Glen Morris And The Community Living Off Grid Since 1974

There’s a community just outside Melbourne in Victoria, Australia that has been living off-grid for decades. It’s home to off-grid solar guru Glen Morris, who shows us around his impressive Smart Energy Lab.

This segment is from SolarQuotes TV Episode 9, which focuses on off-grid living in Australia and the solar hardware making life without the mains grid increasingly attainable and comfortable. View the full Living Off-Grid With Solar episode here.

Transcript begins —

Finn: Now any show on off-grid would not be complete without my next guest. When it comes to off-grid, this man is truly a world expert. A former solar installer who lives in an off-grid community of 70 people, 30 homes, and one DJ. He’s in Moora Moora, just outside Melbourne. Welcome to the show, Mr. Glen Morris.

Glen Morris: Thanks Finn. I’m speaking to you from my studio here at the Moora Moora Co-op at Mount Toolebewong in the Yarra Valley. It’s the land of the Wurundjeri people, which is about 65 kilometres from Melbourne in Victoria.

It’s an intentional off-grid community that was set up way back in 1974. Right now, there’s about 70 people living in about 30 off-grid homes. While it started as more of an alternative living community concerned with ecology and social alternatives; these days the members come from a much more diverse range – including nurses, builders, academics, artists, electricians, and of course, solar installers like me.

This is actually where I run my Smart Energy Lab from, which does field testing of solar, battery, energy management products and making online content for my YouTube channel – and a bit of design consultancy for larger projects. Working from home has been the norm for me, even before COVID restrictions.

Mostly I run residential solar and battery training courses here at the Moora Moor Co-op. We have two electricians who live on-site and can assist with the training and compliance; as well as one of the most extensive collections of battery and solar inverters in Australia, supplied by companies who wish my students to train on their products.

We have recently gone all-electric with our vehicles too. There are now four EVs and two plugin EVs that are serviced by our newly built electric vehicle charging station that has three 22-kilowatt AC fast chargers, and numerous 10 amp slow charging outlets backed up by their own battery systems.

I live with five other people. That’s three children and my partner, and we run various battery and solar PV systems such as Selectronic, Alpha-ESS, Victron inverters connected to a range of batteries, including an LG Chem 13 kilowatt hour RESU, the Alpha ESS and Simpliphi Lithium ferro phosphate batteries.

Generation is from 10 kilowatts of directly connected solar panels with another 50 kilowatts scattered across the roofs of my labs; including a 35 kilowatt solar tracker in the paddock 250 meters away.

The house is constructed of straw bales with double glazing and a large amount of thermally separated thermal mass. Heating is by hydronics, with the energy coming from a mixture of wood-fired boiler – that’s in winter – and a three-phase PV diverter to several large, super insulated hot water tanks.

The reason I have so many different systems powering my house is that I use my house and those of my six neighbours here on the Co-op as test sites for the equipment that is supplied to my lab.

So Finn, that’s our setup. It’s a great little community, and I can tell you in these COVID times there’s been a lot of interest in people joining us up here at Mount Toolebewong at the Moora Moora Co-operative Community.

— Transcript ends

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About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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