This has been a thing for some time but as the years have gone on, it’s become clearly apparent this is purely a cash grab.
So what are we talking about?
Quite a few years back, the building industry was a bit upset with the solar boom that was happening all over Tassie and felt they were missing out and they lobbied government to try and make it mandatory a builder was involved in erecting the solar panels. It nearly worked however successful counter lobbying by the solar industry nipped it in the bud. But as a by-product, the process was updated and Building Surveyors are now required to sign off on solar system installations in certain circumstances.
What are those circumstances?
If the solar panels are more than 100mm off the roof or if the array is larger than 38m2 on one load bearing surface. This then becomes notifiable works and will generally require a building surveyor to sign off and a fee paid to council. In real terms, this means more than 23 panels sharing one load bearing surface or any system on tilt legs. From an engineering view point, none of these make any sense. Dead weight loading is only 11 kg per m2 and homes should have a minimum capacity of 34kg per m2.
We know from studies and looking at rates of damage, a well installed solar system makes your house stronger not weaker. So the criteria is odd and flawed from any level of engineering scrutiny.
Now, if you were paying someone to certify your solar installation, would you expect someone to come out and inspect the structural integrity of the building?
Would you expect the system (after it was installed) to be inspected by the agent that is certifying the job to make sure the installation has been installed inline with the racking manufacturers specifications?
You might be surprised to hear none of these things happen. This is why this has been proven to be just a cash grab which can be over $1,200 in nature in some council jurisdictions and the consumer receives not one iota of value other than a tick in a box.
It’s a bizarre situation. The products we use are all engineered to meet and exceed our Wind Zone A requirements. The system is inspected by an electrical inspector who, as part of AS5033, is required to make sure the solar mounting products have been installed as per the manufacturers requirements which means the engineering aspect has been met.
Customers are paying someone who will never visit your site to sign off on it.
Then the question is if the Building Surveyors are signing off on it regardless of the flawed process that they are taking some of the liability if things go wrong?
Well you would be wrong again. When you read the fine print they take responsibility for nothing and all the liability falls back onto the supplier and installer. Which is fair enough as ultimately a correctly installed system should always remain the responsibility of the supplier and installer. But why pay Building Surveyors and Councils for absolutely nothing?
This in my opinion makes it a money-for-jam rort.
There used to be a Building Surveying company called Protek and they signed off on the majority of solar installations in the state, thousands of them and they closed their doors sometime ago so if there was some level of protection awarded to the consumer by paying these exorbitant fees where do they sit now when the issuer of the certificate is no longer trading?
It’s interesting how solar power systems are singled out for this special attention as many other things on your roof are not even looked at. Solar hot water systems with a roof mounted cylinder than can weigh the best part of a ton when full of water require no sign off or council fees. Outdoor air conditioning units can be roof mounted and also require none of this malarkey.
It always goes to show when any industry hits critical mass and becomes a part of the landscape, the amount of invisible hands who want to click the ticket for cash on the way through only increases. In this case, for offering absolutely no benefit for anyone involved in regards to services rendered. I think we would all love a job where consumers have a mandatory obligation to use us, pay us top dollar and we literally only had to put a tick in box. People trying to reduce their energy bills by exploring solar options are seen as a cash cow and I think it’s time we shone a light on this exploitative behaviour.
I’ve begun lobbying government to have this looked at and removed from the notifiable works requirements. It’s just madness that we have to do this for domestic dwellings. It might be time to talk to your local members now the election in over an done with to ask where they stand is regards to solar owners being ripped off by their local councils and this ridiculous requirements to hand over money for nothing.
DMS Energy are northern Tasmanias busiest electrical contractors specialising in renewable energy projects and everything in between.