ANDREW Turbill uses the blazing sunshine, being blamed for turning Coffs Coast citizens into wrinkled, melanoma-prone prunes, to power his whole household.

"What blows me away the most is when we have a scorching 40-degree hot day and that sun is freezing the ice in my freezer for our cool drinks," Mr Turbill said.

"Having solar turns power conservation on its head ? on a nice hot day you need to think about ways of using that power ? my next tool is going to be an electric chain saw so I can use the power to chop firewood for the winter."

The Thora resident and his family have a stand-alone photo-voltaic solar power system, which they installed with the help of a Federal Government subsidy, which is now being withdrawn.

From January 1, the Australian Greenhouse Office, which offers rebates on the installation of photo-voltaic panels, slashed rebates to community organisations and schools. Financial incentives for residential and commercial solar installations will be phased out by the middle of next year, sparking fears Australia's small solar industry will stagnate, even though the country is one of the world's sunniest spots.

Mr Turbill said he had heard recently that the sun beamed on Australia one kilowatt of energy per square metre every day that the sun shone, enough renewable energy to power a three-bar radiator.

He said the most efficient way for less isolated households to encourage renewable energy use was to buy 'green power' from Country Energy to encourage the energy supply company to invest in more renewable energy schemes.

Lief Nielsen Lemke is one of a group of investors putting money into the Sustainable Earth Project, a pilot scheme which applied last year for a subsidy to fully power a Bellingen commercial building with solar power, a project he said would cost about $42,000. He is hoping the cost can be recovered over 20 years by the sale of surplus power from the rooftop panels, which will be fed back to the energy grid.

Mr Nielsen Lemke said the project would also promote the use of solar power to the public.

Commentators said this week the low price of coal-fired power, which was effectively government-subsidised and did not take environmental and other costs into consideration, meant that grid- connected solar systems would take decades to recover costs.

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