Living off the electricity grid

15th September 2014

Margaret Linley reports in the Geelong Advertister (15/9/14):

"Talk about living off the grid and chances are the image which pops into mind is not of a large and conventional family home. But that’s what Emma and Mike Sutcliffe have out in Little River, and together with their two teenage children, the family hasn’t had an electricity bill since they moved in two years ago. 'Yes, people imagine you’re going to be living in a 9sq m shack in the country', Mrs Sutcliffe said. 'But we wanted to show it is completely doable without having to compromise on our lifestyles'. ...

There are 30 panels on the north face of the garage roof which feed into the battery packs inside the garage. An electronic panel inside the house provides data about the family’s usage and storage of power. This system cost $60,000 and incurred a $7,500 government rebate. To connect their 7-hectare property to the grid was going to cost $45,000 and involved those pesky power bills from the supplier. Initially the couple planned to install a back-up generator but it soon became apparent there was no need."

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It should be noted that off-grid systems are custom designed around the customer's electricity needs. The client estimates their power consumption (usually with discussion around being as energy efficient as possible) and we design the system so that the components – solar panels, batteries, inverter, cabling, etc – are compatible with each other and deliver the required amount of power to suit the seasons. Generators are often part of the system as they can provide back-up power at times of heavy usage and also help to recharge the batteries as keeping batteries topped up tends to extend their life.

It’s true that off-grid systems eliminate the reticulated power bills but (where fitted) there will still be a cost for generator fuel and consideration needs to be given to equipment depreciation (replacement cost of the components) – particularly batteries – over the life of the system. Grid connection costs will also be a factor in the equation. 

Going Solar has been designing off-grid solar systems for more than thirty six years with many off-grid customers throughout Victoria and on off-shore islands. For more information see:

Case Studies {check the Solar Electricity (Off Grid) button to refine your search}

Information on designing off-grid systems (and note the ‘load energy audit form’).

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