Solar update.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

It works! When the sun shines, our solar panels are generating power from the sun. It’s taken quite a while to reach this point. There were the months I hesitated, questioned many people and worried over the choice. Which supplier would be the best? which quote should I choose? Which panels? Which inverter? How many kilowatts?

Once chosen, there were the inevitable delays- too wet, too windy, an emergency to fix…then the panels were no longer being produced…Finally, better panels, but costing more money. Keep going? Yes!

Then, the panels went on, but weren’t connected!! So close, but…not yet.

Installing the energy program.

Installing the energy program.

But now, the delays are past and we have been generating solar power for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time checking how much power is being generated and how much power the household is using. You see, this solar system is internet connected and I can check how much power each panel is generating and how much has been generated today, this week, this month or over a lifetime. Then I have this other splendid gadget which tells me how much power is being used by this household, in real time. I turn on heating and check how much power it uses. Does the solar cover it?  Can I do the washing? I am so impressed with my washing machine and with my large air-conditioner. Neither uses much energy. Most days, I can be using both and still have power left over. Here in Australia, we have so much sunshine.

The program.

The program.

I am a little in love with  our systems. In fact, I’m possibly obsessed with them. I confess I  pester my co-home owner with several daily phone calls, consisting of updates on current usage. But you have to admit, it is fascinating. The air-conditioner is on, but we’re only using .653 kws- it’s a 5kw air-conditioner! Turn on the stove…uh oh, 2.6 kws. It’s all been a revelation.

Will we get our money back? Probably not, but that’s not why we put on solar panels. Australia may repeal the carbon tax, but at least we are doing something about living sustainably and climate change.

 

Solar Day!

 

they arrive.

they arrive.

It has finally arrived! After months of worrying over quotes, driving people to distraction with endless questions, bombarding one of my brothers for information and trying the endless patience of my co-house owner …I settled on the supplier (yes, in consultation with my co) and accepted their quote for installing solar. Then, it was waiting for the installation.The original panels were no longer being made…postpone the day…then…It was raining! postpone the day…then…other people had to be done first…postpone the day…then…The weather forecast for Friday was for rain and storms! Would it happen?

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

The men arrived. Looked rainy. Nail biting. Work began. And continued…slowly, or so it seemed to a waiting woman who had been saving her washing, the ironing, the vacuuming…(some people who know me well, might ask “what’s new?”). They worked. Tedious business, this. Very hot, especially in the roof cavity, they say. And they worked. I go out, come home, still working. Even hotter. Four-thirty, and yes, the panels are on, but the micro-inverters are yet to be connected and no, they are sorry, but that won’t happen today. My house looks like it has solar, and it will, but the washing still waits.

Suit the house, don't they?

Suit the house, don’t they?

Maybe tomorrow? But it doesn’t matter! It will happen and this household will be less dependent on the use of fossil fuel, which has always been the aim. The release last week of the IPCC report makes the use of alternative sources of energy ever more crucial. I haven’t wanted  solar simply to save money on my energy bills and I don’t think we will save much initially. But I have worried about the state of our planet for a long time. I remember sitting in the  movie theatre after watching “An Inconvenient Truth”, not able to leave. I was crying too much. There really wasn’t anything new in the film, it was the sight of our blue planet suspended in space. I loved her fiercely and I hadn’t realised how much. I love this earth; I love all the bits; I want to see as much of her as I can; I love her creatures; the glimpse of a whale is joy and delight; the thought of polar bears starving to death because of what we have done I find almost unbearable.

What if they were gone forever?

What if they were gone forever?

Because it isn’t just about us. Yes, the report contains dire statements about Australia- more extreme heat, more bushfires, more storms and severe floods. Think of the suffering of the animals every time there is a bushfire, every drought, every heatwave. I remember Stephen Fry in the series “Last Chance to See” a BBC 2009 production, filming rare and endangered species. I was moved to tears when Stephen bottle feeds a baby rhino and declares to the camera “Now I can die”. I feel I am not doing nearly enough. I still drive a car. We will grow as much of our food as we possibly can and we will share what we have with our neighbours. I will work to create community here where I am. I am learning to live frugally and simply. BUT…

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

Five minutes from my front door. I am grateful every day.

We have a beautiful home, let’s do whatever it takes. After all, changes in our lifestyle can’t hurt us and may make all the difference!

Living simply and sustainably

this beautiful earth

this beautiful earth

How to stay cool in summer? How to be warm in winter? Our new home, new to us anyway, is sited poorly and has only one air-conditioner in the family room so cooling and heating can be a challenge.

I’m finding I can live without air-conditioning in the summer -most rooms have ceiling fans. Seems ridiculous to be thinking about heating in this hot, hot, dry summer we’re having , but I’ve been worrying at the options since last winter in this house. I was living as simply and sustainably as I could and I froze.

After many months we are about to have an air-conditioner installed in the lounge room and solar panels put on the roof-  very exciting.

I spent the winter months asking people what heating they used. Here in the country, almost universally, the answer was a wood fire or stove.

Now I had a pot belly stove in my last house and used it at first. But coming home from work to a cold house, chopping wood, cleaning out the ashes, carrying the wood upstairs, lighting the fire and waiting for the house to warm…I have limited energy and am prone to viruses. I found I resorted to an electric heater quite often. Besides, you can’t turn a wood stove down! Once it’s hot…it’s often too hot and I don’t like sleeping too warm. I’d phone friends and tell them I had all the doors and windows open.

Now, I am ten years older. Realistically, I know I wouldn’t handle the effort of maintaining a wood fire.

Here on the coast where so many people have wood fires, the amount of available wood is becoming scarcer. We are using up animal habitats.  Personally I can’t get past the fact too, that respiratory related problems due to smoke inhalation is the major cause of infant mortality in the developing world. Although Australia is not a developing country I don’t want to add to a world problem. This is my choice and I understand it’s not for everyone.

In my previous house I put on gas. Being a city girl I had the notion that gas was the cheapest and most efficient. Here in the country, there’s no gas pipeline, it’s bottled gas. Not cheap! Besides, I’m nervous of gas. So that leaves air-conditioning and solar energy.

I’d like batteries to store the excess energy on those days of abundant sunshine, but I don’t think it’s possible to use batteries and stay connected to the grid- something I haven’t researched. I’m not ready to go “off the grid.”

What have I learnt through this process? I’ve learnt that I find it much more difficult to make choices when I’m using some of my small financial capital. There’s less room for error.  Even more crucial has been knowing that the choices affect the state of this planet.

Will I use air-conditioning on those cloudy, cold days when the panels don’t generate enough energy? I don’t know, but I do know that I care passionately about climate change and am committed to living sustainably and simply.