Archive for September, 2013

Switched on—and addicted!

September 22, 2013

Yesterday lunchtime a chap in a yellow safety vest knocked at the door and said, “I’ve come to turn on your solar”.

I picked my jaw up off the floor and said “whaaaat!!! It was only installed on Wednesday”. I’d been expecting a week at least. Lucky for me he had a mate living nearby and saw that he could kill two birds with the one stone—visit the mate and turn on my panels. I could’ve hugged him.

I was out most of this morning and it was cloudy. But this afternoon has been sunny and I’ve been like a kid with a new toy. A bad case of Inverter Reading Syndrome. I’ve been dashing in and out every few minutes to read the inverter gauge. The installers told me this might happen, but that it would pass in a few days.

So here’s what’s happened today (bear with me—it will pass. I promise not to give daily updates!). Since the system was installed it’s generated a total of 15 kWh of energy. Today it generated 11 kWh. That’s pretty much my daily average usage, except that only half of my daily usage is used in the daytime and the other half at night to heat (off-peak) water. So I need to talk to my energy supplier and find out if I can switch to a tariff that will allow me to use the energy from the panels to heat water during the day. Then I’ll be really cooking with gas…er…the sun.

I’m still trying to register for the Energy Easy web portal where I can see all this information online, but the Smart Meter was only installed a fortnight ago, and the system apparently doesn’t know I’ve got it.

And of course, the meter has yet to be reconfigured to measure the excess I’m exporting to the grid. Till then, they’re getting it for free.

Going solar—at last!

September 20, 2013

Look at this:

solar 002

That’s MY roof those PV panels are going up on….mine, mine, all mine! I blogged about it last week and now it has actually happened.

Yes, I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and spend some money on a good cause—reducing my carbon footprint.

A couple of months ago, out of the blue, a nearby friend had a 4 kW solar system installed. I went instantly into deep green envy mode.

Twelve months ago, I had obtained a quote from a supplier for a small 1.5 kW system, but had decided it was a tad too expensive for me, what with interest rates heading ever downwards and my income following suit. So I was astounded to see the quote she was given—only slightly higher than the one I was given, but for a system between 2 and 3 times bigger. It seems that the price of PV panels has come down quite a lot.

She couldn’t speak highly enough of the person from MSJ Solar Energy System who signed her up.  I was at her home on the day it was being installed and was able to ask the installers a lot of questions. They were very nice, helpful guys, too. I was waiting for the proposed rollout of electricity Smart Meters to hit my neighbourhood and as soon as it happened, I rang MSJ and their consultant came out the next day.

So I’m now the owner of a  4 kW solar PV system. My worries about not having a north-facing roof were apparently of no consequence—some panels have been installed on the east-facing section and some (the majority) facing the west. The installers say they do this all the time.

There are 20 panels—yikes!—because they are slightly smaller at 195 watts, than the usual 250 watt panels. 20 x 195 = 3900 watts or 3.9 kW—close enough to 4 kW to brag about.

The system has been turned off and locked and I have to wait for an independent inspector come out and officially unlock it and turn it on. Then I will be generating power from the sun. How good will that feel?

The energy supplier then has to come out and reconfigure the meter so that it registers what is going into the grid. I believe they have to do this within 4 weeks of the system being turned on. You can bet they’ll take every bit of that time, because I’ll be providing power to the grid during that time and won’t be credited for it.

Ready to go! Waiting for Houston to declare lift-off:


Roll on summer! I’m looking forward to my first energy bill. If I get one at all, that is!

If you are anywhere in Melbourne or Victoria—and I know a few of my readers are—and you are thinking of going solar, please give MSJ a call for a quote. You won’t be disappointed in their service. And if you mention my name (this blog anyway), I get a $100 bonus! How good is that?

Great excitement here!

September 14, 2013

Next week I’m having a 4 kW PV solar system installed!

Weather permitting, of course. Twenty PV panels will just about cover my small roof. For those of you who know your solar, I haven’t got that wrong. These are new, 195 watt panels instead of the usual 250 watt panels. So, 20 x 195 = 3.9 kW. Not quite 4 kW but enough to brag about! As I said, weather permitting. The forecast is for rain. Fingers and toes are crossed.

I’ll be blogging more about it after the installation, but in the meantime, here’s a tour of the garden.

It’s a beautiful day today. Sunny. No wind. These tomato seedlings are having a day in the open to start the hardening off process:

saturday 001

These ones are slightly larger and have been out permanently for a few days. The big boys get to stay out overnight! :

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A really nice-looking wicking box, with oak-leaf lettuce, red russian kale, and mizuna:

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There are dozens of oak-leaf lettuces coming up in the food forest. The rabbits aren’t touching them, but to be on the safe side, I’m potting them up for planting into wicking boxes. Rabbits are perverse creatures; they will leave a plant alone for ages and just when you think they maybe don’t like it, they will totally destroy it:

saturday 004

These are red-veined sorrel seedlings.  I’ve never grown this variety before. They’re very attractive. I wonder how it would go as an indoor plant:

saturday 005

I suddenly realised this quince was in flower. And how. It has never had so many flowers before. In past years it’s only set a few fruits which dropped off before they reached any size. Last year one fruit got to be a mature size and then disappeared. It was hanging low to the ground, but I didn’t bother protecting it. Rabbits? Possums? Who’d want to eat something so hard and sour? :

saturday 009

Lovely display of quince flowers:

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Tonight’s dinner. They grow so quickly. They can be a few inches tall one day and 2 feet the next. I’m checking the patch twice a day now:

saturday 011

And finally, because no post would be complete without the star attractions:

saturday 007

They’re right back into full laying now and suddenly there’s a dozen eggs in the fridge. And the friend who usually gets half a dozen a week is swanning around somewhere in Central Australia at the moment. So it looks like the solar panel installers (who are really nice blokes—I’ve already met them) might be taking home half a dozen each.

Growth is over

September 9, 2013

Most of the blogs in my feed reader are either peak oil blogs or self-sufficiency blogs. I guess I’ve been assuming that people who are working towards self-sufficiency know something about the coming energy decline and that’s why they’re doing it.  Trying to build resilience into their lives in the face of the collapse of industrial civilisation which will follow as the world runs out of oil energy.

I also assume that they also have some biological knowledge about how the world works; the fact that Earth is a finite system and that no organism can grow forever in a finite system, i.e. continuous growth is impossible. Sooner or later an organism whose numbers and consumption of resources is growing will be cut down by what is known is these circles as ‘overshoot and collapse’.

So I was disappointed to read in one of my feeds this morning (I won’t mention the blog, but the writer lives in Australia and not far from me, in fact), this comment on last Saturday’s federal election: “let’s hope everyone will get some confidence back and start generating some economic growth”.

It seemed like a serious comment and not tongue-in-cheek.

Growth is the last thing we need. Growth in human numbers, growth in the consumption of non-renewable resources (many critical ones, like oil and phosphorus, already becoming scarce), increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, increase in pollution, loss of the biological diversity that keeps Earth’s temperature and chemistry in homeostasis; I could go on.

Maybe a dose of information via Richard Heinberg’s recent book The End of Growth is needed by this blogger.

Growth in human numbers is killing us and the planet. Growth is the last thing we need. Calling for continued growth is depressing enough when it comes from biologically ignorant politicians and business leaders.

I want something more encouraging and intelligent from the blogs I read. I’ve deleted that blog from my feed.