Solar Citizens blog


Five Things to Consider Before Installing your Solar Battery

Have you been thinking about installing solar batteries in your home?

We live in a time where smart, renewable energy technology is becoming increasingly accessible and affordable.

If you want to boost your energy efficiency and reduce your environmental footprint, there are a few things you should consider before you purchase your solar battery system.

Government’s Inaction on Energy will Hurt Consumers

We saw last week that while the Morrison Government still warns against the rapid transition to renewable energy that the market has other plans.


Top Reasons to Invest in Solar Batteries for Your Home

As Australia’s renewables industry continues to boom, the uptake of home solar batteries is slowly on the rise.

If you’re on the fence about getting solar batteries for your home, let us help you make the switch. Here are four reasons why you should invest in this up and coming new technology.


Where do the Federal Parties Stand on Renewables?

There’s a world of difference between where the major political parties stand on repowering Australia with clean, renewable energy. Over the last 6 years, the Federal Government has attempted to derail the transition by reducing the large-scale Renewable Energy Target (RET), slashing funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and trying to stop the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) from funding solar and wind projects.

Now, the booming clean energy industry is facing bust because we still have no national energy policy to provide investment certainty when the RET finishes next year. Australia can’t afford another three years of anti-renewable attacks and energy policy uncertainty – it’s risking thousands of new jobs and billions worth of investment in regional areas.

See how the different parties’ energy policies compare before casting your vote on Saturday.

The Australian Labor Party

The ALP have committed to:

  • Implementing a 50% renewable energy by 2030 target via the National Energy Guarantee policy framework;
  • Allocating a further $10 billion to the CEFC;
  • Creating a $5 billion fund to upgrade transmission infrastructure to allow for the transition;
  • Providing a $2,000 rebate for 100,000 households to purchase and install battery systems;
  • Establishing community energy hubs to support community renewable energy projects, including in Western Sydney;
  • Establishing a Just Transition Authority to assist communities transition;
  • Requiring electricity generators give three years notice before closure;
  • Implementing a national electric vehicle target of 50% new car sales by 2030 and a government electric vehicle target of 50% of new purchases and leases of passenger motor vehicles by 2025;
  • Creating a $200 million fund to roll out charging infrastructure across the country;
  • Allocating $1 billion of CEFC funding to support the development of the clean hydrogen industry;
  • Investing $3 million to establish a National Hydrogen Innovation Hub in Gladstone;
  • Funding $75 million towards apprenticeship incentives and retraining workers for the growing clean energy industry;
  • Supporting 4,000 schools become virtual power plants by installing rooftop solar PV.

The Greens

The Greens have committed to:

  • Extending the RET to 100% renewable energy by 2030;
  • Investing an additional $500 million in ARENA, with a rolling $300 million annual budget;
  • Allocating an additional $10 billion in funding to the CEFC;
  • Creating a $1.7 billion Clean Energy Export Development Fund;
  • Establishing a $6 billion Grid Transformation Fund to build new publicly-owned transmission infrastructure to support the transition;
  • Implementing an Energy Storage Target to help meet the total 419 GWh of dispatchable power required by 2030;
  • Establishing a $1.2 billion Solar for All program to support landlords and apartment dwellers to install rooftop solar PV on their property or participate in local solar gardens.
  • Investing $100 million in an Indigenous and remote communities power fund to assist with the transition;
  • Investing $25 million in a community renewables program to support regional and community renewable hubs across the country;
  • Creating a Household Solar Storage Scheme to provide household battery storage loans of up to $7,000 per household battery or 15,000 for small businesses;
  • Aiming to double energy productivity by 2030;
  • Banning new internal combustion vehicles by 2030;
  • Creating a $1 billion Clean Energy Transition Fund to support workers to reskill.

The Liberal/National Coalition

At the moment, the LNP have enacted or committed to:

  • Building Snowy Hydro 2.0;
  • Building a second interconnector between Victoria and Tasmania;
  • Helping households and businesses improve energy efficiency as a part of their $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package;
  • Developing a National Strategy for Electric Vehicles;
  • Funding a $10 million feasibility study into a new coal-fired generator in Queensland;
  • Underwriting electricity generation, potentially including new gas generators and an upgrade to the Vales Point coal-fired generator;
  • Introducing a default market offer to act as a price safety net for electricity consumers;
  • Implementing “big stick” legislation to protect electricity consumers;
  • Investing $50.4 million to help regional communities invest in new micro-grids.

Where do the NSW parties stand on renewables?

Written by Ainsley Kelso, Solar Citizens intern.

With the NSW state election just days away, it’s necessary to take a look back at what energy commitments the parties have made before casting your vote. Each of the following parties have policy commitments in place regarding their views on renewables and the future of NSW. Solar Citizens has three policy asks of the parties; support solar for 100,000 renters, a fair price for solar owners and 4,000 MW of new large-scale renewable and storage capacity. So far, NSW Labor has committed to two out of three of those asks, while the NSW Government has committed to none.

Liberal Party/Nationals have committed to...

  • Assist up to 300,000 households access rooftop solar and battery systems across NSW over the next 10 years by providing no-interest loans;
  • Support a government agency target of 25,000 megawatt hours of energy a year from rooftop solar by 2021 and 55,000 megawatt hours a year by 2024;
  • Change strata laws to make switching to solar easier for people living in apartments;
  • Allocate $20 million to purchase up to 900 batteries with a total 13 MW capacity for schools and hospitals;
  • Add another $20 million to the Emerging Energy Program to encourage private investment in dispatchable generation, taking the total spent on the program to $75 million;
  • Provide $30 million to the Regional Community Energy Program;
  • Create a $10 million program for recycling solar panels and batteries;
  • Change to 10% hybrid or electric government-owned vehicles by 2020 with $5 million allocated for charging stations.

Labor Party have committed to...

  • Implement a fair price for solar;
  • Invest $100 million to install solar systems at 350 schools in NSW;
  • Support a minimum of 50% renewable energy by 2030 including powering all government agencies with clean energy by 2025;
  • Create a rebate of up to $2,200 to support 500,000 households to install solar by 2030;
  • Work towards 4 GW of reverse auctions for clean energy and storage by 2023 and 6 GW by 2030;
  • Create 1 GW of publicly-owned clean energy and storage by establishing a state-owned renewable generator;
  • Provide $11 million to train electricians in solar and battery storage;
  • Review the energy performance of rental properties and bring in minimum efficiency standards by 2025;
  • Change to 25% electric government-owned vehicles by 2025 with $10 million allocated for charging stations.

The Greens Party have committed to...

  • Implement a fair price for solar;
  • Create a publicly-owned renewable electricity supplier and retailer, PowerNSW, to build 100% renewable energy supply by 2030.
  • Advocate for mandatory solar and batteries for all new homes;
  • Introduce a $2000 rebate for the introduction of solar panels and storage for 500,000 homes over four years;
  • Establish a community solar offset scheme for apartment owners and renters, with the aim of involving 200,000 participants over four years;
  • Invest $250 million in all public housing and government buildings to get solar panels, helping 110,000 public housing tenants receive electricity rebates.

Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party have committed to...

  • Support the immediate construction of a new high efficiency, low emission coal power plant in the Hunter Valley;
  • Oppose the use of taxpayers money to subsidise intermittent energy sources like solar or wind;
  • Support the utilisation of nuclear energy.

In summary, the NSW Government’s renewable commitments fall well short of the scale that we need to responsibly transition NSW to clean, renewable energy, and their policies do little to help all NSW households access rooftop solar.

Labor has taken a substantial step forward by aiming to build 4GW of new renewable generation over the next term of government, although again, they have no plan to assist NSW’s thousands of renters and apartment dwellers access cost-cutting solar.

With a wide range of energy policies on the table this state election, the outcome will shape the future of NSW and determine how far we progress towards clean, affordable renewable energy for all.

Five Renewable Energy Myths Busted by Experts

Written by Ainsley Kelso, Solar Citizens intern.

It's no secret that vested interests and the big end of town like to throw renewables under the bus by spreading misinformation. The following five myths were debunked and explained by a panel of four energy experts at the NSW: Support Affordable Solar for All event in Penrith.

Myth #1- Renewable Energy is Impossible

Dr. Brad Smith, senior energy and climate campaigner with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, discussed crushing the myth that 100% renewable energy is an impossible goal to achieve. It’s time to bust the myth that we cannot have a bridge to clean energy anytime soon or even at all. Dr. Smith said, “As an electrical engineer, there are so many challenges out there that are really exciting and [there] are opportunities for Australia to lead the world. Absolutely, it is doable.”

Myth #2- Renewables are Only for the Rich

Dr. Bruce Mountain, an energy based economist and director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, busted this myth by citing research found in the latest Solar Citizens commissioned report, Australia’s Rooftop Real Estate Report - Part Two. “One of the fascinating things that we found in the study, that I didn’t altogether expect to find, was that the relative proportion of households taking solar was highest amongst the poorest households and lowest amongst the richest.” Solar energy just makes economic sense for low to middle income households – and it appears that, where possible, they’re making the most of it. Everyday Australians are slashing their bills by utilising solar energy.

Myth #3- Using Solar Energy Pushes Everyone Else’s Bills Up

Solar Citizens’ Solar Savings report shows that this is not the case. Marija Petkovic, founder and managing director of Energy Synapse, smashed the misconception that bills were increasing in cost due to people’s use of rooftop PV. “It does reduce prices for everyone and everyone in the market does benefit from others who are storing solar,” said Petkovic. The report showed that over the course of one year rooftop solar helped to keep down the price of wholesale electricity by as much as $44/MWh in NSW. Without rooftop solar, NSW households could have paid $2.2-3.3 billion more in wholesale electricity costs. A combination of factors has driven up the price of electricity but solar is not one of them.

Myth #4- Renewables aren’t Reliable, We Need a Form of Better 'Baseload' Power

According to Dr. Anna Bruce, senior lecturer in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales, “Studies show how we can meet 100% of our [energy] demand reliably at the same mean reliability we currently have using renewable energy.” We can indeed count on renewables to be reliable without having to make significant sacrifices. The concept of ‘baseload’ power was developed so coal plants would not lose money at night when they needed to meet a minimum and could not just shut off the plant. As renewables grow in popularity, we no longer need to be wedded to the concept of 'baseload' power, but instead can move into a future where dispatchable generation and demand management work together to create a smart, reliable grid.

Myth #5- Renewables Need a Helping Hand Because They’re Uneconomical

New South Wales has amazing resources with the potential to create enormous amounts of solar energy. However, as Dr. Brad Smith pointed out, how can we expect someone to invest in a solar or wind farm in NSW if they don’t know what the policies will look like in five years when they are trying to get a return on their investment? “That is the thing that I really think has put the brakes on in NSW. Other states have avoided this by putting in Renewable Energy Targets. Hopefully with the [NSW] election people will put some promises there so that people can go out and do the things that need to be done with certainty,” said Dr. Smith.

Renewable energy just makes sense. Don’t get caught up in the myths.

Check out our video for more from the panel.

Community Solar in Action

According to CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia, up to 45% of the country’s future energy generation will be local and customer-owned. Right across the country we’re transitioning to a more distributed energy system, and everyday people are leading the charge for cleaner environment and lower bills.

Community energy projects help everyone make the most of the renewable revolution – including renters, people living apartments and low-income households that might otherwise miss out on slashing their bills with rooftop solar.

Here are some examples of community initiatives that are helping slash electricity bills and driving Australia’s transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Communities everywhere are taking action!

Bendigo Sustainability Group

The Bendigo Sustainability Group (BSG) have undertaken many projects aimed at making Bendigo more self-sustaining, including providing advice to individuals and businesses about installing solar systems. The group has been appointed host for the Community Power Hub Bendigo, which is a Victorian Government initiative to foster community energy in pilot locations.

In this capacity, the BSG has also organised the installation of solar systems in the community. They entirely crowd funded the installation of panels on the City of Greater Bendigo library, and more recently, a 30kW system over eight social housing units. The group raised an impressive $30,000 from individuals, local organisations and businesses for just the social housing project.

So how does it work? The BSG owns these installations. The Council pay the BSG for the electricity produced from the solar on the Library, and in the case of the social housing project, the tenants pay for electricity as part of their rent and from now on will pay about $500 less per year.

The group has more community projects in the works – they’re even looking at developing a 2MW community solar farm in Central Victoria!

Solar on social housing



SolarShare in the ACT is planning to build Australia’s largest community-owned solar farm. SolarShare is a member-owned business with the goal of including anyone who wants to be part of the shift to a renewable energy economy, through owning a share in local renewable energy generation.

A community solar farm is a solar power plant which is co-owned by members of the nearby community. Investors in the solar farm have a closer relationship to local energy, the environment and the community while choosing a sustainable investment with a financial return.

SolarShare allows residents to purchase shares in the solar farm and receive a financial return on their investment when energy is sold to Canberra’s power grid. This project is an opportunity for people to own part of a solar farm, when they may have difficulty getting their own residential solar panels, including those renting, living in apartments or other buildings without a suitable rooftop, or with limited finances.

SolarShare’s flagship project is a 1 MW solar farm that will be built in the Majura Valley, behind Canberra’s bushy Mount Majura. Once complete, the solar farm will generate enough clean energy to power 250 homes, preventing some 1,700 tonnes of CO₂ a year from polluting the atmosphere.

Our climate is changing and so too is our society. This unique project is part of the shift to an economy where communities have an important part to play in our energy choices.

Written with contributions from Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll, the Bendigo Sustainability group and SolarShare.

Are High Voltages in the Grid Caused by too Much Input From Domestic Solar Systems?

Written by Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll. 

You may have been hearing reports that solar PV installations are causing dangerously high voltages in the distribution network, particularly in the middle of the day when solar generation is high and electricity demand is low. This effect is being hyped by those who want to maintain the status quo (electricity distributors) as an excuse to restrict grid connected solar installations. There can be no doubt grid voltages are increased by connected solar systems, however there is a readily available solution to this problem.

For decades until 2000, the nominal voltage to be supplied to domestic customers by Australian electricity systems was either 230v or 240v, depending on the state. In that year Standards Australia issued AS60038 and adopted a 20 year plan to change the nominal voltage for all states to 230v, to align with European Standard IEC38. The standard specified a minimum of 216v and a maximum of 253v – 230v -6% to +10%. Subsequently AS61000.3.100 was issued which specified acceptable voltages based on time distribution (voltage to be between 225v and 244v 50% of the time, 216v to 253v 98% of the time) with the intention that it be applied Australia wide. However compliance with this standard varies, depending on the distributor.

Solar systems will cause the voltage in the distribution system to rise. In order to export excess energy to the grid, the system inverter must increase the output voltage to slightly higher levels than present on the grid. As more distributed energy sources are connected, the grid voltage will continue to increase, raising it toward the limit that could cause damage to devices, and possibly causing solar systems to disconnect from the grid in order to protect themselves. At my solar equipped home I have regularly seen grid voltages up to 252v on sunny days, however I have never seen voltages drop lower than 239v at night when there is no solar generation. Obviously one major reason for high voltage in the grid on sunny days is that the grid voltage is already at a high level, way higher than the Australian standard of 230v.

This problem can be solved. In 2017, the Queensland government directed the state owned distributors (Ergon and Energex) to adopt the Australian standard and reduce grid voltage for several reasons, the main one being in order that connection of solar systems would not be unreasonably restricted! The distributors were given a year to get the job done, and as far as I can find out, the task has been largely completed. It is time for the other distributors to stop bleating about high grid voltages caused by solar installations, and reduce the nominal grid voltage to comply with the current Australian standard. I am advised by my favoured solar installer that this adjustment is done at the local area transformer, which could explain why the distributors are reluctant to get on with making the change – there are thousands of transformers requiring adjustment!

Five Solar Innovations

Written by Pauline Tan, Solar Citizens intern.

We have been harnessing the sun’s energy to power our homes for over 50 years. Not only revolutionising the energy sector, but with innovative thinking, we are using the sun’s energy in new and exciting ways. Here are some top solar innovations repowering different industries – the future is looking sunny and smart!

1. Waste

Clean power and clean streets! Solar Bins are already found in numerous communities; this bin is specially powered by the sun to compress 5 times the amount of waste in a 120L bin. It reduces the occurrence of overflowing waste, frequency of bin collection and ultimately, waste management costs.

2. Water

The sun is turning on the tap! Special solar panels are being used to capture drinkable water straight from the air. In a process similar to condensation, the sunlight is used to generate heat in special panels of material, which in turn allows it to absorb moisture from the air.

The panels are currently being trialled in Australia to see if it can help alleviate the dependency on plastic water bottles, as well as to provide fresh water to communities facing water scarcity. Even in arid climates with humidity levels well below 10%, this solar innovation can still extract at least 2L of water from the air.

3. Concrete

Forget external solar panel systems! A new method of concrete-laying includes a layer of photovoltaic cells allowing for the concrete to generate solar electricity. This makes the solar panel system ‘invisible’ and less bulky. Maybe soon the concrete under your feet could be generating solar electricity too!

4. Fashion

A new twist on being fashion forward! Shirts have been invented with 120 thin solar cells embedded into the fabric. Producing approximately 1W of electricity, these shirts produce enough to charge your portable devices. A hidden battery pack is located in the front pocket, allowing electricity to be stored for when your phone needs some extra juice.

5. Printing

This is a cool method being developed that allows solar cells to be more portable and flexible. Solar cells can now be printed onto flexible plastic films – a process similar to how banknotes are made. This allows the generation of solar electricity to be more flexible and portable. Printing could be a new method that could fast forward the development of other innovations such as solar fashion.

Race for a Renewable Energy Future

Written by Hyacinthe Uwizera, Solar Citizens intern.

I find it disappointing that the Federal Government is dragging its feet when it comes to repowering Australia with clean, cheap renewable power, especially considering recent survey results that show that 84% of people back renewables over coal-fired power generation.

My name is Hyacinthe Uwizera and I’m an intern at Solar Citizens. I am here through a program from my school, the University of Pennsylvania, and I am Rwandan. I care about the decisions that are made here in Australia because, with so much sun and wind potential, Australia could show the world how it’s possible to transition to clean power.

The Federal Government’s energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is an anti-renewable plan that will be negotiated at the next COAG Energy Council meeting on August 9-10 in Sydney. The policy will directly affect the future of renewables across the country, which is why a range of groups in the Repower collaboration held an action outside of Parliament House in Canberra called the Race for a Renewable Energy Future.

To support renewables and a brighter future, I got up at 4am on a cold winter morning to set off from Sydney to make it to the action. At 8:30am, as the action was about to begin, there were people who dressed up as Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, coal to represent fossil fuels, and solar to represent renewable energy.

In the stunt, solar and coal were racing. In the beginning of the race solar was ahead, but after some time, solar got trapped in Malcolm Turnbull’s red-tape net. Coal continued but fell down after some seconds. Tony Abbott then injected a $16 billion adrenaline injection into coal. Coal then limped towards the finish line and won the race. The scene was surrounded by a crowd of renewable supporters, like me, and was watched by some politicians too.

The action was highlighting that renewables with storage are the cheaper and better option for Australia, but under the NEG they will be held back with a very low national renewable target. We were there to get our voice heard, and speak for other Australians, asking for a safe environment for the future generations.

As a young person, I care about the environment and my future. We should all care about our environment. We either choose a clean, efficient and cheaper source of energy or the opposite. We should care about our health and the health of the generations to come.

Solar just makes sense. We could power the entire world by harnessing just 1% of the solar energy we get from the Sahara desert. A national plan that holds renewables back is bad for power bills and the planet.