A NUMBER of complaints about rusted roofscrews on solar panel units around Gladstone prompted an email from installer Solar Farmers to about 1000 of its customers recently.
The email, sent September 22, invited customers to spend up to $599 to repair screws the Brisbane-based solar company claimed had been corroded by "hostile corrosive atmospheric conditions" only seen in Gladstone.
But Queensland Alumina Limited, who organised a bulk deal for its employees through Solar Farmers as an emissions offset along with BSL and Yarwun, has referred the email and the issue now to the Office of Fair Trading.
A QAL spokesperson said the company "does not agree with the representations environmental factors are the cause".
And in an email to its staff sent on September 30, QAL advised affected employees to seek "appropriate advice".
"Given the scale of this issue we suggest any employees impacted consult with the Office of Fair Trading and seek appropriate advice and support in their capacity as consumers," the email read.
Solar Farmers are standing by their explanation of the rusted roofscrews. We understand manager Craig Balmanno has also contacted the fair trading office and provided documentation that proves the materials used did meet Australian standards.
He told us suppliers have also assured him the screws were not faulty.
"The entire system is manufactured to Australian standards and comes as a kit when we buy it. The kits were not modified in any way," he said.
Mechanical engineer Jeff Dyer --- and also a Solar Farmers customer --- removed one of the screws from his roof last week. He says he is confident it's a stainless steel washer that has caused the reaction that left the screwhead rusty; not cyclone Marcia or Gladstone's air pollution, as Solar Farmers suggests.
Mr Dyer said the washer wasn't magnetic, looked like stainless steel and hadn't rusted which he would expect when stainless steel was in contact with galvanised steel.
"When you put the two dissimiliar metals together, such as galvanised steel and stainless steel, it causes electrolysis between the two metals and creates a high chance of of a reaction," Mr Dyer said.
He has written to the Solar Farmers and said he shouldn't have to pay to replace the screws.
We sent some of the roofscrews to Brisbane for testing; we are still waiting to receive those results back.