Sunday, 8 February 2009

Clean Renewable Energy - My Story

by Gavin. Greening of Gavin.

I thought I would post a how I did it, than more of a how to, so here goes. I had been a fan of renewable energy for many, many years, but it wasn't until I had my green epiphany, that I took the plunge and purchased my own renewable energy system. Our family made the decision to go down this path in May 2007.

Before I began investigating what I required in respect to sizing the system, I learnt that it is cheaper to save electricity than to make it. So from May to about July, 2007, we had a concerted effort to become more energy efficient around our home. During this time we managed to reduce our electricity consumption from about 35 kWh per day to just under 14 kWh per day. This was a reduction of 60%, and we were amazed that a simple change in behaviours could achieve so much. You can read about it in these two posts titled Eco House Challenge Electricity 1 and Eco House Challenge Electricity 2. We also reduced our power bill substantially.

So, not being happy with still using coal fired electricity, and being very dubious about GreenPower at the time (I still signed up for it), I began to investigate how much electricity we needed to generate to be about 65% self sufficient and what type of renewable energy would suit the area I live in. I knew that as my children grew older and left home that generation target would get higher with less people living in the home. My research revealed that Solar Photovoltaic's would generate the most electricity, as we did not have a steady source of wind, and had no stream on my suburban block. Solar PV it was. I calculated that to produce an average of about 9 kWh, needed to install a 2.8 kW system, which meant I need a space big enough to place 16 PV panels, and somewhere close by to locate the inverter which converts DC to AC. The total cost was a large sum of cash to outlay on a single item, and the quotes I received ranged from A$28,000 to A$40,000. I chose a reputable installer, and went to visit their office to have a chat about system size and to haggle about the price. We settled on a princely sum of A$30,000. I then applied for the Solar PV rebate of $8000 being offered at the time by the Commonwealth Government. I was also eligible to sell my Renewable Energy Certificates for about $1400, so this meant that I would be out of pocket for around $20500. I could live with that. I then sought a personal loan to pay for it all.

Everything came to a screaming halt, as the installers would not proceed until the rebate was approved. Seven long weeks later we set an installation date of August 25th 2007.

Neighbours 047The big day arrived, and I took the day off of work so that I would watch the installation. It was a very cool and windy day and the wind grew stronger as the day went on. The three installers decided to postpone putting up the panels until later on in the week and we all agreed that this was for the best as I didn't want any of the guys flying off of the garage roof like a kite holding on to a panel. However, they worked tirelessly to ensure that all of the frames for the panels and all of the electrical work was completed on the first day. This included the installation of the Fronius IG 30 grid connected inverter. After they finished for the day, I discovered that the next window of opportunity to complete the installation was the 4th of September. They had everything ready to go and I even stored the 175 Watt Sharp Solar panels in the shed for a week.

The final day arrived and it was a wonderful sunny day. Two installers returned as promised with it taking them most of the day to fit the 16 panels and to wire them up to the junction box on the roof. At about 3pm, the system was installed in its entirety, and I had the gracious honour of throwing the main breaker. It was a wonderful feeling to watch the inverter start up and then synchronise with the power grid. It began to generate 1850 watts at that time of afternoon. We all ran over to the electricity meter in the main switchboard, and sure enough the meter was spinning backwards as we were not utilising that amount of power at the time. I was elated!

Neighbours 058

Since the installation, the Solar PV system has generated 6060 kWh of green clean electricity. At our current electricity tariff that equates to $1284 of Green Power. Seeing that we draw a negligible amount from the power grid, at this rate the system will pay for itself in 18 years time. This is the time it will take the system to generate the value in dollars that I paid for it. Of course I don't look at it this way. When I tell people that I have Solar power at home, the first question they are is how long will it take to pay itself off. I bet they don't ask the same question of themselves when they buy a shiny new SUV or Plasma TV. Those types of goods only depreciate in value. Solar PV will only add value to my home. Also, I only look at the "greenness" of it all, in the knowledge that I am helping to reduce carbon emissions and in a small way, attempting to avert climate chaos!

Another bonus of having renewable energy is that everyone at home becomes so conscious of electricity consumption. The habit has now formed in all family members, whereby if you are not in the room, you turn it off. With this simple philosophy, we now have our daily average down to around 11 kWh. The two biggest consumers are the refrigerator and the pool pump with those being about as energy efficient as I can get them.

So as you can see, I have a passion for renewable energy. I know the cost is prohibitive for so many people, and I certainly do not expect everyone to rush out and install a renewable energy system. I just believe that if you have the money and the inclination, you couldn't go past investing in clean, green electricity for your home.

I like it so much, I made a short home movie about it and here it is. Certainly no steady cam in my kit!


I hope you enjoyed my little sojourn into renewable energy. If you have any questions, please feel free to post it via a comment. I will answer as many as I can.