Thursday, February 26, 2009

How's this for tasteless?

It's a good thing that the Canberra Times is trying to add sense to the debate surrounding bushfires and prescribed burning ( article). But the Google advertisement, placed over the headline, seems a bit tasteless to me. Here's how it presented in Firefox ...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Solar component prices in Australia

Further to my post the other day about solar prices, I have conducted a brief study.

I should at the outset make it clear that this is not comprehensive. I did not include every solar system component from every outlet, because that would take ages and nobody's paying for this. This is a brief, personal study. It does, however, indicate that a more complete analyst's study would be valuable: perhaps if the solar industry is under scrutiny, prices might fall.

And I'm not going to name names. I don't have the resources to fend off companies who, under criticism, decide to launch legal attacks. But I will nominate the best-price sources for a few items, since I suppose nobody's going to object to being identified in that way!

It should also be noted that the prices I worked with were published on February 19 and February 20, 2009. Prices move, and may not be valid by the time you read this.

This study covered system component prices from 12 online suppliers in Australia.

In this small study, I have focussed on a few core solar components: solar panels, batteries, regulators, and inverters. I have ignored hardware such as frames, and I haven't had time to add chargers to the list.
I have not included eBay prices in this small study. It's often difficult to identify the manufacturer of equipment sold on eBay, which makes it impossible to assert the validity of even a small study.

I have focussed on components from “name” manufacturers. For solar panels, these include Sharp, BP and Kyocera. For inverters, the prices cover Lantronic, Selectronic, Powertech, YK and X-Power. Batteries include Fullriver, Rolls, Trojan, Crown, Concorde, Federal, Exide, Remco and Lifeline (because of the huge price difference in battery technology, I focussed mostly on lead acid batteries). Regulator manufacturers include Steca, Morningstar and Plasmatronics.

Finally, methodology needs to be explained. Panels are different sizes, batteries have different capacities, and regulators and inverters are designed for different loads. To normalise these, I calculated the following parameters:

Panels – Price per rated watt of output power.

Batteries – Price per rated amp-hour of capacity at 12V (allowing comparison between different battery voltages).

Regulators – Price per rated amp output for 12V regulators.

Inverters – Price per rated watt of continuous output.


Panels – The price per rated watt of output ranged from $7.72 to $11.92, so the most expensive panels are 154% more costly than the least expensive. The best price per watt in the study was available from Solaronline for a Sharp 180W panel.

Batteries – Cost ranged from $131.68 per rated Ah up to $665.71 per Ah, making the most expensive batteries more than five times the price of the cheapest. The cheapest battery was a 202 aH Federal battery available from Australia Wide Solar. Difference in battery prices should, however, be treated with caution, since this does not take into account expected battery lifetime nor the different level of maintenance required for different battery designs.

Regulators – Price per Ampere for 12V-capable regulators (this includes 12 / 24V dual-voltage models) ranged from $6.17 to $11.18, a range of 181%. The best price was for a Steca 30A regulator from Energymatters.

Inverters – Inverter prices showed the greatest variation of any of the core components studied, from $0.31 per continuous watt output up to $2.50 per continuous watt. It should be noted that there is high variability in the features offered by different inverters; however, even within brands, the highest price may be double the lowest price for the same unit. The best price was for a YK 1500W, 12V regulator from Solar Online.