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Solar System Audits Results

Is the Australian Government doing enough grid connected solar panel system Audits?

Is the Australian Government doing enough grid connected solar panel system Audits?

There have been a few solar system audits conducted by Australian government bodies with the results published for the public to see, but not enough.

June 2011, NSW Fair Trading–‘Task force Eclipse’ undertook an audit of grid-connected solar panel systems installed in homes from suburbs of Sydney’s north west; including Baulkham Hills, Blacktown and Kellyville. A total of 658 homes had their solar panel systems inspected during a two week period. These suburbs were selected due to the high number of grid connected solar panel system installations plus the number of enquiries and complaints Fair Trading received, related to solar panel installations.

These were the results

  • 122 (18.5%) were found to have major defects in relation to electricity safety,
  • 418 (63.5%) were found to have minor defects in relation to electricity safety, and
  • 118 (18%) were found to have no defects in relation to electricity safety

The 122 solar panel systems that were found, during the audit to have a major defect, were isolated and shut down. with householders immediately informed if they were present, or as soon as contact was possible after the inspection. Fair Trading then contacted every solar panel installer or electrician responsible for the installation of the solar panels that were found to have major defects and ordered that they rectify the defects within 48 hours.

Major defects related to incorrect wiring of the DC breaker. Other major defects included installing the DC breaker switch incorrectly so that water could enter the breaker box which may cause it too fail, or wiring the switchboard incorrectly so that it is conducts electricity, causing possible electrocution.

Minor defects related to cabling, marking and signage; which may seem trivial, but certainly isn’t. Cables need to be installed so they are protected against accidental contact by people, as well as against wear and tear through abrasion by other surfaces, or because of exposure to the weather. The cabling from solar arrays needs to be clearly marked so that it is clear that they carry a DC current and so they are not confused with other household wiring.
All switches, inverters and fuse boxes need to be marked to identify them that solar power is installed as well as mains electricity and so that licensed electricians, emergency service workers such as Fire brigade personnel know how to safely handle on or shut down the solar system if required.

Consumer and Business Affairs in South Australia has had 40 complaints alone from Unleash Solar; an Adelaide solar energy company, now in voluntary administration. After inspection of the solar panel installations, found customer complaints of poor workmanship and faulty products were valid.

It is obvious from these two examples that more government audits into the installation of solar panels to the public grid need to be done and stiffer penalties need to be handed out to reduce the sub-standard work some solar energy companies and their installers are performing.

Josh Story; owner of Trades Check, recently wrote two articles on solar panels, one on cheap solar panels, explaining that solar panels were cheap for a reason and the other article on solar panel deals Adelaide, illustrating that the best solar panel deals found from solar energy companies in Adelaide were not always the cheapest.
I spoke with Josh who said:

It is so important to make sure the solar panel installers are licensed and solar energy companies are accredited with the Clean Energy Council, using accredited products that meet Australian Standards.
I also recommend that people become far more knowledgeable about the solar company and the products they use before choosing one to do the installation, get at least 3 quotes, remembering cheap is often cheap for a reason.

When I hear these figures, I am reminded of the government insulation scheme and the number of homes that poor workmanship contributed to fire and death as a result.

The government in each state of Australia should increase the number of solar panel audits done and quickly publicise the results so consumers can be wary of solar energy companies and installers who are not up to scratch.

The reputable players in the solar energy market would also benefit; and after all isn’t that the way it should be?

About Nigel Brookson

Website Designer, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur. Environmentalist. Follow me on
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What people have said:

  1. It’s very important that solar power systems are connected correctly. Many licensed electrcicians I have spoken to are dumbfounded that some solar companies can have the same person connect 3 or more homes a day to the grid. This means only one thing, cutting corners!
    I say bring on more audits and keep the industry and most importantly, families, safe!

    • You have raised a good point Josh. I have heard that some solar energy companies are using unlicensed installers to do the actual work, while a licensed solar energy installer signs off on the paperwork.

    • Today I contacted the office of the Hon Tom Koutsantonis, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy in South Australia to find out if any audits had been conducted by the South Australian Government and if so What were the results. I will post the results as I get them.

  2. With Unleash Solar in Administration, I wonder what will happen to the many people who just used them because they were cheap, now finding themselves having to pay for repairs not covered by any warranty?

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