Due to solar energy use, power costs in Australia may go ... up?
Solar panels, similar to this one in Leigh Creek, Australia, are overloading the electricity grid, power companies say.
October 12th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

Due to solar energy use, power costs in Australia may go ... up?

Australian power companies say skyrocketing solar panel use is overloading their power lines, according to news reports.

In the wake of new limits set by Australia’s energy industry on solar panel installation, one power company said it may raise power rates to ease system strains created by the reverse flow of electricity, according to the Australian.

The issue stems from the increase in homes and businesses using photovoltaic cells, which feed electricity back into networks. The upsurge is creating “consequences for appliances and equipment in customers' homes," energy provider Ausgrid said in a letter to the New South Wales pricing and regulatory body, the Australian reported.

Ausgrid, one of the largest power providers Down Under, warned of the “significant likelihood" that costs would need to go up due to the solar craze, which has taken off in parts of Australia.

More than 22,300 rooftop solar systems were installed in southeast Queensland in the first three months of the fiscal year; about 19,000 were added for all of the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to figures from the state-owned power company Energex.

Evidently, one of the problems is the way power lines were designed, with electricity flowing from power stations to homes – not the other way around.

"It is similar to the water network,” Energex spokesman Mike Swanston told the Australian. “The pipes get smaller, and the pressure is designed to be lower as you get closer to the house. Start pumping water backwards into the smaller household pipes, and all sorts of strange things happen."

In Queensland and Western Australia, some applications for new rooftop systems are being rejected altogether, the paper reported.

The move follows electricity company Horizon Power's announcement in August that the government was suspending its feed-in tariff program, which offered homeowners a generous subsidy for installing a renewable energy system. In 2010, the government cut the solar rebate by two-thirds, from 60 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour, according to news reports.

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Filed under: Australia • Energy • World
soundoff (25 Responses)
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