Brendan Waldron, senior project manager at Melbourne-based Next Generation Electrical, talks about how very, very far the industry has come in only 10 years.
How long have you been in solar?
I’ve got to wind the clock back now, mate. I think it was about 2010. I started as a contractor.
What have you seen change over the past 10 years?
The major thing has been the quality. The standard has definitely lifted now and they’ve weeded out a lot of the cowboys. And the products out there now are a great improvement. It’s really evolving.
Do you ever go back and look at old residential systems and shake your head?
Absolutely. For me, when I look at a lot of those systems, I think a lot of the issues were that the industry moved too fast without really educating installers at that time. You do go back to systems and think, how was it ever done like this? There was such a big push. It was just about slapping it on the roof and let’s get it done. Stricter guidelines have made the industry clean up a lot.
Have some customers heard bad stories about solar and are hard to convert?
They are beginning to understand the industry has cleaned up a lot. They expect a quality install, especially with the Clean Energy Council bringing out the authorised retailers list. It’s leaving out these sales-based companies and leaving it more to the little guy now. Your smaller contractors are going to care a lot more than a sales-based company. A little guy will have a relationship with that client a lot longer and want to maintain that system. I don’t think people are as wary of solar as they used to be.
Are these big sales companies still an issue?
While there are rebates I think these companies will always be around.
Do you think the Victorian decision to increase rebates might have been an opportunity to scrap rebates totally?
In my opinion if they did scrap the rebate it would probably bring it down to a level playing field where it would be open to all installers and the quality of residential systems would go to another level again. It would weed out these sales-based companies.
You’re in the big league now at Next Generation Electrical. What size systems are you doing?
It ranges from 50kW commercial systems to 60MW solar farms. We’re doing some pretty serious stuff. You’ve got to have pretty high expectations as a company to even get these jobs, which we do.
Have you used bifacial modules yet?
I used bifacial on a shopping centre, on a section of the roof where they painted the roof reflective white. It seems to be going well. When the sun hits the roof you get the back gain off the panel, so if you’ve got a 360-watt panel it becomes nearly a 420-watt panel.
Are you installing much storage?
I’ve done a little bit, mainly hybrid systems with Tesla batteries. We don’t get that many inquiries on the commercial side of things, but I still get calls from previous [residential] clients I’ve had about wanting to delve into the battery market. That will be the next wave of solar that will really take off, when [batteries are] at an affordable price.