TOGSH Open Day

Apologies for radio silence, it’s been a (very) extended break over the Christmas period.  Now back to it…

What better way than to throw the doors open and welcome viewers as part of Wyndham Council’s Green Living Series?  If you’re in the area, pop down between 10am and 2pm on Sunday 15th February if you’re interested in having a look-see.

Of course it’s free to come along (donations of succulents for the garden always welcome!) buy you do have to register through the good people at council here.

See you then!

Four seasons in one day

Stormy sky against a sunny paddock

Stormy sky against a sunny paddock

I remember when I was a child growing up in England, my parents took us to Butlin’s Holiday Camp (do they still have those?) and my sister entering the fancy dress competition; dressed in her cossie, a pair of gumboots, a sun hat and carrying an umbrella, she took first prize as “English Summer Time”.

And so it is in Melbourne.  The weather here can be kind of unpredictable.  Just yesterday, my daughter and I slathered on suncream to go and pot some tree seedlings and today we woke to sounds of thunder and flashes of lightning over the You Yangs.  (I deserve extra points this week for getting out of bed even though it’s Monday and the sound of rain on a tin roof is the best staying-in-bed noise known to humankind.)

For the first time in months, today was the first day when the solar system didn’t float (hit 100% state of charge in the battery bank).  The lowest we got was to 97.1%, which wasn’t bad considering I was working from home, charging both the laptop and phone, had the TV going non-stop, did two loads of washing and cleaned out the fridge.

A burst of sunshine around 4pm for around an hour boosted us back up to 99.2%, but as the sun was then moving away from the panels, that was the highest we reached.

Floating the batteries is not imperative for a longer battery life span, so there’s certainly no harm done.  And, given it’s Melbourne, I’m sure it’ll be a stinker tomorrow!


Coal is good for humanity

Is anyone else shaking their heads in disbelief?  After scrapping the Carbon Tax, threatening the RET and almost destroying the renewables industry overnight, our leader today said “Coal is good for humanity” amongst other irrational, short sighted and frankly stupid things.

Just when I start to completely despair at the lack of foresight at our federal leadership level, the news is good from overseas.  The Germans, who have an ideological en masse push to renewables and energy storage have caught the attention of major analysts such as HSBC who have released a report “Energy Storage – Power to the People” which outlines the increasing demand and dropping cost of battery storage.

Read the full story in

And join the revolution.

(Thanks to Adam Bandt for picture)


8 common questions about going off-grid

Nature is in charge, not the other way round“.  Doone Wyborn, off-gridder.

Found this fantastic article in Business Insider about Doone Wyborn, a scientist in New South Wales living off-grid and the common myths questions he gets asked.

I’d add to that list:

9.  Are you a hippy?

10. How much?

I particularly like number 5 where he’s talking about what the uptake will be by consumers once storage costs fall – “This is all inevitable and the utilities business model will soon be dead, as will any utility that does not embrace solar.”

The moral of yesterday…

…is never wear your gardening clothes when people are coming.

Unbelievably, over 100 people turned up yesterday to the Sustainable House Open Day here at the Off Grid Solar House.  I had anticipated a quiet day, sipping tea and pulling a few weeds, which was why I had my daggy jeans and ‘yee-haw’ checked shirt on.  In fact, I didn’t even get time to change into something a little smarter when the Geelong Addy turned up for a few snaps.

We had young families building their first home, uni students studying environmental science, retired couples looking to reduce energy bills and a wide range of enthusiastic stickybeaks from all walks of life.  We like stickybeaks.  Thanks to you all, I’m just sorry I couldn’t spend more time answering all the questions.

Thanks especially our volunteers Lee, Viv, Jane and Quentin who were invaluable.  And well done Phil from Radiant Energy Systems who answered all the technical questions I had no idea about.

Geelong Addy

Geelong Addy

Open day this Sunday

We’re opening the doors of The Off Grid Solar House this Sunday 14th September for the national Sustainable House Day.  Don’t come any earlier than 10am as I may still be in my PJs.  Chuck out is at 4pm.  In the middle you can meet moi, Phil Hapgood from Radiant Energy and some other lovely volunteers who are helping me wrangle the hoards of people desperate to get a glimpse at the lifestyles of the off-grid and famous (although it’s only my kelpie who jumps up and down with excitement when I wear my sunglasses at night).  Actually, it’ll be more like a handful of peeps who make the trek out to say a relaxed g’day.

So, all welcome.  According to my insurer, I’m not allowed to provide a cuppa to ‘members of the public’, but if you promise not to sue me for minor burns sustained from a hot English Breakfast we should be OK.  Our battery bank, panels and living areas will be open for inspection, but not the bedrooms, as I can’t be bothered picking up all the dirty clothes from the floor.

And the address…20 Devines Road, Little River – about 30-40 minutes west of Melbourne on the Geelong road.  Apparently there will be some bali flags, but just look for the place that looks like this:


In addition, should you be so inclined, I’ll be giving a presentation about climate change at the GPAC (Geelong Performing Arts Centre) on Saturday 13th at 1pm with two of my Climate Reality Project colleagues.  We could probably do with extra audience members, so drop in if you have the time.

Have a great weekend.

Old farts and truck batteries

So, strictly speaking, Brian isn’t quite an off-gridder (but lets not split hairs!)

For Perth dwellers Brian and his wife, living (almost) off-grid started after his quest to find fossil-free transport, in his words “for when all the oil runs out”.

Describe your place.Off girder Brian

Our place was build in 1970 and is a double brick and tile 3 bed 1 bath, facing close to North, set on 2,000 sqm and on a slopinghilly block. We have an original 43 year old solar hot water system with electric booster on timer, mains gas for cooking and strictly limited heating.  We also have a slow cumbustion wood heater (yes, the CO2 is ‘closed loop’, not fossil), single inverter reverse cycle air conditioning in the kitchen and ceiling fans elsewhere. I highly recommend people treat their roof with ‘Insulpaint’ as we’ve found it effective.  The grid-connect panels are on the house roof, which has a pitch of about 32 degrees, which I was told was close to optimal average for the year for Perth.  It’s a perfect permanent home for two old farts!

Specs of your system?

We have two systems – the first is a grid connect which started as 1.72kW in 2008, with Fronius 5kW inverter.  I added a 3.8kW in 2010 (when WA introduced 40c feed-in-tariff), all the house roof.  During the 2013-14 financial year, our average daily production was 22.3Kwhrs, while our consumption was 20kWhrs (i.e net export of 2.3kWhrs).

Off gridder BrianThe second is a hybrid off-grid, which was installed in July 2014.  I added 5.88kW which were mounted on the garage roof and connected to a Kaco 6002 5kW inverter and Selectronic SP Pro 481 Controller / inverter; it’s a 48v system.  Our batteries are 8 x 12 volt truck batteries and I have short term plans to add another 8.  In 3 to 5 years I’ll look to purchase better cheaper batteries.

Just a note on my battery cost / source.  I have a mate in the truck business. Big trucks run on 24 volts from 2 x 12 volt batteries. When one fails, they don’t mess about, they replace both. This can mean that the non-failed one still has ‘life’ in it. So being a kind-hearted person, I give these a home! Cost?  Zilch, other than the odd Corona.  In the long term, I will be looking for Lithium battery packs from battery electric vehicles that are below par for a moving vehicle, but this would not matter for a stationary application such as ours.

Has going (almost) off-grid compromised your lifestyle?

Off gridder BrianMy renewables adventure started in 2007 when I was looking for fossil-free power (both vehicle and energy supply) to use when oil runs out.  I started with an all-electric motor bike, and a 1.72kW solar system on house. It’s just kind of snowballed from there!  The bike now has 65,000 kms on the clock, all powered by solar and in 2012 I bought the all-electric Nissan LEAF, to replace my wife’s old clunker.  This has now done 15,000 km, again all powered by solar.  As age pensioners, we no longer have electricity or petrol / fuel bills…and we love that.