turbine and solar power panels.

The refit will greatly reduce the club’s greenhouse pollution and cut its electricity bill by an estimated $1000 a year.

The joint venture, between a local group, Clean Energy for Eternity, Bega Valley Shire Council and the Tathra Surf Club, is to be a model for Australia’s other 304 surf clubs.

Already Bega Valley Shire Council has committed funds for a similar project at the nearby Pambula and Bermagui surf clubs, and Sydney surf clubs have phoned the organisers for information.

“The aim of the project is to provide the club with all its energy needs from renewable resources,” said Matthew Nott, a local doctor and the founder of Clean Energy.

“The flow-on effects are twofold: by using sun and wind power we are freeing up money for the club to spend on life-saving equipment, and at the same time using the turbine and solar modules to educate people about the potential of these clean energy sources.”

Bega Valley Shire Council provided $10,000 towards the Tathra refit, and the club received a $4000 Federal Government rebate. The balance of funds came from the local community.

The far South Coast branch of Surf Life Saving NSW has backed the project, and four more South Coast clubs intend to install renewable energy systems.

“I think it is one of the better conservation ideas to come up, and I can’t see any problems with getting other clubs on board,” said the branch president, Dave Pheeney.

Tathra Surf Club has been fitted with a twin-blade wind turbine two metres in diameter and one-kilowatt solar modules on its roof. The system is connected to the electricity grid. Whenever the cells and turbine generate electricity, it is put into the grid, in effect winding back the clu