Yippee for YEPOON
Solar Electricity CONSUMER GUIDE Review by Bill Parker
From left: MP Paul Hoolihan, Viv McLaughlin (secretary), Rhodes Watson of Watt Else, Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson and home owners Liz and Jim Goodsell.
Yeppoon resident and Watt Else co-founder Rhodes Watson has brought the cost of solar power systems within reach of more homeowners through a bulk buying PV program. Watson launched the project back in 2009 and two years later launched Watt Else. Two community groups jumped on the bandwagon: the CapCoast Solar Bulk Buying Group and the Envirolink Bulk Buying Group. With 260 rooftops now putting energy from the sun into the Queensland power grid and another 100 awaiting installation, Watt Else is hoping to spread the solar bulk buying idea throughout the state and across the nation. “Even with reduced Federal Government subsidies the effect of bulk buying makes our prices much lower than the individual solar power systems currently available,” says Watson.
Power in numbers Applicants are asked how much power they use and are presented with suggestion of how usage can be cut, then Watson sources the appropriate sized solar system at an affordable price for individuals which in turn helps reduce 6 | SPRING 2011
– or best case eliminate – their power bill. Watson and Watt Else co-founder Martin Carlin have been supported through a Social Enterprise Fellowship from RMIT SEEDS – a program that helps students develop sustainable social enterprises. Martin Carlin told Solar Progress that in recent weeks “Lots of expressions of interest in PV systems have been received from the community and now that we have a critical mass on a waiting list we’ll scale up on suppliers. “Initially we had just one PV supplier, Con Energy, that was sourced through SolarEquip. The dollar was not as strong then as it is now and prices are down, so we have a tender out this time.” He added that Watt Else anticipates supplying everyone in this, their third group, before Christmas. The home-grown solar success story supported by RMIT University sparked the interest of Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson who in September inspected the 1.5kW system installed by the CapCoast Solar Bulk Buying Group.
When you buy an expensive item for the household the purchase is usually made after consulting friends, neighbours, the Consumer’s Association website or Choice magazine and more. Over years of a product’s presence in the market, reputations are earned and gradually we become aware of what to look for what to avoid and what things cost. We can easily get the information we need. With PV systems, we are in the early phase of a new industry and there is little information generally available, even in the most obvious places. Not anymore. Which Energy’s Solar Electricity Consumer Guide is about as complete a source as anyone could wish for. The guide was written by an expert – Trevor Berrill – who has been involved in the development of PV and spent decades training installers, as an advisor to government, and living a low-energy life. The Solar Electricity Consumer Guide is eighty-six pages of plain language about PV systems, what they do, what they do not do and how they work and much more. Everything I could think of asking is answered. When you invest in PV, you will be making a large investment. As an early pioneer with roof top PV I wish I had read this guide before I signed the cheque. Here is the starting point; get yourself a copy of this guide and be better informed. Just visit www.whichenergy.com.au/auses When you make your purchase, 25% of the profits go to the AuSES Renewable Energy promotion Fund.