My name is Emma Sutcliffe, I’m a freelance journalist, marketing and communications consultant. The most recent string to my bow is as a Climate Leader with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Please connect with me on LinkedIn.
I live with my family (husband and two teenagers) in an off-grid house in Little River, near Melbourne, Australia. Considered by those in northern Australia as a wet, windy and generally wintery kind of place, Melbourne is a buzzing city with well known sports, arts, cultural and foodie events. Markets are big part of life in Melbourne, as are green open spaces, AFL football, middle lane drivers and The Age newspaper. And despite what a Queenslander tells you, it gets pretty hot down here too. Thankfully.
We’re lucky enough to live on a few acres. Head left on the freeway from Little River and you get to Melbourne’s CBD in 40 minutes; head right and you’ll end up in Geelong, home of the pink mohawked mayor and awesome beaches, in 30. Perfect place, really.
Our off-grid goodness came about when we started planning the build of our house in 2011. A call to the energy infrastructure provider uncovered the information that to install a power pole, put cables across the road, dig a 400m trench with cabling and conduit would be in the region of $40k. Plus years of power bills. Gulp.
So, we merrily set off to find an alternative. Back then, even only a couple of years ago (which shows you how fast the renewables revolution is moving!), it was nigh on impossible to find someone who could sort us out with an off-grid system. One company had it’s headquarters in a fly-by-night looking office and didn’t really have the answers. The other had a ‘can’t be bothered attitude’.
It was a random conversation my parents had with their plumber that led us to a couple of renewable energy enthusiasts, John & Phil. Their showroom was John’s mudbrick home on 10 acres, where we joined his family for lunch before crawling under the house to inspect the battery bank that was their energy storage. Decisions were made, forms were completed and roughly 18 months later we were the proud owners of an off-grid solar system that works a treat.
A little while ago I watched with fascination as Dick Smith, Australian entrepreneur and seller of all things electronic geek, tried to imagine a future where fuel was Ten Bucks A Litre. He explored solar vehicles, bio-fuels and all sorts of other interesting things. He also talked about off-grid solar living and described it as ‘not viable’ due to the number of PV panels needed and the cost and size of the battery storage bank.
Well, we’re living proof it can be done…and this blog is designed to answer the questions we had when we were looking into going off grid…and for anyone interested in the renewables revolution.
Feel free to ask questions, look around and otherwise stickybeak…