How long do solar panels last?

Solar panel lifespan is an important question but its answer is only gradually becoming clear.

The first point to make is that some of the first PV panels on the market are still out there, pumping electrons, after 35 years or so. That tells us we have yet to find an upper limit to their lifespan.

The second is that the output of any panel diminishes gradually over the years, so ‘how long a panel lasts’ may depend on what percentage of its original output we can tolerate losing.

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Going solar – David, ten years on

I recently received an unexpected email from David, who was good enough to write about his rooftop solar power installation for Green Path ten years ago:

As I was cleaning out our filing cabinet (yes, still have one of those!) I found all of our power bills back from when we first had solar installed. I crunched the numbers out of curiosity and found that in solar credits, we saved $7594 over the last 10+ years. This doesn’t include the offsetting of power (e.g. using the power off the roof during the day); that’s about $3000 worth. Given our 1.5 kW solar panels were only $3300 at the time, that’s not a bad return.

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Electric campervans for Australian conditions

We were tent campers on our Cooktown trip, as we usually are, but saw plenty of campervans and have happy memories of our campervan trip around Tasmania late last year. I have also been following the EV-versus-ICE (internal combustion engine) debate for some time so I was well primed to notice a Facebook post about a very advanced solar-powered Dutch campervan when it appeared in my news feed soon after we got home.

dutch campervan
The Facebook post

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Ross Dam and the Borrow Pits

We visited Ross Dam recently with members of Wildlife Queensland’s Townsville Branch for a morning of birdwatching and botanising.  We wandered along the dam wall, back to the park at its foot, and then down to the Borrow Pits nearby.

The dam was much lower than on my last visits, in March and May of last year, but the Borrow Pit made me a liar by being emptier than when I saw it in December 2013. Perhaps we had had more rain before that visit than we have had in the last few months?

Views from the dam wall

Ross Dam
Looking along the dam wall

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Put Solar On It! (2)

Solar power has been going gangbusters since my previous post under this title (2014) and an update of it is well overdue. This isn’t it, however. What I want to do here is talk about domestic solar power, and specifically its advantages here in North Queensland, via four small projects which came out of our own move from one suburban Townsville house to another two years ago.

I will go from smallest to largest.

Hall Lighting

The new house is a low-set, 1950-ish cement block home pleasantly surrounded by trees. That makes it much darker than our old high-set home, and its double-fronted layout means that the central hallway gets no direct natural light at all.

We had to choose between running lights all day, every day, and putting in a small skylight. Initial quotes for a skylight (Solatube, basic model) were around $750 with, of course zero running costs for about 10 hrs/day of adequate light, 365 days/yr. Could we do better?

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