My wife and I built our forever home with Metricon about 3 years ago. Since then we’ve added a daughter and we’re growing into our house nicely.
During the build process, we looked at adding solar but decided against it at the time. In the time since becoming homeowners, I’ve gone back and forward on the idea and obviously most families fluctuate in their levels of disposable income and savings.
Now with a Mortgage that’s under control (record low-interest rates help) and a fairly modest lifestyle, we’ve been able to afford to update our cars (one to an EV, hopefully, the other in time to come), so it was time to get serious about setting solar as the next goal.
While the Government as a collective, often gets criticised for not investing in renewables, the reality is they are. It definitely differs state-by-state, but speaking as a Victorian, the Solar Home Program is the reason I’ve just committed to putting solar on our home.
Solar Victoria is a portfolio within the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DEWLP) that are responsible for the delivery of the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Program.
This program is a key pillar of the strategy to switch 50% of the state’s energy production to renewables by 2030. Over the next 10-years, the Solar Homes program will enable the installation of solar panels, solar hot water systems or batteries on 770,000 homes across the State.
The program works by discounting the price of the solar system, reducing the initial outlay, while also decreasing the return on investment period.
This works in three sections. Firstly the authorised solar installer receives a Small Scale Technology Certificate (STC) which lowers their cost which is passed on to you. The second is the Solar Victoria Rebate, which is currently sitting at A$1,888.00. The third is an option that we took up, which is an interest-free loan for another A$1,888.00 of the purchase price. You have up to 48 months (4 years) to pay this back, which works out at around A$10 per week.
These 3 elements of the Solar Homes program take a solar system from some you’d like to have, to something you can afford.
Given everyone’s requirements, roof space, brand preference and budget all differ, this feels like a really great structure that has means-based testing built into the eligibility criteria, like having a combined income of less than $180,000 and the property value is less than A$3 million.
After doing plenty of research, we arrived at a 6.5kW SunPower P-series system with SolarEdge Inverter as the right solution for our home and family.
- 20 x SunPower 325W P-series All Black Mono Crystalline modules (SPR-P19-325) with 25 year product warranty and 25 year lineal performance guarantee
- 1 x SolarEdge HD Wave 5kW solar inverter (SE5000H)
- 20 x SolarEdge P370 DC Optimisers with: 12 year product warranty on inverter + 25 year product warranty on DC optimisers
- Optional Clenergy “Black Pack” – All associated mounting hardware and isolator shrouds to be supplied in a black finish for added aesthetic appeal.
Had the Solar Homes Program not existed, the price of this system, would be around A$12k, which frankly right now would be out of reach for us. Thanks to the Solar Homes Program, that cost means we only need to contribute around A$5k upfront, a far more approachable figure that doesn’t dramatically detract from savings that are offsetting the mortgage.
Applying for Solar Homes
After receiving a quote last week, we had to wait for the next round of solar grants to be available under the program. Today at 9AM, the program released another batch of rebates and in less than 12 hours, almost another 1,000 rebates have been applied for.
Preparing all the necessary documentation ahead of time, I hovered over the refresh button and was happy to see it activate, right on 9AM this morning. Progressing through the application steps, I supplied the necessary documentation and details.
There is an identity verification step, which isn’t surprising given we were essentially applying for a small loan. There’s a step in the process where they send an sms to your phone with a unique link to continue the process which is supposed to allow the capture and upload of evidence like your Passport, Driver’s license etc.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work and my only option was to do a manual verification. This meant printing a form, completing it with a witness and then getting my ID documents authorised by a Justice of the Peace. After this was all completed I was to upload them to a unique URL provided explicitly for this purpose to compliment my application.
While there were warnings this could take a week or two to process, I was incredibly happy to receive an email confirmation later in the day, not just that my submission had been received, but that we had been approved!
I sent a copy of this approval to our solar installation company and they commented that our experience is the fastest application to approval they’d ever seen. Very happy.
The next step is to pay a 10% deposit, which will then see our products ordered and an installation date booked in. At this stage, we’re expecting the solar install to take place mid to late February.
Return on Investment
After speaking to plenty of people who have solar about their return on investment, they all tell me the same story. It will likely fall short of predictions provided by solar companies, but that almost doesn’t matter.
Our estimates indicate a return on our investment will be achieved in just 2.9 years. That estimate is likely to vary because of the sheer number of variables at play here.
Firstly there’s the number of sunny days which can be forecast based on historical trends, but as we know the climate is changing and nothing is really guaranteed any more. That said, I feel comfortable that Australia remains one of the sunniest places on earth which presents a massive opportunity for solar to make up a large portion of our renewable mix.
The second variable is our own usage. Every house (ours more than most) is adding and removing electronics all the time and that increases to your power consumption.
The third is power prices. It’s a fair bet that power prices are going to continue to grow over time, particularly if more people opt for solar to reduce their demand from the grid.
The fourth is EVs. As more and more homes add electric vehicles to their garage, the cost of charging may be cheap overnight, but it’s still a new cost in your energy mix. While I have free Supercharging for my Model 3, if my wife was to get an EV as well, we’d be paying to charge that and a lot of that charging would likely occur at home.
The fifth is the feed-in tariff you receive. While you’ll always pay more for power from the grid, than you get for sending power to the grid, the rate of your feed-in can dramatically impact your payback period.
Despite all of these variabilities, the savings over the 25-year life of the panels is going to be substantial, as compared to doing nothing. If the actual break-even point is actually 3-3.5 years, that’s not a material difference to us.
Now was the right time for us, thanks to the Government support, but had the Solar Homes program not been in place, it may have been years away for us.
You can get more information at Solar Victoria.