Excision from the National Electricity Grid

According to Professor Gavan McDonell, the national electricity grid stretches over 4,000 kilometres, connecting far North Queensland down through the eastern states to Tasmania and across to South Australia. However, there is one notable exclusion: the Daintree.

One can almost here the collective expression of environmental conditioning, “Yes, but the ‘pristine Daintree’ is far too precious to be spoilt by reticulation.”

So, by implication, if Australia regards the Daintree exclusion area as the most deserving of protection from environmental harm, why is it condemned to the most polluting form of electricity? Surely, if its environmental importance supersedes any other area in Australia, its electricity supply should be the cleanest in Australia?

Residents and businesses within area of excision have a rigorously regulated conservation land-use responsibility. They are also quarantined from development, particularly through World Heritage and Iconic Places legislation. Now that conservation targets and planning scheme objectives have formally been met, the custodial community would like to be supported in the development of an alternative energy policy that is not reliant upon the concurrent operation of hundreds of polluting, emitting engine generators.

To this end, a delegation travelled to Brisbane to meet with Minister for Energy, the Hon. Geoff Wilson MP, to appeal for environmental relief from the existing flawed policy. It called upon the Queensland Government to embrace a new partnership, that protects, to the greatest possible extent, the exceptional environmental and ecotourism values, including the people and communities, through renewable optimisation, innovation, development and provision of world’s best-practice electricity supply.

The Minister’s Office has recently issued the following media statement:

We’re not about to bulldoze through ancient rainforest to put in power lines north of the Daintree River.

We’re talking about world-famous, world heritage-listed rainforest and everyone would want it to stay that way.

The State Labor Government has spent millions of dollars in a land buy-back scheme for the Daintree that demonstrates our commitment to the preservation of this pristine region.

In 2001, residents were invited to apply for federal and state government grants for solar power and to store solar energy.

Householders may also be eligible for grants under the federal government’s regional renewable power generation program. The federal government will pay up to fifty per cent of the cost of any renewable energy project.

The program is essentially for households and businesses that aren’t connected to the grid.

Ergon Energy has experts based in Cairns and they provide technical advice and equipment to households and businesses that rely on remote area power supplies, including solar energy.

I would encourage householders in the Daintree to contact Ergon Energy in Cairns.

The media advice is contemptuous of the people of Queensland, who in 1998 funded a $450,000 EIAS that established that reticulation through directional boring could be achieved without any adverse effect on the natural environment. It is also contemptuous of the local community that travelled from the Daintree to Brisbane to explain their very serious concerns for the pollution that the Queensland Government’s existing electricity policy has forced into their income-earning rainforest.

Indeed, the description of bulldozing ancient World Heritage rainforests is deliberate and mischievous fear-mongering. World Heritage is protected from state government degradation under international law & the Commonwealth’s EPBC Act, in addition to its own state government legislation, including the NCA, IPA, Wet Tropics Management & Protection & Iconic Places Acts.

Land acquisition by the Queensland Government was an integral part of an agreement, defined in the Rainforest CRC’s Daintree Futures Study, which built upon the concurrent delivery of conservation, regulation of development and power.

Minister Wilson suggests Daintree landholders contact Ergon Energy in Cairns, which has been relieved of its distribution responsibility towards the Daintree area only, for technical advice. In point of fact, the FNQ Regional Electricity Council has recommended:

In light of the State Government’s ClimateSmart 2050 strategy to reduce emissions from fossil fuel and increase use of renewables, the REC would recommend that the Minister review whether solutions could be found under this or related policies.

Options might include: support increased use of renewable energy through revised subsidies for renewables or tariff arrangements, or through providing grid access to greener power through the large scale cleaner generation such as gas, wind or clean coal.

Given the particular environment, an the many facets of the problem, the REC also recommends that other departments with interests in sustainability and World Heritage environmental management also be asked to consider solutions to the concerns.

37 Responses to Excision from the National Electricity Grid

  1. Ianl July 9, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    In a similar vein, airborne geopysical surveys are required to turn their instruments off when over Kakadu – ie. completely non-intrusive airborne data may not be collected. Presumably the Watermelons cannot trust the politicians if some potentially economic deposit of any kind is detected in the surveys.

    This is the equivalent of book-burning. Wanting to know what such data may show is thoughtcrime.

  2. Helen Mahar July 9, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    You lot are getting a run around Ian. The only reliable energy for small holdings is diesel generators. Putting these holdings on the grid externalises the emissions.

    Seventeen years ago I worked to get the last farming community in SA onto reticulated power. It cost us all heaps, and we had to pay interest on the community loan, but was still cheaper than running and maintaining indivdual generators. Marvellous to be able to just flick a switch and have power. Some years before that we had used wind power – very unreliable and needed a backup generator.

    At the time we all looked at solar systems, but they cost about the same as paying for the lines, and still needed a backup generator. These stand alone power systems also need someone on site with the mechanical skills to keep them running.

    Reliable, reticulated power is a quality-of-life and safety issue. Best of luck, Ian.

  3. Ian Mott July 9, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    Neil, perhaps you should take a look at steam engine power generation, burning some of your local wood so the remaining forest can feast on the CO2 you produce. It is far better than diesel, is renewable, and will get right up the gonzo green movement’s nose, big time.

    Steam generators give an initial impression of being rather costly but that is before one realises that a single, almost silent, 1KVA system can deliver enough hot water for up to 10 houses. Not a big demand item in the wet tropics, I know, but in one step it halves the amount of electricity normally needed by a household.

    And while there may be legislation that prevents you from supplying electricity to any other dwelling, they would look pretty silly trying to stop you selling hot water to your neighbour.

    And in any event, you could consider interconnected electric fences that might achieve the same outcome as a power cable but be much harder to detect and easily disconnected if the thugs show up at the front gate.

    Your problem is that you are honest people trying to deal with venal scum by honest means. But when the community, through ignorance or indifference, give such scum free rein you have no obligation to deal with them honestly.

  4. spangled drongo July 9, 2008 at 9:40 pm #

    Ianl,
    Under what authority is that regulation imposed?
    Helen Mahar,
    Have you seen the crazy scheme they are putting in Windorah? I think the SA govt is doing one in one of their outback towns too. A multi-million solar reflector that still needs the original diesel generator to run mornings and nights.
    If you can make a showcase for AGW out of it you can get this extravagant treatment.

  5. Ender July 9, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    spangled drongo – “I think the SA govt is doing one in one of their outback towns too. A multi-million solar reflector that still needs the original diesel generator to run mornings and nights.”

    In an isolated renewable system the solar power units will at best drastically reduce the amount of diesel that is consumed. I assume that they will be using Powercon’s low load diesel system.

    http://www.pcorp.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=72&Itemid=112

    The point is that this isolated system cannot take advantage of other distributed renewables that can help boost the capacity factor.

    However just the reduction in expensive diesel fuel will over time more than pay for the solar plant.

  6. Ender July 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm #

    “Minister Wilson suggests Daintree landholders contact Ergon Energy in Cairns, which has been relieved of its distribution responsibility towards the Daintree area only, for technical advice. In point of fact, the FNQ Regional Electricity Council has recommended:”

    Why not contact any of the competent solar designers, that now have to certified, to design a suitable system. Also the restriction on powering other homes is just plain ridiculous. Several houses would be far better to group together to supply power rather than just one.

    A good start, one I will be using in time, is the Sunny Island system of inverters.

    http://www.sma-australia.com.au/au/solar-technology/products/island-grids/sunny-island/products/sunny-island-5048/overview/index.html

    You can now couple all your devices efficiently on the AC side creating a mini grid. BTW solar panels are a LOT cheaper now than seventeen years ago. Also with a suitable site small wind turbines are also very effective.

    With good design generator use is minimised. This is what can be done:

    http://mtbest.net/solar_house_tour.html

  7. Neil Hewett July 10, 2008 at 8:23 am #

    Ender,

    As you might imagine, in an area excised from the grid, with four hundred or so homes and sixty businesses, there is an enthusiastic presence of authorised expert stand-alone system designer/suppliers.

    I have previously described aspects of our own set-up here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002826.html and here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002352.html
    Our inverter is an older version of: http://www.selectronic.com.au/inverter/se32.html

    Wind is virtually non-existent in tropical rainforest, except in extreme weather events.

    The major difficulty is not the generation of electricity from renewable sources, but the cost-effective storage. There are times when the solar resource could supply the entire community’s needs, but no-one has the storage capacity. Without a grid to feed into we must maintain battery banks at around $1200/year and this cost rapidly spirals upwards if capacity is not held above 80%. This is where engine generators are unavoidable. Even with our own system, which is well-equipped with hydro & solar components, two-thirds of our electricity is generated by engines to specifically maintain battery life.

  8. Ian Mott July 10, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    Spot on, Neil. Few seem to realise that allowing the batteries to go below 75% is a fast way to blow your investment. The amount of diesel or sunlight required to lift the battery level from 60% to 80% is huge compared to what is required to lift the level from 80% to 100%.

    So if one wants to achieve anywhere near the manufacturers claimed battery life then one must resort to the generator much sooner than most would imagine. If not, they waste a large portion of the next days sunlight just lifting the level to what should have been the starting point.

  9. cinders July 10, 2008 at 9:35 am #

    Neil,

    I think I have located your bulldozer that will be used to mow down the pristine rainforest as quoted by the politician.

    It was seen on ABC Catalyst on 11 August 2005 “wiping out the last old growth forests” in Queensland in August 2005. http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1435595.htm

    The Yellow “Dozer” was also recently seen on ABC television News in Tasmania on 21 May 08.

    Video of the dozer pushing over scrub and trees was shown to the accompaniment of the News report of “Environmental activists are calling for the Tasmanian Government to back up the Tasmanian devils’ endangered status with new regulations to further protect their habitats from logging.”

    You may wish to alert the ABC that the bulldozer is coming to the Daintree!

  10. Ender July 10, 2008 at 10:54 am #

    Neil – “As you might imagine, in an area excised from the grid, with four hundred or so homes and sixty businesses, there is an enthusiastic presence of authorised expert stand-alone system designer/suppliers.”

    I am sure there are however I did say competent. There are any number of experts however you need to find the ones that really know what they are doing. The guy at Tasman Solar strikes me as pretty knowledgeable and practical.

    “I have previously described aspects of our own set-up here”

    Yes and I have pointed out what I think is wrong with it.

    “The major difficulty is not the generation of electricity from renewable sources, but the cost-effective storage”

    Not entirely sure what you are talking about here. The usual point for flooded lead acid batteries is 50%. If you batteries are not able to hold charge at 80% then you have been ripped off and bought inferior batteries or you are charging them wrongly and destroying them. Keeping flooded cells to 50% discharge and correctly charging them with a modern 3 or 4 stage computerised charger should allow them to have a lifetime of 10 years or more.

    If you would like to spend a bit more on batteries and buy gels or AGM then you will not have to maintain them and can discharge them even more and maintain cycle life.

    If these are your problems then you seriously need to check your float voltage and/or the way your diesel is charging the batteries. For battery charging you need to use a 3 stage alternator controller like the Ample Power.

    As for the cost the cheapest quality batteries that I have found are the Trojan T105 at $177/kWh. For large systems the Century Yausu are at $197/kWh. The cost of the larger Yausu 1025Ah bank is about $9000.00. If you are having problems with your batteries you need to check both your suppliers and your chargers and battery monitoring all of which seem to be deficient.

  11. Ender July 10, 2008 at 11:09 am #

    Ian Mott – “The amount of diesel or sunlight required to lift the battery level from 60% to 80% is huge compared to what is required to lift the level from 80% to 100%.”

    Now you are really talking crap. Please explain WTF you mean by this.

    The only case this passes close to something approaching reality is when your charger is so bad it cannot maintain a correct charging voltage in which case it is the fault of the installer.

    All modern battery chargers are multi stage that bulk charge the batteries then top them up with a slower charge. With solar panels if this is the case then you have chosen panels that do not have sufficient voltage in hot conditions to maintain charge. Switching to a MPPT controller such as the Apollo or new Morning Star controllers will stop this. These always charge the battery at the correct voltage independent of the input voltage and always maintain the solar panels at the maximum power point.

    http://www.energymatters.com.au/regulators-max-powerpoint-trackers-c-150_187.html
    http://www.energymatters.com.au/battery-chargers-24v-battery-chargers-c-154_248.html?page=2&sort=20a

    http://www.amplepower.com/products/dbc/index.html

    And for both of you here is one of the best battery primers:
    http://www.amplepower.com/primer/index.html

  12. Louis Hissink July 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm #

    Neil

    http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23989625-3102,00.html

    I tried solar power for field operations over a period of 6 years – gave up and went back to good old reliable Honda gensets.

  13. Johnathan Wilkes July 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    Louis,
    reading the replies to that article, I have to say, there are more than a few bloody minded people out there.

    Practically every one of them said: “if you don’t like it, MOVE!”

    I’m not familiar with the area but I’m sure there are alternative solutions, if the will was there.

  14. rog July 10, 2008 at 3:35 pm #

    Ender demonstrates why highly technical systems are unsuitable except for highly technical nerds.

    Ender you dim wit, people just want the turn the switch on and get power.

    If you are so clever why dont you put together a package that does all these things without the user having to get a degree first.

    Its called “sustainability” OK?

  15. spangled drongo July 10, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    Ender,
    As far as I know these towns already have an efficient diesel generator and the inhabitants are not expecting to reduce diesel consumption.
    Imagine a country town of 100 people connected to a solar reflector energy unit with no storage capacity.
    They need power early AM [no delivery].
    they need power evenings and nights [no delivery].
    The only time it delivers is when no one’s home but it is costing the taxpayer $40,000 per head of population and keeping those 50 foot high reflectors clean in dusty country is nigh impossible.
    This is touted as the new way. Renewable energy working for you!
    Gawd help us!

  16. Neil Hewett July 10, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    Ender,

    Sulfication rates increase below 80% capacity, requiring boosting charges to gas the solution at the expense of the lead plates and hence battery longevity. There are unavoidable instances when battery levels drop damagingly-low, such as when those pesky little fire-like ants short out cabling in their hunger for the sugars beneath insulation. Regaining battery health is excruciatingly difficult.

    Louis,

    As a community, we’re not anti-renewables; to the contrary. We are, though, in a very poor renewable resource area. If our generation of electricity through renewables was supported by the application of statewide equalised tariffs, we would better off by a quantum proportion. BTW, we also rely on the reliability of Honda Gensets, EU30is, but they last only three years burning $170 petrol/week.

    Johnathon Wilkes,

    The rancor of those responses enunciates the impropriety of the government’s scaremongering. Many seem to believe that living in the Daintree should be without power at all and yet the article clearly stated that it is a self-sustaining provider of its own electricity needs. The concerns, that the policy limitations on supply are very bad for the immediate environment, should have also concerned all those critics that suggest the area is too important to be electrified. Also, the prohibitive costs of the existing policy undermining the viability of the sole eco-tourism economy, should have been reinforced by its champions to protect its sole conservation economy.

  17. Ianl July 10, 2008 at 6:29 pm #

    “Under what authority is that regulation imposed?”

    Combination of Fed Dept Environment and NT – the Kakadu National Park Act. You see my point, mere possession of knowledge is a thoughtcrime.

    On solar panels charging batteries, even with the best controllers and deep-cycle batteries, 6 months of reliable usage is the best practical outcome one can expect (yes, Ender, I’ve tried this to power a micro-seismic detection complex in a bush location) … btw, what is required to constantly manufacture trillions of batteries, I wonder ?

  18. Louis Hissink July 10, 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    Neil

    Yes the Hondas go well, and then after 3 years…. I had a 2 Eu which burned alot of oil, and asked the Kununurra dealer to put some new rings in it. Problem is Honda don’t supply oversize pistons, so that refurbishing isn’t possible. Solution? New engine.

  19. spangled drongo July 10, 2008 at 8:32 pm #

    Ianl,
    I do see your point. Unbelievable!
    Neil,
    I stayed in a house once at Portland Roads and wind power seemed to work well there on the coastline where the trades blew at a steady 30 knots most of the time. When it wasn’t blowing 30 it was blowing 40.
    I’ve lived with renewables and generally they are limited to say the least but this was pretty impressive.
    Could you get the govt to work with you with a coastal wind farm.
    Tell them about the greenie points it would earn them and once the network is set up they will have to provide a backup if it doesn’t deliver.

  20. Louis Hissink July 10, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    Ianl

    You were allowed to fly over Kakadu NP?

    In any case NT EL regulations are draconian – even go onto an ELA to say g’day to your local pastoralist forfeits your application.

  21. Neil Hewett July 10, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    spangled drongo,

    I have also stayed in a Portland Roads house, formerly a WWII gun emplacement.

    The Daintree, though, is a windless environment (cyclones excepted) and under Thornton Peak we receive an average annual rainfall of 5.5 metres with very little solar potential.

    A wind farm is proposed for Archer Point, south of Cooktown, and our community would gratefully accept its renewable supply, however, we would need cabling, as manageable electricity has not yet been convertable to wireless transmission.

    We have been trying to convince the Queensland Government to work with us to optimise renewables and minimalise environmental harm, by recognising the need and facilitating the installation of a network between properties. Sharing inputs when they are in abundance and drawing on outputs from the least polluting sources, would be a far better arrangement than the anti-networking regulation that is currently imposed.

    As for greenie points, we made that very argument to Minister Wilson, when we reported, as required of a custodial community, that the existing policy is environmentally derelict and that all environmentally caring Queenslanders would approve of an amendment that pursued world’s best practice.

    The Minister responded, in the court of public opinion: “We’re not about to bulldoze through ancient rainforest to put in power lines north of the Daintree River … We’re talking about world-famous, world heritage-listed rainforest and everyone would want it to stay that way…”

  22. Ender July 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    rog – “Ender you dim wit, people just want the turn the switch on and get power.”

    So what you are saying is that you want power now and are not prepared to understand or take responsibility for anything that gives this ‘unlimited’ power to you.

    In short just give me the power and damn the consequences.

    Very responsible – a very bogon response.

  23. Ender July 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    Neil – “Sulfication rates increase below 80% capacity, requiring boosting charges to gas the solution at the expense of the lead plates and hence battery longevity. There are unavoidable instances when battery levels drop damagingly-low, such as when those pesky little fire-like ants short out cabling in their hunger for the sugars beneath insulation.”

    Not sure what you are doing however sulfation should not occur in this situation. You should be noting some of these points:

    http://www.batterystuff.com/tutorial_battery.html
    “8. Battery life and performance – Average battery life has become shorter as energy requirements have increased. Two phrases I hear most often are “my battery won’t take a charge, and my battery won’t hold a charge”. Only 30% of batteries sold today reach the 48-month mark. In fact 80% of all battery failure is related to sulfation build-up. This build up occurs when the sulfur molecules in the electrolyte (battery acid) become so deeply discharged that they begin to coat the battery’s lead plates. Before long the plates become so coated that the battery dies. The causes of sulfation are numerous. Let me list some for you.

    * Batteries sit too long between charges. As little as 24 hours in hot weather and several days in cooler weather.
    * Battery is stored without some type of energy input.
    * “Deep cycling” an engine starting battery. Remember these batteries can’t stand deep discharge.
    * Undercharging of a battery, to charge a battery (lets say) to 90% of capacity will allow sulfation of the battery using the 10% of battery chemistry not reactivated by the incomplete charging cycle.
    * Heat of 100 plus F., increases internal discharge. As temperatures increase so does internal discharge. A new fully charged battery left sitting 24 hours a day at 110 degrees F for 30 days would most likely not start an engine.
    * Low electrolyte level – battery plates exposed to air will immediately sulfate.
    * Incorrect charging levels and settings. Most cheap battery chargers can do more harm than good. See the section on battery charging.
    * Cold weather is also hard on the battery. The chemistry does not make the same amount of energy as a warm battery. A deeply discharged battery can freeze solid in sub zero weather.
    * Parasitic drain is a load put on a battery with the key off. More info on parasitic drain will follow in this document.”

    Or switch to Gel or AGM batteries that do not have this problem.

  24. Ender July 10, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Ianl – “On solar panels charging batteries, even with the best controllers and deep-cycle batteries, 6 months of reliable usage is the best practical outcome one can expect”

    Check your float voltage. Also the batteries are probably not being charged enough. You need to switch to a MPPT controller.

  25. Johnathan Wilkes July 10, 2008 at 10:34 pm #

    Neil
    “As for greenie points, we made that very argument to Minister Wilson, when we reported, as required of a custodial community, that the existing policy is environmentally derelict”

    Just my opinion Neil, but I wouldn’t pursue that line too hard.

    It may just give the greenies-politicians an opening to make up their minds and decide, that nobody should be living there permanently.

    Just a thought, I had my share of skirmishes with council etc. and they are ready to jump if you give them an opportunity.

    As to batteries, I lived with alternative supplies, as I mentioned on an earlier thread, you are perfectly right. I speak from experience.
    (we used to put in a bid at every Telecom auction for deep cycle batteries to maintain the storage bank)
    Dreaming about it and living with it, are worlds
    apart!

    Good luck!

  26. Neil Hewett July 11, 2008 at 6:39 am #

    Johnathon Wilkes,

    “Just my opinion Neil, but I wouldn’t pursue that line too hard.

    It may just give the greenies-politicians an opening to make up their minds and decide, that nobody should be living there permanently.”

    I believe that decision was made long ago. It is the manner of its pursuit that beggars belief. Interestingly, the powers to compulsorily acquire lands have not been pursued and I suspect because they activate the jurisdiction of the Land Court and require compliance with the constitutional requirement of being on just terms. Such an approach would give aggrieved landholders a forum for natural justice.

    The stupidity of the underlying argument reflects the importance of the area for income-earning through a prerequisite human inundation. I have no doubt that if my property was compulsorily acquired under the pretense of environmental protection, that the house that I built, in due course, would be occupied by another family of state employed environmental bureaucrats; human occupants nonethelesss, albeit sustained by tax-payer funded salaries and equipped with staggeringly expensive electricity supplies.

    In another, concurrent instance of inconsistency, the Queensland Government’s commitment to the Cool Schools Program, meant the local primary school had to be air-conditioned. For thirty-five students, air-conditioning five rooms required an upgrade of the school’s stand alone power supply that cost Queensland almost $1million. At the same time, it is virtually impossible for teacher recruits to find accommodation in the area because of landholder reluctance to give over the management of sixty-to-seventy thousand-dollar stand-alone supplies whose longevity requires devoted care and lots of expensive generator time.

    It might also be interesting for readers to know that whilst battery banks may be regarded as reservoirs for electricity, most are 24V DC, which when drawn upon through a 240V sinewave inverter, takes electricity out of the reservoir at ten times the rate that it is stored. The generator would have run continuously for two hours at 60 amps to charge the battery bank for a 1.0 amp refrigerator to operate for twelve hours.

  27. Ian Mott July 11, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    Ender still doesn’t get it. My system is on a rental house. It is a partial system that does not supply refrigerator, stove or hot water. Therefore, the budget allocation for lighting and electrical plug-ins, unless I am keen to subsidise my tenants, is about $150/quarter or $600/year.

    And as my cost of money is about 9%pa and my investment in solar must be paid for over a ten year interval, it means my total outlay must be no more than 6.4 times the $600 annual budget, or $3840.

    But Ender’s “you beaut” batteries cost $1900 alone. Add a capable battery charger at $800 and the back-up generator at $1,100 and there is nothing left for solar panels (Sony 80w at $800 each)

    More importantly, the government subsidy is subject to a minimum power supply of 480w (6 panels). I have a quote right on my desk here for the minimum system to qualify for rebate and it is $12,064. Deduct the (50%) rebate and I am left with an outlay of $6,032.

    But as I already have a new generator, @$1,100 and 2x80w panels @$1,600, my total outlay will be $8,732 which is more than double what I currently pay for my own residence. I will be subsidising my tenants by more than $50/month.

    The real outrage in the solar rebate issue is not the fact that a means test has been applied but, rather, that there is a minimum threshhold outlay before the rebate applies at all.

    This “all solar or nothing” mindset that the bureaucrats have managed to slip in place effectively excludes 95% of the potential market.

    Basically, any household with an existing gas, or solar hot water system, and/or with gas cooker or wood fired heater, is effectively excluded from gaining any sort of rebate because of their existing investment in other fuel sources which limits their need for solar power to a level below the threshhold.

    They could not dream up a more incompetent marketing strategy if they tried.

  28. Ender July 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Ian Mott – “Ender still doesn’t get it.”

    Ian Mott does not really get it. He is confusing 2 schemes perhaps deliberately. One is the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program (RRPGP) and the Solar Panel Rebate Scheme.

    The RAPS scheme is ONLY for areas not connected to and that have never been connected to the grid and you get a 50% rebate on the whole system cost or 8$ per watt of solar panels which ever is the greater. The Solar Panel Rebate is $8 per watt of installed solar panels capped at 1000W or $8000 and is for grid tied systems that do not need batteries.

    So first of all how about Ian clarify which scheme he is talking about.

    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/rrpgp/pubs/rm-guidelines.pdf

  29. Ender July 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm #

    Neil Hewitt – “It might also be interesting for readers to know that whilst battery banks may be regarded as reservoirs for electricity, most are 24V DC, which when drawn upon through a 240V sinewave inverter, takes electricity out of the reservoir at ten times the rate that it is stored. The generator would have run continuously for two hours at 60 amps to charge the battery bank for a 1.0 amp refrigerator to operate for twelve hours.”

    OK now I really know that you do not have any idea of what you are talking about.

    Readers need to know that the energy stored in a battery bank is neither created or destroyed however losses occur when energy is stored in chemical reactions as potential energy and then released as kinetic energy in the form of moving electrons.

    Put simply a generator running for 2 hours at 60 amps is an energy content of 120 AHrs which would run a 1 amp fridge for 120 hours excluding losses.
    This is completely independant of the system voltage as the energy content is the same no matter the voltage. 120 Amp Hours of energy can be taken by an inverter at 24V or 48V or 144V at differing rates of current draw – it will be still the same energy.

    So either your system or your understanding is lacking here.

  30. Ianl July 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm #

    “Check your float voltage. Also the batteries are probably not being charged enough. You need to switch to a MPPT controller.”

    All done, aided by CSIRO engineers. Six months and batteries are cactus.

  31. WJP July 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm #

    Ender: It’s obvious to little old moi, that Ian Mott is talking about the Solar Panel Rebate Scheme. And it would seem that the house in question already has other existing energy systems.
    Ian, all you need to do organise Ender to turn up in his little beep, beep, beep Barina, show you how it’s done, on minimal outlay, and then you can vouch for his ingenuity, and broadcast this to the world!
    See, everyone can be a winner! Aaand while you have Ender hanging loose, so to speak, maybe he could give a demonstation of how one can change a battery pack “in a few seconds”.
    And please Ender remember, in the real world, it might come as a shock to you, but people, individuals, might not have the 1,000’s of $’s you so readily want them to spray around.

  32. Neil Hewett July 11, 2008 at 7:09 pm #

    Ender,

    I have been operating my stand-alone system since it was installed over twelve years ago, without the luxury of mains supply to back it up. I drive to the local service station to purchase the fuel which runs the generators. I set the battery charger and monitor the levels. If I allow output to exceed input, the system ultimately crashes and we lose power.

    When you say, “OK now I really know that you do not have any idea of what you are talking about”, that fact that I have managed to maintain supply over these past twelve years flies in the face of your arrogance.

    I willingly concede that I am concerned that electricity is costing me perhaps thirty times as much as you per KwHr; also, that our supply is two-thirds reliant on engine generators and that their operation undermines our sole ecotourism economy.

    But when it all comes down to it, we function as a nation through relationships and the relationship between my community and the rest of Australia is left wanting. Here we are, reaching out to the Queensland Government to embrace a new commitment to best-practice, but rather than responding in-kind, the Queensland Government prefers to turn around to the rest of Queensland and decry that the Daintree rainforest community wants to destroy World Heritage. This is utter nonsense! The custodial community of the Daintree is dedicated to protecting its income-earning assets for survival sakes. It is calling for protection from the damaging Qld Govt policy. An yet, it is the contempt of other Queenslanders that will not see fit to support our community in aspiring to better-practice.

  33. Ender July 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm #

    I had a think about it and I now know what Neil was going on about.

    He obviously has what is more commonly called a petrol or diesel battery charger. It charges the battery at 24V. So he ran the generator for 2 hours at 60 amps which gives 120Ahr@24V = 2880Whrs which is a more accurate statement of the energy.

    He then runs a 240V fridge from an inverter that draws 1A@240V which the inverter would see as 10 amps or more at its input voltage of 24V.

    However running a 240V 1A fridge for 12 hours is 240 * 1 * 2 = 2880 Whrs which is exactly what was put in the battery by the charger. This is of course neglecting the losses of the inverter and the losses in and out of the battery.

    The point is that the rate thing that Neil is trying to put on in simply a result of the voltage conversions not some inefficiency in batteries.

  34. Ender July 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm #

    Neil – “I set the battery charger and monitor the levels. If I allow output to exceed input, the system ultimately crashes and we lose power.”

    I do see your point however in the 12 years since you installed your system several new battery monitors have been releases that simplfy the management of batteries. Also as you have had so many problems with batteries I am amazed that you did not switch to low maintenance types that in the end, despite their higher initial costs, would have saved a lot of money in dead batteries.

    “It is calling for protection from the damaging Qld Govt policy. An yet, it is the contempt of other Queenslanders that will not see fit to support our community in aspiring to better-practice.”

    That is true and possibly some compromise could be worked out with a large renewable plant somewhere with HVDC underground power lines perhaps to back up your small systems.

  35. Ender July 11, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    Ianl – “All done, aided by CSIRO engineers. Six months and batteries are cactus.”

    Well there is still something wrong as not all batteries last 6 months. Even my small UPS batteries last 5 years – I only just replaced them after this time.

    Also the huge UPS batteries that I used to look after routinely lasted 10 years or more. These were the UPS that ran the Air Traffic Control tower.

  36. Ian Mott July 15, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    I have been down at farm for past 4 days so sorry for the delayed response. Nice side step, Ender, but here are the facts.

    My system is not connected to the mains. I was refering to RAPS which has a minimum configuration requirement of 420W but as Sony collectors come in 80W units that means 6 x 80W = 480W minimum. The quote I have is for $12,000 for a net $6,000. I already have a gas fridge, a gas cooker, gas hot water and a pot belly for heating so the need for solar power is well below that delivered by the minimum system.

    I also already have a back up generator so the combination of this existing investment, when added to the net (post rebate) investment makes it a very expensive option. The RAPS program has been structured in a way that minimises its utility to its target market.

    It is also worth noting that the one form of residential housing development that is most likely to favour the solar option has been prohibited by most council planning ordinances.

    Yes, rural residential housing has been severely restricted in both the SEQ regional plan and almost every other council plan. So the option of adding one extra house on 1000 rural properties that will provide their own water, sewerage and power has been precluded in favour of 1000 suburban blocks in hideous single location developments that place major burdens on existing water, sewerage and power infrastructure.

    They also demand complete new education, health and transport infrastructure and virtually hand the entire additional retail market to Coles and Woolworths when the less “planned” rural development option produces merely incremental demand increases on, often under utilised, education, health and transport infrastructure, and enhances the profitability of existing small retailers.

    And all in the name of, (titter, titter) sustainable planning (guffaaaw).

  37. Ian Mott July 15, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    By the way, Ender, if you go to http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/pv/pubs/shcp-residential-guidelines-21may2008.pdf you will discover that the mains connected alternative also has a 450W minimum requirement.

    That is, $3,600 in hand out to those already on the mains system with much less outlay (ie, no batteries, rechargers etc).

    So what we have is more disgusting urban welfare with an impractical entry threshhold for the bush.

    My quote for solar collectors is $4356 for 6 x 80W collectors plus $726 for the mountings, a total of $5082 or $10.58 per installed watt. Yet, if someone on the mains put the same thing on their roof they would get $8.00/watt or $3840 back in rebates, and be only $1,242 out of pocket. And to top it all off they would get a credit for the power they feed back into the grid which would be deducted from what they use at night.

    Meanwhile, I get to spend $12,000 on more solar than I need and still be more than $6,000 out of pocket.

    And then there is all the on-going service fees that are a condition of my pre-approval but are not mentioned or costed in the application.

    As with just about everything associated with green urban government ‘services’, it is a complete crock of bull$hit.

    Of course, if I just set aside the $55,000 that the power supplier wants to connect me to the grid and invest it at 9%pa I will have $4950 ($95/week) to spend on generator fuel. Pity about the emissions.

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