Gladstone second-best in nation at tapping into the sun
GLADSTONE is the second-best solar city in Australia, with 26% of its residents having solar power.
Energy Matters, a solar energy company, has ranked Australia's cities and towns that give the best return on a solar system investment.
Townsville came in first, closely followed by Gladstone, Brisbane and Mackay.
Each city and town was judged on the amount of sunshine they are exposed to, local electricity rates, the cost of solar system in that region and the region's government support for solar power.
Co-founder of Energy Matters, Nick Brass, said solar power was the best investment in the long term.
"Solar technology has proven to be effective and a system will last over 25 years," he said.
The benefits of solar power were numerous, he said.
The Government is currently reviewing that system; people should be getting in and taking advantage of the subsidy.
"You can stabilise your energy bill, get some independence against energy companies and add value to your home," he said.
Mr Brass said the Government covered 25% of the installation costs.
"For example a three-kilowatt system installation costs $8000, but after the government subsidy it's only $6000," he said.
"The Government is currently reviewing that system; people should be getting in and taking advantage of the subsidy."
The Australian Energy Market Commission has recommended a tariff to be charged to solar power users.
In a report released late last year the AEMC pointed out that non-solar power users were covering the underlying costs related to solar power usage and explained that while it could offer benefits to everyone, the cost and advantages solar power brought were not reflective of the amount consumers paid.
Commission chairman John Pierce said in a statement that solar power usage would be investigated.
"Over the next few years our new priorities will extend our investigations into major issues affecting energy prices," he said.
"Some important issues raised by our stakeholders include: the appropriate allocation of network costs to consumers with solar PV."
Top 14 solar cities
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Solar power has turned roof into little gold mine
PETER Hawkins is saving a fortune on electricity bills, in fact he's making money.
After installing solar panels on his home "between one and two years ago", Mr Hawkins said he'd never go back.
"It's been fantastic, we make twice as much (electricity) as we use", he said.
"We use 12 kilowatts a day and we make 24 kilowatts to put back into the grid."
The Hawkins family makes about $200 every quarter.
The best part about it was not having to worry about electricity costs anymore, Mr Hawkins said.
"We don't have to worry whether or not the aircon or the lights are on," he said.
Initially Mr Hawkins and his wife decided to make the switch to solar power because they were frightened of not being able to afford electricity prices and because of the government subsidy on installation costs.
"Originally it was because of the big discount and I'm so pleased that we got it; we have saved so much."
He knows about "five or six people" who use solar power and with rising energy costs, he recommends people to go ahead and make the switch.
"It's well worth it, even without the discount", he explains.
"It's a great thing, the initial payment is a lot but after you've paid that off it's going to be free."
Mr Hawkins agrees with recent statistics listing Gladstone as the second best solar city.
"Yeah, it's a good place, there's heaps of sunshine and we don't have days of overcast weather," he said.
"But obviously you don't make as much money in the winter because of shorter days."
Mr Hawkins reckons his favourite part about choosing to switch to solar power was seeing his meter run backwards.
"When we first installed it, I loved going out and opening the box and watch the meter running backwards," he said.