Given the fact that everyone else in the Questionably Civilised World seems to be giving themselves a forum to vent their fury at the injustices and indignities we're being subjected to on an almost daily basis the last thing the world needs is another semi-political blog, but I can't help myself.
With the sheer volume of such rantings out there, and the fact that practically nobody reads these pages, once I decided to set out on this little venture it seemed to make sense to hive this bit off as another annexe to the Little House of Concrete rather than adding political and socioeconomic commentary to the main site and risk losing what few readers I might actually have.
So, in the unlikely off chance that there's anyone out there who is actually interested, welcome to the People's Republic of the Little House of Concrete, the title of which is probably a fair indication of where we're coming from.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Little House of Concrete Goes Solar (3)

Just over a week into the solar era here at The Little House of Concrete we're still finding out what the system is capable of delivering. That process will become much easier when a certain piece of correspondence containing log-on details arrives. Monday's public holiday is probably the reason it hasn't got here yet.
Until it does arrive we're limited to extrapolating from the daily email reports and wandering around to the switchboard to see which way the little wheel is revolving, how quickly it's going around and take a squiz at the readings on the inverter.
When I got back from the morning walk, the wheel was going the right way at a reasonable clip, and the system was pushing out 1245 KWH, not bad for 7:20 on a cloudy morning.
Or so we assume. Until we get the log on details we're reduced to hypothesis and extrapolation. That's why the thoughts, as I made my way round the regular circuit this morning, turned to what's possible, the way things could have been, and what lies over the horizon.
The first thing to note is that, from the evidence to hand while twenty panels and a 5 KWH inverter cover our usage through the day we're still going to be paying a power bill. That notion takes us off into what could have been and on to the third point, but exploring those topics would result in a lengthy diatribe.
Let's limit ourselves to the actual possibilities.
The first point is that the 5 KWH inverter is the largest unit the Ergon Energy people will allow you to install while you're on the grid, so you're semi-hamstrung from the start.
The second is that once the system goes in, a sparky from Ergon needs to come in and make an adjustment. At that point, your feed in return drops rather dramatically from 30c/KWH to (I think) 9.
If I've got things right so far, we seem to be exporting around 5 KWH each day (actually a bit more, but let's keep it to round figures).
That means until the sparky gets here the return is around $1.50 a day, while once the adjustment has been made it'll go down to 45 cents. Multiply $1.50 by ninety days, and you get $135. I would have liked to be receiving a $135 power bill over the last couple of years. Usually, of course, it has been substantially more.
Go to 45c times 90 days, and you've got a tad over $40. No way that's going to cover the night time usage.
So as you look at what's possible you discard any thoughts of self-sufficiency unless you're willing to go totally off the grid. Or, of course, unless you're off the grid in the first place.
No, from where I'm sitting, the point of the exercise is to see how close we can get. And I have to acknowledge that our situation in The Little House of Concrete has advantages that won't accrue to people who work anything approximating nine to five.
We're in the fortunate position where we can run domestic appliances through the day and the TV, usually, goes off at 7:30. Night time usage is minimal. The big question, down the track, is whether some form of battery storage would deliver enough oomph to run things through the night. In other words, instead of exporting to the grid can we use our surplus to keep us going through the night?
That may well be over ambitious, but I'm also interested to see whether the set up would be able to cover the minimal usage while we're away from home.
And then I want to know whether we can look after ourselves if a cyclone or another emergency situation takes down the grid. One notes that large sections of suburban Townsville were without power for eight days after Yasi, so that's a genuine concern.
Predictably, as noted, when the calculations were being carried out, it looks like we're still going to be paying for power. The question from there is how much you pay.
I've made a start on some of those matters. A batch of my favourite slow simmered Sugo alla Bolognese went through the slow cooker yesterday, and the export figure reached a week-long high. Interesting.
But those log in details will end up telling us a lot more.

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