Solar Shack

Fairlane Electrix is launching our new solar brand 'Solar Shack'. This brand will look, feel and act a touch differently to the usual corporate solar companies seen in the past.

As we gather momentum a distinct change... for the better, will occur with your buying experience!! Rest assured you will still receive our typical hands on care not normally offered by the telemarketing desks of the BIG UTILITIES!

As you are a Fairlanegreen friend, for the Summer months Solar Shack is offering a Special gift launch of a FULL ON Bamboo Mini Mal Surfboard.


This is for the first 20 solar Installs and the surfboard is valued at over $750.00.

And don't worry it doesn't have a Solar Shack logo attached!! This offer will be reserved for all Fairlanegreen customers and newsletter subscribers, before it hits the public arena.

Please get in touch with me before December to secure one of these beauties. It would be an excellent Christmas gift for that special water and sports nut in your life. Please find attached the Solar Shack offer and hang five.......... off the dog and bone Now!

View Solar Shack special offer >>

If your tribe is a Nuclear Family or perhaps well on its way ? Why not take the next small steps and make it a 'Solar Friendly Family'? With the help of Solar Shack...invest in your child's future and switch to Renewables by installing clean energy solar panels on your roof.

If your special friend, godparent or grand[parents are searching for that 'extraordinary occasion' new born baby present - A Solar Shack Solar Panel gift voucher demonstrates( or defines) a healthy responsibility and concern for your child's future welfare, like no other.

Our parents and ancestors knew how to manage and conserve resources. Take up the challenge now. Generous government subsides and solar credit certificates are still available. Solar Shack will do all the paper and leg work for you.

Solar Shack believes in installing Quality Solar Packages. Bosch and Hyundai Solar panels with German made SMA Inverters are our systems of choice.

To put it simply they just work ... every-time. The confidence one needs when your 220 watt panels are working just over your head and out of arms length. Rest assured they are fully installed by a licensed electrician with BCSE accreditation.

The first 20 customers that install a minium1.5kW solar system this Summer, will receive a sustainably friendly 'Bamboo Mini Mal' valued at $750.0 Whoopee!!!

View Our Product Guide >>
View More Products >>

View LG MultiX Solar Module >>
View Bosch Invite >>

Hyundai/SMA 1500 Solar Panel System

• 1.5kW Upgradeable System size
• Approximate annual generation: 2190kWh
• 2 Week Installation times from sign up. In before Christmas
• Only $4690.00 Fully Installed and commissioned

Hyundai/SMA 2000 Solar Panel System

• 2.0kW System size
• Approximate annual generation: 2880kWh
• 2 Week Installation times from sign up. In before Christmas
• Only $7590.00 Fully Installed and commissioned

For other configurations over 2.0kW please ring Brendan and his team of certified energy consultants for a blisteringly competitive quote.

Call now for a no obligation site inspection and home appliance assessment.

PH: 98799975 / 0404963084

Solar Shack in conjunction with Fairlanegreen is part of the Fairlane Electrix P/L Group of Companies operating in Melbourne for over 50 years strong.

Terms and Conditions:All pricing includes GST. Offer only available to you if the solar system purchased is eligible for solar credits scheme and you agree to assign the rights to the STC's to Solar Shack. Price is for a pitched roof within 125 km's of Melbourne GPO or an installer location.
Additional meter changeover/installation fee may be charged by your distribution company. Price is for a standard installation. Flat roofs incur extra $295.00 per kW for tilt frame non standard installation.

Are you Gearing Up?
Then here's what to look for.
The whole truth and nothing but the truth……

Solar panel buyers guide

Incentives such as feed-in tariffs and rebates mean that many more households and businesses are considering solar photovoltaic's for electricity. Best of all, is that this electricity source is clean and renewable. Photovoltaic panels produce electricity directly from sunlight. They are used to power houses (on and off the mains grid), water pumps and remote communications systems, as well as in large commercial solar power installations.

In its most common form, a solar panel consists of a number of photovoltaic cells connected together. These cells are usually coated in a plastic such as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and sandwiched between layers of glass and/or plastic, or sometimes plastic and metal. The collection of cells is usually surrounded by a metal or plastic frame for strength and to allow easy mounting of the panel. A junction box is often mounted on the back of the panel to allow easy electrical connection, though some panels have flying leads for connection. Where glass is used as a covering for solar panels, it is usually low-iron glass, to allow as much light transmission as possible, thus maximising power output.

Many panels have glass on the front and a plastic, such as Tedlar, on the back to seal the panel. There are also panels designed to replace windows and other glass panels in architectural uses, and they may have glass on both sides of the cells, depending on their intended use. This means the home owner can offset some of the cost of the solar panels, as the panels themselves double as building materials. PV Solar Energy roof tiles fall into this category.

Most other solar panels are designed to be mounted on external frames, themselves mounted to a building's roof or other frame, such as a solar tracker, but there are also flexible stick-on panels that can simply be stuck to suitable roofs or structures.

Click to Go to Top

The different technologies

There are three common types of solar cells: mono-crystalline, polycrystalline and thin film. Both mono and polycrystalline cells are made from wafers cut from blocks of silicon, which are then modified by a process known as 'doping'. This involves heating the cells in the presence of boron and phosphorus, which changes the structure of the silicon in such a way as to make it a semiconductor. This is the same method which is used to make integrated circuits. Once the wafers have been doped, they then have a fine array of electrically conductive current-collecting wires applied to each side of them. Thin film technology uses a different technique, and involves the deposition of layers of different materials directly onto metal or glass.

The most common thin-film panels are the amorphous silicon type, which are found everywhere from watches and calculators right through to large grid-connected PV arrays. In recent years, other types of thin film materials have started to appear. These include CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium (di)Selenide) and CdTe (Cadmiun Telluride). They tend to have higher efficiencies than amorphous silicon, with CIGS cells rivaling crystalline cells for efficiency. Flexible panels are a spinoff of thin film technology.

These are manufactured on a plastic or thin metal substrate and can be rolled up or attached to curved surfaces. They are commonly used for camping and boating, but are generally quite expensive on a dollar-per-watt basis, although larger ones designed for mounting on buildings are competitive with conventional rigid panels.

As far as material use is concerned, crystalline panels use a great deal more semiconductor material than an equivalent output thin film panel. This occurs for two reasons. The first is that a lot of material is lost in the process of cutting the silicon boule or billet into slices (wafers). The cutting is done with a diamond saw or wire, which may well be thicker than the resulting wafers, so more than half of the silicon may be lost in this process. Manufacturers have been working on reducing this wastage, but it is still a considerable proportion of the total material. The other reason for greater material use with crystalline cells is that, because they are handled as individual cells, they must be robust enough to withstand mechanical handling. So a good proportion of the cell is actually there just to provide support to the active junction. This is also an issue that manufacturers are working to improve upon, with cells slowly becoming thinner in recent years (although not by a great deal).

There are two reasons why silicon use can be an issue. The first is the embodied energy of the silicon—it takes a lot of energy to make the highly-purified silicon used in solar panels. The second is the fact that high-grade silicon suitable for this sort of use can be in short supply due to the demand for it in both solar cells and integrated circuits, although with recent economic events, there is now a glut of manufacturing capacity which is driving panel prices down.

Indeed, prices in the US have been less than US$3 per watt for many brands for a while now. While Australia hasn't reached that level yet, there are signs that prices are indeed becoming more realistic, with panels approaching the $5 per watt mark, and some direct imports being cheaper still.

Panel ratings

There are a number of different ratings on solar panels, so let's have a look at what they are and what they mean.

Rated (peak) power: This is the maximum sustained power output of the panel, assuming a level of insulation ( strength of light falling on the panel) of one kilowatt per square metre. In general, the solar panel's rating is the rated peak power.

Nominal voltage (Vn): The system voltage that the panel is designed to be used in. A 12 volt panel is designed for a 12 volt system, but will produce voltages well above 12 volts. Some panels can be rewired to suit six or 24 volt systems. Other panels are designed for grid-interactive systems and have nominal outputs of 48 volts or even higher.

Voltage at peak power (Vp): This is the voltage measured across the panel when the panel is producing peak power.

Current at maximum power (Im): The maximum current available from the panel at peak power.

Open circuit voltage (Voc): The maximum voltage available from the panel with no load attached. This is usually around 21 volts for a 36 cell, 12 volt unit.

Short circuit current (Isc):The current obtained when the output of the panel is short circuited with an insolation level of 1000 watts per square metre at a panel temperature of 25°C.

Temperature at rated power: This is the temperature that the solar panel manufacturer rates their panels at. Most panels are rated to put out their maxi- mum power at 25°C, which is a rather unrealistic figure given that the panel temperature under typical Australian conditions can be up to 70°C. Figure 1 shows how cell temperature affects power output for crystalline panels.

Temperature Coefficient: This is the figure that tells you at what rate a panel's output decreases with rising temperature. For instance, a panel with a temperature coefficient (of power) of -0.3%/°C means that for every degree of panel temperature above 25°C, the output decreases by 0.3%. This doesn't sound like much of a decrease until you realise that the panel might be running at 70°C. In this case, the decrease is 45 (the increase above 25°C) multiplied by 0.3, or 13.5%, a significant amount. If you live in a hot climate then you should look for panels with as low a temperature coefficient as possible. Temperature coefficients can be specified as a change in output voltage, output current or maximum power. Sometimes only the power figure is given, sometimes all are provided (and sometimes none are!)

Current-voltage (IV) curves: These are graphs of output voltage versus current for different levels of insulation and temperature. They can tell you a lot about a panel's ability to cope with temperature increases, as well as performance on overcast days. Examples of IV curves can be seen in Figure 1. Obviously, the most important ratings when doing calculations for a power system are the voltage and current at maximum power. A system is rarely calculated using panel wattage ratings, as this is a function of both the voltage and current. Some panels are rated at slightly higher or lower voltages than others, and this affects the amount of current available. The open circuit voltage and short circuit current ratings are important from a safety point of view, especially the voltage rating. An array of six panels in series, while having a nominal 72 volt rating, can output over 120 volts DC— more than enough to be dangerous.

Click to Go to Top

Heat and shading

These are two factors that can greatly affect solar panel performance. In general, solar panel performance decreases as temperature increases, and a panel rated at 25°C will not perform as well when operating at the hotter temperatures experienced in most parts of Australia. A typical operating temperature in summer can be up to 60°C or higher. Some companies also supply ratings for temperatures higher than 25°C, so check to see whether these are available.

Embodied energy

This is the amount of energy required to produce the panel in the first place and includes all energy used to make every part of the panel, including cells, frame, cable or junction box and assembly. Some panels, especially the thin film units, will repay their energy 'debt' within a year or two, while others, especially mono-crystalline panels, take longer. However, all panels on the market will produce more energy than they use over their lifetime, if installed and used correctly. Manufacturers are starting to provide embodied energy information on request, so we have included it in the tables accompanying this guide when available

What to look for

It's important to buy a panel that has the correct ratings in both voltage and current curve. You also need to look for a few other things when buying, such as construction quality, frame type and panel shape and weight. Some panels may be more suited to your roof shape than others, especially when used on small buildings such as sheds or outdoor toilets.

Panel quality is very important. Many of the small amorphous panels manufactured in China are of variable quality— some last many years, others die a quick death—so be wary of these. However, the overall quality of Chinese panels has improved considerably in the last few years due to intense competition, so don't discount a panel just because it comes from China. Indeed, the biggest panel manufacturer in the world is based there. Any solar panel worth buying will come with a long warranty. If the manufacturer doesn't have enough faith in their product to offer a good warranty, then why would you buy it? Most panels come with a warranty of at least five years, and some warranties are up to 25 years.

Warranties come in different forms. Some are just a power output warranty but don't cover things like construction quality, while others are a bit more comprehensive. Ask questions before you hand over any money.

An increasing awareness of climate warming and potential energy savings has certainly returned attention to solar power. Australia gets enough sunlight to provide the nation's total energy needs a great many times over. Steps to reduce energy usage should be taken, but with sales of solar systems on the rise, perhaps it is time to also consider a change of power supply?

How they work

Solar power systems are made from a series of photovoltaic (PV) panels that directly convert energy in the form of light from the sun into electrical energy. Solar power can be used in all parts of Australia as long as you have a suitable site with a north-facing roof, or ground space that is not shaded during the day. Until recently, the main reason that people chose a solar system was that they lacked access to the mains power grid. In rural areas it was cheaper to install a Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) system than for connection to the grid. With a RAPS system the solar panels charge batteries, supplying the home with power when needed.

As solar has become more popular in urban areas, grid-interactive systems are becoming the norm. With a grid interactive system the energy produced by the solar panels is fed directly into the mains grid via a device called an inverter. Any electricity produced, but not needed by the house at that time, is simply fed into the mains grid. The home can also draw power from the grid when the sun is not shining. This is the simplest system, and requires little or no maintenance, other than the occasional check to ensure it is still operating, and cleaning the solar panels of excessive dirt build up.

Click to Go to Top

Size and costs

How big a system you need and how much it costs is dependent on how much energy your house consumes. Probably the most important part of system design that is often overlooked is the energy efficiency of a home. There is no point spending money on a solar system when the energy it generates is wasted. Spending a few hundred or even a couple of thousand dollars on more efficient appliances and making your home more energy efficient means you could buy a smaller solar power system. Reputable installers can help you by measuring the energy the home appliances consume that cause the most concern and anxiety.

The average home system is around 1.5 kilowatt (1500 Watts) of peak generating capacity. A 1.5 kilowatt system costs around $5000.00 after solar credits although the price depends on the options selected, such as whether the home has a suitable north-facing roof or if extra framing has to be added to the roof. Warranties on the components of solar systems range from one to 25 years, with solar panels usually guaranteed for 20 to 25 years. To help offset the upfront costs of a solar system the Federal Government introduced the Photovoltaic Rebate Programme (PVRP) and the Remote Renewable Power Generation Programme (RRPGP), both of which are administered by the state and territory governments with some state-specific variations. Contact your state environment department to see if you qualify.


In order to qualify for the solar credits, installation must be done by a renewable energy installer who is certified by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). Connection to the grid must be signed off by a suitably qualified person, often an electrical inspector. The company you choose to install your system should be able to organise the required inspections, as well as do the paperwork for the rebate.

When shopping for your system, make sure you understand what the installer is willing to do for the installation price, and what you will have to do. As with all things, careful consideration of both price and quality should be undertaken to ensure your home's best option. The initial financial investment may seem daunting at first, but with generous solar credits on installation, and the knowledge that over time your electricity bills may disappear, with the ability to export back into the grid your surplus electricity in the form of a net feed in tariff, the Australian public is increasingly investing in capturing the sun's energy.

Most people buying a solar power system will do some 'back of the envelope' calculations to work out when their big investment will one day pay off and provide free energy. Alternatively, they might ask their installer or company managing the installation, with some telling consumers the payback times can be as short as two to three years.

In reality, finding out how long a system takes to pay off is a complex equation. Location is one of the biggest variables, due to the differing levels of sunshine across this wide country. However, sunshine levels are probably more predictable than the other location- specific variable—the eight different feed-in tariffs across Australia's states and territories. Darwin residents, for instance, enjoy the highest levels of sunshine in Australia, yet have no feed in tariff to celebrate this rich resource. The 'Sunshine State' of Queensland, by comparison, currently has one of the highest feed-in tariffs available.

Then there is the question of the up front Federal Government incentive, the Solar Credits Scheme. Did you manage to access the five-times multiplier for your STCs (Small-scale Technology Certificates), or did you miss out and only receive an STC multiplier of three, thinking that it was only meant to drop to four in mid-2011 anyway? In February this year the Alternative Technology Association's Energy Policy Team crunched the numbers on just how long a standard 1.5kW grid-connect solar power system would take to pay off around the country. The study was carried out in the midst of a solar installation boom, spurred on by the Federal Government Solar Credits Scheme, where households were able to receive five times the amount of STCs that their system generates. At the time, many states had strong feed-in tariffs, with a number of these being gross, including NSW and the ACT, with 60c/kWh and 45.7c/kWh paid to solar households for all their electricity generated. With estimated payback times as low as four years in New South Wales at the time, it's little wonder solar power systems were in demand. Only six months later ATA's Solar Payback Calculator has been revised showing a significant increase in the payback time of grid-connect solar power systems in most states.

Click to Go to Top

What's happened?

Since the beginning of 2011, feed-in tariffs in SA, WA, NSW and ACT have been reduced or scrapped, with at least one other state currently considering its feed-in tariff options. Last year these governments were applauded by clean energy advocates for their progressive solar feed-in tariffs. In turn, payback times in these states have increased by up to 15 years, while the reduction in the Federal Government's Solar Credits STC multiplier from five to three means payback times in all states have increased.

In February a 1.5kW grid-connect solar power system installed in the ACT had an estimated payback time of five years based on a gross feed-in tariff of 45c/kWh and a STC multiplier of five. The scheme is now closed to new customers so the same system could take over 20 years to recoup. Similarly, in NSW the payback time has increased from around three to four years under a 60c/kWh gross feed-in tariff before the mid-year STC multiplier drop, to in excess of 20 years today with the closure of the feed-in tariff. Payback times are expected to increase to at least 11 years in SA with feed-in tariff changes in October. In WA, the net feed-in tariff of 47c/kWh reached its capacity and was closed to new applications. Electricity retailer Synergy will pay a 7c/kWh hour net feed-in tariff to WA customers under that state's Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme, yet payback times for new customers will be around 20 years.

Where's the potential? The Lucky States…

Victoria, Alice Springs and Queensland currently offer feed-in tariffs to new customers in the 25c/kWh to 66c/kWh range, with payback times around seven to eight years on a 3kW system, based on only exporting half the electricity produced to the grid. Increase that grid export to 75% and a system in Queensland might pay back in six years. The last six months show that feed in tariffs can change overnight, so get in quick. In fact, ATA's Solar Payback figures for Victoria include a second, lower feed-in tariff of 23c/kWh, which has been in place for many years now and will hopefully remain in place, despite potential changes to the premium tariff of 60c/kWh.

Price of PV

Ultimately one of the biggest factors in payback time will be the price paid for a system. While feed-in tariffs are disappearing, the retail price of a solar power system looks set to drop, says ATA Energy Policy Manager Damien Moyse. "PV prices are one of the good news stories with regards to this technology. The history of solar PV prices over 30 years has seen a halving of system price with every doubling of global installed megawatts. The current word from China, where most panels are currently manufactured, is that global silicon prices are likely to drop again in 2012, meaning that off-the-shelf prices for solar PV systems should again reduce further next year."

The STC factor

Household solar prices are also affected by the STC price paid as part of the Solar Credits Scheme. To make it easier for everyone selling and buying a small-scale renewable energy system, the Federal Government fixed the STC price at $40. Yet, the price the consumer receives is actually less than that, probably closer to mid to low $20s and unfortunately this is unlikely to increase. "The large electricity retailers, who buy the certificates direct from solar PV installation companies, use their significant purchasing power to offer these companies faster purchasing, but at a much reduced price than the $40 stipulated by government. Given the unwillingness of the Federal government to force electricity retailers to purchase only through the dedicated STC 'Clearing House', it is unlikely that consumers will see prices close to $40 per certificate any time soon," says Damien.

Does it matter?

To make a system pay off earlier, as always, it comes down to how energy efficient your home is in the first place. "Reduce your electricity consumption first, and then install a small PV system. Get your consumption down to less than 10kWh per day and then all you need is about a 1.5kW system," says Damien. Most people investing in household solar have already travelled the energy efficiency path and are switching to solar to help the environment, not for financial reasons. ATA member Stephen Whately says: "We don't need to justify the payback times of our cars or holidays, why should you justify sustainable improvements to the home?" In other words, don't dwell too long on ATA's latest solar payback modeling, the figures are likely to change, and solar households are in it for the love, not the money.

This article is reproduced with the permission of The Australian Technological Association. This article, Issue 117 by Jacinta Cleary. Solar Payback Calculator and assumptions by Damien Moyse and Dominic Eales of the ATA Energy Policy team. The solar panel buyers guide article Issue 110 was written by Lance Turner of the ATA. We wish to thank the ATA for their help and contribution and particularly Jacinta Cleary and Lance Turner for their clear and concise contribution.

Click to Go to Top