Ask G

Ask G: Solar Panels or GreenPower?

Is adding solar panels or switching to GreenPower better for the environment?

How does buying solar panels and opting for 100 per cent green electricity from an accredited supplier compare - in terms of costs to the environment.

Solar Panels

Credit: iStockphoto

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Mark Diesendorf, author of the book Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy and an expert in the field of sustainable energy, says that it's similar to asking how long a piece of string is.

Green electricity can come from a range of different sources (such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass) depending on where you live.

He makes the very important point that the hefty price of solar systems may represent money better spent elsewhere. GreenPower prices vary, but are generally a few dollars extra per week.

Staff at the Melbourne-based green store and consultancy Going Solar say that, in their experience, the average customer spend on photovoltaic systems is around the $20,000 mark.

Diesendorf suggests that homeowners could instead use some of this money to improve their house's energy efficiency, for example by excluding drafts and improving insulation.

I'd also suggest having a look at the efficiency of your lighting and, with summer coming soon, how well you windows will be shaded to keep heat out. And keep buying GreenPower, of course.

Going off the grid also requires a battery, with its own environmental cost, to store the electricity.

Solar panels are definitely on my eco-wish list, but personally, if I could I'd stay on the grid and use the cash for other technologies and lifestyle changes first.

Either way, GreenPower or solar panels, you're doing something great for the planet.