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)
  1. banasy©

    See how the hell they are?

    October 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    This story was either written by someone that did not understand what it was they were saying. Or the the power companies lied out and out about thier justification in raising it's rates. Here's why. Photovoltaics produce Direct Current, that charge storage batteries, that ARE NOT WIRED PHYSICALY TO ANY POPWER GRID GOING TO ANY ELECTRIC COMPANY. Then devices that run alternating current, the power in the batteries are "converted" to Alternating Current, through the use of an inverter unit, still not associated physicaly with anyones power grid. Solar IS AND HAS BEEN a totally independent system. And if the power companies COULD BUY BACK POWER GENERATED BY CUSTOMERS, they would pay them for KWH generated. So it looks to me like Australias' power companies are apparently whinning about the solar peope screwing 'em over. So in retaliation "to maintain thier lifesyles", they elect to sock it to thier faithfull customers that cannot afford the high end cost of solar. Don't think it won't happen here. 😉

    October 12, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      I suggest you google the term 'grid tie inverter'. You will find that it's possible, practical, and common in urban and suburban areas to feed power from a photo array back throught the grid.

      October 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lara

      You're right, Jim. My question is, do they HAVE to be tied back into the grid? Why not just force homes to stop selling power back, and just using what they need, if it's causing so many problems?

      October 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • vince

      Jeff, You obviously have no clue what you are talking about...Grid Tied system's are very common. Do your homework before spewing from your keyboard.

      October 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Sorry about all my typos above. Really busy now...gotta go. Maybe banasy will tell you all how steam generated electricity can be made by gas fired boilers using flatulent reindeer.

    October 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • LouisCipher777

      actually, you need to use billy goats

      October 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. leeintulsa

    Both systems i've installed tied directly to the grid through an inverter. Does sound like pop pyco ck, though. Unless the power company is producing less power than the cells.. In neither instance, did the solar panels produce enough to totally run the place. It just lowered the draw on the power company. And the bill..

    I'm sure that's what this is about. They are getting less money, yet wanting to maintain the same overhead.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anomic Office Drone

    The US would be lucky to have such a problem.

    October 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    @ LouisCipher777:

    No, it's definitely reindeer.

    I said what I said in my first post because that's *precisely* what our utility company does here; profits are down, so they ask for a rate hike to maintain the executive's bonuses.
    This, of course, is after selling surplus electric to utilities all over the country...
    It just infuriates me that people TRY to do the green thing, and still get stuck bending over with so much as dinner or K-Y.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    @Jeff Frank:
    I've still got a few things to iron out on that; it really stinks.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio)"Right Wing Insanity"

    OK. Grid tie inverter Jim. New one on me..my bad. I know the power company that's my suppier, has no issues with you having a generator..say 22kW on line. But they stipulate "you must" have either a manual or electronic transfer switch to operate it as an independant system. The reason is safety...say on the grid you have a 14.7kV feeder that goes to your step down, single phase 220volt transformer for your house and a pole crossarm gets smacked by lightning. They do not want you "hooked up" to the line thier crews are repairing, while your generating, pure and simple. 😀

    October 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio)"Right Wing Insanity"

    I got hit by a 20,000 volt oven ignition transformer one time, I was on the floor for 15 – 20 minutes. I thought someone rammed a 2 foot needle up my arm.

    October 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Yeowwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeee!

      October 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    Hi banasy and jeff- I want some solar just to cause the problem like Ausies are having. I have in prevous post said the utility companies are trying to figure out a way to screw the public and keep the technology and maney for share holders. I think that solyndra was having the problem of getting the Energy gods to pass legislation to help make it profitable in the united states. It is the war against the middle class to have the ability to have solar, wind and off the grid that will cost the big boys from being mega wealthy.
    Gung hoe- I see your TIGERS are 0-2 but are winning in the 1st. good luck it would be nice if we play against each other.
    The CARDS are 1-1 and we will be playing in a couple of minutes, so I am going to watch. GO Cardinals.

    October 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. leeintulsa

    If there's a power interruption, even loosing one leg, the inverter shuts off. It won't come on again until good power is restored. Plus clearly marked disconnects, and the power company knows where you are, inspects it and everything.

    It would be better to live off the grid completely. But batteries cost money 🙂

    October 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. fernace

    This does not compute! There is either a glitch somewhere, some1 trying to get rich & didn't think it would be noticed,or people taking others for morons! Whatever the case may be, it's all false! The $ will go back to the study as it should!!

    October 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DB

    I install, sell and live off the grid. I also sell and install grid tie systems.
    Most power companies will limit the amount of solar wattage you can install on your house. The average solar panel is about 220 watts lately. so five panels would be 1.1 kW per hour, depending on where you live in the world your daily charging times will vary. I live in the Caribbean and our daily charging time is 5 hours, so I would make 5.5 kWs of power if I had 5- 220 watt panels. That is a very, very minimal system. Most systems I install are at least 4.5 kWs per hour x 5 hours a day charging would be 22.5 kWs daily x 30 days a month = 675 kWs monthly a good decent savings on your power bill (most homes in the US use between 600 to 800 kWs per month)
    The way I see the Electrical grids problem being is that they still need to run their generator 24/7 Yes it may not be running at 100% load and possibly could be idiling there fore saving big $$$ but wht happens when the clouds come and everyones solar array stops generating power ?? The Generator(s) at the Power Company need to kick in to replace the load loss.
    Like I said earlier I live "off the grid" my house in not connected to an electrical grid system. I make all my own power using a 2000 watt solar array and a small wind turbine. They charge my 24- 6 volt batteries. I have lived off the grid for over 10 years and have saved over $10,000.00 doing so. Yes maintaining your own battery system can be challenging and is a learning process. You need to keep an eye on your battery fluid levels and also check you connections monthly. You also learn how to conserve power ! I myself believe that this is the best part of living off grid- using less !
    If you have any questions you can reach me at islandsolarvi@gmail.com I would be glad to help anyone to be energy smart and help our planets future !

    October 13, 2011 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      The solar panels i install still produce on cloudy days. Any light, really. You could set up a floodlight and have perpetual power.

      October 13, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    This healine and story are just smoke and mirrors. Yesterday Australia passed the Gilliard Carbon Tax. That is what is going to make the power costs increase.

    October 13, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Zac Aldridge

    Demand for solar power is rising, and that’s awesome – but so too are costs, no question. Economics 101 tells us that as demand rises, costs actually fall – and that’s spelling trouble for many solar power manufacturers in the US. Demand is rising abroad, but the economic models in other countries are intact. In any new industry, it’s all about cost efficiency and control, and solar power just isn’t there yet. Take a moment to check out our solar power blog – we write all about these theories and more.

    October 23, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
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