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Welcome! Well as of June 2014 this is my revamped blog. My passion for renewable energy, solar power and the need for sound environmental policy, both at an Australian Government level, State Government level and as a community is very driven and i will be making a lot of time to update this blog on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

Phil Paul

Solar System Update – November 2017

Its been a while since i updated readers on the performance of our 5 Kwatt solar system we installed in October 2012.

The system consists of 20 x 250 watt Kyocera brand mono solar panels. The question everyone wants to know is how much does the system actually save us in terms of cutting our power bills and what kind of reliability does it offer, year round.

Savings From The Solar System – October 2016 to October 2017

I am fairly adept and on the ball when it comes to keeping records of our household expenditure. This has proven invaluable in assessing the real savings we are making from the solar system. Below is a breakdown of the figures and the savings the system is returning. I have used a calendar one year period for the analysis. The figures look like this:

Electricity Costs For Period 1 October 2011 to 1 October 2012 (when system was installed) = $3980

Electricity Costs For Period 1 October 2016 to 1 October 2017 (solar system operating during this period.) = $885

Savings Over One Year = $3095


Ok, firstly lets look at the electricity costs in 2011 (ie – from ETSA). According to my old electricity bills the ‘average’ electricity cost was $0.23 / Kwh. In 2017 the average cost is $0.26 / Kwh. So, in reality, the savings are even greater, to the magnitude of around 10 percent (roughly).

Payback Period. The Kyocera solar panels used were expensive in 2012 – approximately $1.10 / Kw. The totaol solar system cost, including an SMA inverter and a properly done installation came to $14,400. Still,  using an ‘average’ yearly saving of, say, $3000 per year on electricity bills, we can see that the so called ‘payback’ period for the system will comfortably come in in under 5 years.

Solar system pricing in Adelaide has dropped, i estimate, by around 20 to 30 percent, since the time we installed our system (October 2012). The same 5 Kwatt solar system using equivalent quality solar panels, could now be installed for around $10,000 to $12,000, possibly less. Therefore, the payback period could be down to 3.5 years!

Important Assumptions When Looking At ‘Payback’ Periods For Solar

The figures i am quoting are based on an important factor – that is, our electricity usage is relatively high during daylight hours and low at night time. This is because Jan and i both work from home. We are (very) early risers and generally are in bed by around 8pm. This means that our night time usage of grid supplied power is minimal – this may NOT be the case for the majority of Adelaide people!!! Looking at our power bills, our average night time power consumption is less that 3 Kwh per day – some days it really is negligible.

Conclusion. My thoughts are that solar, for us at least, is an absolute winner. You MUST consider your patterns of electricity usage when considering the viability of solar for your circumstance.

Phil Paul – November 2017


LED light bulb image

95 Percent Efficient L.E.D. Lighting Available

Since October 2013 we have reduced our grid supplied electrical usage by 80 percent. Our average 2013 electrical usage in our home was 40 kwh of power per day. In August 2016 it is now an astounding 4 kwh of electrical power LED light bulb imageconsumption today!!!! Our electricity bill is now only $90 per quarter!

I have recently sourced 12 l.e.d. lighting manufactured using the most energy efficient l.e.d.’s manufactured by Cree. My 30 years experience in the electronics industry taught me that Cree are one of the highest quality manufacturers of opto electronics in the world and their latest generation high efficiency l.e.d. lighting is, in my opinion, someof the best to be found. I bought it through a local lighting shop in Ashfield N.S.W. and had Windon Electrical Services a local, inner west Sydney electrical contractor, do the installation of the l.e.d. lighting.

Cree’s CPY l.e.d. technology delivers an amazing 136 lumens per watt of light, which is an astounding figure. They state:

” Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE) continues to break efficiency records with the next generation of its best-selling CPY 13,000 lumen LED canopy luminaire, delivering category-leading efficiency of up to 136 lumens per watt (LPW).* This new 13,000 lumen Cree® canopy luminaire offers superior illumination and industry-leading efficiency, as well as easy installation and lower total cost of ownership for better light experiences. Already a favorite with canopy owners for its uniform, clean white light, the 13,000 lumen CPY luminaire boosts efficacy by 20 percent, lowering operating costs while enhancing roadside visibility and appeal at service stations, convenience stores and drive-through restaurants or banking locations.

“Gas stations, travel centers and quick-service restaurants are under constant pressure to increase traffic and lower operating costs while providing safe and visually appealing lighting,” said David Elien, Cree senior vice president, lighting. “The Cree® CPY 13,000 lumen LED canopy luminaire delivers superior illumination that provides a comfortable, visually appealing environment for a better overall customer experience while significantly trimming operating costs.”

The improved luminaire is DesignLights Consortium® Premium qualified for maximum utility rebates and now generates added energy savings of $12 a year per luminaire, totaling cost reductions of more than $34,000 over 10 years for a typical petroleum retrofit installation.* It is also Class I, Division 2 hazardous-location rated for direct mount applications, with an expanded range of options for areas where flammable liquids and gasses are present.

Replacing metal halide luminaires with the CPY Series canopy luminaire is quick and simple with a slim, low-profile design that eliminates the need to cut into the canopy deck and a seamless direct mount that provides a water-tight seal in virtually any canopy or soffit for easy installation.

The entire CPY Series is also available at 4000K, and comes with Cree’s industry-leading 10-year limited warranty. There are two optics choices, a flat or prismatic drop lens to meet the visual, as well as the vertical and horizontal illumination performance needs of a typical canopy application. The integrated driver within the canopy housing further simplifies installation, reducing installation time and cost.”

(reference: here)

By integrating solar power systems with high efficiency lighting, hot water heating, inverter based air conditioning and 12 v.d.c. appliances i think it is possible to get to a 90 percent energy input reduction from our 2013 electrical usage – amazing!!

Contact me here if you would like to discuss further.

Phil Paul 29 August 2016



10 Kilo Watt Solar System Retails For Less Than $8,000 In Adelaide

Our 3 Klilo Watt solar system was installed in June 2012 at a cost of $5,300. It is a high quality system and after a lot of research i specified the system should comprise:

  1. Suntech solar panels – 250 watt panels were installed (STP 250S). These panels represented good value back in 2012 and have a reputation for solid performance and good customer support and warranty support should it be required. Suntech heralded from research done at U.N.S.W. school of renewable energy so has at least a modicum of Australian content in them – even if its only the brainpower that went into their development
  2. An SMA inverter. SMA have captured the lions share of the Australian solar inverter market – at least for the ‘quality end’ of the market
  3. SRC Railing. railing refers to the aluminium structure that is bolted to the roof and onto which the solar panels are then installed. SRC is an Adelaide based solar rail manufacturer – not the largest but one of the best in terms of the climate and wind performance of their products. I didnt want my solar panels blowing off the roof!!!!

So, this quality system cost $5,300. I saw this week that 2 Adelaide solar companies are claiming to offer a 10 Kilo watt solar system, installed for $7,960. This is quite astounding. I did some digging and it seems that they are using ET Solar panels which have a reasonably good reputation and a Samil solar inverter. I do not have a lot of knowledge with Samil but from reading other solar forums they appear to have been represented in Australia since 2009 and claim to have a reasonable market share for domestic solar systems.

How Low Can Solar System Prices Get?

It is hard to see how much lower solar pricing can go. The market is fearing the worse from the current R.E.T. review and if the existing solar incentives are removed then the market could really collapse. Less demand for solar means further price competition (presumably), so we watch with interest.

Phil Paul  14 August 2014

Dick Warburton – Renewable Energy Target Review – Impartial

This is an interesting read that implies that Dick Warburton, who is currently overseeing the review of the R.E.T. has a bias towards climate change denial. This is clearly concerning, not that i am a conspiracy theorist (!!) but there has been considerable comment in solar and renewable energy forums that the real ‘purpose of the R.E.T. review is simply to scrap it!

There has been a lot of speculation that the coal industry is lobbying hard the Abbott government to put a damper on the renewable energy sector. Coal and natural gas revenues remain strong however the energy sector is going through a change that has been compared to the advent of the internet and revenues from traditional sources of electrical generation in the medium term are expected to be under pressure. We live in interesting times – read the article!


Phil Paul – 1 August 2014


Repeal Of The Carbon Tax – Impact On Solar Power and Renewable Energy?

Carbon Tax Repeal – Climate Change And Renewable Energy

OK. We know it. Today is not a good day for Australia with the shameful
repeal of the national price on climate pollution.

It appears that we now have climate denialist governments in power nationally and in all
States and Territories, bar South Australia and the ACT.

This is not a platform from which to build the scale of action that is
needed on climate. It is time to be clear that our job is no longer to
convince denialist governments to tweak their program at the margins.

We are now in a struggle for our lives and it is a time to support the solar energy industry and renewable energy initiatives.

We need to boot out the denialist governments and to elect governments who
will protect their people and the environment and create a clean energy future for Australia.

And by the time the denialist governments are gone, the time for slow
reform will have passed.

In Australia’s darkest hour on climate, what will get us out of bed in the
morning to build the power and commitment needed for a climate rescue?

What needs to be done now to achieve even half-measures on the environment
is so far outside of business-as-usual that we may as well commit to
restoring a climate that we know from past experience is safe for people,
civilisation and the maintenance of all species. If we have to struggle
anyway to stop the world’s onrush into climate oblivion, we might as well
work for a future that we actually want, one that will nurture us and
future generations, one that can inspire us – it is time to work to cool
the earth and restoration a safe climate.

Savings for families, claimed by Tony Abbott in Australia from the repeal of the carbon tax have been reported as being overstated.

This is a future that is in everyone’s interest in the long term and is in
interests of the vast majority of people even in the short term.

It is time to build a coalition of strong support across the political
spectrum – from right to left – that will isolate and marginalise
denialist governments and consign them and their shameful work to the dust
bin of history.

Solar Industry In Adelaide Reports 25 Percent decline In Installations

The short term outcome of the removal of the cabon tax is that electricity prices are expected to drop by around 4 to 9 percent for most Australians. In South Australia the outlook for the solar energy industry, at least short term, is not looking so rosy. John Grimes, who has been involved in the solar industry in Adelaide for 20 plus years, reports that the level of solar power installations in Adelaide has decreased by around 15 to 20 percent over the last 2 quarters (year on year). The downward ‘spike’ in electricity prices could mean that solar systems uptake will again decrease as consumers perceive the cost of power as dropping. John is very cynical about the motives behind the carbon tax repealing and sees the traditional ‘dirty coal’ producers as being behind the push by the Abbott Government to reduce the pace of growth of the renewable energy sector in Australia.

Solar Panels Systems Are Here To Stay

Johns’ view is that solar panels systems are likely to maintain their long term viability regardless of todays electricity pricing. Solar systems have a typical life expectancy of 25 to 30 years as detailed on his solar panels Adelaide website.
He sees the global impact of carbon pollution as a virtual guarantee that there will have to be concerted efforts at all levels of Government to mitigate carbon based climate change over the next 20 years. Adelaide and South Australian residnets have lead the way in installing solar power as a way to demonstrate their support for clean energy and cut their interdependence on the coal and gas based electricity supply in South Australia. Solar panels systems have a zero carbon emission footprint and the so called ‘energy inputs’ into the construction and manufacture of solar panels is generally quoted as amounting to less than 18 months their energy output, meaning that they are greatly carbon ‘positive’ in their manufacture and operating life time.

Carbon Tax Repealing Is Only A Blip In The Renewable Energy Debate

So even though the carbon tax is now officially gone, we see the future for solar power and renewables as remaining very strong – viewed over the medium term. Solar systems are becoming more efficient and the cost of solar continues to decrease year on year. It is inevitable that the days of ‘carbon’ based energy production is limited and we remain optimistic for the clean energy future.

Canberra and The A.C.T. Set To Reach 90 Percent Renewable Energy Production In 2020

A.C.T. Government Kicks Goals With Solar Power And Renewables

The A.C.T. Government has to be applauded in their efforts to champion renewable energy and really kick some big goals. By 2020 an amazing 90 percent of the A.C.T.’s energy will be supplied wholly by renewable energy sources including:

  1. Small Scale Renewable Energy. This includes residential roof top solar (the solar panels systems we see everywhere on homes in Canberra), small wind generation units – typically 10 Kilowatts or less and a small number of water turbine units, typically installed in small farm holdings
  2. Large Scale Renewable Energy. These include solar farms like the planned 50 megawatt solar farm that will be installed in the A.C.T. and utilise over 30,000 individual solar panels. Community solar programs are classified as ‘large scale’ as they have a potential to create solar installations in the 20 to 30 megawatt size – a fantastic achievement in that it ‘pools’ individuals resources into substantial companies that have the financial capacity to make significant solar power investments that would otherwise be the realm of larger corporate investors. Large scale wind farms in the A.C.T. have the capacity to generate 25 percent of the renewables target
  3. Renewable energy blog - July 2014

Strong Community Support For Solar Power In Canberra

A.C.T. solar installers have seen the growth of residential solar panels systems in Canberra increase to a point where one in nine houses now has a solar system installed on their roof. The now beats South Australia in terms of the percentage of home owners who have chosen to have solar systems installed.

Federal Government Does Not Reflect Community Sentiment On Renewable Energy

It is my firm belief that the Liberal National coalition Government is now out of step with the rest of Australia as far as carbon emission abatement and renewable energy implementation is concerned. Where as the Abbott Government has a half hearted view on carbon reduction, by ways of its ‘direct action plan’ , territories like the A.C.T. can hold their heads high in my view, in pushing ahead with renewable energy policies that make sense and make a difference.

Phil Paul -16 July 2014

June 28 2014 – Paradigms For A Sustainable Future

I’m developing some engagement tools for people active in promoting renewable energy, solar power, the environment in environment groups or in non-environment groups (eg. businesses or government bodies).

I’m trying to differentiate these engagement tools so that that one set or other will suit most people.

My experience is that most people come at environmental concerns through preset mindsets (framing or paradigms). I’ve identified 7 paradigms so far. People might find more than one paradigm useful as a frame for approaching environment related issues. But they never seem to find all the paradigms useful for them personally.

Are any distinctive and important action paradigms that you feel I’ve missed? A missing paradigm doesn’t have to be one that you support personally.

Market self-correction will get us there.

Trade-off and balance define the real world that we live in. Environmental outcomes have to emerge from that.

Going in the right direction harnesses the huge (sometimes revolutionary) power of incremental change.

We must push realistically for reforms to drive the achievement of sustainability. It’s a long process
The timely restoration of sustainability requires deliberate, large-scale, fast action.

As the crisis intensifies, revolutionary change to replace the current unsustainable capitalist system becomes possible.

When economic, social or environmental collapse occurs, we can replace capitalism with a sustainable society. In the meantime we should prepare.

I’d really like to know of any distinctive and important action paradigms that you feel I’ve missed.

Drop me a line at




Phil Paul

Magnesium Chloride – Safe Cheaper Solar Panels?

The race is on to develop solar panels that offer greater energy yields at lower prices in order to match or lower electricity production costs relative to carbon based electricity production, like the coal fired power stations produce currently in Victoria’s Latrobe valley.

This article from the BBC reveals that Liverpool University have found that by using Magnesium Chloride in solar panel manufacturing, they can take the next step in cost reduction and creating a cleaner manufacturing process for solar panels – Read the article here.



Solar Tiles as an alternative to Solar Panel

Solar Power Brisbane – Integrated solar Panels – New Generation Integrated Solar Systems for Brisbane.

There is now a new option or alternative to standard solar panels to generate power for your home. Sanyo has an integrated solar system that does away with the need for ‘ugly’ solar panels scattered around Brisbane roof’s and skyline. John has installed solar panels at his Brisbane home however for the new building complex we are looking at at Ipswich, Brisbane we are going o consider the new solar tiles – they look great and integrate into the design of the roof. I contacted John at Sanyo , here is our correspondence – very helpful:

“Thanks for looking into this stuff, it’s a good idea. I think you are right to be concerned about affordability for low cost housing in Queensland but compatibility with the Solar tiles used in Brisbane solar installation
is a cool concept in that it uses integrated building technologies. However, I still think there is a critical issue with this program–compatibility to anything outside itself. I just got a response from my request for the full version and questions on this. ”

The Dow solar tiles are another interesting development – take a look here:

Someone Reads my blog – and My new Solar Panels

Three replies to my first post – 2 from my mate Graham James. Graham has finished installing my brand new 5kw home solar power system. I live in Brisbane East and Graham, who lives 2 doors down offered to install the solar panels before the Government rebate fro solar finished on June 30 2012 – just in the nick of time. Graham asked if he could post details of his Tortoise Head property he is looking to sell. Now i have free electricity from my solar panels im happy to oblige. Thanks mate!

Tortoise Head Property

I would normally not post a “commercial ” notice on the net, but this one is for a project which is demonstrating renewable energy in a very tangible way. This really is a green leap; a unique accommodation business which produces 80% of its electricity from Wind and Sun. Three years ago, I formed a small consortium to buy the disused “Tortoise Head Guest House” on French Island. It seemed such a shame that this purpose-built facility, with panoramic bay views and
surrounded by National Park and beach reserve was not being used. The Guest House is the most prominent property on French Island, and has one of only two tourism accommodation permits under the planning scheme, and so not operating was also hurting the local economy. It also had Victoria’s second biggest wind generator and solar power,
solar boosted heat pump water heater, etc. and this government funded demonstration facility was also going to waste.

Well, we bought it, and it has been running as a guest house for three years, with live-in managers. The owners feel that we have achieved what we set out to achieve; to demonstrate that it can run successfully. We also know that it needs new owners to realise it’s full potential. (All the existing owners have separate, very hectic business interests which prevent us from giving this opportunity the attention it deserves ) It will suit resident owner-managers who will acquire (for about the price of a home in Melbourne):

* a home,
* a life-style,
* a 17 acre (6.9 hectare), unique investment property which
can not be built out, and
* an on-going business and income stream.

It also suits a small group of of owners, with one or more living on the
Further details are available at:

Life in the slow lane?

My dearly beloved, a.k.a my wife has made me promise NOT to spend more than an hour per day blogging – problem: so much to say, so little time! With 20 plus, plus years of writing about everything from local politics to the greens to solar power versus nuclear power, to counselling, to short stories, to reading and researching Van Gough , i need an outlet for these remnants of thoughts and past memories. I have to say, that my practical side is coming out – i wired up a new switching system for our fish pond pump yesterday – all went well until i turned it on – you guessed -it – PUFF – not only did i burn the pump out but i blew the fuse on the switchboard – $400 later the electrician (read ‘sparky’) left, trying to hide his grin……

I am planning to get back into 12 volt technology and possibly install solar power in the farm out houses soon. No time for retiring i say. The dear Lady (capital ‘L’) is quite happy that i am so occupied in my retirement – i think she thoght i might cramp her style – no way!

Ramblings of a ‘retired’ blogging ex-writer…………..

Pennies and Power Bills – Oh Dear!

Well, after completing my last contract writing job i realised the pennies might not last forever. Life in the slow lane is expensive we have found. Last weeks power bill came in at $1200 – unbeleivable, as winter’s not yet here. My dear wife called my son in law who is an engineer (electrical) and energy auditor / guru(!). He sent his mate Brian around , who is a professional ‘ energy saver’. Very interesting as he  spent 3 hours conducting an extensive indoor and outdoor audit of my home and prepared a report which outlined recommendations for increasing the energy efficiency of my home, and reviewed it with me prior to departing.  I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and efficiency of Brian and his other offsider Tom.  They arrived on time, and after a cuppa, worked continuously examining the attic, basement, all appliances, doors and windows, while performing a number of technical tests i knew nothing about like a  blower door test.  He had asked for my electric and gas bills an she was able to provide me with graphs showing how I could reduce my utility bills if I implemented some strategies that she had suggested.  I was extremely impressed with the work performed by the company and the report prepared by the company will be a valuable tool for me as I make improvements to my property to reduce my electric and gas bills and very kindly , he did all this for free – what are friends for!


Thats the GOOD news, the bad news is what he found – this might get expensive!!


1. The insulation found in our home was less than EPA recommendation for the DC area is area and not up to the building code. Insulation in the attic pays for itself in 3 to 4 years, and also has an impact in the home’s comfort. We were recommended to install baffles to direct the air over the insulation and stop it from touching the roof, weather-stripping and insulating the attic hatch, and adding more insulation.

2. The gaps around the plumbing penetration under the kitchen and bathroom sinks were allowing cold air to seep in. We were recommended to plug these leaks with foam – a ten minute project.

3. He found cold air seeping in where the brick meets the siding outside the house. Sealing these areas with caulk or foam can make a big difference in utility costs and comfort..


Ok, i am getting boring i know – my first post , but i am VERY proud to say , by watching this youtube clip that i fixed the window seals my very self! – Not bad for a 60 year+ journo eh?



The 12 Volt Man Arises!

When my uncle came home from WWII, he moved with his wife, to a small farm in Sylacauga, Al. He mounted a surplus airplane fuel tank on tower and at the the end of the day there was plenty of hot water to go around. Imagine, solar hot water, raised-bed organic gardening, and self-sufficiency in the 1940’s. These ideas aren’t new, they’re just still right. Anyway this got me thinking (oh dear, you say!). My uncles journal that he kept for 50 years had an amazing story of his love of electrical stuff and 12 volt applications – he wrote, for example:

“Everything I have, lights, radio, tv is powered by rechargeable AAA, AA, C or D batteries EXCEPT the laptop which has a 12 volt “car adapter” which is recharged via a 100 watt panel. I recharge the batteries with small solar battery chargers that are one complete self contained unit. I don’t use refrigeration or air conditioning. I use propane for cooking.
I am thinking about checking into small solar powered fans if i can find one packaged as a unit and has enough storage to run a few hours after dark. I am also looking into home made genorators that ae human powered for those bad weather days that you have to stay in and get restless.  Most of my lights are three led lights that i picked up at big lots for $9 for a package of three and they use AAA batteries. So far i have used one more than the others ( 90 % of the time ) and it still hasn’t drained the first set of batteries that came with it. I also use them for flashlights as they do throw a good beam.
My radio and television are small portables and i would like to get another am/fm/sw/tv combo again that runs on 12vdc, batteries or ac. I think i’ll pick up a couple of the wind up led flashlights that run $14 to $20 and run one hour on one minute’s cranking.” Amazing!! – well on 12 volts at least he wont look like this:



Anyway, this got me thinking about cutting our power bills and how a 12volt house could be a possibility – my dearly beloved is somewhat doubtful i have to say! There seem to be very few LCD monitors and TV’s that can run off 12 volts DC natively. I specifically looked for this with an eye towards being able to run off batteries. I have one monitor only, don’t think it has a composite input, and a TV/Radio/Monitor that has composite, S Video, and SVGA inputs. It may beable to receive HD TV as well, not sure. It says HDTV on the front. Drawback with it is cannot get it into SVGA or Radio (FM Stereo) mode without it’s own remote control. Regarding 12 volt DC satellite receivers, there are very few of those, and hard to find. the few I did find were very overpriced. It does not make as much difference now, but I was planning on living where I would have needed solar/wind/generator for power. But plans change…When I looked for the monitor, and later the TV, I looked at many, and only some had an external power supply, and some of those were higher, likearound 18 volts. Hence many people will need an inverter of some kind to run from a 12 volt battery system, and others could run from a 24 volt battery system, though running an 18 volt unit would mean power loss in a dropping unit/voltage regulator system, or back to the inverter system. I am also a ham radio operator, and all of my ham gear will run on 12-14 volts DC, so no problem there. Computers become another matter. I have one laptop that should, considering the power supply is about 14 volts, and the battery in it is less than 10 volts. I could try it from a 12 volt battery, but am planning to give it away. Might try that anyway. The other two laptops use something like 16 or 18 volt supplies. I have yet to open up one of my satellite receivers. Could be interesting tracing the power supply section. That’s for another time…   Still awake? The next post entry will be more exciting – promise!!