Solar power trial in WA

Residents in WA are likely to have felt the sting of the state's electricity prices, which have been rising steadily since 2009. Before that year, residential electricity prices had not increased since 1997-98, so recent years have taken their toll on some residents.

This year on July 1, there was a 4 per cent increase in electricity prices for households and small businesses in WA - the 'carbon component' of their bill. As well as this, there were increases to the carbon component of bills for other business tariffs.

It would come as no surprise that some residents and small businesses of WA would be struggling with these price increases.

In light of this, it's likely to be heartening news to many that 400 public housing tenants in the state are set to benefit from the installation of solar panels.

The state government's Department of Housing is running a $1 million pilot program, whereby one kilowatt solar photovoltaic systems, also known as solar panels, are being installed on the roofs of public housing properties. Because of this, tenants will be able to save up to $350 a year, and their energy consumption will be tracked and analysed by the Public Utilities Office.  Any extra power generated will be fed back into the WA grid to help power other homes.

"All tenants involved in the program will sign up to the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme, but as the systems are relatively small it’s unlikely large quantities of excess power will be exported back into the grid," said Steve Parry, general manager service delivery.

The properties taking part in the trial were randomly selected, but are noted to represent a wider view of metropolitan public housing. All of them have three or more bedrooms and tenants with fairly high energy usage - including about 60 properties home to people with disabilities. These people often use more power as they rely on specialised equipment, which uses up more electricity.

"Power prices have risen noticeably over the last three years, while panel prices have reduced dramatically, so the timing is right," said Mr Parry, who also said that tenants will see benefits almost as soon as the panels go on their roofs.

If this pilot program succeeds, it may be widened to include more homes in metropolitan and regional areas so that more households can benefit from solar technology and the savings it can bring.

Posted by Charlie Moore