In the not too distant future, expect to see solar panel carcases abandoned everywhere. Panels in Australia are dodgy, some broken after less than 12 months in some cases. Then one more big solar carcase to add to the dozens already: ‘World’s Largest’ Solar Panel Business Collapses
by Dr Klaus L.E. Kaiser
The solar photo-voltaic (PV) industry has another victim: Q-CELLS plant in Thalheim, Germany. As of March 1, 2015, the plant will cease production altogether and will only be selling PV panels made in Malaysia, 550 of its previous workforce of 800 will be laid off. Not that long ago, in 2007, the company had a workforce of 1700 and claimed to be the world’s largest producer of PV panels.
The Super-Greens just can’t win. Wind-power by turbine, PV panel manufacturers, ocean wave power device builders and the like have fallen off the renewable energy-cliff, one by one. What’s happening? Were they not supposed to rescue the world from Al Gore’s prophecies of doom and gloom, runaway overheating of the earth from a few parts per million of anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air? Hasn’t the ice cap in the Antarctic disappeared yet? Are there still any polar bears left in the Arctic? If so, why haven’t they drowned yet?
I’m sure you could add more questions to those above. The list of evil effects ascribed to “climate-change-causing-CO2,” and other demons is getting longer each day and it’s getting hard to keep track of them all.
You really need to step back and look at things from the right perspective in order to get to the Grand View. Not only has the earth’s climate changed continuously for about 4,000,000,000 years, just because earliest mankind arrived some 200,000 years ago and civilization of any sort perhaps 5,000 years ago, it does not mean that the earth’s climate has given up changing; far from it. Of the immense ice shields covering the northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia, not much is left.
Most of that land that was covered mile high in ice is now taiga, tundra, or boreal forest. There is no evidence whatsoever that our stone-age ancestors’ fires in some caves in the Pyrenees or elsewhere had anything to do with that. It was a natural phenomenon produced by the sun’s radiation and the earth’s movement in that interplanetary space. Therefore, there is no reason to suspect that in the future things will be any different; nature is going to keep “all options on the table,” all the time.
Just don’t be lulled into thinking that the current “climate change” will continue in the same direction as before, forever. In fact, there are many indications that the warming period of the 1970s to early 1990s has already come to an end—-perhaps rather soon and too fast. One, if not the major influence on earth’s climate are the sunspots. In rough terms, the more there are, the warmer it is on the globe. Guess what: the number of sunspots is hitting a one-hundred year low, right now; as of Feb. 18, 2015, there is just one sunspot left. Not that the event was entirely unexpected, most people familiar with the cyclical nature of sunspot abundance had predicted it for a while. However, I surmise, even some of them are a bit surprised about their rapid decline experienced currently.
The current 11-year sunspot cycle we are in (cycle 24 since the mid 1600’s), had been expected by many observers to show comparatively low activity, though presumably not quite as low as currently seen. Why is that of concern, you might ask?
Over the last few hundred years, ever since the sunspots were continuously observed and recorded in our history, there were two prolonged periods of low sunspot numbers. They coincided with temperature extremes known as the “Maunder Minimum” lasting from around 1645 to 1715 and the “Dalton Minimum” from about 1790 to 1830.
During both of these periods of low sunspot numbers, the northern hemisphere experienced well below normal temperatures. They did not just result in severe colds during the winters but also in shorter summers with crop failures and subsequent starvation by many of the (then much fewer) people in this region. Such times could reappear much faster than thought, especially with that many more mouths to feed on the globe.
If there is any hope to prevent a future starvation catastrophe at all, it must be in the form of much higher agricultural yields than available from traditional seeds and traditional farming methods. So-called organic farming, using traditional plant varieties, without any, or with only very limited fertilization with vital nutrients like phosphorus-, nitrogen, and -potassium supplements can no longer provide all the food required. That is, even if there is no sunspot cycle cataclysm. So, where are we now?
While President Obama stated in his recent State of the Union address that “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record”, apart from the fact that this claim has widely been disputed, even if it were true, you wouldn’t know it from the cold currently gripping this continent. The five Great Lakes, comprising a surface of area of 90,000 square miles are just about frozen over, for the second winter in a row. At the moment, the Lake Superior, L. Huron, and L. Erie are completely frozen over and Lakes Michigan and Ontario partially. That certainly does not happen every winter.
Perhaps some of the polar bears from the (hot) Arctic may show up here soon, just to cool off.
The solar panel recycling business will soon pick up, the materials must be worth at least something.
I guess this is a place to start. Australian panels are a ‘bust’.
Australia: Solar experts claim multi-billion dollar subsidies wasted on cheap and dodgy panels
More Australians are buying cheap rooftop solar panels that fail long before their promised lifespan, prompting claims a federal rebate scheme needs to be overhauled to prevent dodgy systems receiving public subsidies.
Solar industry experts say lax rules covering the scheme – which provides incentives of up to $4350 for a $5500 rooftop system – mean it is not always delivering the environmental benefits promised.
They blame an explosion of cheap, mainly Chinese-produced solar panels that have flooded the market over the past five years that are failing to provide the 15 years of clean power expected. Installers in four states told Fairfax Media that the worst systems stopped working within 12 months, with others “falling apart” within two or three years.
Problems reported include silicon that cannot stand up to the Australian sun, water egress in panels, fires and defective inverters. The term “landfill solar” is used in the industry to describe dodgy solar systems of uncertain origin.
A recent Choice survey found, while more than 80 per cent of solar system owners were satisfied with what they had bought, 17% of owners of Chinese-made solar systems and 11 per cent of those with a German inverter had experienced problems of some kind.
Peter Britten, technical director at Brisbane-based Supply Partners, said he logged a complaint with the Clean Energy Regulator last May alerting authorities to “blatant loopholes” in the system, but he said his complaint had been brushed aside.
Jarrod Taverna, of Adelaide Electrical Solar & Security, said Chinese manufacturers like Yinglit, ET Solar and Trina were reputable producers, but much of the production that ended up in Australia was outsourced to other factories.
“The quality has gone down in the last few years. The market is more competitive and they are cutting corners to protect profitability,” he said.
“Most of them you’re lucky to get 10 years, but some of them are falling apart after 12 months. We’re seeing a lot more faults now because Chinese-made panels are becoming more prevalent.”
The rebate system, backed by both major parties and overseen by industry body the Clean Energy Council, pays the same amount regardless of the quality of the system. A rooftop system in Melbourne attracts a $3705 rebate whether it is a low-quality “tier 3” product or a European-made “tier 1” system made to last 25 years in extreme conditions of Australia.
The rebate is higher in areas with greater sunlight, reaching $4350 per unit in Sydney and Brisbane.
Australia now has more than 1.3 million households powered by solar, making it the biggest market for small-scale systems. Since 2009, $1.6 billion has been paid out to encourage take up through what are known as “small-scale technology certificates”.
The certificates have to be purchased by electricity retailers, which pass the cost on to all consumers. Last year the solar scheme was responsible for about 2 per cent of household electricity bills.
Installers say the faults in the system include that the rebate is paid upfront and does not have to be paid back if a system only produces a few years’ power, and that there is no limit on the number of rebates a consumer can access.
They say it has encouraged some installers to offer cheap systems of questionable quality at prices that are virtually free to the buyer once the rebate is factored in.
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton played down the scale of failures and warned against blaming production faults on systems from one country.
He said the “Chinese success story” had led to prices for solar tumbling dramatically, allowing more households to invest in green energy.
“If someone is getting a subsidy there is an expectation that the benefit to the environment and society equals or outweighs that cost. There are cases of systems not running for 15 years and people have got rid of them, but from our point of view most will run for 25 years,” he said.
“There are cases that come up just like in any industry, but failure rates are low.”
Bill Yankos, from Bexley in Sydney’s south-west, bought a solar system and encouraged seven members of his family and friends to do so. Of those, inverters in five of them had failed within 18 months.
“We were lucky that the electrician replaced them but I know some people have been left with a warranty and no one to honour it,” he said.
Matt Vella, of MPV Solar in Gladesville, said: “The tier two and three guys shouldn’t be allowed into the scheme unless they have runs on the board. There should be more regulation about which systems are allowed to claim the 15-year rebate.”
Melbourne solar installer John Alberti, who installs top quality systems that cost his customers up to $12,000 and also works as a trouble-shooter assessing panels installed by others, said the industry had been “all but destroyed” by shoddy operators.
“You find corrosion, rust, they’re flimsy,” he says. “The lamination on the back of the panel has come away and water gets in. But most of the time they’re not generating the kind of wattage that was promised.”
After Mr Alberti or one of his four staff conduct an investigation on failing panels, they write a report and advise the consumer to contact the panel supplier “to see if they will stand by their performance guarantee and replace the panels. But generally, because the warranty is held offshore, what are your chances? Next to none”.
Mr Alberti suggests consumers ask suppliers for a flash test report on their panels to indicate the wattage for which a penal is rated. He said consumers also needed to establish where the warranty for a product was held. “If there warranties are held in Australia and there is a problem, you can lodge a complaint with the [consumer watchdog]… otherwise, there is nowhere to go.”