By Beatka Provis
Y2R members recently had the pleasure of seeing Greg Barber’s (MP) solar setup on a sunny Sunday afternoon. His household is the first in Victoria to have installed the Tesla Powerwall battery – a home battery system which stores electricity from solar panels.
Greg’s 5kW solar array is positioned on his back shed/garage and the slim 6.4kWh Powerwall battery is wall-mounted inside. An app tracks how much solar electricity is produced and consumed; how much is stored in the battery; and how much is exported back into the grid.
— Yes 2 Renewables (@Yes2Renewables) April 17, 2016
On the day we visited, Greg’s system was easily meeting the power requirements of the household and in addition- exporting half of what it produced back into the grid. The engaging visuals of the app showed a morning spike in the household energy usage when the oven was used for baking. Meanwhile, the battery was full – ready to continue powering the fridge into the night.
Greg has calculated approximately a 15 year payback for the outlay of his solar panels and battery (approximately $15,000). Presently, the Powerwall only has a 10 year warranty. Greg joked about the irony of this, but it is easy to see the advantages of the battery system are more than just monetary.
So far Greg’s household has saved 328 kg of carbon emissions and Greg has become finely attuned to weather patterns, the movement of the sun and the energy consumption routines of his family. He has been known to call home after seeing a spike in electricity usage on the app, reminding his family to switch off the sandwich maker!
The next step for Greg and his family is to fine-tune their routines. For example, programming the dishwasher and washing machine to start when the sun is high in the sky. And in winter, programming the air-conditioning to slowly warm up the house from 4pm – well before the sun has set. This kind of planning will ensure the battery-stored power is utilised for night time appliances (such as fridge and TV) and prevent reliance on drawing power from the grid.
Greg is also in the process of an electric storage hot water system, which will eventually enable his household to disconnect from gas (music to the ears the Coal & Gasfield Free Victoria movement). He is also looking to switch to an electricity provider that offers higher feed-in tariffs along with low supply charges. The problem of low feed-in tariffs offered by power companies was what initially prompted Greg to install the Powerwall. It seems like he made a good decision – one which his has created a lot of interest from neighbours in the street and from Y2R members alike.