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Bernardi goes solar to “keep the lights on,” but did he get storage?

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South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi, the “committed Conservative” and chief derider of all things renewable energy, has installed a whopping great big solar PV system at his family home in Adelaide – not to save money or lower emissions, of course, but to keep the lights on.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday, and RenewEconomy confirmed on Thursday, that the Senator – who thinks climate change is an elaborate leftist ruse, and who recently described clean tech entrepreneur Elon Musk as the purveyor of “giant uneconomic batteries” – has put 12kW of PV panels on his rooftop.

The system, which was sized to match the load of Bernardi’s large home and pool, was supplied and installed by local outfit Tindo Solar – Australia’s only solar panel manufacturer, which was recently bought by a local insulation company turned solar installer, as part of a plan to create the largest solar retailer in Australia.

So points go to Bernardi, there, for supporting home-grown industry.

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But why solar? Because “the inept policies of federal and state governments left me with no choice,” Bernardi told the Australian Financial Review. “I can’t afford to have my power shut off for days at a time, but … I can afford to do something about it.”

Seems like common sense. But these comments, and Bernardi’s assurance that he hasn’t “drunk the renewable energy Kool-Aid,” suggest he only hopes to use solar as a “back-up” power source, if and when the grid goes down.

Let’s hope he has not forgotten the battery storage.

The reality is that the lights won’t stay on without battery storage, and in fact won’t stay on unless the battery storage has a special back-up component. Here’s Ronald Brakels on the subject:

“If you are lucky enough to own a grid-connected rooftop solar system, then there is an excellent chance you’re already aware that if the grid goes down you can’t get electricity from your solar panels.

“If you are not aware of this, then I’m sorry to have to break the bad news to you. Them solar panels, they ain’t gonna work in a blackout.”

So, is Bernardi going to install a battery, too? According to RenewEconomy’s sources, he is, but not until he has monitored his solar generation profile for a while, to work out what size storage system he should get. Very sensible. More points to Bernardi.

Whatever he opts for – and we will keep readers posted on that – let’s hope it performs at a standard higher than the Senator’s opinion of grid-scale battery storage.

“Musk’s numbers and promises (on battery storage for SA) don’t stack up but the SA and federal governments are already taking the bait,” Bernardi wrote in a blog titled “Beware of the Smooth Salesman,” in March.

“After years of peddling fanciful green dreams and endorsing windmills and solar panels as the answer to our growing energy needs, they are close to admitting defeat.

“SA Premier Weatherill yesterday commissioned a new gas power plant and ‘battery storage’. While the proposed power plant isn’t big enough, if it does run out of juice I calculate that Musk’s batteries will provide several minutes’ worth of power before needing a recharge!” he wrote.  

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  • Chris Fraser

    Still it is gratifying to read about it and thanks. We must be finally seeing a logical blending of values from both the Far Right and the Centre when it comes to pragmatic issues of continuous, clean energy supply. Almost to the degree that Corey will soon have trouble distinguishing his clean energy Kool-Aid from his fossil fuel Kool-Aid and we wish him well for a long term plan for household energy independence. Not that you would want to be his neighbour in sweltering Adelaide that has to look upon that smirk over the fence during blackout and which says ‘but I got aircon, I’m alright’ …

    • Ren Stimpy

      Agree. I hope he gets a lot of value out of it, and that that goes some way to changing his mind on highly distributed, consumer friendly clean energy generation.

      • clive

        There is NO such thing as clean energy.And it certainly isn’t FREE.
        A barrel of oil yields ~5.6 million BTU. Oil “subsidies” amounted to ~17 cents per barrel… About 0.3%.
        In 2007, solar and wind subsidies amounted to $24.34 and $23.37 per MWh, while coal and natural gas respectively received $0.44 and $0.25 per MWh…
        The “subsidies” to the oil and gas industry amounted to ~3 cents per million BTU of energy produced. Solar and ethanol/biofuels respectively received $2.82 and $5.72 per million BTU…

        • Ren Stimpy

          Burning ancient swamp goop?

          Does that help you to understand?

          But please feel free to give me more of your made-up cost numbers.

        • Ren Stimpy

          Oil emits 1300 g CO2eq/kWh
          Coal emits 820 g CO2eq/kWh
          Gas emits 490 g CO2eq/kWh
          Solar emits 48 g CO2eq/kWh.

          Solar is 27 times cleaner than oil, 17 times cleaner than coal and 10 times cleaner than gas in terms of lifecycle CO2 equivalent emissions. So feel free to read ‘order of magnitude cleaner energy’ for ‘clean energy’.

          On subsidies, the multi-trillion dollar cost of all future climate change damage repair and coping infrastructure is the largest subsidy granted to the coal, oil and gas industries today.

  • Greenradagast

    Solar panels make good financial sense. Glad to se he is maybe getting close to “seeing the light”.

  • Davd Woodgrove

    What about a micro coal generator instead of battery back up.

    • BushAxe

      Lol, would dirty the pool with soot!

      • Rod

        Just use some of that clean coal

    • juxx0r

      And they can plumb that clean air that it produces right through the house.

  • Robert Westinghouse

    Politicians are 2 faced liars.

  • Brunel

    Every inverter on the side of every house should be required to say that it can or can not provide electrons when the grid is off.

    Like some gadgets say Batteries Not Included.

  • Rod

    I’ve been banging on for a while now, to anyone who stands still long enough, that household solar is so cheap at the moment that you would have to be a fool not to have it. (Assuming you intend to stay in your house for five years)
    Now it seems some fools even get it.

  • Miles Harding

    He’d better be quick before SAI Global (give them an enema, please) screws up residential storage.

  • Ian

    Seems like a serious breach in confidentiality, how would the press know about the good senator’s private purchases? Was this information revealed by the man himself or at least with his permission?

    The aim of the article is to poke fun at his double standards and that’s very funny but it’s concerning that personal information can be flaunted so easily.

    • Peter Campbell

      You could drive past his house and look at the roof and get a pretty good estimate of the PV rating.

  • Gnällgubben

    It’s interesting to see and compare what politicians say in the parliament and what they do for themselves. Clearly this guy is well aware of the benefits of RE yet he still insists on fossil electricity for everyone else. it’s obvious that his official position is paid for by the fossil industry rather than being his own insight.

  • Matthew Wright

    I’m guessing he must have 3 phase power as 12kW is too big on 1P when South Australia has a 10kW panel limit per phase. I didn’t think 3P was too common on domestic residences in SA. If he has got 3P it must be because he’s a big consumer.

  • Les Johnston

    i am surprised that it takes 12.5kW to give back-up power for a modest home. There is normally a 5kW limit. At 12.5kW the system may cause major instability based upon the claims of the fossil fuel generators. This could cause a blackout in the local area. Perverse!

    • solarguy

      Les, it doesn’t take 12.5kw to have back-up power. The system could be as small as 3kw, if power requirements are pretty low.

      • Greg Hudson

        Have you seen how much power pool pumps chew through ?
        My guess is that he ‘only’ had 12.5 kW installed because that’s all that would fit on his roof. (IMO)

    • Greg Hudson

      He could easily have up to 15 kW on a 3 phase system.
      Go have a look at his power box and all will be revealed 😉

  • EnGee

    It is the wealthy that can install such systems. Meanwhile, the poor in South Australia are paying the state levy on electricity which is used to subsidise feed in power from PV.

    • Rod

      A 5kWh system in Adelaide, Tier one panels and a decent inverter for $3,700.
      Even taking out a loan to buy solar makes sense at that price.
      Rooftop solar is very popular in “poorer” suburbs.
      The total amount of green initiatives on the average bill comes to less than 7%. The State FiT, maybe 3% of that.
      The actual poor, including pensioners get State and Federal energy rebates and concessions.

      The Warburton review reluctantly reported solar panels were helping reduce the wholesale price of electricity.

      No need to thank me for reducing your bill.

  • Peter Campbell

    Self-serving hypocrite that he is.