Hard News by Russell Brown


Going solar?

The recent Guardian story declaring that "solar has won" over coal as a means of generating electricity for big cities may or may not overstated the case, but it certainly signalled a welcome and hugely beneficial trend. Developments in Japan and India bring similarly welcome news.

The news was also well-timed for our household because it comes as we're considering solar water heating (not photovoltaic generation) as an option. We've received a quote from Nova Energy of $7360 for two panels, to be paid off at $123 a month as part of our electricity bill with Nova over five years.

In theory, even while we're paying off the panels, our bill will be slightly lower than it is now. Which wouldn't be hard: this is a house with four adults, some of whom are hard to dissuade from taking long showers (face it -- you'd rather have your young men taking showers than not). Three of us are home nearly all day, using computers. We run two PVRs. We have an efficient wood fire and we've invested in good insulation (if you can afford it, take the government subsidy -- it makes a big difference), but bedrooms and the breakfast kitchen still need heating with electricity sometimes.

Is this a good deal? Is it viable to wait instead for photovoltaic panels? How will things have changed by the time we've paid off the investment in five years? I'm interested in your thoughts.

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