Thinking Going Off-Grid In The City? Perhaps Think Again

Many Australians are keen to cut ties with electricity companies by installing solar panels and batteries with view to taking their homes entirely off the grid. And who could blame them?

The idea of energy independence is very attractive, but there are some very good reasons for keeping a mains grid connection.

This segment is from SolarQuotes TV Episode 9, which is all about off-grid living in Australia.

— Transcript begins

Finn: Now, here’s a question we get asked all the time.

“I’m fed up with paying a daily charge to access the grid. How do I tell my retailer to get stuffed and take my suburban house totally off the grid?”

Well, it’s certainly possible to go off grid in the city, and it has been done with varying degrees of success in recent years.

The example I’m going to take is in the Perth suburbs. It was built by a bloke called Martin Chape and he started the project way back in 2011. The system has evolved over the years, and now he’s settled on:

If you’d like a similar set-up on your home, professionally designed and installed, don’t expect much change from $50,000 – and you’ll still need to pay for diesel.

Forget Off-Grid In The Suburbs – Go Hybrid

So, now Martin has a system working nicely after many years of experimenting, what is his advice to others who want to go off-grid in the city?

Simple: Don’t – go hybrid instead.

Hybrid is simply solar, batteries and the grid connection. Martin has realised that if you have a grid connection available, you should absolutely use it as a cheap, silent backup generation source. It means you don’t need a dirty gen set, and you can get away with less expensive battery storage. And, there’s no need for a specialist off-grid design and install.

It will save you a fortune.

So, to answer the question that we get all the time:

“Can you go off-grid in the city?”

Yes, absolutely you can. The technology is available. It works brilliantly. But I wouldn’t.

I’d keep that connection to the grid. You’ll still get no bills, but you’ll have that grid connection and you can share your solar with your neighbours2.

— Transcript ends

For more examples of Australians living comfortably off-grid, view SolarQuotes TV Episode 9. For other SQTV episodes and great videos on solar power and battery storage, visit our Youtube channel – and don’t forget to subscribe!

By the way, if you’re still keen an off-grid system for your suburban (or rural) home, it’s incredibly important to choose an installer with the right skills and experience. SQ can arrange for quotes from trusted solar professionals.

Footnotes

  1. View a video segment on Selectronic battery inverters here, taken from SQTV Episode 9.
  2. Finn is referring to surplus solar energy being exported to the mains grid where it can be utilised by others and offset fossil fuel based electricity generation.
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.

Comments

  1. We installed a fully off grid set up and brought on line in July 2018 to a property close to the Murray River. In this case, it was outrageously expensive to get the power from the grid to the house.
    The system consists of 10kW of Tindo solar panels, 31kW hrs of LYP Winston cell battery storage and 10kW continuous inverter capacity. It does have a petrol generator but it has never cycled on in anger since the system was commissioned.
    It did not cost $50,000, so maybe the product prices need to be examined or the actual cost of design and installation needs to be looked at with a view to sharpening the pencil.
    These people are heavy power users, over the holiday period, 5 families live in this house, so it’s not like they baby the system. These are city people who don’t have a clue about energy conservation or desire to limit the power they use.

    T1 Terry

  2. John Morrissey says

    I’m sort of wondering how EV cars will change the landscape for home Solar design. The off grid system you discuss works well for the current world but what about upsizing the panel count and battery capacity and control to optimise for EV use. If your working during the day you need an overnight charge possibly from a larger battery to include your daily mileage. The other possibility is using the car capacity in case of emergency with power outages and removing the generator requirement. Smarter chargers to allow for the backup capability to be turned on and off would be cool.

    So the question is what’s currently available in this area and what do you see on the near horizon?

    • There area already EV’s on the market that can move energy in and out of the EV on board battery. Considering these new EV’s have between 32 kWh and 40 kWh, that is a lot of energy storage available. Changing mum’s taxi to an EV will have the EV charging from the rooftop solar during the day …. and with the many charging points springing up at workplaces to get them green points, the work EV could actually be bringing electrical energy home ready for the peak demand period ….. The work EV only needs enough battery storage to get back to work the next day, so that provides a lot of energy storage.

      There is quite a big move to recycling used EV battery that have passed their use-by date as an EV battery, but still work fine for the slower charging and discharging rates a house battery requires. This means the old battery out of the EV could store a full recharge for the work EV during the day, then take all night to recharge the work EV …..

      The problem with hoping to recover the grid connect cost from reselling to the grid, really depends on the concentration of solar in that area, More solar than the area network can cope with, the higher the mains voltage climbs until the solar inverter turns off, then there is no revenue offset generated ……. only requires the question to be asked on the many forums and social media sites about people not getting the amount of revenue from the feed in tariff that the seller/installer suggested you would get …..

      There are plans in South Australia being promised, where very cheap power can be bought from the grid during peak solar periods, this could be used to recharge the batteries for the house and the EV … even the used set to charge during the day so the work EV can be recharged over night without buying the energy at a higher price from the grid. This all requires a meter change and a plan change …. a two edged sword, the peak power prices come into effect during the peak periods, and the grid wants access to that power you stored in the batteries you paid for and have to maintain ….. and you still have to pay grid connection charges ……

      If the networks want to stop people going off grid, drop the grid connection fees completely, then there would no longer be a huge advantage in going off the grid ……

      T1 Terry

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