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  • 03 Feb 2016

IS 2016 THE YEAR TO GO OFF-GRID?

Going off-grid - that is, not relying on mains electricity, water and sewerage - is not a new concept. A lot of people have been doing it for a lot of years, sometimes by choice but often, in Australia, by necessity. However, the last year or so, with so much discussion about solar power, and the publicity surrounding the Tesla battery, this issue has become mainstream.

And in a world of rising costs - and increased environmental awareness - we are likely to see many more people choosing this way of life.

And can you blame them? While the initial outlay for equipment and installation is quite high, the results may see you never again paying a bill.

 

Cleanest and greenest

Solar energy is the cleanest, greenest and probably cheapest source of renewable energy generated electricity available. And, in a country like Australia, it seems criminal NOT to make use of all that sunshine.

By installing solar panels, you are not only slashing your electricity costs, but you're also reducing your carbon emissions, and that has to be good news.

You can choose a grid connect solar power system - which ties in with your normal electricity supply and saves, or even makes you money.

Or choose an off grid solar remote power system. Up until fairly recently, these were used when it was too expensive or too remote to connect to mains power. But increasingly, it is becoming a simple matter of choice.

Solar hot water is a slightly different system, requiring the installation of a flat plate or evacuated tube hot water system, and saving up to 75% of water heating costs.

 

Tesla launch

The launch of the Tesla Powerwall puts a whole new slant on going off grid. The Powerwall is a home battery that charges using solar-generated electricity - or off-peak supply, if connected to mains power - for use at night/as back-up.

At this stage, it's not quite a standalone off-grid solution - but Tesla are already working on that. And by doing so, Tesla is driving faster technology development, as well as pushing prices down, and that has to be a good thing.

At the end of January, what is believed to be the first domestic Powerwall was installed at a Sydney home. And thousands more installations are now being scheduled.

A report commissioned by global investment bank, UBS, says the average Australian household could find it cost-effective to go off-grid by 2018.

 

Off-grid by 2018

The report, by UBS's Australian-based analysts, says the current cost of going off-grid for a household consuming the average of around 7 megawatt hours would be around $39,000. But that costs were falling and by 2018, it would be much more viable.

It's not just rural or remote properties going off-grid, either. New sub-divisions, suburbs and retirement communities are also looking at establishing 'micro grids' to power just that community.

One example, is the Goolawah Cooperative near Crescent Head, NSW, which runs entirely on solar power, water from tanks and dams, and a composting waste system.

While this style of off-grid wouldn't suit everyone, it is attracting more and more people every year. And as these systems become more sophisticated, it will attract more.

What does this mean for mainstream power and water providers? Who knows. What does it mean for the environment - and people's pockets - well, that can only be good news.

Interesting times ahead, for sure!

 

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