SOLAR WOES: The people who stole solar panels from this playground are not the only ones damaging the industry's reputation.
SOLAR WOES: The people who stole solar panels from this playground are not the only ones damaging the industry's reputation. Richmond Police District

Not all sweetness and light in troubled solar industry

SOLAR power customers need to be vigilant in an industry plagued by problems, according to multiple victims who have taken their cases to Gympie Magistrates Court.

Magistrate Chris Callaghan, hearing a $9200 fraud case last week, said the industry had "a lot of unhappy customers.”

The owners of Gympie Caravan Park are among those unhappy customers and it will be a long time before the dream of free power from the sun saves them any money.

They paid a now-bankrupt Gold Coast firm $67,500 for a 45kW solar power system.

Their first instalment of $45,000 was supposed to buy them a 30kW system for customers, but it did not work.

They contacted the company, which promised to fix it if they paid the second instalment, $22,500 for a 15kW system for the house and office.

But those solar panels never arrived, the court was told.

Mr Callaghan said the park owners were not alone in their troubles.

"You do see a lot of unhappy customers (in the solar power industry),” he said, "in the civil jurisdiction, in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and now we see it in criminal (jurisdiction).”

Before the court was former company director Barrie James McAuley, who pleaded guilty to dishonestly making personal use of $9200 of the park owners' money over a period about October 18, 2013.

The rest had been spent on the business, Energy Solutions Pty Ltd, of Hope Island, which had become insolvent.

Solicitor Chris Anderson, appearing for the defence said he had personal experience of the problems and a number of his clients were affected.

"He represents he had stock there. There was no stock,” Mr Callaghan said.

Mr Anderson said his client had been "robbing Peter to pay Paul and was "using new money to pay old debts.”

"But the caravan park never got the previous 30kW system or the 15kW one.

The court was told Energy Solutions ceased trading in November 2013, waited for suppliers to take it to court for bankruptcy and was declared bankrupt in 2014.

Mr Anderson said McAuley had Type 1 diabetes, had been diagnosed with angina and his marriage, with three children had failed.

Mr Callaghan told McAuley he had given a quote and falsely represented he had stock on hand.

"You spent $9200 on personal debts and some lifestyle matters such as golf and meals.

"Ultimately you didn't pay suppliers and they made you bankrupt.

"There are problems in your industry. That's apparent to the court anyway.,” he said.

He sentenced McAuley to six months jail, suspended for two years because of a "previous clear record.”

And he ordered McAuley to repay the $9200, referring the debt to the State Penalties Enforcement Register.