All Systems Go For 2014

Welcome back to another year of solar!

With the year already off to a flying start with with over 20Kw of solar plants installed just this week its set to be a big year for Solar

Don’t forget we offer a complete range of services from grid installations to solar pumps to totally off grid power solutions.

So when you think solar, Think LJW Solar.

Power for rural kit homes

A lot of rural kit homes are bought for installation on rural sites, and one thing we know about rural sites is that power can be difficult to install. And by difficult, this also means expensive! People often get quoted $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more to get grid connect power to their homes – soemtimes when they are just a few hundred metres away from power lines.

Stand Alone Power is the solution.

For an amount that is often LESS than the charge for connecting to the grid, you can create your own power.

To discuss how we can help please call  on 1300 792 011 or visit our page on Stand Alone Power.

LJW Solas has been installing battery backup power for over 30 years with thousands of installations through NSW.




60c Gross Feed in tariff customers now able to add a second system

Article from Nigel Morris here… and repeated below.


BREAKING; NSW GFIT customers can now upgrade!

19 Feb, 2013


Completely out of left field, I learned today that the NSW Department of Trade and Investment recently updated its web site and the rules around PV upgrades in NSW.

Previously, upgrading your capacity simply meant you would lose your Gross FIT (either 60c or 20c), so of course few if any bothered.

In a nutshell, what appears to be the case now is that additional capacity may be added, as long as it is separately Net metered (see excerpt from the DTI web site below).

This is big news for the NSW industry which has been making a very slow comeback after the sudden cessation of the 60c tariff , although we hasten to add that we don’t expect it to set the market on fire. However, we do expect it to stimulate new and unexpected demand.

Using my own case as an example, I quickly ran the numbers and here’s what I get:

  • I use on average 17kWh/day and have a 1.2kW PV system on the 60c G FIT
  • IN the one bill I analysed we earned $204 from our 60c GFIT and spent $346 on demand, on a Time Of Use Tariff, so our net bill was $142
  • If I assume I can wipe out my Shoulder demand and (say) 10% of my peak demand with an upgrade, I need to generate an average of 10.2kWh/day from my upgrade or about 2.6kW of new capacity.
  • This would save me an additional $160 per quarter which, assuming all things are equal would put me $18 in credit (overall).
  • A 2.6kW system would cost me about $5,000 according to the Solar Choice price index, which equates to a rough payback of 7 years

Good deal? Well, given my net electricity costs would be effectively zero AND that in some quarters my generation goes up and im always working on reducing my consumption, I’d say hell yes.

As a 60c customer who only invested a couple of years ago, would I re-invest? That’s the million dollar question that industry will have to find out…..

We are continuing to dig and try to understand more about the details and will update as more information comes to hand.

The DTI’s web site now says :

“I wish to add to the generating capacity of my solar PV system, what are my options?

I am a 60 cent Solar Bonus Scheme customer. I wish to expand the generating capacity of my solar system. What are my options? 

NSW Solar Bonus Scheme customers receiving the 60 cents per kilowatt hour tariff who increase their Scheme generator’s capacity will move to the 20 cents per kilowatt hour tariff unless the components (for the expansion) were purchased on or before 27 October 2010. 

The customer will remain eligible for the 20 cent tariff provided the system does not exceed 10 kilowatts (kW) of generation capacity. 

Alternatively, Solar Bonus Scheme customers who receive the 60 cents per kilowatt hour tariff may expand their overall generating capacity and retain the 60 cents tariff for their Scheme generator if the additional capacity is from a separately metered non-Scheme generator. No Scheme payments are available for the non-Scheme generator. Customers should check what feed-in tariffs are available and confirm with their preferred retailer whether they will pay a non-Scheme tariff in addition to the Scheme tariff.

Customers are obliged to notify their distribution network service provider (DNSP) of any change to their generator that would affect their receipt of Scheme payments. Fines and penalties of up to $110,000 may apply for failure to notify. 

The connection must be made in accordance with directions provided by the DNSP. The Scheme generator will need to be gross metered and the non-Scheme generator will need to be net metered. 

Customers should consider how the expansion of their solar PV system will affect Scheme tariff payments and other benefits before deciding to expand the generating capacity of their solar PV system. 

The DNSPs are currently processing these connection requests manually while updating their systems. Therefore customers may experience a delay in receiving an approval.”

Article from Nigel Morris here

Misunderstanding still at the heart of solar

We work across a range of different markets in NSW within solar including : residential, commercial and rural. What we find  is that almost everyone we speak to doesn’t understand the full implications of a net feed in tariff.

A net feed in tariff means that the power you generate from solar is directed into your premises where if you have a load it will be used.

If you don’t have a load it is exported.

If it is used – it is worth to you whatever you would have paid for that power (currently from 28c/kwh – 47c/kwh for residential, and from 15c/kwh – 32c/kwh for commercial). So it is possible to work out the value of  the system in savings.

However, when it is exported, it is either lost or paid for at a small rate. (with commercial, you get no feed in tariffs. With residential  you’ll get from nothing up to 8c depending on who your bill comes from and who owns the grid where you are.

The implications of this are:

  • Putting on a system that exceeds your needs is a waste of money
  • “Exceeds your needs” is about daytime consumption, not overall consumption. 
  • You can’t offset power you use at night. If the solar is not producing, then you pay for that power, irrespective of how much you produced and exported during the day. 
  • It is almost impossible to completely offset a bill because you still pay for some power. Putting on a bigger system does not help.
  • Most people are talked into systems larger than they need by solar power companies who do not understand this, or don’t explain it.
  • If you are not using power during the day, solar is probably not the best bet for you.
Our goal is advising you to put on a system that is big enough, but not larger than you need.
In our experience, if you use all the power that a system makes it will pay for itself in about 5 years.
If you don’t use the power, ie your system produces but you don’t use it… then the payback may blow out substantially. We have seen houses that use a small amount of power during the day with a 5kw system. This is a wasted investment and the owners may not even know.
There’s three ways to work out your daytime power needs
  • An educated guess. Looking at your total daily consumption and working out what is daytime and what is nightime. Often it is 10-40% daytime. 
  • Taking meter readings morning and night. This is accurate and easy to do. 
  • Monitoring. We offer a service of data logging on your meter which tells us exactly when power is used. This is a paid service but is refunded if you go ahead with our system. 
If you would like to discuss the right size system for your needs please call Stuart Gordon on 1300 792 011.


Examples of data monitoring for solar power – Commercial and Schools

For an overview of monitoring, please click here.

There are basically two types of monitoring – those that record JUST the solar out put data, and those that record BLACK data as well ie the consumption data.

When we install a commercial solar system, we will invariably install monitoring as it is one of the pieces in the puzzle of a commercial investment (being able to see the output shows you how much it is saving or earning you).

Here’s an example of the output from a 30kW installation in Sydney.

Check this out for a real-time example of data from Baxter Healthcare using SMA inverters.

Here is another from a 50kW installation in Sydney.

These are both outputs from hardware and software supplied by SMA, the same company that makes the inverters. These can be linked into some more impressive displays for viewing in reception or foyer areas  in companies, if that is needed. SMA Flashview is an example.

Schools have been prolific in installing solar, due to a separate government plan called  the National Solar Schools Program NSSP. Part of the requirements for this was the installation of monitoring equipment for the schools, and this went beyond just displaying solar production – and needed ‘black’ data – consumption information to be shown as well. These systems are actually quite interesting. They cost a bit more but would be excellent for businesses as well.

There are a variety of schools approved data systems and here is an example:

As you can see, the output includes temperature and also daily consumption data.

These types of systems cost more than those that just record green data… sometimes they are worth $5000 – 8000, but they provide highly useful data.

If you would like to discuss monitoring,  and the range of data that you can access, please call Stuart Gordon on 1300 792 011.




The importance of monitoring for commercial solar

One of the main reasons for installing solar for businesses is an economic return. When we propose solar to companies we are aware that it has to be a solid economic proposition – it has to provide a good return on investment, and it needs to compete with other projects that require capital.

So, we will include monitoring in our proposals to you for commercial solar (for residential it is an option).

One of the drawbacks of solar power is that you are buying an asset that you can’t SEE working. Because you still remain connected to the grid,and your power continues to flow in from the grid as you need it, then if your solar stopped working, your power would not stop.

You could wait until your power bills came in, and try and decipher if your consumption was more or less than previous.

Or you could look at your inverter and see how much it displayed it was producing at any time of day.

Or you could get a monitoring system.

Monitoring often costs from $1500-5000 and gives you real time information on what your system is producing. The systems will also store data for historical comparison.

The main reasons for wanting monitoring are:

  • Check that the system is doing what it should
  • Compare output v warranteed output
  • Share data with other stakeholders about the success of the system – for example: the public, customers, shareholders, staff etc.


There’s many providors of monitoring systems, and there are a few things to consider:

  • Is it made by the inverter manufacturers, or a 3rd party add on?
  • Does it have a proven track record?
  • What is the access to the information – web based? Secure or public?
  • How can the information be displayed?
  • What is the measurement method? (can be from actual electricity flow, or from internal inverter measurements). 


In commercial solar, we often specify SMA inverters because of their technical excellence and build quality (German stuff, say no more…)

SMA have their own monitoring solutions which work very well with their equipment and are a moderate cost (from $1500 including setup) – this includes an add on card in the inverter, wiring to a Sunny Webbox, and then either hard-wiring or bluetooth connnection to a company’s router. From there, the performance can be set as public or password accessed. For a greater investment you can add on separate monitors and ‘dashboard’ views using their free software called FlashView.

See this for some examples of SMA Monitoring systems.


Check this out for a real-time example of data from Baxter Healthcare using SMA inverters.

Click here for some more examples of data from commercial solar systems and a discussion about systems that also display power use (‘black data’) as well as solar power production.

For a discussion on how solar can help your business – and the free financial modelling that we provide – please call Stuart Gordon on 1300 792 011.







Solar System Faults (6 July 2011, The Age)



For Solar System Faults, please call 1300 792 011  – LJW has an active solar maintenance program for both preventativemaintenance and solar problems.


Full article reference here

FIGURES released in New South Wales last week confirmed what some have suspected for months – that there are widespread faults in solar panel installations.

In an audit of 658 household solar systems in western Sydney, just one in five was installed correctly, and about 18.5 per cent had ”major” defects posing safety risks.

Most of the serious problems involve the incorrect wiring of a DC circuit breaker, an error that does not affect the running of the unit but that does pose a risk of fire. Regulators insist it is a very low risk.

Almost immediately there were claims that the federal government – whose solar panel rebates helped start a nationwide rush for the roof-top systems – has kept the problem quiet to avoid the sort of bad publicity that was sparked by the home insulation and Green Loans schemes. ”They have tried to keep this away from the public as much as possible, that’s clear,” said one solar panel industry operator.

Read more:

”They didn’t want it to be seen as another home insulation debacle.”

The federal government, through the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, last week denied that it had tried to avoid releasing information to the public.

It said solar panel safety was the responsibility of state and territory governments.

But it is true that the agency contracted by the federal government to accredit solar panel installers – the Clean Energy Council – has known about the extent of the problems since October last year, alerted by the Department of Climate Change.

Kane Thornton, director of strategy at the Clean Energy Council, said the council made ”no secret” of the issue, and was trying to fix the problems.But it did not want to widely publicise the extent of the defects because, Mr Thornton said, it did not want to cause unnecessary alarm.

Householders could not fix the faults themselves, he said, and the council feared that alerting the public could result in some people trying to interfere with, or switch off, their systems.

This would be a problem, because the safety risk with the circuit breaker was triggered only when the solar panel was switched off.

The Clean Energy Council said for a spark to form, it would need to be a sunny day, pushing the panels towards full capacity. The panels would then need to be ”shut down in an incorrect manner”.

”Our concern was that there was a greater risk in alerting people to a potential issue that they couldn’t do anything to solve themselves, but could increase the risk if they become alarmed about it,” Mr Thornton said.

But the federal opposition, as well as some in the solar industry, suspect there is more to it than that.

Last week the opposition’s environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, suggested that a national audit had uncovered similar results to the NSW audit, and that the federal government was ”sitting on” the figures.

The Department of Climate Change conducted a ”random and targeted sample of inspections” nationwide from last October to June 30.

It denies that it tried to keep the information secret, saying it referred any problems to the householder, the state or territory authority and the Clean Energy Council.

But it did not answer questions from The Age about the results of the inspections, and whether they revealed a similar number of defects to those uncovered in the NSW audit.

Meanwhile, another federal agency – the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator – kicked off its own round of national inspections in mid-May.

It said these had not been running long enough to generate any data.

But it said it had received ”preliminary information” about certain issues, including incorrectly wired DC circuit breakers.

In Victoria, the state government agency responsible for policing solar panel safety insists that the extent of faults uncovered in NSW has not happened there.

”Victoria has the most rigorous safety regime for home solar systems in Australia, and has not experienced the problems reported in other states,” a spokeswoman for Energy Safety Victoria said.

An Energy Safety audit of 81 Victorian homes last year found that nine had the serious defect.

These were fixed, and installers and inspectors were alerted to the problem and the need to go back and fix any incorrect installations.

Since then, Energy Safety said it had run a series of inspections and found no more of the faults.

”We are very confident this is not an ongoing issue,” a spokeswoman said.

The Clean Energy Council said there were now 300,000 solar panel installations nationwide.

More than 130,000 solar panel systems were installed under the Solar Homes and Communities Plan – a Howard government scheme that was beefed up with generous rebates after Labor was elected in 2007.

It was then dramatically axed in the middle of 2009 after cost overruns of $850 million.

Demand surged again when state governments brought in feed-in tariff programs for household solar systems. Several of these have since been scaled back. According to the Australian PV Association, federal, state and territory governments spent $641.3 million on the solar panel industry in 2010 – 78 per cent of it on ”market stimulation”.

Last year, 383 megawatts of photovoltaic power was installed in Australia – a 480 per cent jump on 2009. Little wonder there have been concerns raised about the quality of installations in a market that has run hot.

But even within the industry, opinion is mixed about just how big a deal the faulty solar panel installations actually are. The risk of fire from a faulty breaker is, by all accounts, very small.

The council said there had been just ”three minor incidents” reported nation-wide, and no actual house fires. But as the body representing electrical contractors, the National Electrical and Communications Association, said: ”There is going to be a significant amount of rectification work required.”

There has been no shortage of audits and inspections of household solar panel installations.

The states have done their own work, the federal Department of Climate Change has carried out its inspections, and the inspections by the Renewable Energy Regulator are under way. But it remains impossible to get a clear picture of the extent of problems nationwide.

The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator said it intended to make ”general information” about its inspections public, but it is not clear whether this will include any information about safety defects.

Given the results of the NSW audit, the continuing speculation about the extent of the problems and the massive investment by taxpayers, a bit of openness and transparency – or as some call it, sunlight – does not seem too much to ask.
Read more:


Solar credits reduced (STC Multiplier reduced)

Solar credits reduced  

The solar credit scheme has NOT been phased out – just reduced again back to a ‘no multiplier’ status. There will STILL be a rebate for solar power.

The report below is incorrect in its wording that says it is ‘phased out’. It is just reduced.

The impact on customers is around $700 based on current STC values.



The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Hon Greg Combet MP announced today, 16 November 2012, that the Federal Government will phase out the Solar Credits mechanism six months ahead of schedule on 1 January 2013.

This will lower the impact of the high uptake of solar PV on electricity costs for homes and businesses.

Consistent with a previous reduction in the multiplier announced in May 2011, legally binding contracts to install supported systems, already entered into before today, November 16 2012, and made on the basis of the current rules, will be preserved. The same applies to systems installed before 1 January 2013.

Visit – RET Latest Updates – Solar credits phased out. http: //

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is expected to put forward Regulations in December 2012 to legislate the multiplier reduction.

The Regulations will also define transitional arrangements for eligible systems with a contract for installation from 1 January 2013 to 30 June 2013.

The installation of small-scale systems and solar hot water heaters will still be supported under the RET scheme, with solar PV systems benefiting from generous arrangements that provide support for 15 years’ worth of generation upfront.

The multiplier was always designed to reduce over time. Bringing forward the phase-out of the multiplier to 1 January 2013 will help place the industry on a sustainable path and ease pressure on electricity prices.

Please see the transitional arrangements for the 4x multiplier at This page will be updated with the arrangement for the 2x multiplier when the Regulations are passed. It does not yet contain these arrangements.

Once the Regulations are in force the Solar Credits multiplier will apply to the following installation periods:

Installation Period Multiplier
9 June 2009 – 30 June 2010 5 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011 5 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2011 – 30 June 2012 3 x [number of eligible STCs] *
1 July 2012 – 31 December 2012 2 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 January 2013 – onwards 1 x [number of eligible STCs] (ie no multiplier) *

* Unless the installation is eligible for the transitional arrangements.

The Clean Energy Regulator undertakes investigative audits based on a risk management approach to verify applicants have met specified requirements for creation of STCs.

Clean Energy Regulator
P: 02 6159 3990


Combet cuts support for solar – STC multiplier change from 1 Jan 2013


JUST ANNOUNCED – 16th November 2012 – The STC Multiplier will decrease ahead of schedule from 1 Jan 2013, instead of July 1, 2013.

The impact on buyers of systems is approx $700 on the cost of a system.

Therefore, on a small system it matters more (as a proportion of overall cost).

On a larger system it is a relatively small % change.


<direct copy from >

and here 

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet announced late this morning that the government will be phasing out the solar credits multiplier of 2 STCs per megawatt-hour to just one six months ahead of schedule on January 1, 2013.

Currently STCs are trading at around $32. With the current multiplier of 2, for a 1.5 kW system in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide this equates to a rebate of almost $2000 and in Melbourne, it’s about $1700. Even if the small scale renewables target is not changed and the STC price consequently rose to $38, the level of the rebate for such a system will drop by around $700 in Melbourne and $800 for the other mainland capitals. However because of the timing of Combet’s announcement it is still possible for the regulator to adjust the SRES target downwards and this could mean that the STC price does not noticeably rise above current levels.

It seems hard to believe that such a change wouldn’t hurt sales. In addition, because the change has been announced with such little notice, and going into the slow sales period, the industry will have difficulty responding to any surge in demand to get in before the rebate drops.

According to the government, phasing out the multiplier early will, “strike the appropriate balance between easing upward pressure on electricity prices and supporting households and suppliers who install solar PV”. The government estimates that as a result of this decision there will be an overall reduction in household electricity bills in the order of $80 to $100 million in 2013.

Yet considering solar PV sales are now relatively stable rather than growing explosively, the risk of further cost blowouts seems remote. So it is a little strange that the minister has chosen to make this unscheduled change.

One thing it appears to reinforce is the perception that Combet will act to implement recommendations from the Climate Change Authority on containing the costs of the small-scale Renewable Energy Target (or SRES). At present the solar PV industry is deeply concerned about the current proposal the Authority has put forward for containing costs, worried it is too unpredictable and applies an inequitable benchmark on the kind of financial return investors in solar PV should be entitled to receive.

Build or renovate for increased energy efficiency

Contributed by Dimitri Harakidas from

9th October 2012

We are all aware about energy efficiency, heating and cooling performance and energy bills. The above terms apart from being linked in sentences within the same context they have actually quantifiable or tangible effects that we will discuss about below.


If you do this part correctly you are likely to save a lot of trouble, money during construction and money during the life cycle of your project.

Planning is probably the hardest thing to do. You will need to find all the right people to work with such as architects and building sustainability or energy efficiency consultants.

It is way better to design an energy efficient house or addition to it at the planning stage rather than seeking band aid solutions when your project does not even comply with minimum BCA standards. Clever thinking at the design stage will pay huge dividends later on

LGA rules

Talk to your local council or state or territory government department about building regulations. You may need to comply with energy efficiency and water saving regulations. In NSW for instance BASIX is the scheme which is applicable in lieu of the BCA when it comes to energy efficiency.

Design considerations

Before a design is made you need to consider what you really need. There are some key aspects that need to be considered. Depending on the nature of the project sometimes all of these parameters can be assessed and adjusted accordingly and in other cases only a few due to various constraints, especially when an extension is built. Key parameters:

1.      Orientation of certain rooms of the house. For instance more often than not North facing living/kitchen areas tend to make a really big difference in the overall performance of the house. There is no point having the garage at the North facing side of your building.

2.      Orientation, size and type of windows. That is one of the most critical and most expensive aspects of the design of a house; I can not stress this point enough. The best way to make a correct decision is to simply simulate the design with the proposed windows.

3.      Insulation. Another key aspect is the insulation. Although we tend to think the more insulation the better, in many cases that is not correct. In some climate zones insulating the concrete slab on ground is beneficial and in other situations it is not. Once again expert advise is required from a building energy efficiency consultant.

4.      Thermal mass. That is another component which plays a big role in the overall performance of the building. There are also different ways to apply thermal mass. For instance in some cases it works better to have a reverse brick construction.

5.      Shading. Awnings, eaves, louvers are some of the ways that desirable shading can be applied. The width of the eaves can play a significant role in the overall performance of the building, conversely depending on where in Australia the building is located eaves can be beneficial or not.

6.      Colors. The color of external walls and roof can play a significant role also.

7.      Light fittings. Most recessed light fittings have a massive negative effect on the performance of a building. In many cases the insulation performance can be downgraded by 50% if recessed light fittings are used.

8.      Ceiling fans. They are by far the best way to keep you cool as they are both economical to run and are a lot healthier than A/C. However if an A/C system is required ceiling fans could be used in conjunction.

9.      Building products. There is a big carbon footprint associated with building or renovating a house. Try and use low footprint building materials and ones with low chemical content, such as non toxic paints, or timber sourced from plantations. In the end you could always buy carbon offsets to neutralise the project.

10.  Appliances. Energy efficient appliances are more expensive to purchase, however their benefits on the long run are apparent. In addition solar PV panels will have a great impact on the running cost of the house.

All of the above are some of the considerations that must be taken into account. Every project is different and some factors will affect more or less each project. Sound planning and advice is the key to a successful outcome. Energy efficiency, heating and cooling performance and energy bills can be addressed effectively only by using expert advice and sound research.