rss
53

Why you are not selfish if you disconnect from the grid

Print Friendly

Last year, some friends moved into the new three-bedroom home they had built on semi-rural block of land in northern NSW. Despite being within three kilometres of a large town, and with the power network running along the local road, they chose not to connect to the grid.

The local government-owned network operator wanted $30,000 to run a wire about 50 metres to the house. My friends decided they were better off spending that money on solar panels and a battery array.

foyster off grid

 

They won’t have another electricity bill, and probably won’t need to spend anything more until the batteries need replacing in at least 10 years time, by which time battery storage costs might be a fraction of what they are now. They also bought a small generator as back-up, but despite moving in to the house in late autumn, they have yet to switch it on.

Theirs is a story being shared by thousands of people around the country, including Greens leader Senator Richard Natale, who lives in a rural block outside Melbourne, also unconnected to the electricity grid for the same reason.

People have been making these decisions for decades. But now – because of the falling cost of battery storage, the publicity surrounding the Tesla brand, and the rising cost of the grid, it has become a mainstream issue.

But it’s not just new and rural homes that are eschewing the traditional network for cheaper options. New suburbs and sub-divisions are being proposed that will not be connected at all, preferring instead to rely on micro-grids relying mostly on renewable energy and storage. Retirement communities – keen to lock in and control costs – are considering doing the same.

Property develop LWP is teaming up with Canadian giants Brookfield and Flow Systems to develop an off-grid community called Huntlee near Newcastle. Leading economist Ross Garnaut is chairing a new company called Zen Energy that is looking to do similar things in South Australia.

“Households, businesses and entire communities can now become genuinely self-powered completely or substantially depending on their circumstances and preference. Australia’s energy transformation has begun,” Garnaut told the ABC’s 7.30 Report last year.

And that means existing homes and townships too. In northern NSW, such as Tyalgum and the whole Byron Bay shire, are considering proposals to “buy back” the grid.

Network operators – such as South Australian Power Networks, Ergon Energy, and Western Australia’s Western Power and Horizon Energy, admit that taking regional towns off the grid is not such a bad idea. It avoids the immense cost of extended power lines, it increases energy security, it allows local renewable energy sources to be efficient integrated into the local area, and it saves money.

Indeed, Ergon CEO Ian McLeod last year admitted that if the networks had to build the grid from the ground up now, it would look a lot different. His company has publicly canvassed the idea of cutting costs by taking homes off grid in regional areas.

But the grid has already been built. And what really scare the network owners – both private and government – is the potential of a mass exodus by home owners in the city from the established grid as the cost of rooftop solar and battery storage technologies continue to fall.

Firms such as UBS have suggested that such a move would be economic before 2020. Debate rages about the payback times for going off grid, or just installing battery storage. In reality, it depends on so many variables – the location, the orientation of the roof, the consumption pattern of the users, and the local tariffs.

Some people will care about payback times, but some people won’t. What, after all, is the payback of your car, or your sofa, or your swimming pool. Most people don’t know or don’t care. If they want something badly enough, they will buy it. And for many, the idea of energy independence, or energy democracy is an appealing one.

Needless to say, the networks are not happy. Paul Adams, the head of Jemena, owned by Chinese and Singapore interests and which owns a transmission network in Victoria, accused households of wanting to quit the grid of being “greedy and selfish.”

“The grid is of so much value here, why don’t you want to share your energy with your neighbours,” he is reported to have said.

Adams later apologised for his comments, saying that people had the right to do what they want. But he had and has a point. If the grid is there, then why wouldn’t you want people to use it.

The answer lies in the “greed” of the network operators and owners themselves. For the past decade, they have been unfettered by strong regulatory review, and have been delivered a perverse incentive scheme that encouraged them to build bigger, longer and dumber networks.

As a result, the operators have massively overspent and Australians have been saddled with what is undoubtedly the most expensive grid in the world. Australia may have cheap coal power, but it has the most expensive delivery system. It costs a householder as much to boil a kettle in the early evening in any major city as it would using a diesel generator in an outback town.

The networks have been warned of the consequences. A report by CSIRO, prepared in conjunction with the industry, and updated late last year, warned that one third of all consumers could quit the grid in the next decade or two unless the networks did something about costs, and changed their business models.

But despite talking about the push to green energy, and sounding supportive about solar and battery storage, most networks have done very little to change so far.

In fact, they have been mostly focused on protecting their revenue flows, proposing a range of rule changes – including higher fixed tariffs, extra charges for solar households, and rules designed to prevent the installation of battery storage – to make it less attractive for households to install new technologies. The regulators have obliged by deferring new incentives that could encourage them into new technologies and new ways of thinking about the grid.

The networks lobby – while lauding the advent of new technology on one hand – has refused to admit that too much money has been spent building a big grid unsuited for the digital age, or that its members should write down the value of those assets. Yet it has even proposed to hit households with a fine or compulsory fees if they quit the grid. Or they’ll do what? Disconnect them?

There is no doubt the more efficient outcome is for people to remain on the grid. It’s a social benefit and it should be shared. It would be the most economic efficient outcome, but as Garnaut points out, that doesn’t hold true when the networks are pricing themselves out of the market, and not responding to new technologies.

To survive, the networks have to adapt and they have to change. Kodak ignored its own development of digital photography and paid the consequences. Australia Post is trying to charge $1 a letter now in face of competition from email and other social media. Many houses have already dumped their telephone landline.

The same thing will happen with the electricity grid. And the more the networks load up costs on to remaining households to protect their revenues, the more opportunities there will be for alternative technologies and alternative business models to service that market.

Yes, people should be encouraged to stay on the grid, so long as it is priced properly. Saying that households or communities should not pursue cheaper options off grid is a bit like asking them to forego emails for the sake of sending a letter, use camera film instead of digital photos, eschew mobiles in favour of a landline. Technology marches on. And the networks will have no one to blame but themselves.

Greg Foyster’s cartoons can be found here.

   

RenewEconomy Free Daily Newsletter

Share this:

  • Thanks Giles. The moral dimension of going off-grid is a good debate to have. A grid with only the poor left on it to pay increased costs must be avoided, but I agree the answer isn’t to penalise those leaving.
    In the long run, I bet the electricity distribution companies will push to have the same rules as the publicly-owned water distribution companies: if the pipes (wires) go past your house, you have to pay regardless of whether you use them. This means that the person with self-sufficient rainwater tanks still pays the fixed part of the water bill, because even though they don’t use the service, they could. Similarly, those with composting toilets and reed-bed grey water filtration systems still pay full sewerage rates even though they don’t use the service.
    Clearly the energy future has challenges for policy makers and legislators.
    Mark Parnell MLC, Parliamentary leader, Greens SA

    • Beat Odermatt

      Maybe it would be better to provide the less well off with solar power instead of extra cash. In my opinion it would be better helping people keeping the energy cost down instead of providing more cash to our coal burners.

    • Reality Bites

      Some very sensible points Mark, but wait for the critics in this forum! The disadvantaged and also the renters, who represent a large proportion of the market will not have the financial ability. However, I might suggest that, if you are rich, you might not really care about a few thousand in savings and will choose the security of a grid connection over off grid. The other big game changer will be Electric Vehicles. Personally I believe the fossil fuel powered car is on the verge of extinction. Who will want to pay $80 a tank for fuel, when you can charge your EV overnight for a few dollars. EV’s are currently expensive, however when the price does reduce, they will become affordable for everyone. The catch being that you will need a grid connection.

      • Mike Dill

        As storage prices come down, eventually you will have enough storage to fill up your car. For me, I would need an extra 20KW of storage to top off my EV every day, as I also currently have an AC outlet at work that I can use.

    • Barri Mundee

      Well that amounts to oppressive,even coercive measure that should be resisted in a democratic country. A class action should be mounted to stop such a move if it was genuinely threatened. For the record, the grid has a useful function as Giles makes clear but at the same time membership should not be compulsory-and the networks have alternatives that encourage people to stay with the grid. Bah!

    • humanitarian solar

      If Australia is to meet its emissions reduction targets, all households, including rental properties, need an increase in building energy efficiency codes and provision of basic fittings like minimum standards for a hot water service, hotplates and LED lighting. Australians not dying from climate change risks to health, need to be protected by implementing social justice goals, so the poorest of the poor, especially the elderly, are not at risk from extreme weather events. Landlords are responsible for minimum standards of their families household and their rental properties. If they cannot shoulder their responsibilities they need to divest away from direct residential investment.

  • Beat Odermatt

    It is companies like SA Power Networks telling us to get off-grid, otherwise they would not trying to introduce anti-environmental levies on homes with solar. A grid can be great for the environment as surplus clean energy can be shared amongst all. A grid is also helpful to enable large scale storage of renewable energy (compressed air, pumped hydro etc)
    Maybe we will have a low voltage grid in the future instead of massive eagle killing ugly high voltage transmission lines.

    • humanitarian solar

      Hi Beat, a grid could evolve where DC is used locally, although the transmission of power over any distance needs to happen with AC. Most things in a house run on DC anyway, even allot of gear like mobiles, tablet computers and laptops all run on DC internally, though plug into the powerpoint with an AC transformer. A local installer in my town reckons he has a portion of his customer base which have a man-shed that can’t easily have an AC power cable dug into a trench leading from the house to the man-shed. So what he is doing is setting up a few solar panels on the roof of the shed, dropping the cable down to a Solar Regulator, then into a battery. He then installs LED lighting (globes can work on 12V and 24V) and a DC fridge. This is a small scale example of how DC is being integrated into small urban properties. The beauty of this solar system is it is simple and doesn’t need an inverter. Allot of us use a Lithium power pack on our power tools anyway, so not all blokes need AC power in their shed. If AC power was needed, an inverter could be purchased which would be wired off the battery, turning the DC into AC for any AC applications. If we wished to have our shed solar system nested within the house solar system, the shed would need an inverter/charger capable of managing one AC source (from the house). Then if the shed battery ran low in winter, the inverter/charger could import AC from the house and top up the man-shed battery. If we wanted the house solar system to be nested within a Byron Shire Grid, then we would need an inverter/charger for the house, so if the house was short on power in winter, we could import power from the Byron Shire Grid. If Byron Shire wanted to remain nested within a NSW grid, then with high power AC transformers, they could import power over vast geographical distances. In summary DC can be integrated within a local property and stand alone solar systems can be nested within larger stand alone solar systems. If a bush fire wipes out any fire run, with reduced power consumption or rationing, each stand alone solar system could continue to supply its customer base, until emergency services and repair teams attended.

  • lin

    If the grid operators start penalising PV owners with extra charges, they deserve a mass-exodus and massive downgrades in the value of their assets. I would rather stay, but will leave if provoked.

  • Ken Dyer

    The fact that I have a 3KW solar array on my roof is proof positive that I am not selfish.
    Consider this. Last quarter (90 days), I used 255 kWh of electricity and paid 25.41c/kWh per kW. This was after I had used my own solar power. In addition, I also paid $1.07 a day for the poles and wires. My total charges were $161.83 before concessions, GST, etc.
    At the same time, I produced 1009.272 kWh (after my own use) that I exported to the grid, and received 6.2c/kWh or $62.57 return on my investment. I have no doubt that the electricity retailer on sold my electricity, probably at 25.41c/kWh, a net gain of 19.21c/kWh which means the retailer made a profit of $193.88 off my investment and protected their revenue flow in the process.
    Is it any wonder that people are really starting to look at getting off the grid completely? They are being absolutely screwed by the electricity retailers who continue to make money on other people’s hard earned investments. Several of these energy retailers also have their fingers in government subsidised fossil fuel generators, that they want taxpayer funds to retire. They also receive significant government funding to develop utility scale solar farms, but the costs to the consumer continue to increase.
    Everybody is getting royally screwed by these parasitic rent seeking power companies and the various federal and state governments that support them. The losers, as always, are the users, whether they have solar panels or not.

    • Ed

      spot on

    • Rob G

      Amounts to ‘legal’ theft. They deserve everything that is coming to them. And it will come….

      • trackdaze

        So the subsidy on the purchase of a 3kw systems is about 2grand and we want to charge retail for exports?

        So nothing for the retailer hiring staff to manage where the power comes from nor for it having to pay the network per kilowatt?

        If you dont want to sell it at market rates use it. Im ok with you keeping the 2grand.

        • Rob G

          I spent 9k on my system and got a small subside and no feed in. About half my solar goes back to the grid (about 1-2k each year based on what I am charged) – free to be sold for somebody else’s gain. I made the investment and someone else pockets the money. Not sure why you are struggling with the logic here. Power sold to the grid is not sold at the retail price and I would expect that so money can be made on both sides (especially if it can be sold as green energy)

          I will get batteries soon and then, possibly leave the network or at the very least keep all that I make. Meanwhile someone will sell my power and make money from something I paid for.

    • trackdaze

      Im sorry but your exports are only worth about 6cents. The retailer has has had to pay the network much of that margin thats in addition to the cost of finding someone else to sell it to, issuing a bill and waiting for payment, maybe even chasing for payment or writing it off. Youll want to make sure the contract state daylight hours only.

      Your welcome to find someone your self but youll have to instal your own meters, billing system, contractors to fix any supply issues etc etc.

      Do we now understand there is a cost and a benefit? And your export is not worth retail prices?

      • Ken Dyer

        I do not really care about the six cents. I am that far ahead of the game now that the system has almost paid for itself. It was a brilliant investment 3 years ago, and it would be a better investment for smart people today.

        One thing I do know. The millions of small scale renewable energy systems installed in/on homes and businesses throughout Australia help rein in the wholesale cost of electricity. In early 2013, it was estimated solar power systems alone were saving between $300 million and $670 million each year in wholesale electricity costs, and this must directly translate to lower retail costs, except that the retail suppliers are answerable only to their shareholders.

        As long as people stay connected to the network, and supinely accept ever increasing electricity prices, they will continue to be treated like captive cash cows by the retail electricity suppliers. Where is the benefit in that?

        • trackdaze

          Your right solar has replaced and suppressed wholesale prices. I think New renewable supply contracts are being written at $60 a MW. my morning back of the eyelid calculation is thats about 6cents a kw?? So it seems you can risk millions planning/building/operating and get roughly what you are. Hardly seems fair?

          You appear to be constantly interchanging network and retailer.

          Blame the network they must focus all their attention on getting their charge per unit cost lower. This may involve retreating from far flung marginal areas that are increasingly better served producing their own. It very definitely involves a ratationisation of the sheltered workshop both in the bloated heirarchy to of management and some efficient work practices in the network.

          But (again, the network) ought to structure itself that its cost supports export of solar and storage

          This ought to benefit generators, retailers, solar households, renters, business.

        • Chris Fraser

          Ken, I’m grateful for your energy independence. Not everyone is ‘getting’ that we finally have some real competition with the grid. Not everyone is getting the news that self consumption puts downward pressure on retail rates. As for the STC subsidies, that energy will now never be produced by burning fossil fuels. Thank you.

          • Ken Dyer

            Chris, installing solar panels is a no brainer and arguably the best deal you can get to buy anything today. There are 3 ways:
            1. If you have $5k handy, shop around for a 4-5KW system.
            2. If you have $5000 in the bank earning about 3% interest (that’s about $150 a year), take it out and buy a 4-5KW system and get immediate savings on your electricity bill.
            3. If you don’t have $5K, Origin energy and AGL energy are offering interest free loans of up to 24 months. Put a 4-5kW system on your roof, and easily pay off the loan from the savings from your electricity bill. After 2 years, you will still enjoy your savings.
            A solar panel PV system is the only thing you will ever buy that will pay you back for the next 20 years which incidentally is the length of the guarantee on good quality solar panels.

      • Beat Odermatt

        Could you please tell us which power company you are trolling for?

        • trackdaze

          That’d be zero, zilch, nad.. zip.

      • Mathew

        This makes me wonder, does the retailer keep the kw/h units bought from me for 6.5c (RedEnergy). Then when on-selling the unit/s does the retailer pay for the hidden costs (distribution & Transmission) that are imperfectly bundled into our retail kw/h rate. There is so much misinformation who knows.

      • Sim

        Exactly so why bother. Keep it and use a battery system.

    • Sim

      The provider in may area for a new house is asking me to pay Aus$3.10 per day. So I am rethinking going of grid immediately not in a year or so which I had intended.

  • Alan S

    The moral argument should realise that everyone who’s currently connected to the grid has already paid for infrastructure and generation facilities. The implications for suppliers and policy makers have been known for a long time. Why the lack of action?

    If electrical generation and distribution was still controlled by the state government via ETSA it would have been encouraging consumers to be economic and embrace efficiency to keep prices down for everyone. After privatisation the objective is to flog as much electricity as possible at the highest price the various corporations can screw out of people. There’s little incentive to stay on the grid so if you can afford to increase PV system size and want to go off then do so – it’s your free choice.
    If you have a moral conscience and want to help the poor, there are better and cheaper ways. The owners and shareholders of SA’s electrical power facilities should take note.

  • Chris Fraser

    “The grid is of so much value here, why don’t you want to share your energy with your neighbours,” – JemenaSorry, did I hear voices ? Readers … did they want to open some sort of negotiation ?

  • Math Geurts

    1) If you have to pay a lot of money to connect your new home to the grid, stay off the grid.

    2) If you have already a connection to the grid, but are captured by the ideology of “energy independency” or “energy democracy” and don’t care about payback time, leave the grid as soon as possible.

    3) If you are free of such an ideology or care about payback time, wait untill solar and batteries are really cheap.

    4) As a owner of solar, stop awful distressed begging for specific lower grid tarification.

    5) To solve the problem the existing grid has to be written off, and it’s use should be free for everybody, whether or not she owns owns solar.

  • humanitarian solar

    Engineers are currently designing inverters (the brains of a solar system) to be grid interactive or not – at the customers wishes. The inverter will have an interface of some kind, enabling the customer to choose on what conditions they wish to interact with the grid. Engineers will hence serve us, to survive in any policy environment, whether that is an adverse policy environment or an environment in which we have an intelligent, happy and harmonious grid.

  • Ian

    For those people with solar arrays, and are not concerned about the ‘morality’ of staying grid connected, and are not thoroughly angry enough to leave the grid at all costs, but look at the cold hard economic facts at what price will solar battery storage become cost effective?

    The tesla powerwall costs about $9500 to install fully connected to an existing array it is rated at 7 KWH ( it has larger batteries but takes into account some DOD issues) it is expected to last 5000 cycles. A quick calculation for KWH cost is 9500/7/ 5000 = 27c/ KWh. You wouldn’t want to wait a full 12 years to see a breakeven on this investment probably more like 5 years so the installed cost of the powerwall will have to halve to make it worth while .

    Sadly the massive uptake of solar storage in urban areas will probably have to wait.

    As Giles says, new rural builds where there is a massive cost to connect to the grid, batteries are a no- brainer.

    If the networks want to be egalitarian, and expect their customers to be ultruistic, then they should allow off site power generation in community solar gardens or solar garden allotments. Those without access to the roof of their dwelling can then generate power from a site other than their house or flat and enjoy the benefits of distributed power generation.

    Inner city dwellers and renters can then share in the distributed solar movement.

    When the network operators introduced charges like fixed charges and demand charges, customer advocacy groups should have insisted that the limit to solar generation exports be removed, that batteries able to export power be included in the export tariffs and that off site power generation as discussed above, be allowed.

  • onesecond

    If you build a new house now, DON’T connect it to the grid. You have no idea what mandatory payments they come up with when you stop using the grid.

  • Mark

    Promoting the general population shift to off grid is not cost effective, is environmentally detrimental (massive waste of underutilized capital) and will also cause massive social inequality (higher electricity prices those who stay on-gird). Future energy smart grids will need all the hardware (i.e. energy storage and generation) and consumers demand profiles to be aggregated to ensure the most efficient use of energy and capital to provide the lowest levelised cost of sustainable energy for all users. Networks will
    have to price fairly (definitely not the case in QLD) as well as the retailers coming
    to the table to pass on those savings which they are not in VIC.

    Promoting grid defection (within built up areas) is contrary to the renew economy key
    objectives of creating a sustainable and socially equitable future.

    • Ian

      Promoting grid- defection, to use your guilt-laden meme, is a good thing. It’s voting with your feet. It’s refusing to support an outmoded FF regime , it’s providing competition to the monopolistic network companies, it’s putting economic power back into the hands of real people. It’s making the powerful energy companies eat humble pie, but most of all its allowing Australia to transition it’s electricity supply to renewable sources.

      Besides, going off grid in the urban setting does not need to be a permanent thing. Once those people see value in reconnecting then they probably would.

  • trackdaze

    Maintaining profits has become the mantra of the networks. It use to be providing a reliable grid at minimal cost.

    They need to get back to where they started asap otherwise its an ugly looking spiral. Trouble is its likely to be your state government that is reliant on the profits of the network and is doubling down on extracting dividends.

    Im afraid the best we can hope for is that in time they fall a$$ backwards into higher utillsation of the grid as the electrification of the transport sector (and everything else) gains momentum.

  • humanitarian solar

    Natural Geography and Community Based Paradigm:
    What I’m hearing is the grid can be broken up into autonomous size pieces, yet nested within a larger connection. A relationship of the micro and the macro. As above so below. e.g. A grid might have a Byron Shire in it, and that might in turn have lots of smaller nodes of semi-autonomous solar/storage. In this way, all stake holders share in the profits. Everyone gets a more efficient grid and a more resilient grid, in terms of outages, bush fires and so on.

    • Ian

      Batteries are really required to create this ‘autonomy’. A smaller entity like a town or suburb could control its grid connection to negotiate a better deal from the utilities for its members. In this community there could be distributed solar and a large community owned battery bank, or there could be distributed solar and battery storage in individual premises with a single point of access to the grid which could be controlled by the community.

      • humanitarian solar

        Yes exactly. “As above so below.” Once as a community we get our heads around how the equipment works at a micro level in individual households and businesses, we can meaningfully tackle larger entities like communities and geographical areas. This knowledge needs to become as commonplace as the old centralised paradigm, that was vulnerable to natural disasters like cyclones, floods and bush fires. Australia needs a far more resilient grid, as well as meet its renewable energy target.

      • Ian

        Other examples of mini grid communities could be multi dwelling buildings, retirement villages, rural towns, business estates, whole suburbs, whole towns, whole districts like the Byron bay shire. Some examples are a natural fit for the networks like edge of grid communities, or isolated communities like king Island or Tyalgum. Supplying edge of grid and remote rural settlements is expensive to the network and their best interests are served by independent solar plus storage mini grids in remote locations. That vision of interconnected autonomous micro and mini grids is already occurring.

        The requirements of an electricity supply are cost, reliability and low environmental impact. Imagine a scenario were battery storage is very cheap, ( solar is already very cheap ), the individual off-grid setup will be the most cost effective electricity solution. Why would they bother being connected to a grid ? We know that some people’s circumstances are such that they are unable to access off grid solar plus storage. What about them? The old power supply relied on the economics of large scale generation and multiple loads. The cheap solar and storage reality would mean far fewer loads left on grid to justify big generators. Will grid electricity from a scaled down network necessarily cost far more in this future scenario?

        One solution to this grid dilemma is of course to find new loads for the large scale generators and we have exactly the right sort of candidate for this purpose, transportation, the family car. The car and the grid are the perfect couple. The car’s purpose is to take people away from the home in the day and bring them back for the night. It’s not on site, generally , to get recharged by the family solar array. The electric car is no toaster or kettle it requires a huge amount of KWH and the roll- out of electric vehicles should be the number one priority of the network operators. It should be top of the list for government too. A significant part of the balance of trade deficit can be blamed on petroleum imports. The electric vehicle can provide customers for the utilities maintaining the economies of scale of the grid and keeping inner city electricity prices low, it can reduce the haemorrhage of cash overseas, it can provide energy security to the country , and it can reduce air pollution at the city and street level.

        • humanitarian solar

          I agree entirely with your astute analysis, so much so, I think if the country followed your recommendations, we would speed towards our Paris goals. The only minor point I disagree with, is batteries are useful even now at their present prices, as they could help the grid-connected whinging tariff group escape the export/import merry go round, with even a few old generation batteries. It would work really sweet especially if they were at home all day. I concede those working away from home would need a few more batteries. Though people don’t need to be considering the fully fledged off grid battery bank at this period of history to escape their export/import woes. I agree the battery industry needs a sponsor of some kind to get it going. Even more proactive articles on this site. Articles focused upon present gear actually already on the market and how the inverter/batteries work together to deal with the grid. I wish reflow would hurry up. Their CEO should sell a few of his cars and use the money to invest in a few pilot installs or get a pilot study up and running. ARENA is off sponsoring large scale solar, which in comparison to what your describing, their approach is more short term gratification. As a culture, the distributed paradigm is stalled or floundering, simply because few people can actually focus on how we really could kick start a new paradigm.

  • MaxG

    Fully agree: Privatisation (neoliberalism) GREED is what will drive defection… so in my case… 🙂

  • humanitarian solar

    In terms of buying parts for solar systems on our properties, there is no need to think in terms of being stand alone or to remain connected. However the inverter is the brains of the solar system and it does get more expensive, the more features that are included. Here is an example of current eBay prices for one brand called Victron that I think has been going since 1980.
    For vehicles and small sheds:
    12V 350W inverter $200
    12V 800W inverter $500
    12V 1200W inverter $750
    12V 2500W inverter $1800
    For larger RV’s, yachts and various size homes, that need the ability to manage one external AC source from a grid (to top up peak AC power output or top up batteries in winter):
    24V 1300W inverter/charger + 1x AC source $1560
    24V 2000W inverter/charger + 1x AC source $2031
    24V 2500W inverter/charger + 1x AC source $2500
    24V 4500W inverter/charger + 1x AC source $3475
    For people that need the inverter/charger to be able to manage two AC sources, e.g. a generator and a windmill:
    24V 4500W inverter/charger + 2x AC source $4300
    24V 7000W inverter/charger + 2x AC source $5430
    No I’m not a salesman. This is just the brand I chose. I’m showing how having the choice to be able to stand alone and maintain a connection with the grid can be easily done with the equipment. Furthermore, the inverter/chargers that are capable of managing one or two additional AC sources, don’t care what the AC source is, so you could for example buy an inverter/charger that can manage one AC source, then down the track have your electrician disconnect the inverters AC input terminals from the grid and instead run them to a diesel generator or windmill.

  • Roger Brown

    Has anyone got any Redflow Battery set up ? or thoughts on them ? Thanks in-advance

    • humanitarian solar

      The article in Wikipedia about the zinc bromine battery sounds compelling. They mention Redflow in Brisbane as the Australian manufacturer. I saw the article in reneweconomy last year. I’m keen to hear how their installs are going too. Hopefully they are ready for those in NSW, Victoria and SA coming off the generous feed in tarrifs.

      • Roger Brown

        I have heard they are Re-Build-able , so after 10-20 yrs ,they can remove the plates and put new ones in .

        • humanitarian solar

          Wikipedia is a good enough guide for me. Then I just compare specifications and prices to what’s currently being used on the market at http://www.everybattery.com.au Although most of the new battery makers seem really precious about their batteries and want to only give certain wholesalers and marketers their batteries. It’s easy to think its a big marketing ploy to rip people off. I hope Redflow doesn’t do this. Everything should easily be available on eBay and online if we’re really into saving the environment.
          The primary features of the zinc bromine battery are:
          High energy density relative to lead–acid batteries
          100% depth of discharge capability on a daily basis[2]
          High cycle life of > 2,000 cycles at 100% depth of discharge, at which point the battery can be serviced to increase cycle life to over 3,500 cycles

        • humanitarian solar

          Redflow’s battery also gets a mention under the Flow Battery on wikipedia. I found this neat picture on http://www.victronenergy.com showing a graphic of the Round Trip Efficiency of different battery classes, which is continually going up. So the Flow Battery has a similar Round Trip Efficiency to the Lithium. I think Victron sells Lead Acid and Lithium. We never see these kinds of comparisons on RenewEconomy. Ditto we never get $ comparisons.

        • humanitarian solar

          To put this information in context, I bought 12V 200AmpHour (2.4kWattHour each) Lead Acid (AGM) batteries as a cheap transition, which are also available on http://www.everybattery.com.au for $524. They have a 10 year float design life or are rated at 800 cycles at 50% depth of discharge. They also have a much lower Round Trip Efficiency, averaging 70-80%. So Redflow’s batteries and the Lithium are much better, but we don’t know how much better for the money, because no expert ever does a comparison. We just get hype hype hype.

          • I’m sure there are ‘experts’ out there already done this. For example this one: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/69394

            The problem is, no expert will calculate a specific example for our own customised need. For a serious off-grider wannabe (like me), I have to resort to my own calculation (I just need the DoD graph and my consumption pattern).

            There is a break-even value where lead-acid still better bang for your buck (I can get decent one from local gumtree!). The reason I’m saying this is due to ‘peaky’ load. For example, my winter peak is 22kWh, where as my summer peak is only 15kWh. So, if I get lithium batteries (yes, they are super awesome), those marvelous 2000 cycles at 80%DoD just gone down the drain, since I only use it couple of weeks in a year.

            Where as if I get lead acid with same capacity (let say 30kWh), it will last *almost* as long as the lithium (limited to the 10-year calendar life), since the lead acid is mostly used at 30%DoD most of the time. Same case with the lithium of course, but I can’t downgrade the 30kWh limit, since I do need this capacity 5% of the time.

            Where is that break-even point? Tesla powerwall is definitely there. But, the grid is still cheaper for me 🙂

          • humanitarian solar

            As a stepping stone with cost, if a grid connection is maintained, hybrid inverter/chargers are being designed with more and more features of when they access the grid, e.g. when the battery voltage or depth of discharge is below a programmed threshold. In this way, the inverter/chargers are getting better at maximising self use of electricity and using as little of the grid’s electricity as possible, or only at certain times. Then when we get more cashed up later, the inverter/charger can be disconnected from the grid, and reprogrammed when to start a generator or programmed to remain connected to a windmill. So the same inverter/charger can be used as a tool to help us interact effectively with the grid, or as a tool to transition us off grid. As long as the inverter/charger can manage an AC source, we program it whether to stay permanently connected to the AC source, or when to access the AC source, or when to turn an AC source on.

          • Ah, I get you now. So, it’s not stand-alone off-grid. To that, yes, I agree that battery storage will reduce the grid cost (regardless renewable or non-renewable sources). There has been multiple studies regarding this, that battery storage can reduce the grid cost. However, there is need to be incentive from the grid operator to look into this. Since no grid are the same, each grid operator must conduct their own study (i.e. how much battery in MWh to reduce long term cost). I guess that’s why Western Power (here where I live in WA) does conduct some battery storage study. Other countries way ahead in this, for example: http://www.brattle.com/system/news/pdfs/000/000/749/original/The_Value_of_Distributed_Electricity_Storage_in_Texas.pdf . Main reason is grid cost is to serve 1% of peak time of the year. (here in WA, according to SWIS (now AEMO) study. In eastern states will be around 5%)

            In short, in cities, grid still most cost effective (with some battery storage).

  • Math Geurts

    If you have already a connection to the grid, but are captured by the ideology of “energy independency” or “energy democracy” and don’t care about payback time, leave the grid as soon as possible. Stop awful distressed begging for specific lower grid tarification.

    • humanitarian solar

      I agree Math, the grid-connected whinging tarrif group have virtually become a paradigm – a way of thinking about the situation as a powerless victim.

  • Miro

    So their profiteering (lifting the connect charges 100%) is not being greedy? I’d like to know their CEO and board salaries and see how they’ve been climbing.

  • Gary Edvans

    Short story moved of the grid rural location spent a modest $6000 including batteries and Honda generator.I run full size digital TV,computers house runs on 24V lighting which is brighter than the old 100Wglobes.House also have 240V wiring powered from the batteries by a 7000W inverter.I run outside spot lights LED that are brighter than halogen security lights.Started off with a 12V system upgraded to 24,I would suggest for the extra money installing your system as a 48V,that will power in wall -conditioning units and large deep freezers.If considering appliances make sure you buy the ones with the lowest wattage draw.Its been a 2yr learning curve but as I said to my son who lives in Sydney for $5000 dollars I could take his house off the grid except for the 240V wiring all wiring in a solar system is 12/24/48V and you don’t need to be a licensed electrician to install it. With a 240V system already in the house it is only a matter of wiring the inverter into the system an licensed electrician would be required.Or run all 240V .Or you could simply plug a multi power board into the back of the inverter(standard 240V socket usually 2 off in most inverters) and run your appliances from that.
    Good luck
    Gary