Showing posts with label Renewable Energy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Renewable Energy. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Simplifying Change

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Our local LETS group has been leading a Transtion movement across our region over the past couple of years. At a recent film night event, we had a a discussion forum including a panel of representatives from LETS, Transition FNQ and ASPO, as well as Permaculture Cairns, Food Lovers Club, Seed Savers Up North and BioN Water Synergetics. Representatives from our regional council and local media also attended. We had an Indigenous elder give a Welcome to Country speech on behalf of the Ngadjon-jii people, telling about his childhood in Malanda.

The discussion was focused on transitioning our region through climate change, Peak Oil, food security and financial instability. Resilience and relocalisation were deemed the ideal outcomes.

It doesn't seem to matter how many meetings and events we run, what sort of newsletters we publish or how much media attention we get... People seem to still need to be reminded as to HOW they can make changes.

Where we live, a possible pathway to these outcomes is working with our local council while they develop a community plan for the next 10 years. We can continue building community and making changes by sharing responsibility for the future of our region.

Some of the personal actions we can take to mitigate any effects of possible crises include:

  • supporting our community currency – Tableland LETS
  • growing your own food
  • buying local wherever possible
  • car pooling
  • ensure your house uses as little power as possible
  • talking to all your neighbours and friends about change

These actions will also save us money and create more secure communities. What other simple actions do you suggest, which people can take TODAY?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Beyond Earth Hour in the Office

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

As many westerners work in office blocks and high rises and Earth Hour 2011 is fast approaching us, many companies now turn off their lights in high-rise office building in cities all around the world as a show of their environmental credibility. Great work, but something is usually missing, and simply turning the lights off for one hour a year is not good enough.  This year we need to go beyond Earth Hour and make the good deeds we perform on this event something much more sustainable. 

Which leads me to the subject of today's post.  Office Vampires, in the form of millions of personal computers (PCs) are left on, sucking the grid dry during the long dark nights and are a massive contributor to the carbon emissions of many large companies. These emissions can be avoided by enforcing energy policies and behavioural changes, but only if workers are informed of the consequences of their inaction. When examined individually, PCs may not appear to be the biggest energy hog in the office, but when you consider the sheer volume of PCs in the world, the energy and greenhouse gas implications are enormous.

Picture this: A green minded gent (yours truly) arrives at work at 0700 Monday morning and curiously thinks, “I wonder how many PCs were left turned on over the weekend?”. The curious green minded gent then proceeds to do a basic energy audit and discovers 64 out of a possible 75 PCs still turned on with their monitors in standby mode with no one on the floor but himself! What a surprise to the green gent, who actually thought that his work colleagues cared about the planet they lived on.

So to do the sums, the green gent needed to make a few assumptions. If most people leave work at 5pm Friday and return at 8am Monday, that would be 63 hours that the PCs were sucking power without any worker using them. If the average power usage of each PC including monitor, with decent power management enabled was about 54 watt-hours, multiplied by 64 PCs, then multiplied by 63 hours of idleness. That is a whopping 217.7 kWh of electricity wasted over the weekend which is more than the green gent uses at home in an entire month! In the state of Victoria, Australia, that is the equivalent to 265 kg of CO2-e. 

So assuming that every floor in the building have basically the same layout, that the workers have the same lax behaviours, and the building had 50 floors, that would be 10,885 kWh of electricity or 13.2 tonnes of CO2-e released into the atmosphere each weekend. With 52 weekends in a year, the waste would amount to 556,020 kWh of electricity or 690 tonnes of CO2-e each year! The impact is amplified in this country due to our dirty coal based energy supply.  Assuming that the cost per kilowatt hour is 19 cents, that works out to be a grand total of $105,644 of lost profit.  You simply cannot ignore losses like that!

That is just one large building in one city out of many millions of buildings world wide. The mind boggles at the incredible savings in money and greenhouse gas pollution that could be made simply and easily, by each worker turning their PC off before they go home at night. 

Now you could add all the micorwave ovens left on for the clock in all the kitchens on all the floors, and the electronic air freshener sprays with in each toilet, the phone chargers left plugged in, not to mention all the lights left on, the rapid boil hot water systems, and the air conditioning keeping the building cool for cockroaches.  Maybe every floor of every building needs a big green switch to shut down everything that doesn't need to be left on on a timer.  Now that would be very energy efficient.

According to Gartner, every year the information and telecom technology industry generates 2% of the world’s carbon emissions - the same as a year’s worth of air traffic. Moreover, PCs and monitors account for 39% of these emissions, equivalent to the emissions of approximately 46 million cars.

So next time you put your jacket on to leave for home, take a minute of your time to turn off your PC and again at the wall switch. You will be making a massive contribution to avoiding catastrophic climate change. This simple gesture will be noticed by others, who then in turn will follow your lead, and before you know it the dreaded Vampires will be no longer live in your office, ne'er a garlic bulb in sight!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Get the Government to help make your house more sustainable (and save money as well)!

By Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone,

I had posted this earlier in the week in my personal blog, and one of my readers commented that not many people knew about this initiative so I thought I'd post it here too.

Note that this initiative is in addition to the various State and Territory initiatives out there (the ones that give us free eco-friendly lightbulbs etc).

If you:
  • live in Australia permanently,
  • earn less than $250,000 per annum, and
  • a home owner (or primary leasor of the home),
then you are entitled to a 4-year interest-free period loan of up to $10,000 to make your home more sustainable. Its interest-free because the Government will pay the interest for you. You can take out the loan for a longer period but after 4 years then you'd have to pay the remaining interest on that loan.

So this is how it works.

1. You call the Sustainability Assessment hotline on 1800 895 076 and make an appointment time for an assessor to come to your house.

2. The assessor comes to your house, inspects the house and if you want to, you can discuss your energy bills with him/her. Then that person makes recommendations on how to make your house more sustainable. The recommendations range from really simple (and cheap) to more expensive to implement.

3. The recommendations will be listed in an official report for you. You can then take out a loan to implement any of the recommendations.

If you want to read a bit more about the Green Loans Program, check out this page:

Anyway, I got a lot out of my sustainability assessment today - I don't have the report yet, but already I know that my roof insulation is no longer working (I didn't realise that when roof insulation gets too compressed (by gravity and time) then it no longer works. I also have gotten some tips on how to put seals on my doors and even my oven door!

I'm about to head out now to the hardware store to put seals on my doors and repair the oven door seal (I didn't realise how easy it was to do this - the guy showed me and I was amazed that I never thought that I could actually repair something as easy as a seal).

I'll also be placing a fabric strip in between my curtain rods and the wall to make my curtains work better as an insulator.

All of these things will not only make my home more energy efficient, but hopefully will help me cut my energy bills.

Now as I've said, the above is in Australia only but I know we have many readers from many countries here. So if you know of an initiative or program that helps people make their homes more sustainable, please comment or use the widget below so everyone can find out about the help they can get out there!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Shifting Towards Global Sustainability

by Gavin @ The Greening of Gavin

Some days I feel like a bit of a doomer and wonder if I have prepared for future events well enough. Let me give you some examples. Most people these days sense that our world is off balance and that we may be sliding towards some sort of dark abyss. I find it hard sometimes to keep a positive outlook when you consider these three looming events;

The record oil prices of last year may just be the beginning of a roller coaster ride of fluctuating oil prices as demand outstrips supply. Global oil supply has been relatively stagnant for the past few years and some believe that we have already past peak extraction (Heinberg). Oil is not just used for transportation, but for every thing in this modern era. I have written about it at 'We Are Oil Junkies' on my personal blog if you want to learn more about how oil permeates our way of living.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that even under the best case scenarios, indications are that escalating natural disasters amplified by changes in global climate may be enough to cause massive migrations of 100's of millions of climate refugees over the course of the next few decades. Can any country be practically prepared for an influx of these climate refugees on this massive scale?

Nearly 90% of the worlds large fish stocks have disappeared (more like over fished) from the oceans in the last five decades and it is projected that all commercial seafood fishing will collapse by the middle of this century. Many billions of humans rely on fish as a staple in their diet every day. You can imagine the impact, as I really don't need to explain the ramifications of this issue.

So, if business as usual behaviour by the human race is not working, what will it take to make the shift towards global sustainability? I personally think that changing a few light bulbs to compact fluros and changing your driving habits, albeit good personal steps in the right direction, are not enough to save society and the planet from collapse. Many books have been written about Plan B, which could be anything from transitioning back to a pre 18th century society not dependant on fossil fuels, or quickly seeking and developing a techno fix to solve all our problems. Maybe even some of the worlds military spending could be diverted to implement the radical changes required to divert our world's course from collapse to a sustainable future? Only a small fraction of this spending would be needed. Are we too stupid, arrogant, or selfish that we can't make the hard decisions required to save ourselves and the big blue/green marble we live on?

I don't believe that there is one single way to fix our future predicament. There is no single silver bullet in this case. Plan B will consist of many solutions that will all contribute to global sustainability. These Plan B solutions are my own personal thoughts, but may have been published by other commentators, so please excuse me if you have read or heard them before. Obviously there are many other ways towards global sustainability, so I have just picked those that are at the forefront of my thinking of late.

1. Tax carbon pollution. I don't care what scheme we use, as long as it is fair to the majority of people and penalises heavy polluting industries. We might then go some way towards changing the old polluting economy to a cleaner, more sustainable one as consumers vote with their dollars. The world oceans may even get a reprieve due to high fuel prices that would affect the cost efficiency of factory fishing ships.

2. Stop building suburbia. The current suburban model is unsustainable under a peak oil scenario. Suburbs are designed specifically for the motor car, not for people, and some don't even have foot paths (sidewalks). You can mainly get to them via car, however public transport systems are far and few between in some towns and cities. Even shopping centres are placed long distances from where some of us live in suburbia. Having said that, some of the worlds cities considered this long ago and have fantastic transport systems that even include facilities for cycling.

3. Rebuild or retrofit our homes, office spaces and factories. It is well known that energy efficiency is rarely thought of in the western world when it comes to whacking up 100 acre housing developments. The bigger the better, which also leads to bigger energy bills, bigger mortgages, and bigger maintenance bills. Big is not always better. Our building should be net energy producers that generate more power than they consume. This can be achieved via energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and combined heat & power systems (CHP). A global energy efficiency program including insulation and draft proofing will provide badly needed jobs and reduce GHG emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuel generated electricity.

4. Increased development and installation of renewable energy technologies. A global focus on a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy solutions like solar thermal, solar PV, wind, and geothermal (not a big fan of bio fuels). With a tax on carbon that raise the price of fossil fuel power, all of these renewable electricity sources would become cost effective for investors. I particularly like the potential of solar thermal using molten salt and geothermal which have excellent potential to provide our requirement for an electricity base load.

5. Reduce population growth. Probably not my most popular suggestion, but we need to level off our own growth. It has been estimated that the long term carrying capacity of the Earth is between 500 million and 2 billion people. We currently have about 6.7 billion people populating the earth and projected estimates of 9 billion by 2050. If we can't control our growth then I am afraid that nature will inevitably perform this task for us. Now, most of us would agree that it would more humane to achieve this via family planning and birth control than through starvation, plagues and resource wars. The choice is ours alone.

6. Reverse Globalisation with Global relocalisation. With the decline in cheap energy in the form of peak oil supply, all national economies will probably be forced to relocalise as transportation costs increase. This will force manufacturing and food production back onshore, benefiting the local economy and the environment. Local food production will increase, people would once again get in touch with the land like our forefathers, and not cooped up in some meaningless office job. By producing food, goods and service locally, dollars are not shipped offshore to multinational companies. Sure, there will still be some trade between nations, as there was before the age of oil, but certainly not to the scale that it is now.

7. All decisions must be sustainable ones. From national governments all the way down to the household hold budget, all decisions must be given serious consideration as to whether it contributes towards global sustainability or is subject to our current short term and business as usual thinking that only considers profits over people and harms the planet. If it is the latter, the decision should scrapped and rethought to ensure it complies with the sustainable vision and mission what should become the norm.

This post would have to be my most controversial so far, however I do believe that it fits well into the theme of this co-op. With all the simple, green and frugal tips that we write about daily, there must have a good reason to change our lifestyles in this manner. What I have described above are some very good reasons to change our behaviours towards a sustainable lifestyle, but I am afraid that I may already be preaching to an already converted audience!

Let me know your thoughts, am I way off the mark here?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Is Technology Sustainable?

By Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

by robhawke on Flickr

This past week I have been hopelessly trying to catch up with the technological side of my life: my blog, my online calendar, my online research for work, my web and social media design for work...

I took two weekends off in the past month, and my technological world seems to have surpassed me!

How did that happen?!

This week, I've begun walking to work 2 miles each way, stopping by my community garden patch on the way home. It's wonderful - I feel my body rejuvenating. My brain has the time to relax, and I end up having incredibly productive ideas along my walk. My body feels alive and burning needed calories to get back down to the weight I'd like. My senses love the walk to the garden, love picking the weeds and feeling the dirt, and talking with my neighbors as I water.

But every time I go through a period of adjustment like this, where I simplify my life to make it more sustainable, I find I struggle with the other half of today's existence: technology.

I would imagine I am not alone in this struggle between technology and simplicity.

First, does living a simple life mean living without technology?

Are technology and simplicity mutually exclusive? That would mean that, by nature of being an online community builder - with One Green Generation and with my own business at Re-Vision Labs - I am never going to live simply. Or if I live simply, this would mean I cannot live a technologically-infused existence.

There are certainly ways in which technology has helped us live more simply. We learn from one another here - sharing recipes, ideas, and patterns. We find out where our local farms and markets are located (we could probably do that without being online, but it would take more time and likely wouldn't be as informative). So maybe it's ok to participate in online communities, if it gives us more knowledge and willpower to live more simply and sustainably. But where is the line? How do we find the balance?

Secondly, is technology sustainable - or can it become sustainable?

I do wonder at times if technology is personally sustainable. For instance, when I first began reading and writing online about sustainability, I soaked in more information that my mind could hold. I actively participated in forums, blogs, and anywhere I could. But as I learned and grew and began doing, I felt I needed less information online, and I felt I had less time to learn. Now I participate in forums, blogs, and other places far less - and I feel I miss some of that online community. But I don't know how to put more hours in my day!

Also, I often wonder if technology is environmentally sustainable. I believe very strongly in the power of community to change the world. Here in the blogosphere, we have the power to traverse amazing distances in order to learn and grow and create real, lasting change.

Of course participating online alone isn't enough - I firmly believe in the power and synergy created when online and offline communities work together. But the technology that drives the online communities is driven by non-renewable resources, and made with materials that when created contribute to global warming and environmental destruction. This struggle with personal and environmental non-renewable energy makes for a love-hate relationship with technology, doesn't it?

How do we make the technology in our lives more incorporated into our values of simplicity and sustainability?

Is there a way?

How do you find the time to participate in your online and offline communities?

I've asked more questions than I've answered here - but this is something I am struggling with today, so I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Energy Efficiency and Saving Money

By Gavin

The Greening of Gavin

Two and a half years ago, my summer electricity bill was $726 from January to March. That is an average of 47.6 kilowatt hours (kWh) and $8 per day and a big hit to our budget at the time. Our last electricity bill was $32 in credit with an average of –0.5 kWh. The difference was so vast that I thought it would be great to tell my story on how we went about this remarkable energy efficiency program, and how we saved a small fortune in the process.

Back in April 2007 after having become aware of our large use of electricity over the previous quarter, we decided to take some drastic action to reduce our electricity consumption. Each week we decided to do at least one thing over a period of three months to improve our consumption habits and attempt to reduce our usage by at least half. We chose to spend a maximum of $100 on the project.

Week 1. The Baseline Reading

I began with a baseline our electricity usage for the week. If you can’t measure it, you can’t change the associated behaviours that cause energy wastage. We didn’t do anything different than we normally did. Lights blazing, computers whirring, and all the TV’s on in nearly every room. The pool pump was running for about 5 hours a day. I did some research during the week and learnt that the average Australian home used only 16 kWh of power a day. To our amazement we were using over 31 kWh a day during April. Mind you, we had six people living in our home at the time, but our usage had only one place to go and that was down!

Week 2. Awareness.

This week Kim and I began the campaign to educate our four wonderful, yet wasteful children. We began small and started to replace our incandescent light bulbs around the house with Compact Fluorescent lights (CFL). I also started to turn my PC off at night. Beforehand, I had run it all night downloading videos from the US and UK. I now only turn it on during for about 3 hours in the evening to write my blog. Lights were now turned off when there was no-one in the room. This habit took a long time to form for everyone. We also bought a kettle for our gas stove and retired the electric kettle that was rated at 2400 watts because it used far too much energy.

Week 3. Standby power.

This week I borrowed a Power-Mate meter from work, which is used to measure appliance energy usage, and figured out that my entertainment system was drawing 25 watts of power when everything was presumably turned off. By simply turning off the power board at the wall we saved nearly 4 kWh per week. The next piece of equipment I tested was my PC. It drew 17 watts in Standby, so off that went at the wall. We also replaced some more incandescent lights with CFL’s

Week 4. The Solar Powered Clothes Dryer.

We discovered something that we had forgotten about that was lurking down the back of the house. It was the trusty old Hills Hoist clothes line. We began to utilise this seldom used appliance that remarkably dries clothes by the Sun. Amazing technology! As we began to use the Hills Hoist more and more, we saved power by not using the Electric clothes dryer (rated at 1950 watts!). I replaced a few more CFL’s

Week 5. No More Pool Pump.

I did something I never thought I would do. I turned off the pool pump, and guess what? The pool stayed clean all week without it! Something as simple as that could save us 4 to 6 kWh a day! Why did I not think of it earlier? (because it was a silly thing to do, read on)

Week 6. Oh no, not the beer fridge!

This week was another simple thing that anyone could do, if they have the courage. Turn off the second fridge. It was only a small bar fridge but it made a big difference. And do you know what? We haven’t missed it one little bit. I believe that an Esky (ice box) full of ice is cheaper to run when you really need a cold beer with friends. Another 1.5 kWh a day down the gurgler.

Week 7 to 10. A Sustainable Result.

We had made the biggest impact in the previous week and now we were just after smaller reductions a week, just through awareness. It worked well and we began to spend more time together as a family talking about creating a sustainable future. We actually started reading books and magazines to continue our thirst for knowledge about all things sustainable. What a great knock-on effect.

Week 11. The pump is broken!

I went to clean my pool manually as we had a bit of a storm during the week, and the pool pump just hummed and did not start. I had to pull it apart and move the little plastic flywheel at the back to free up the motor brushes. The pool guy said that I should have run the pump for at least an hour a day, just to make chlorine (my pool is salt-water) and to stop the pump from freezing again. I admitted defeat and now have the pump on for 1 hour a day in the non summer months. Add one kWh back on per day!

The Result

Our first 15 weeks of our energy efficiency project gave us a fantastic result. The weekly average for electricity was 14.9 kWh per day for the week. That was a reduction of 52.1% from our baseline week, without spending too much money. The only expenditure for this part of the project was for the CFL's and I haven't replaced one since I bought them over two and a half years ago. Since we embarked on this little challenge, we now average a sustainable 12 kWh per day and have replaced a broken refrigerator and chest freezer with a more energy efficient twin door model. We have also invested in a Solar PV system that generates most of our electricity needs and feeds any excess energy back into the power grid. I had to take a loan out to by the PV system, but the savings brought on by energy efficiency and excess power generation is actually paying off most of the loan for me! We will have the loan paid off in half the contracted period, which I think is a cool way of paying for my Solar power station!

So with simple changes in behaviour and minimal outlay (before Solar PV of course), you too can save a lot of cash and go a long way to doing your bit to reduce your carbon footprint if your energy comes from a carbon intensive source. Not only did we reach our target, but we did it without any discomfort whatsoever and had fun doing in the process.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

One car? No car?

Have you heard about them? Those "crazy" people that sell one of their cars and opt to share or bike or walk places. Then there are the "really crazy" people that sell both cars or perhaps they never purchased a car to sell.

In 2008 we became one of those "crazy" people. I'm not going to lie, it was more than scary to even think of giving up a car. To us (Americans, yes, but J. and I in particular) cars represent freedom and independence. If you need something, just hop in your car and get it; want to visit a friend, just go. No need to plan or coordinate train schedules or worry about pedaling in the rain. Distance becomes relative and the only limiting factor seems to be the price of gas. 
The price of gas, insurance and our car payment were ultimately the reason we decided to downsize.  J. was driving a 2005 Xterra that, on a very very good day, could get 20 mpg and cost us roughly $700 a month total expenses. On one income, that was just a bit too much. Instead we decided to purchase a bicycle for me to use to get to and from work. "My" car became ours but was primarily used by J, and infrequently at that. 

Ideally, I would have purchased a used local bike, but after a fruitless search that turned up bikes with far more capabilities (and accompanying price tag) than what I needed, I bought one online. 


It came mostly assembled but still had to be taken in to my local bike shop for a final tune up. Being a small local shop, they charged me as if I bought the bike from them. I certainly appreciated that and made sure to make all future purchases through them.

Bike in hand (so to speak) we made the plunge and listed our Xterra for sale online. Despite listing it for $3,000 less than we owed, we didn't get any interest. This was right when gas prices were really high with no end in sight. The only way for us to offload the car was to sell it to Carmax for $6,000 less than we owed. I know, crazy right? The interest rate on the car was higher than we were getting in any of our short term investments so we took the plunge. 

Amazingly we never looked back. It wasn't always easy to work out who would get the car and when, but I never wished we had the Xterra back. While our Escape Hybrid may not have the power that the Xterra did it successfully towed a small trailer from Colorado to Pennsylvania and still got better gas mileage! 

Biking was a little harder to get used to... I only worked a couple miles from our apartment but I didn't really purchase the best commuter bike. I opted for a mountain bike so that we could use it on the weekends, in retrospect that was a bad idea. My big wheels and robust suspension are better suited for taking abuse, but on level pavement I tended to receive more of the abuse. Occasionally I got caught in the rain or simply didn't have the motivation to make it home so I called J. to come get me. Other days the time on my bike was a liberating experience that gave me quiet time I would not have had otherwise. I truly enjoyed it (90% of the time) and look forward to getting back on the bike now that warmer weather is headed our way. 

Giving up a car is not a decision to be made lightly and would certainly not work for all families. But just because you own a car doesn't mean you have to use it to get everywhere. Commuting by bike even one day a week would cut down on your emissions, your gasoline costs, and increase your overall health and well being. Can't do that? Then try running an errand or two on a bike. If you start slowly and build up your endurance you will soon find yourself cruising down the road farmer's market purchases resting safely in your saddle bags. 

Has anyone else opted to decrease their vehicle usage? Any bicycle commuters? If you don't think this would work for you why not?

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.