Groups meet to save solar industry
THE state’s solar and renewable energy sector will meet with the NSW Government today in an attempt to “save the industry” after the O’Farrell Government recently slashed the solar feed-in-tariff.
Director of Nimbin-based Rainbow Power Paul O’Reilly said the industry wanted the government to agree to a one-to-one feed-in tariff, allowing home owners to withdraw, at the same price, the equivalent power from the grid as they put into it.
He said this would allow households to recoup the cost of installing panels and save the sector.
“In the past six months since the government cut the feed-in tariff we have had to reduce our staff by five and we are struggling to keep others on,” he said.
“I would just hate to lose full capacity after all the effort we put in to get staff fully qualified.”
Nickel Renewable Energy director Nick Lake said his company was now in “dire straits” and was focusing on Queensland where conditions weren’t so bad.
“Luckily we haven’t had to lay any staff off yet but we may have to in a couple of weeks if things don’t change,” he said.
The solar summit, the second since the election of the new government, comes after the Department of Fair Trading released an audit of grid-connected solar panels systems installed on homes in north-west Sydney and Port Macquarie.
The audit of 658 homes in Sydney found 18.5% had major defects, 63.5% had minor defects, while 18% had no defects.
The country’s peak electrical industry body, the National Electrical and Communications Association, yesterday called for further audits across the state.
“It is far from ideal to have so many solar panel installations being flagged as having faults, in particular serious faults, and NECA agrees with the government that more inspections will be needed,” chief executive Lindsay Le Compte said.
However, while welcoming a Fair Trade audit in the Northern Rivers Mr O’Reilly said the major defects found in the Sydney and Port Macquarie audits related to particular type of switch called a DC circuit breaker that had been installed incorrectly in some cases.
“This issue has been known in the industry for some time,” he said.
“It was a teething issue from the industry going from using sparkies to specialist solar electricians.
“I believe it is now front and centre for the industry.”
The minor defaults relate to incorrect markings and signage.
Mr O’Reilly said only two fires had been recorded this year in solar panel meter blocks, while household halogen lights had caused 23 fires.
He said if anyone was concerned about their DC breaker they should call their installer.