Homewares with your solar?

This is exciting.  Famous for being the store that you enter to just pick up a tea towel, but leave with a trolley loaded with photographic prints, pot plants, curtains, bedspread and a weirdly shaped watering can (well, I do anyway) is aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2020.

ikea-solar-panelYep, those Swedish flatpack design geniuses aren’t just great at wringing space out of a shoebox-sized flat, Ikea is also putting it’s money where it’s mouth is.  How much is anyone’s guess, but I’d say it’s a motza.

It recently announced it would install 3.9MW of rooftop solar across it’s east coast Australian stores.  Yes, that’s MEGAWATTS.

The news is quite a big deal for Australia’s commercial solar sector, which has so far failed to thrive, stifled by a federal and state policy dog’s breakfast that has created unnecessary complexity and distorted the market.”  Read the full article here.

The work is being done by Kingspan Energy, originally an Irish company founded in the 1960’s which now provides renewable energy to some of the worlds major companies.  Kudos to them.

All I can say is I hope Abbott & Hockey are paying attention next time they nip in to their local store for meatballs with chips, fray and cranberry sauce.

Update – IKEA are also planning to sell solar panels from their UK stores.  That’s going to make that trolley load even bigger…

Welcome Sunday Age readers…

…yes, you’re in the right place!

Thanks for coming through to have a look at The Off Grid Solar House.  This is a fairly new blog and I’m interesting in finding out what you’d like to know.  So please leave a comment below and I’ll look into your story ideas.

But….if you haven’t read the piece, you can do so here.

Please also connect with me on Facebook here or Twitter here.

The hybrid alternative

Due to a combination of factors (mainly that I broke down last Friday because I had ignored the last car service and fan belts don’t like not being tightened and tend to pop off while doing 70 kph down Sneydes Road in Point Cook meaning you then get towed by a nice bloke – who is only 26 but wants to spend the rest of his life driving trucks and good luck to him knowing what his calling is at such a young age – to the nearest service centre where they’re waiting on a part so would you like a courtesy car, why yes can I have the rather lovely electric/petrol demo on the forecourt please?) I got to drive a hybrid car this week.

It looks like this.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now, I can’t give you the low down on how well our off-grid solar system would be able to charge the lithium-ion 330v, 12kWh battery because we don’t have the correct plug for it in the garage.  But, at the risk of sounding like a bad Jeremy Clarkson, I can tell you it runs like a dream.

Starting the engine is very strange, mostly because it automatically uses the battery and therefore is completely silent.  A couple of times, when stopped at the traffic lights, I got a bit nervous at the lack of engine rumble and wondered if it would actually move off at the green.

It’s not until you put your foot down that you hear a roar…albeit a dull one.  The engine automatically tick-tacks between battery and petrol depending on what you need; when in petrol mode, you can choose the “charge” option so the battery is being charged while you’re driving.

I have to admit the battery did seem to drain fairly quickly, but I did do around 90 kilometres between Point Cook (dropping the kid off at jujitsu) and Little River (dropping the groceries home then picking up kid’s forgotten jujitsu belt) then back to Point Cook (delivering kid’s jujitsu belt to him) then back to Little River (to make dinner).  Plus a spin around the block with the husband who wanted to try it out too.

If you wanted to charge the battery (it uses 87kW at 4500 rpm) it would take 5 hours of connection to an electrical socket and cost (on-grid) around 30c according to the sales guy.

At around $50k it’s not a purchase we can make in the short term, but is food for thought.  Anyone else got one, and do you like it?

Winter sun

Although we were a little power-hungry last night (TV, microwave, four laptops charging, two loads of washing and the fireplace fan going full blast) the watery wintery Melbourne sun has keep the off-grid system batteries pretty happy.  Long may it continue.

By 11am this morning, this was the view from our block.

photo (4)

About half an hour later this was the battery reading…up from 95.6% when we woke up at 8.30am.

photo (5)

Of course, this means I’ve got no excuses for not tackling the washing / ironing / writing / cooking.  Groan!

Solar friendly ‘burbs

Was delighted to find this (via everyone’s friend Facebook) today.  Both Hoppers Crossing and Werribee are in the top 5 solar friendly suburbs in Australia.

So, take that everyone who’s ever sneeringly referred to these areas as the ‘poo farm’.  Stick that in your pipe those who dismiss us as a bunch of bogans.  Very proud to be among the greatest users of solar in the nation!


The third industrial revolution

It’s no secret renewable energy is taking over the world…and as invested as I am in this area, I learn something new and exciting almost every day; such as the fact computer giant Apple has built the largest privately held solar park in the world and are planning a new carbon neutral, solar powered headquarters in Silicon Valley that will provide all their massive data storage energy needs and ongoing power for 13,000 employees.  Oh, and they’ve also patented a solar powered laptop…I look forward to working out in the Melbourne sunshine!

However, we here in Australia are at risk of being left behind and are losing our energy ‘brains trust’ businesspeople to the US where renewables talent is valued.  Why?  Well, you’re better off watching the excellent Four Corners story here.


Small town, big idea

A long time ago, I went to university in a South Australian town called Whyalla.  Penned against the coast by a great expanse of desert, Whyalla is a mining town with hard men, tough women and pubs that play both kinds of music…AC/DC and The Angels.

Down the road is Port Augusta.  Now, we considered Port Augusta pretty cool because they had a McDonalds…when we were really bored (which was a lot) we used to all chip in for the petrol money & take a drive over there for fries & fake-chicken nuggets.  Ah, the days before everyone had a screen and wifi.

In Port Augusta there are two coal fired power plants that were nearing the end of their use and the owner, energy giant Alinta, were chucking around the idea of replacing them like-for-like.  It was a renewable energy alliance formed by people from the town and various environmental, health and local government agencies that convinced Alinta that a solar thermal plant with storage was an economically viable alternative.

What this graphic doesn’t show is the stats – the construction and ongoing maintenance of a solar thermal plant will create over three times the jobs of a coal or gas plant, and 110 more ongoing jobs than the dirty alternatives.  However, it must be noted that 200 jobs will be lost at the Leigh Creek Coal Mine down the road, but that’s outweighed by the 225 manufacturing jobs that will be created with a solar thermal plant.  Exactly the same amount of power will be produced – 4650 GWh – but, of course, with close to zero emissions.

Why is this idea so exciting? Because it would be the first of it’s kind in Australia and all eyes will be on it to set the pace for the future of energy supply in our beautiful (and extremely sunny) continent.

So, well done Port Augusta…the absolute definition of a cool town.

You can read more about it here.



…so, there are a number of reasons I started this blog.  The main one being the number of people who a) told us it wasn’t possible b) dismissed us as idiotic and c) STILL don’t believe living off-grid is a viable option without subjecting our kids to a second-class life of limited power.

Well a) it is b) yeah, maybe sometimes and c) the kids are fine so quit ya flapping.

I’ll be sharing our experiences about living off grid in coming posts, stories about the solar sector in general and answering any questions you might have about it all.

Thanks for visiting 🙂