We were tent campers on our Cooktown trip, as we usually are, but saw plenty of campervans and have happy memories of our campervan trip around Tasmania late last year. I have also been following the EV-versus-ICE (internal combustion engine) debate for some time so I was well primed to notice a Facebook post about a very advanced solar-powered Dutch campervan when it appeared in my news feed soon after we got home.
We visited Ross Dam recently with members of Wildlife Queensland’s Townsville Branch for a morning of birdwatching and botanising. We wandered along the dam wall, back to the park at its foot, and then down to the Borrow Pits nearby.
The dam was much lower than on my last visits, in March and May of last year, but the Borrow Pit made me a liar by being emptier than when I saw it in December 2013. Perhaps we had had more rain before that visit than we have had in the last few months?
Views from the dam wall
Solar power has been going gangbusters since my previous post under this title (2014) and an update of it is well overdue. This isn’t it, however. What I want to do here is talk about domestic solar power, and specifically its advantages here in North Queensland, via four small projects which came out of our own move from one suburban Townsville house to another two years ago.
I will go from smallest to largest.
The new house is a low-set, 1950-ish cement block home pleasantly surrounded by trees. That makes it much darker than our old high-set home, and its double-fronted layout means that the central hallway gets no direct natural light at all.
We had to choose between running lights all day, every day, and putting in a small skylight. Initial quotes for a skylight (Solatube, basic model) were around $750 with, of course zero running costs for about 10 hrs/day of adequate light, 365 days/yr. Could we do better?
The rooftop PV system we installed seven years ago has just passed another good round number – 16 000 KWh – having produced 4 000 KWh since my last update, in September 2016.
The daily average in that period is therefore 5.9 KWh/day, a little lower than the average of the first five years. The drop in output is so small that it’s not really worth worrying about but three explanations come to mind, and all may have contributed to it:
- We don’t bother cleaning the panels, so full-sun output may have dropped;
- Our trees have kept on growing, so the panels may be shaded for longer, especially in winter;
- The period we are considering includes two full Wet seasons but not quite two full Dry seasons (the month-by-month variation is shown here).
How much money are we saving now?
Most of us know by now that we need to decarbonise the global economy – fast – if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Fortunately, the technology to do just that is booming, charging ahead so quickly that merely keeping up with the news is difficult.
Solar and wind power are demonstrating astonishing growth rates, with or without government incentives, now that their costs have dropped below the costs of new coal and (in many cases) gas; some time last year we even began hearing of cases in which it was cheaper to build and run new wind and solar power plants than just to run old coal plants.
Last year, for most of us, was the Year of the Battery. Tesla’s big South Australian battery did something its many little Powerwalls couldn’t, i.e., make battery storage seem like a serious option for the real world rather than just a cool idea. Bloomberg’s 2018 outlook report sees this continuing and allowing electric vehicles to undercut conventional, internal combustion engine cars on both lifetime and upfront cost by the mid-to-late 2020s.
The Green Path facebook page does its best to keep up with all this news but anyone wanting it all, and unfiltered, should bookmark or follow these sites:
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