Off-grid on the edge

Solar panels towards east end of house because of afternoon shading issues_600px

Jayne and Cathy Malcholm struggled with power reliability in their location on the edge of Melbourne, so in 2016 they installed battery backup as part of their long-term plan to go off-grid. They describe the system and results.

WE LIVE on the outer edge of Melbourne in a low-energy house which was designed with solar in mind. It has a north-facing roof pitched at 45 degrees to slightly favour winter solar collection. We are on the end of a SWER (single wire, earth return) power line, which over the years has proved to be very unreliable. It was this unreliability that drove us towards a solar + battery system; the power would go off a couple of times a week, resetting our clocks and dropping out the computer, not to mention the inconvenience of sitting in the dark.

We began our project in mid-2015 with some research on solar installers and chose a company that does both domestic and commercial installations. With Jayne having a technical background, she had a lot of questions before we signed on the bottom line. The negotiation took about three months. We kept refining the system speci

fication as we better understood what was being offered and what seemed appropriate for our needs.If you are thinking of going down the solar or battery storage route, our advice would be to pick a reliable company that is willing to spend the time answering all those difficult questions. It may cost you a little more, but our experience is that you get what you pay for, both in terms of product and installation quality.

System requirements
Our requirements were based on our long-term goal of being able to go off-grid; we are already off-grid for water. We decided to design for going off-grid while initially keeping our system on the grid to enable us to test whether it would meet our needs.

We wanted the system to be able to power the house for two days without significant solar input and to be able to start a water pump for fire-fighting purposes. As we were intending to install solar hot water collectors, we did not consider PV water heating at this stage.

Read the full article in ReNew 143.