OK, so maybe going off-grid does sometimes require small compromises – in Lorna & Ken’s case, a new (and not-as-nice-as-the-old-one) fridge! The couple got in touch after reading about The Off Grid Solar House in the Sunday Age and have kindly shared their story and a couple of photos of their set up with us.
Tell us about your off-grid house.
“Our home is reliant on cross flow ventilation and over head fans in summer a wood heater and wood fired stove which produces hot water during winter. Our permanent residence is modest but has all the usual white goods plus water pumps for both the house and garden. We sadly discarded a much beloved double door cafe fridge in preparation for going off grid as it was too energy inefficient.”
Why did you go off grid & how big is your system?
“We decided to go off-grid in April this year primarily because of the area power provider restrictions on inverter size. We were advised this would limit the use of heavy usage items such as large water pumps and electric hot water. Our panels are ground mounted and through the winter months get shaded 11am to 1pm but the batteries are usually full or near full by then. Even with overcast weather or heavy fog there have only been 3 days that it did not recharge fully, but not to the extent we needed to externally charge with the back up generator.”
“Our system is 20 SunTech STP250S-20/Wd, KAKP Powador 6002 inverter, Selectronic SPMC241 4.0kW 24V with 12 BAE 1220 Ah 2V battery. We use about 6 kwhr at present which is without the hot water and garden water pump which would double usage. These would be run during the daylight hours to maximise the suns generation so as not to rely solely on the batteries.”
Have you had to change your lifestyle to go off-grid?
“Apart from having to purchase a fridge with wretched plastic moulding going off-grid has in no way compromised our lifestyle. In fact it makes us more confident that we made the right decision. It is also seems a better choice for preparedness for the fire season and we have not gone without any electrical appliances. After 3 months more than happy with our decision to go off grid just wish the technology was available 30 years ago! We just find it sad that the excess power can’t be diverted to the local hospital or schools.”
Lorna and Ken, ground mounted solar array
Lorna and Ken, inverters
Lorna and Ken, solar array
Couldn’t help but notice this as I was out and about today. There are two of these on the back road between Little River and Geelong, plus a third one without the black counterweight. I buzzed Geelong council to get the low-down, but they told me it was a Powercor installation. I checked Powercor’s website for information, but came up empty handed. So, I turned to the ever-faithful You Tube where I found a short video by a company that now seems to be out of business…but it did provide some explanation of the street light through a similar example elsewhere in Geelong.
Anyone know any more about these?
Early afternoon sunshine on the panels
Down to 5 degrees in fact, with a strong cold wind whipping through the open flat fields of Little River and trying to squeeze it’s way through the gaps in the windows. The kids and I are home today because we all have throats as scratchy as the bottom of a budgie cage. Plus, it’s nice to be home with the fires going with no need to go out into the rain, wind and traffic.
It’s been overcast all day, with intermittent rain. By midday the battery bank was still around the 97% mark, up from 94.4% first thing this morning. By 2pm we had about half an hour of sun, before the hail started at 3pm. Yup, Melbourne truly is the ‘four seasons in one day’ kind of city everyone says it is.
Anyway, it’s now just after 3pm and the battery bank has floated (aka hit 100% power). This despite the weather, one teenager playing x-box on the TV, me with the washing machine, fireplace fan, microwave and kettle going at regular intervals. Oh and the other teenager plugged into three power points with various computers and screens.
Hail on the driveway an hour later
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.
Yep, 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…
…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.
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.
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?
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.
About half an hour later this was the battery reading…up from 95.6% when we woke up at 8.30am.
Of course, this means I’ve got no excuses for not tackling the washing / ironing / writing / cooking. Groan!
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!
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.
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.