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SolarThere is a last-minute rush from homeowners wanting to buy solar panels before the solar credits rebate is slashed by up to $1200 from July.

Some solar installers are so busy they have declared their books full and are turning away customers.

Solar Shop Australia, one of the nation’s largest providers of grid-connected solar power systems, says it has stopped taking bookings for installations before July in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

“There is an across the board spike in demand,” says Daniel Edgecombe, Solar Shop Australia’s general manager of retail.

For the first 1.5 kilowatts of a home solar system, the federal government multiplies the number of small-scale technology certificates that are attached by five. This multiplier will drop to four in July.

“We are having to very carefully manage our work order book to ensure we know when we can no longer offer the five-times multiplier,” Edgecombe says.

Most people are opting for a 1.5 kilowatt system, which would generally produce 5-7 kilowatt hours per day and supply about one-quarter of the average household’s energy needs.

The output varies depending on an array of factors including climate, shade, direction the panels are facing and the panels themselves, as well as the inverter – the techie part that converts the sun’s power into electricity a house can use.

A typical Australian house consumes about 18 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.

“We recommend most people probably need about a 3-4 kilowatt system to make a serious dent or wipe their bill, depending on the feed-in tariff arrangements,” Edgecombe says.

Brenton Chivell, national marketing manager for ZEN Technologies, says his company is also seeing a rush.

Chivell says many competitors are either now quoting their July 2011 pricing or are offering a 30-day installation promise with the bait of a $200 discount if the 30 days is not met. “I’m sure we can all see what the strategy here is,” he says.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator confirms there has been “an increase in installations of solar panels” since the beginning of the year.

Edgecombe says in NSW demand is lower than other states due to uncertainty facing householders. In October, the NSW state government unexpectedly sliced the feed-in tariff from 60 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour, and created a surge of demand on the final day that the higher tariff was on offer.

The government also announced those signed up to the scheme by October 27 would only be eligible to receive the feed-in tariff if they were connected to the grid before the cap of 300 megawatts was reached.

How it all works

The whole solar credits thing can be a tad confusing. Basically, when you install solar panels you are eligible for certificates from what is now known as small scale renewable energy scheme (SRES).

These are credits that you can either sell to your panel supplier, or keep and sell yourself through a clearing house. Most people just assign them to their supplier in the form of a discount off their purchase price.

You may also hear the credits being called RECS, or renewable energy certificates, which is what they were known as until the beginning of year.

The reason for the name change was a glut in the market of RECS was pushing their price down, and potentially putting back projects such as wind farms because the companies creating wind farms need the certificates to be worth $45 or more to attract investment. At the end of last year RECS were worth about $30 – $32.

Now the government has split RECS into two – certificates for big installations, and certificates for small installations.

Depending on where you live, installing a 1.5 kilowatt system would normally earn you 26 small-scale technology certificates (in Melbourne and Hobart), or up to 34 small-scale certificates (in sunnier Darwin). These would be worth $1040 – $1360.

For systems up to 1.5 kilowatts, though, the federal government multiplies the number of certificates you get. Until July they will times them by five. On a 1.5 kilowatt system, that makes the certificates worth $5200 – $6800.

After July the multiplier will fall to four, and each successive July after that it will drop by one until no multiplier applies.

July 1 2010 – June 30 2011, 5

July 1 2011 – June 30 2012, 4

July 1 2012 – June 30 2013, 3

July 1 2013 – June 30 2014, 2

July 1 2014 – onwards, 1

After the solar credits scheme ends, you’ll still get energy certificates for putting panels on your roof, but there won’t be any multiplier effect. The government’s argument is that demand should have reached a point to significantly reduce the price of panels.

A guide to the current raw cost, before any rebates or solar credits or energy certificates, of installing solar panels is shown below.

Current estimated price range – before credits, rebates or feed-in tariffs

1kW $9,625 – $11,000

1.5 kW $12,100 – $13,475

2kW $15,675 – $17,380

3kW $22,500 – $25,500

4kW $26,500 – $30,000

The current rush could be in vain with at least one provider saying that, after July, the amount of consumers buying solar panels will be out of pocket for potentially won’t change that much. “We predict that our pricing will not alter greatly at July 2011 due to a reduction in the cost of the goods, as forecast,” ZEN Technologies’ Chivell says.

If you are interested in knowing more about the solar panels, the Clean Energy Council has an easy-to-read guide online with plenty of facts and figures.

Story by Carolyn Boyd, a property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market.
Source: www.domain.com.au

Tags: advice, housing.tips, news, research, solar power

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