There have been unconfirmed reports that electrical transformers have been damaged by solar power in Australia. And when I say unconfirmed, I mean really unconfirmed. As in, no one who’s mentioned it to me has been able to back it up with any evidence at all, not even a link to a newspaper article. This strikes me as odd because the people who have mentioned it to me (e.g. commenters on this site) seem really concerned about it, as if it was some sort of major problem, and important enough for them to bring it up out of context in online discussions.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by people saying things that aren’t based on evidence. I’ve noticed it happening a fair bit at the Australian end of the internet. I’m afraid the Australian internet just isn’t as refined or sophisticated as I’m sure the rest of it is. We seem to lack the dry wit and formal politeness I’m sure the UK internet has or the generous, warm-hearted friendliness I’m confident characterises the American part of the internet.
If you’re wondering just what is the Australian portion of the internet, it’s the part that smells like kangaroos. If you’re wondering what kangaroos smell like, I’ve been told by British people that they smell like curry, but I haven’t noticed this myself. I have had plenty of curries that have smelled like kangaroo, but I’ve always assumed that was because the chef was being flexible with the definition of the word “beef.”
I don’t claim to be any sort of genius when it comes to using this newfangled internet thing, but I’ve looked and looked and, while I can find news articles about things such as power station transformers catching on fire, I can’t find anything about a transformer being damaged by solar power in Australia, or indeed anywhere else. Now, this doesn’t mean it has never happened, but it does mean it is obviously not a big problem. Things that are big problems have a tendency to turn up in newspapers. That’s how they make their money. In fact, due to the motivation money provides, newspapers have a tendency to turn things that are teeny weeny little problems into very big problems. But despite this, I still found nothing on solar power damaging transformers.
And just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s impossible for some sort of botched solar power installation to damage a transformer. For all I know, it could happen. All I’m saying is it couldn’t be easy. It would require levels of incompetence that would impress even me. After all, our local power infrastructure doesn’t consist of twisty ties suspended from poles. It’s robust enough to handle things such as locals building their own homemade arc welders out of old microwave ovens.
So, I couldn’t for the life of me work out why people kept bringing up stories about solar power damaging transformers when it was obviously such a nonproblem. But then it occurred to me that maybe these people didn’t want to point out a real problem in order to motivate people to fix it. Maybe they actually had the ulterior motive of trying to make solar power look bad. Maybe it was all some sort of con job, or a deception, or a deceptive con!
I immediately went out and informed my local transformer of my suspicions, but he had to think about the situation and so didn’t make any comment. Nor did he roll out or change form into any sort of vehicle.
More recently, instead of complaining about solar power damaging transformers, deceptive con artists have been saying rooftop solar can damage appliances by raising voltage levels. When I asked these people to provide evidence of this, all they’ve been able to show me so far is a single newspaper article that merely mentions it as a possibility but makes no mention of any appliance actually being damaged. This lack of evidence doesn’t surprise me as I happen to know that in reality this simply does not occur, as solar inverters are designed to automatically cut out if the voltage rises too high.
So, my advice is to simply not believe people who lie by making mountains out of molehills, or who lie through negligence by repeating something that sounds good to them without considering if it has any foundation in reality, or who straight out lie because they either like to fight for what they think is their side or are just plain nuts. Now I’ll sit back and see if some nut can manage to produce evidence of a transformer somewhere in Australia being damaged by solar power at some point in time and see how much internet froth comes out of their mouth as they try to insist it’s some sort of massive problem.
But the up side of all this is I have obtained a deeper appreciation for my local transformer and all the good work he does for me. And I strongly recommend getting to know your own local transformer better. They are very thoughtful and always think long and hard before speaking. They answer any question you ask with a prolonged, “Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…” Just remember to respect their personal space and keep a safe distance. And most importantly, above all else, resist the temptation to give one a hug.
Ronald Brakels lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Now that his secret identity has been revealed he is free to admit he first became interested in renewable energy after environmental mismanagement destroyed his home planet of Krypton. He is keenly interested in solar energy and at completely random intervals will start talking to himself about, "The vast power of earth's yellow sun."