Solar Bonus Scheme Allows Householders to Farm Energy

Solar panel corner photo

Photo: Warren McLaren / Inov8

1 January 2010 might've be hangover recovery day for many people. But in the Australian state of New South Wales it was commencement day for the Solar Bonus Scheme.

Under this NSW government program, residential owners of grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems (and wind turbines) up to 10kW capacity will be paid a gross feed-in tariff (FIT). For every kilowatt hour their systems feed into the state power grid they'll score 60 cents (AUD). This is the most generous FIT scheme in Australia, and is planned to run for a minimum of seven years. This should allow most households to not only pay off their solar or wind power investment, but also become renewable energy farmers.

Solar panels house roof photo

Photo: Warren McLaren / Inov8
Solar Profits
By the NSW government's calculations those with an installed array of 1.5 kW should export 2,500 kWh of energy to the grid in a typical year. In return they are likely to receive a credit of around $1,500 AUD each year through the Solar Bonus Scheme.

So, 7 years x $1,500 = $10,500 AUD in renewable energy harvesting during the life of the scheme. Solar installers like Aussie Solar are offering $3,000 packages for a 1.5kW array - installed. Which should provide a NSW household with the potential to make about $7,000 AUD profit on the arrangement.

That's a nice little earner. Those with 2kW installed probably have the optimum return on investment, standing to pocket just shy of $11,000 over the seven years.

Other Australian states and territories have Feed-In-Tariffs also, though none as generous as NSW. The next best is the ACT where 50 cents/kWh is offered over 20 years as a Gross FIT. Energy Matters has a list of the tariffs.

Solar Credits scheme
The Federal government is a strong contributor to the viability of the residential solar photovoltaics, it's they who funded the earlier rebate scheme. And now fund the Solar Credits scheme, whereby those who install small style solar, wind or hydro generation power systems are allocated a sliding scale of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).

The new Solar Credits scheme has copped some flack on several grounds. 1. It's not as generous as the simple $8,000 of the previous scheme. And 2. It skews the renewable energy market by artifically increasing the value of RECs. Here's how Ingenero explain the change: "One REC (renewable energy certificate) is the equivalent of producing 1 MWh of renewable energy. A standard solar electric system (1kW) received 21 REC's to offset 15 years of energy production. All of a sudden, the same system would now receive 105 REC's. Without producing any more renewable energy!"

Energy Matters also have a worthy treatise on benefits, or otherwise, of the REC system.

solar panels close up photo

Photo: Warren McLaren / Inov8
Green Loans
Niggles aside, grid connected solar power is now in the reach of many more households than was previously the case. And for those who can't afford the up-front costs before getting their rebate or credits back there is the Federal government's Green Loans assistance package. Following a free home sustainability audit households may be eligible for an interest free loans of up to $10,000 worth of energy and water improvements.

For the record, this writer's household went with a 2kW solar systems from Aussie Solar, as part of a community package they had going at the time, whereby the company offered a bulk buy price where there were more than 30 installations in the same area.

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Solar Bonus Scheme Allows Householders to Farm Energy
1 January 2010 might've be hangover recovery day for many people. But in the Australian state of New South Wales it was commencement day for the Solar Bonus Scheme.

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