Open Day, Sunday 16th October

Not much news here at The Off Grid Solar House, all has been ticking along nicely.

The system (and house) is four years old this month, which means we should have another 6 to 11 years in the battery bank…and makes us really old technology now.  Can’t believe it’s been that long since we moved in, seems like yesterday!

We’re open again for the Geelong Sustainable Open House Day on Sunday 16th October 2016, so if you’d like to come along for a chat it’d be great to see you and yours.

Open house…

Because we live on the border of two Council areas (Geelong and Wyndham) we get asked by both to open up for their respective sustainability events.

Which is fine, because it means we get to meet twice as many great people who are interested in off-gridding and creating more sustainable homes.

So, if you’re in Melbourne or surrounds and would like to pop by, please do so. All the details are here (this is a Wyndham event) and there’s no need to book.

The kettle will be on from 10am and, if you’re so inclined, donations of succulent cuttings for the garden are always appreciated.

Shhh for the governator…

It seems to be the week of celebrity endorsements on TOGSH, but I wanted to also share this great analogy from the former Cali governor Arnie S that he presented in Paris yesterday:

“There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?”

Love it.  Clear, understandable and a great way to shut up climate change deniers.

Wonder if can stick Abbott, Hunt, Dutton and Hockey behind door number one?

Full story at Climate Progress.

Is Tesla ‘all that’?

So, as we all know, climate talks are happening in Paris and anyone with a stake is there.


Tesla S. Cue extended wolf whistle.

Including Elon Musk.  The guy is kind of like Robert Downey Jrs character Iron Man in the Avenger series – very brainy and with lots of cool hardware.  While the details of the Powerwall and it’s emergence onto the precious Australian market are still a little sketchy, the electric vehicles he’s producing have met rave reviews, even from notorious dinosaur-loving PM Malc.

While important leaders are meeting in important places, Mr Musk headed over to the Sorbonne University to give his ideas on carbon pricing and other things to a rapt audience.  I dunno about you, but is it too late to get him to run for US presidential candidacy?  Hey, he can’t do any worse than Chump Trump.

Getting through winter

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted and, for that, I apologise.

I’ve taken on an exciting role with a new Aussie website called One Step Off The Grid which features the stories of ordinary people all over the world who are…well, going off-grid.   It’s a sister publication to Renew Economy which some of you might be familiar with.   I’ll be sharing some of those stories on this site; if you have an off-grid or good grid-connect story, let me know.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some stats from our system through June 2015, which is of course the dead of Melbourne winter.  Not as cold as some parts of the world, but still pretty chilly!

The state of charge (SOC) of our battery bank looked something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.07.28 pm

You can see that we had a run of a few cloudy days where the batteries haven’t quite floated – got to 100%.  However, despite the batteries (lead acid) being 3 years old, we’re still not dropping low enough for it to be an issue.  (If we were, we’d organise a back up generator that would charge them up.)

While we were aware of the days when we didn’t float, we didn’t really change our energy-guzzling habits – TV was on and we still reheated our warming soup in the microwave!

So…if you’ve been wondering (like many others) how we cope through winter, this should answer a few questions for you.  Of course, if there’s anything else you’d like to know, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Battery storage costs drop

Just like all technology, once you get your energy storage out of the shop and installed in your home, a younger, cheaper and better looking model comes along.

So it is with Elon Musk (where were you three year ago when I was building!) and his Telsa Powerwall.  As always, the excellent Renew Economy has the goss (a little tech heavy, but otherwise easy to follow) about how its already revolutionising the energy storage market.

We knew when we installed our $35k lead acid battery bank it would be outdated eventually and it’s kind of good (as well as kind of annoying!) to see it happen so quickly.

Read it here.

Winter is coming

(I know, I know and I’m sorry.  But couldn’t help the GoT reference…and neither can the other thousand journos writing about anything to do with our approaching cold months.)

I’m often asked what happens at our place during winter.  The answer is simple – pretty much the same as what happens during summer.

Solar panels need light, not heat.  Therefore, as long as we get some sunlight throughout the day the battery bank will float (reach 100% state of charge).  I’ve often been surprised by just how efficient the panels are at harvesting power to top up the battery bank.

What does change slightly during a Melbourne winter, is I check the weather report each day.  Here’s what popped up today.

Melbourne's weather this week

Melbourne’s weather this week

While a run of those little grey cloud symbols is slightly disconcerting, with very little power being pulled in the house during the day, the chances are there’s enough light around for the battery bank to float.

But what if there’s not?

a) the battery will have a lower state of charge (SOC), usually around 95-97% until the next sunny day.

b) we could connect a back-up generator that would float the batteries – while our system is set up to connect a gennie, we haven’t done so because we’ve never been low enough to warrant the $7k purchase cost.

I think that running out of power is a concern for people thinking about going off-grid (it was for me when we started this process a few years ago).  However, in two and a half years and coming into our third Melbourne winter, we’ve never been lower than 92% SOC.

As we enter this cloudy week, I’m planning to keep a record of SOC…watch this space!

Stand for trees

As I’m really old (turned the big 4-0 this year) I’m not a big fan of most chart music because it all just sounds like noise to me (what’s that they say about you eventually sound like your parents??)

This song is what I’ve been wishing for though, and I love it.  Called ‘Sorry’ and by Prince Ea (who seems like a very nice young man) it promotes an organisation called Stand for Trees which I’m not familiar with, but will endeavour to be.  Thought this might be a nice way to celebrate Earth Day as well.

I can’t seem to embed the video, so here’s a link to his Facebook page so you can watch it too.

Now, where did I put my blanket, slippers and mug of cocoa.

The Tindo bus

So, it appears that Adelaide is leading the way with solar powered public transport.  I’ll never make jokes about it being sleepy hollow again.

The Tindo bus is the world’s first solar powered 45-seater, getting it’s charge from panels on the roof of the Adelaide bus depot.  With a range of 200 kilometres, it also carries a small ‘fast-charge’ unit in case it’s running out of juice while taking the tourists to Glenelg.

Now that the South Australian’s have achieved carbon neutral public transport, when do we start seeing them on the road here in Melbourne?