Getting by in Sydney blackouts with a little help from solar and storage | RenewEconomy

Getting by in Sydney blackouts with a little help from solar and storage

Sydney storm has made us realise how much we rely on electricity for so many things and how much we take it for granted.


Solar Business Services


Sydney has just endured some of the most ferocious storms this state has seen in many years.

As I sat in my third floor office facing Sydney Harbour last night trying to work, the relentless wind and rain prompted me to check the statistics. They revealed that around Manly we had endured almost twenty four hours of winds continuously above 60kmh with gusts continuously above 80kmh and gusting as high as 102kmh. It’s no wonder the windows felt like they were about to blow out of their frames.

At home just a few kilometers away, we were stunned at the havoc. Our local beach was a surging mess of 6M plus swell and the constant wind had blown surreal sand drifts across huge swathes of land and roads. I took a short walk to check it out yesterday at the storm’s peak and retreated quickly after being sandblasted and literally struggling to stand upright.

Although we survived with far less damage than many others up the coast, it was no surprise that trees were down and power lines damaged. We lost power some time early on Tuesday morning and it took until nearly 6pm until it was switched back on.  In Manly where my office is, the power was out until just after lunchtime. Frankly, the fact the Ausgrid crews were even able to achieve this under such conditions is astounding – hats off the brave crews and good disaster relief efforts of the network companies.

This is the longest blackout my family can remember enduring at more than 12 hours.

My 11 year old son commented to me last night “Jeeze dad, it really makes you realise how much we rely on electricity for so many things and how much we take it for granted” Word, son. Word.

With a gas and electric powered house and the typical array of household appliances, we quickly found ourself with flat phone batteries, weakening radio batteries, no lights, no wireless and no hot water (our gas system needs power to ignite). Cue – Nige’s motley collection of emergency equipment.

Since the office was in lockdown, I stuck around at home and battened down the hatches during the day, preparing for what could be 24 hours or more without electricity.

In an example of what can be done simply and at low cost in such a situation, I had the basics up and running in a few hours. I keep two batteries on permanent charge with an old 12V solar panel for camping or emergencies like this. I collected up my various 12V lights, wired up a 12V socket set so we could plug lots of devices in and also grabbed my small inverter for devices that needed 240V like our wireless modem. Within an hour I had lights, phone charging, torches, radio and back up battery packs for the phones if we needed to get out and about.

I also set up a second system under the house with a dedicated inverter to run the igniter for the gas hot water system and we transferred our perishables to the 12V fridge in our camper van which has it’s own 150W solar system and battery system. Within a short time, we had health, hygiene, light and communications under control.

Events like this are very rare but its a great reminder of how with a little ingenuity and  a few hundred dollars worth of bits and pieces the basics can be secured in such an emergency.

I did notice on social media that quite a few much more organised solar peep’s were enjoying 100% uptime too, courtesy of much more substantial AC storage systems on their homes. In one photo I saw, a caring solar retailer (with a substantial energy storage system at home) had clearly invited all his friends around, stocked the beer fridge and was able to keep all their kids safe, sound and entertained while the storm raged around them. I kept a close track on my little solar system and despite the horrendous weather, my system was generating a good trickle of energy that helped us get through too.

I have little doubt that over the next few months there will be a huge surge in enquiries and sales for energy storage (UPS) systems for the three hundred thousand or so NSW solar owners who no doubt wished they had some batteries over the last 36 hours.

Source: Solar Business Services. Reproduced with permission.

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1 Comment
  1. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    There was a time when all we could do was wait … and wait … putting all our hopes in speedy work by the (sometimes crazy brave) crews that look after our grid. Well soon we’re not going to tolerate exposing our crews to storm danger, no way. This modest level of technology is official competition for energy, giving us more outage time yes, but allowing all the storm and wobbly tree dangers time to pass before repairs are started. It’s what we needed, it’s for safety, and probably also quite frustrating for centralised fossil fuel generators who have a lot of idling machinery.

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