100% Solar and Battery installation inspections are a must!

More and more articles are appearing on TV and in newspapers about shoddy solar systems.
Although I’m disappointed, I’m not surprised.
Too many people buy on price, unsurprisingly they get exactly what they pay for.
Here’s a letter I sent to all the state energy ministers earlier this week:

Dear Minister,

Last week I held training seminars in Brisbane, Tweed, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth attended by a number of solar installers.
After the completion of training we discussed issues confronting our industry in 2019.

None of us are happy with the standard of installations.
We don’t believe we need more regulation and guidelines, only that the existing regulations are enforced.

In most States, there is no or very little inspection of electrical work.
Around 1% of solar installations are inspected by the Clean Energy Regulator. These inspections have revealed a high level of non-compliance with regulations and guidelines.

The consensus of the training groups was that 100% inspection of all solar and battery installations should be mandatory.
Feedback from Tasmania is that their model has been successful in raising the standard of installations and ‘cleaning out the shonks’.
The Tasmanian model has Techsafe subcontracting to the Department of Justice to carry out 100% inspections.
We would prefer inspections to be carried out by inspectors directly employed by the Electrical Safety Office in each state.
We recognise that this could be a costly exercise and agree that a $250 fee per inspection is reasonable.

There are no barriers to entry in this industry.
Anyone can set up a Facebook page or a webpage, advertise and sell solar systems.
Most of these sales companies have no license to trade as an electrical contractor. Most of them do not display their license on advertising because they don’t have one.
Typically these sales companies sell cheap, shoddy systems with a high failure rate. When the warranty pressure becomes overwhelming they disappear or phoenix to continue under a new name.
We ask that the regulations around unlicensed electrical contracting be strictly enforced.

We agree with the need for an industry code of conduct.
However the consensus view is that a voluntary code of conduct will only be observed by reputable installers who are probably already observing at least the spirit of the proposed codes. The proposed COAG Behind The Meter code is voluntary. There is no obligation for a sales company or installer to sign up.
Observing the BTM code will add operating costs giving the less reputable companies not observing the code a price advantage.
Most reputable installers are members of either NECA, MEA or the Smart Energy Council and have therefore signed up to their codes of conduct.

The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Retailer Scheme is seen as a money grab. Accredited designers and installers already agree to a CEC code of conduct, which is unenforced. We’re sceptical that the CEC has the ability to improve retailer behaviour considering their failure to maintain the installation quality standards of the industry over the past ten or more years. The inclusion of sales companies with history of substandard work and poor ethics calls the integrity of the ARS into question. Subsidised battery installations are already being subcontracted to questionable companies.
CEC’s successful lobbying of state governments to restrict access to tenders and subsidy schemes to ARS’ is seen as anticompetitive, particularly as NECA, MEA and SEC have similar codes of conduct.
We ask that you revisit the decision to restrict access to government tenders and subsidy schemes to CEC Approved Retailers.

From our perspective it appears that the state regulators assumed the CEC had control of the industry and derogated responsibility to the CEC.
The oversight of the industry by the Clean Energy Council has allowed a plethora of unlicensed sales companies to install poor quality, dangerous solar systems. These sales companies use poorly trained, underpaid subcontractors who, in turn use utterly unqualified staff to carry out electrical work.
The CEC has allowed both the solar and battery accreditation courses to be reduced to three day tick and flick, everyone wins a prize events.
Installation of solar panels usually includes running up to 1000 volts DC circuits, capable of creating unquenchable arcs. Batteries store large amounts of energy in chemical form which can be rapidly released (ie explode) in fault conditions.
Unlicensed sales companies sell these systems and poorly trained, skilled and paid workers install them. Very few of these systems are inspected. We already see large numbers of fires caused by poorly installed and designed solar systems. There is no reason to think battery failures will be any less prevalent. Unfortunately battery failures will involve explosions and toxic chemical fires.

Responsibility for electrical safety enforcement is held by state governments.
Subsidies for battery systems expose state governments to reputational damage if and when problems start.

In the interests of consumer safety and the reputation of the renewable industry, we request as a matter of urgency that enforcement of existing electrical rules and regulations by state inspectors be applied.

Yours faithfully
John Inglis
21 January 2019

I have also started a petition on Change.org. If you agree that electrical safety should be enforced, please sign the petition.

Dangerous Solar Systems

‘Blood on your hands’: Energy Minister’s solar panel warning


This article shows the importance of state regulators and the need for inspections of electrical work.
It shows that solar and battery installations (at least) need to have 100% inspections. This has worked well in Tassie, has cleaned out the ‘3 x 5kW in a day roof monkeys’ and levelled the playing field so that reputable installers can charge a sustainable price for a proper job. Unfortunately the state regulators were under the impression that the CEC/CER regime had the solar industry sorted. They clearly haven’t.
Removal of STCs (or at least a move to metered STCs) will encourage proper design.
Mandatory inspections will ensure proper installation.

John Howard set up the Business Council for Sustainable Energy which morphed into the Clean Energy Council.
Voting rights are set up so that 20 corporate sponsors, including Adani and other foreign owned fossil fuel companies, can outvote all the other members.
5000 solar installers have no vote at all.
The CEC set themselves up as industry regulators, writing ‘installation guidelines’, accrediting installers and removing accreditation when guidelines are breached.
When they’re held to account for the plethora of cheap , broken landfill solar systems they claim they’re not regulators at all and it’s all someone else’s fault, namely the state inspection bodies.
The state inspection bodies were also victims of neoliberalism, for example Joh sacked all electrical inspectors in 1989. Other states followed.
State regulators thought the CEC were looking after solar standards, but in fact they were not – they just made noises as if they were.
Solar installers have been trying to get the CEC or state regulators to do something about poor quality, dangerous systems for years. State regulators refer us to the CEC and the CEC refuse to listen to our complaints because ‘they’re likely to be motivated by competitor rivalry’.
Left with nothing else solar installers started a FB page ‘Crap Solar,’ which has over 5000 members. A page called ‘CEC Installers working together’ was started so we could talk about our concerns. It was quickly changed to ‘Solarcutters working together’ because nobody wanted the CEC in the name. It has nearly 2000 members, which illustrates the contempt the CEC is held in.
The discovery by Angus Taylor this week that a large proportion of solar installations are dangerous came as no surprise to us in the industry. None of this would have happened if the state regulators were allowed to regulate and enforce the rules. Responsible industry members have been calling for 100% inspection of all solar and battery installations by state inspectors for some years now..
The CEC has gone into denial. The CEC response is to ramp up their ‘Approved Retailer Scheme’ which, apart from requiring an annual payment of up to $6000 pa to the CEC for a shiny badge does very little in terms of quality assurance.
The state of the industry makes you wonder whether the CEC are truly incompetent or whether they’re doing exactly what they’re paid to do by their fossil fuelled owners.

If you’re looking for a new, safe solar system contact Positronic Solar – we’ve been doing solar and batteries for 30 years.
If you have concerns about your existing system, contact us for an inspection and clean – it’s about $300 for a 5kW system, plus any repairs or replacements that are needed.
Most importantly, ensure that any installation or maintenance of your solar system is done by a reputable company using gear backed by solid manufacturers with real warranties.

If your solar system needs servicing, call Positronic Solar

This photo illustrates a couple of reasons why you should contact Positronic Solar for solar panel servicing.

The most obvious fail here is getting panels cleaned by a panel cleaning company. They’re almost invariably clueless about the damage done by walking on panels.
They have no expertise in solar at all therefore they’re not going to pick up any problems that your system might have.

This 100kW array is now officially stuffed. It will develop cracks in the wafers reducing its output and eventually causing a fire.

The array design doesn’t help either because no provision has been made for maintenance or making it idiot proof.

If you look at our photos of Estilo on Kittyhawk you’ll see a decent gap between rows and the panels are on a tilt, meaning you’d really have to try hard to walk on them.

If your system needs a clean, call Positronic on 3103 6018. We’ll not only clean them, we’ll go over all the connections, switches etc and advise on any repair work that may be required.

We won’t stand on your panels.

Positronic Solar awards at All Energy

Last week the Clean Energy Council held their annual All Energy conference.
More importantly, Solarcutters held their first gathering.
Positronic picked up a couple of awards for our work with Enphase.
We received the Solarcutter’s Chosen Enphase Award for our Estilo 90kW installation. This award is particularly treasured as it is chosen by our fellow installers around the country. Thank you to our colleagues.
We also received the Tech Wiz award from Enphase for our error free installation record in the past 12 months.