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Freedom from the National Grid


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: July 13, 2011, 04:46:00 pm »


Modern luxuries, off the grid

By VIRGINIA WINDER - Taranaki Daily News | 11:40AM - Tuesday, 12 July 2011

OFF THE GRID: BasePower is believed to be a world-first module system that hooks into renewable energy, has a box of electronics to control the power load, a backup generator, if needed, and is possibly more reliable than the national power grid.
OFF THE GRID: BasePower is believed to be
a world-first module system that hooks into
renewable energy, has a box of electronics
to control the power load, a backup generator
if needed, and is possibly more reliable than
the national power grid.


A MAN who grew up in places where electricity was a luxury has developed an off-the-grid power system for remote parts of New Zealand.

Powerco engineer Ken Pattie is the brains behind BasePower, believed to be a world-first module system that hooks into renewable energy, has a box of electronics to control the power load, a backup generator, if needed, and is possibly more reliable than the national power grid.

It requires little maintenance, and the only thing customers need to remember is to top up the diesel for the generator, and they can pass that job on to others.

BasePower is also up for a prestigious national award, but more about that later.

"It's an idea I had a couple of decades ago and I'm quite lucky working with Powerco, because they have let me develop the idea into a working system," Ken says.

"I've always had a hankering for electricity because I know what it's like to live without it."

The 52-year-old says when he was a lad, his dad was a school inspector for the British government, which led the family to places like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Hokianga.

"In those areas, electricity was very, very valuable and we had kerosene lighting," he says.

It's not surprising then that Ken ended up as an electrical engineer.

After about 10 years in the industry, he went to Massey University to complete a couple of papers on alternative power under the tutelage of Professor Ralph Sims, a world leader in his field.

It was there that he had the idea to deliver renewable energy to people in remote places.

"Once I finished the papers, I realised there wasn't the economic driver to make it successful. Now, 20 years later, the economic drivers are right. Environmental viewpoints have also changed."

In 2008, Powerco allowed the Whanganui engineer to do a pilot study using micro-hydro, solar power, a wind turbine and LPG.

"We installed that system on a woolshed for a year in Taihape. It worked. The customer was happy and we were happy."

Most of the power for the site was provided by solar power, and the gas was used for hot water and cooking.

The study also showed that a diesel generator was needed for about 30 days a year, when there were high demands for power. All the equipment was installed in the woolshed, but Ken wasn't happy with that.

"It occurred to me then that we should be looking at a module system," he says. "This module would be outside the house, behind a hedge or in a shed, so it was out of sight and easy to access."

"Instead of having a transformer up a pole, you have a couple of boxes on the ground providing the same energy."

And so BasePower was born.

"I believe it's the only system like it in the world. I'm amazed no-one else has come up with it."

"Hindsight is a wonderful engineering tool. If I could bottle it, I would be a very rich man."

In February this year, the first BasePower modules were connected to a farm workers' house and shearing shed on a remote hill-country sheep station up the Whanganui River. The ageing power lines at Papahaua Station were due to be replaced, so it was an ideal site to demonstrate the technology.

"People stay in the house when they are hunting and when they are doing a lot of work on the farm," Ken says. "That integrated system is powered by solar panels."

BasePower, a subsidiary of Powerco, now has orders to install modules on three more sites. These are houses with micro- hydro potential.

Ken says that before putting in BasePower modules, the project is run through an economic model and if it's better for Powerco to put in these units than put in the lines, it will advise accordingly.

Powerco business development manager Jamie Silk says the modules are ideal for people living in the back blocks.

"We thought for really remote customers, lines supply is never perfect, because of storms and slips that take out lines and trees that grown into lines," Jamie says.

"It's great, but it's a 20th-century invention. Now, in the 21st century, there are choices."

The BasePower modules give people the same supply as lines, and still at the flick of a switch. For people who want to be sustainable, but aren't handy with gadgets, it may seem daunting.

"That's why we came up with a stand-alone power system with all these things in one box."

The beauty of BasePower system is that it does everything itself, Jamie says. "You turn everything on and off, just like in a lines-fed house."

People on BasePower still need to reduce their power use, by opting for energy-efficient appliances, and switching things off when not in use.

While Powerco recommends a high-quality generator as part of the package, Jamie says someone could elect to just have renewable energy, especially if they have a micro-hydro turbine.

The generator is ideal for people who want to be energy-efficient most of the year, but when they have family at Christmas or Easter don't have to be restrained.

"They would be able to have the coffee grinder and the cappuccino machine going," Jamie says.

"The generator kicks in when the demand for power in the house is higher than the energy stored in the batteries or what energy the batteries should release, plus the renewable energy being generated."

Ken says the generators are used at optimum efficiency, so when they are working, they are at an 80 per cent loading. Most generators burn diesel, but only provide 30 per cent of power.

For each litre of fuel, the Powerco generators provide two kilowatts of power, compared with less-efficient generators that produce 800 watts of power per litre of diesel.

The generator fills up the batteries. "Once the batteries are full, the load management system says, ‘I don't need the diesel generator any more — I will turn you off’."

When a generator is getting low on diesel, a radio signal is sent to an alarm on the switchboard inside the house.

But if a customer wants to be even more hands off, they can have that signal sent to the rural diesel people, who come in and fill up the tank and then send the bill.

Ken says this will cost energy-efficient people about $400 a year.

Those with BasePower still pay the equivalent of lines charges to maintain the system and replace batteries in the future.

He says the batteries should last 10 to 15 years because they are housed in fully insulated boxes and their temperature is kept between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius.

Also, the electronics in the load management system never allow them to fully drain.

Extreme temperatures, taking a battery down to zero energy storage or trying to charge too quickly are the sure ways to kill batteries, which are the biggest investment in off-the-grid systems.

At $100,000, the BasePower system is not cheap. This price covers full installation of the unit, which includes photovoltaic panels and BasePower unit, the energy storage unit (batteries), load management system, generator and satellite communications, so Powerco can check it from afar.

"My plan is to get that cost down to $50,000," Ken says. With new battery technology on the horizon, plus a growing interest in sustainable practices, he believes that price is not far away.

In the meantime, BasePower has entered the Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards.

On August 17, Ken, Jamie and the Powerco crew will know if the module has won an Innovation in Electricity Award.

For Ken, seeing his idea come to fruition is already huge for him.

"I'm now in my 50s and now I have basically seen a dream happen, which a lot of people don't get to see," he says.


http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/life-style/5269971/Modern-luxuries-off-the-grid
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2011, 03:12:24 pm »


Hutt power pod combines solar, wind and hydrogen energy

By SIMON EDWARDS - Hutt News | 11:10AM - Tuesday, 27 September 2011

WORLD FIRST: Malcolm Sime, left, and Tony Pearson are alongside IRL's Hylink unit, developed to respond to the variable generation of a wind turbine to make hydrogen. — SIMON EDWARDS/Hutt News.
WORLD FIRST: Malcolm Sime, left, and Tony Pearson are
alongside IRL's Hylink unit, developed to respond to the
variable generation of a wind turbine to make hydrogen.
 — SIMON EDWARDS/Hutt News.


A MINI, multipurpose power station using only renewable energy sources is being hailed as a "world first" by the Hutt company that put it together.

ESG Energy chairman Malcolm Sime says the potential of the Green Energy Pod has already been recognised with a $100,000 development grant from GROW Wellington.

It's the size of a small shipping container, but sprouting from the roof are solar panels and a wind turbine.

But the really clever component is Hylink, a compact unit that can produce hydrogen from the electricity generated by the turbine and solar panels. The hi-tech box that sits in a corner of the pod is the result of a decade of research by an Industrial Research (IRL) team.

The hydrogen can be used for cooking and heating in the remote locations, emergency and disaster zones and Third World countries where the pod is to be marketed as a versatile solution. The hydrogen can also be turned back into electricity through a fuel cell.

The pod can be transported by helicopter and placed in the location where it is needed — for example, for use as a police command post in a remote location.

"Drop it in today and it will be producing power tomorrow," Mr Sime says.

With favourable sun and wind, the pod can generate enough electricity to power a large house.


POWER UP: The Green Energy Pod, which can be taken by helicopter to remote locations.
POWER UP: The Green Energy Pod, which can be taken by helicopter to remote locations.

E Sime Group is a third generation family business started in 1923. Recently it took into its fold Tony Pearson's Technico Site Services, a local company that specialised in Proven brand wind turbines — one of them has been spinning off Seaview Rd to provide electricity to the Sime building for several years.

The new company ESG Energy, 100 per cent owned by Sime Group, has negotiated the worldwide manufacturing and marketing rights for IRL's Hylink.

It is a perfect fit for the Technology Valley brand Lower and Upper Hutt are pursuing.

Mr Pearson, ESG's technical and development manager, says researchers worldwide have worked on ways to make hydrogen, which can be used to power vehicles.

He says most of the electrolysers used for the conversion process need to be plugged into mains electricity, for a constant supply.

"That's fine if you're in Iceland, where all your power is hydro and you have more than you need. But in Europe and the States [in an increasingly environmentally-aware world] it's not so good when all your electricity is coal or oil generated."

The problem in the past with using wind turbines for the hydrogen conversion process is that the power supply is variable according to wind strength. That's what the IRL team worked on.

Their electrolyser "follows the response curve of the wind turbine so it's responsive whatever the turbine is doing", Mr Pearson says.

So far the only Hylink unit outside the laboratory is the one in the green pod prototype but Mr Sime is optimistic manufacture can begin in the first part of next year.

Other optional add-ons include a water purifier, lithium battery storage for electricity, a hydrogen barbecue, and the ability to transfer unused electricity into a mains grid, etc.

Mr Sime aims to keep manufacture of components local to this region if he can. For example, Petone's Ventech Systems is providing a low energy temperature control cabinet for the storage of lithium batteries.

He sees worldwide potential.


http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/hutt-news/5689092/Hutt-power-pod-combines-solar-wind-and-hydrogen-energy
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2011, 05:12:04 pm »

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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 01:08:53 pm »


Off the grid: A year on solar

One year after moving out of a converted shipping
container, Alistair Hughes reveals what it's really
like to finally be living in his own off-grid home.


By ALISTAIR HUGHES - The Dominion Post | 5:00AM - Wednesday, 06 March 2013

OFF THE GRID: Alistair and Rose Hughes' at their Greytown home, run on solar. — LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ.
OFF THE GRID: Alistair and Rose Hughes' at their Greytown home, run on solar.
 — LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ.


A YEAR HAS PASSED since we moved into our newly built, off-grid home at the foothills of the Tararua Range, west of Greytown.

Our electricity comes to us via eight solar panels mounted on the roof, and our hot water from a neighbouring array of solar tubes. Not unusually for the country, our water-access and waste-disposal systems are also entirely independent. We are a sovereign state of two, or possibly a very small colony of societal outcasts, depending on your point of view.

Almost immediately after completion, people began asking questions. What was it like generating our own power? Did we have enough? What did we have to give up? And most of all: What's it like not paying power bills? I told them to ask again in a year's time — after we had lived through winter. So, here goes ...

Our reason for choosing a power system that didn't rely on the national grid was purely economic: the cost of paying for a new transformer and then connecting to this distant glorified power socket simply wasn't worth it. So, instead, we paid $42,000 for all our off-grid and electrical systems.

Many make the assumption that we are "grid-tied" — able to sell excess power back to the grid or draw on energy company's wares when we really need it — but the only energy supplier we are linked to is the Sun.

Our solar panels produce 1760 watts and 12 deep-cycle batteries each store 893 amp hours, meeting our "power budget" of approximately 4.5 kilowatts per day. This gives us about four days of power usage without any solar gain.

A couple of wall-mounted displays give us at-a-glance readings, creating an obsessive compulsion for checking that might one day threaten to become a disorder.

Not being signed up with a power company also means that responsibility falls to us for our system's maintenance.

The batteries are checked on a monthly basis and we periodically inspect our solar panel's bolts and wiring connections.

The only drawback in the height of summer is that we can't always use all our power — even though, on sunny days, any rechargeable tools and batteries are usually plugged into every available socket.

Our system was predictably challenged during the winter months, and if the power reading fell below a certain level then we needed to run the generator (the $5000 machine was possibly our greatest asset when we camped on-site in a converted shipping container for nine months during the house build) to top up the batteries again.

This took a couple of hours, and meant we had to refrain from using any electrical appliances while it chugged away in the shed.

From the end of June we needed to do this on about 10 occasions. It was a mild inconvenience and used a mere $20 of petrol.

We do miss our electric blankets at times, but that's definitely one luxury this lifestyle has banished to the past.

Fortunately the house is gloriously warm. With double glazing and thorough insulation has come the realisation that we've never lived in a properly heat-proofed house before.

Our hot-water system is also solar-heated, alternatively warmed at night by our wood burner's wetback system in the colder months. The gentle gushing sound as the fire reaches the temperature required to send hot water to the radiators in the hallway and bathroom is a source of great satisfaction (and no longer frightens the cats).

Wood consumption is high, but we should be well supplied this year: there are plenty of fallen branches on our property and we have been given a large fallen titoki tree by a neighbour.

Living in an off-grid home isn't so much about doing without rather than being constantly aware of the pulse and respiration of your power system, living within its scope and no longer taking household electricity for granted.

The energy rating on any new appliance has to be considered ahead of cost, and a hopeful gap still remains for a dishwasher (most of these heat their own water — an extra demand on power). Our stove is gas powered, an economic alternative to drawing large amounts of electricity.

Designing a home from scratch allowed us to plan for and integrate the technology needed for an off-grid lifestyle with the minimum of difficulty.

Through sheer dumb luck and very sound advice, we seem to have got it right so far.


http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/8384811/Off-the-grid-A-year-on-solar
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2013, 09:51:42 pm »

Home grown Enterprise...Way to go!

http://skysolar.co.nz/
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2014, 07:23:51 pm »


Modern luxuries, off the grid

By VIRGINIA WINDER - Taranaki Daily News | 11:40AM - Tuesday, 12 July 2011

OFF THE GRID: BasePower is believed to be a world-first module system that hooks into renewable energy, has a box of electronics to control the power load, a backup generator, if needed, and is possibly more reliable than the national power grid.
OFF THE GRID: BasePower is believed to be
a world-first module system that hooks into
renewable energy, has a box of electronics
to control the power load, a backup generator
if needed, and is possibly more reliable than
the national power grid.


A MAN who grew up in places where electricity was a luxury has developed an off-the-grid power system for remote parts of New Zealand.

Powerco engineer Ken Pattie is the brains behind BasePower, believed to be a world-first module system that hooks into renewable energy, has a box of electronics to control the power load, a backup generator, if needed, and is possibly more reliable than the national power grid.

It requires little maintenance, and the only thing customers need to remember is to top up the diesel for the generator, and they can pass that job on to others.

BasePower is also up for a prestigious national award, but more about that later.

"It's an idea I had a couple of decades ago and I'm quite lucky working with Powerco, because they have let me develop the idea into a working system," Ken says.

"I've always had a hankering for electricity because I know what it's like to live without it."

The 52-year-old says when he was a lad, his dad was a school inspector for the British government, which led the family to places like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Hokianga.

"In those areas, electricity was very, very valuable and we had kerosene lighting," he says.

It's not surprising then that Ken ended up as an electrical engineer.

After about 10 years in the industry, he went to Massey University to complete a couple of papers on alternative power under the tutelage of Professor Ralph Sims, a world leader in his field.

It was there that he had the idea to deliver renewable energy to people in remote places.

"Once I finished the papers, I realised there wasn't the economic driver to make it successful. Now, 20 years later, the economic drivers are right. Environmental viewpoints have also changed."

In 2008, Powerco allowed the Whanganui engineer to do a pilot study using micro-hydro, solar panel, a wind turbine and LPG.

"We installed that system on a woolshed for a year in Taihape. It worked. The customer was happy and we were happy."

Most of the power for the site was provided by solar power, and the gas was used for hot water and cooking.

The study also showed that a diesel generator was needed for about 30 days a year, when there were high demands for power. All the equipment was installed in the woolshed, but Ken wasn't happy with that.

"It occurred to me then that we should be looking at a module system," he says. "This module would be outside the house, behind a hedge or in a shed, so it was out of sight and easy to access."

"Instead of having a transformer up a pole, you have a couple of boxes on the ground providing the same energy."

And so BasePower was born.

"I believe it's the only system like it in the world. I'm amazed no-one else has come up with it."

"Hindsight is a wonderful engineering tool. If I could bottle it, I would be a very rich man."

In February this year, the first BasePower modules were connected to a farm workers' house and shearing shed on a remote hill-country sheep station up the Whanganui River. The ageing power lines at Papahaua Station were due to be replaced, so it was an ideal site to demonstrate the technology.

"People stay in the house when they are hunting and when they are doing a lot of work on the farm," Ken says. "That integrated system is powered by solar panels."

BasePower, a subsidiary of Powerco, now has orders to install modules on three more sites. These are houses with micro- hydro potential.

Ken says that before putting in BasePower modules, the project is run through an economic model and if it's better for Powerco to put in these units than put in the lines, it will advise accordingly.

Powerco business development manager Jamie Silk says the modules are ideal for people living in the back blocks.

"We thought for really remote customers, lines supply is never perfect, because of storms and slips that take out lines and trees that grown into lines," Jamie says.

"It's great, but it's a 20th-century invention. Now, in the 21st century, there are choices."

The BasePower modules give people the same supply as lines, and still at the flick of a switch. For people who want to be sustainable, but aren't handy with gadgets, it may seem daunting.

"That's why we came up with a stand-alone power system with all these things in one box."

The beauty of BasePower system is that it does everything itself, Jamie says. "You turn everything on and off, just like in a lines-fed house."

People on BasePower still need to reduce their power use, by opting for energy-efficient appliances, and switching things off when not in use.

While Powerco recommends a high-quality generator as part of the package, Jamie says someone could elect to just have renewable energy, especially if they have a micro-hydro turbine.

The generator is ideal for people who want to be energy-efficient most of the year, but when they have family at Christmas or Easter don't have to be restrained.

"They would be able to have the coffee grinder and the cappuccino machine going," Jamie says.

"The generator kicks in when the demand for power in the house is higher than the energy stored in the batteries or what energy the batteries should release, plus the renewable energy being generated."

Ken says the generators are used at optimum efficiency, so when they are working, they are at an 80 per cent loading. Most generators burn diesel, but only provide 30 per cent of power.

For each litre of fuel, the Powerco generators provide two kilowatts of power, compared with less-efficient generators that produce 800 watts of power per litre of diesel.

The generator fills up the batteries. "Once the batteries are full, the load management system says, ‘I don't need the diesel generator any more — I will turn you off’."

When a generator is getting low on diesel, a radio signal is sent to an alarm on the switchboard inside the house.

But if a customer wants to be even more hands off, they can have that signal sent to the rural diesel people, who come in and fill up the tank and then send the bill.

Ken says this will cost energy-efficient people about $400 a year.

Those with BasePower still pay the equivalent of lines charges to maintain the system and replace batteries in the future.

He says the batteries should last 10 to 15 years because they are housed in fully insulated boxes and their temperature is kept between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius.

Also, the electronics in the load management system never allow them to fully drain.

Extreme temperatures, taking a battery down to zero energy storage or trying to charge too quickly are the sure ways to kill batteries, which are the biggest investment in off-the-grid systems.

At $100,000, the BasePower system is not cheap. This price covers full installation of the unit, which includes photovoltaic panels and BasePower unit, the energy storage unit (batteries), load management system, generator and satellite communications, so Powerco can check it from afar.

"My plan is to get that cost down to $50,000," Ken says. With new battery technology on the horizon, plus a growing interest in sustainable practices, he believes that price is not far away.

In the meantime, BasePower has entered the Deloitte Energy Excellence Awards.

On August 17, Ken, Jamie and the Powerco crew will know if the module has won an Innovation in Electricity Award.

For Ken, seeing his idea come to fruition is already huge for him.

"I'm now in my 50s and now I have basically seen a dream happen, which a lot of people don't get to see," he says.


http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/life-style/5269971/Modern-luxuries-off-the-grid


Just awesome.. It is the way to solve power problem.. Nice and clean source of generating power.. A real freedom.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 06:12:37 am by LeonardPeters » Report Spam   Logged
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2014, 04:56:00 pm »


from The Dominion Post....

Frustrated electricity users eye solar energy

By MICHAEL FORBES | 5:00AM - Thursday, 25 September 2014

BRIGHT IDEA: Wellington architect Michael Gould shows off the solar panels on top of his Strathmore home, which generate about as much energy as his family consumes in a 12-month period. — KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ.
BRIGHT IDEA: Wellington architect Michael Gould shows off the solar panels on top of
his Strathmore home, which generate about as much energy as his family consumes
in a 12-month period. — KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ.


MORE and more Kiwis are turning to solar energy out of frustration with their power providers, new research shows.

A recent study by Rebecca Ford, from Victoria University's school of engineering and computer science, found just 30 percent of participants were happy with buying electricity from their power company, and 60 percent would be willing to invest in solar panels.

It also appears people are putting their money where their mouths are. Ford's study showed a 330 percent increase over the past two years in the number of grid-connected, small-scale systems utilising photovoltaics (PV) — the cells that convert sunlight into electricity.

She said the numbers were still low compared with some other countries, but the growth trend was significant and pointed towards solar power making a substantial impact on the future of energy generation.

“The biggest barrier for people is the cost,” she said. “While there are significant financial benefits to installing a photovoltaic system in your home, it's the high start-up costs and the lack of current financial incentives that put people off.”

Wellington architect Michael Gould has 12 solar panels on top of his home in Strathmore, which generate about as much power as he and his family consume over the course of a year.

He remains connected to the power grid but finds little need for it. His most recent monthly power bill was $17.

“Walking into my house, you wouldn't know it's solar-powered. It lights up like any other house,” he said.

“It's nice and warm in winter ... we've got three kids using iPhones and iPads, a DVD player and a TV.”

Wood opted for a slightly higher-quality PV system two years ago, costing him about $15,000.

But over the system's 25-year life span, the energy savings were expected to recoup the price he paid two times over. He was not surprised to hear about the rising popularity of PV systems, saying it was a great decision to install his.

Currently there is no government support to encourage a greater uptake of PV systems.

But Ford's report says there are new types of business models being trialled by companies such as Vector, which allow people to lease the systems.

Her research showed Kiwis wanted to take personal responsibility for producing clean energy, she said. “We just need to find achievable ways to help make that happen.”


http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/10541255/Frustrated-electricity-users-eye-solar-energy
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2015, 10:09:37 pm »



Electricity settlement win for 'wee guy'

Home » News » Dunedin

By Shawn McAvinue on Tue, 27 Jan 2015

News: Dunedin

A man living near Mosgiel without electricity for more than 18 months is hailing a victory for the ''wee guy'' after an out-of-court settlement with an Otago electricity supplier.
Alan Dunlop said the electricity supply to his house in Mt Allan Rd, about 20km from Mosgiel, was lost after a ''big flood and snowstorm'' in June 2013 and was never restored because it was uneconomic.

After he complained, the Electricity Authority launched a criminal prosecution alleging OtagoNet Joint Venture did not supply electricity as soon as was reasonable and a confidential, out-of-court settlement was made.

OtagoNet and Mr Dunlop have since reached an alternative agreement, OtagoNet paying for a solar power system instead of restoring electricity.

''That cost [OtagoNet] a fair whack ... they gave us a whopping hunk of cash,'' he said.

Until he organised the solar technology, he was using gas and a diesel generator at the house, he said.

The settlement, which was separate to the solar agreement, was an important ''victory for the wee guy'', because it sent a message to the residents in remote New Zealand houses ''at the end of the line in the middle of the wops'' to stand up to electricity suppliers.

He took the supplier ''to task'' because he knew he had grounds to prosecute.

''When these power companies won't reconnect power, it is a criminal act.''

He was pleased the supplier got a ''good rap across the knuckles from the Electricity Authority''.

Authority chief executive Carl Hansen said it was the first time an electricity supplier had been prosecuted under the relevant section of the Electricity Industry Act 2010.

''The settlement achieved everything we wanted to get out of a prosecution.''

OtagoNet admitted it breached the Act, apologised, paid reparation to Mr Dunlop, contributed to the authority's legal costs, and made a donation to several charities in place of a penalty under the Act, Mr Hansen said.

Although the settlement meant a legal precedent had not been set, the electricity industry had been sent the message the authority would prosecute to protect consumers, Mr Hansen said.

A supplier was responsible, no matter the cost, to resume an electricity supply as soon as reasonable, or make an alternative arrangement with the consumer.

''You can't leave customers in the lurch.''

The provision in the Act had existed since 1992 when supply companies were being ''corporatised'' during the energy sector reforms.

PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin said he was happy a fair settlement had been reached.

''All parties are happy with the settlement, so therefore it must be fair.''

PowerNet managed the electricity network of OtagoNet, Electricity Invercargill and the Power Company.

Marlborough Lines is no longer part of the company.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/331192/electricity-settlement-win-wee-guy
Alan is my techie.

His house at Mt Allan is pictured on the story with a steam locomotive  behind it. If you take a ride on the Taieri Gorge Railway line you will see the back of his house


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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2015, 04:15:30 pm »


from The Southland Times....

Off the grid: Retired in Riverton

Les and Janet Gibbs have found the ultimate
way to give back to their community.


By GEORGIA WEAVER | 5:00AM - Saturday, 04 July 2015

Les and Janet Gibbs' house. — Georgia Weaver/Fairfax NZ.
Les and Janet Gibbs' house. — Georgia Weaver/Fairfax NZ.

SLIPPING INSIDE Les and Janet Gibbs' home after escaping a blustery cold Southland day, is like putting on a warm blanket. The home is warm and inviting with amazing views from the hilltop.

The Gibbs are not worried about massive electricity bills to heat their home as their power source comes from solar panels. While probably not survivalist in the true sense, what this retired couple have achieved is independence.

They dabbled in an off-the-grid lifestyle on their farm near Lake Hauroko. Les tested using solar with electric fences and his boat, and once they retired seven-and-a-half years ago, they decided to completely minimise their dependence on the electricity company.

Their slice of paradise sits upon a hill just outside Riverton. Its rural backyard reminds them of their former life, and the view out the front stretches across the sea and reaches the twinkling lights of Invercargill on a clear night.

The only giveaway of the Gibbs' self-sustaining lifestyle are the black solar panels set up on the side of the house.


Les Gibbs stands in front of his solar panels. — Georgia Weaver/Fairfax NZ.
Les Gibbs stands in front of his solar panels. — Georgia Weaver/Fairfax NZ.

But there is much more than meets the eye.

Downstairs is a series of intricate wires that connect the panels to the house, a wood pallet furnace that automatically fires up when the central temperature gets too low, and LED lights dotted across the ceiling of Les's workshop, that turn on automatically when he walks in the room.

The set up is not without its faults though.

A powercut would mean the inverter that produces power would shut off. But they've got a solution. A small generator would keep their power on and house warm for weeks.

The Gibbs' are confident in a disaster they could carry on as normal.

“We could survive. There's enough food around and there's only two of us,” Les said.

He has done his homework about how to use solar power to its full advantage.

“It's simple. Once it's been set up properly, nothing goes wrong,” he said.

Not only do they produce enough power for their own home, they now sell power back to an electricity company, which can use that power in Western Southland.

The LED lighting is strategic — it reduces the amount of power being used. Gas tanks mean in the event of a disaster they could still cook.

It has all been thought out right down to the water cylinder.

“It was made in Denmark and designed to make the most of solar power,” Les said.

The Gibbs' don't have the ultimate off-the-grid lifestyle just yet though.

“We are dependent on the town water supply. But I want to look at getting a water tank to catch the rain,” Les said.

It was initially an expensive set up for Les, but worth it, he said.

“It has paid for itself over the years.”

But he believes it would cost about 20 percent of what it did seven years ago, when he started.

Les would encourage any home owner to give solar power a go.

“I think building regulations should require it.”

But this lifestyle is not restricted to deepest darkest Southland, they said.

“You don't have to be out in the middle of nowhere to live like this,” Les said.


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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2015, 04:15:46 pm »


from The Timaru Herald....

Off the grid: Defying snow in Burkes Pass

The Corcorans are off the grid, well and truly, but have
no trouble whatsoever dealing with wild weather.


By NICK TRUEBRIDGE | 5:00AM - Saturday, 04 July 2015

The land owned by the Corcorans is the original Burkes Pass Pub farm. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.
The land owned by the Corcorans is the original Burkes Pass Pub farm. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.

THE Corcoran's cows told them where to build an off-the-grid house by wandering to the warmest place on their small piece of land in the heart of Mackenzie Country.

Sitting in their solar powered bolthole, southeast of Tekapo at the base of Burkes Pass, John and Barbara Corcoran concede they carried on without much trouble while some in Mackenzie were left without power for five days following a huge dumping of snow on June 18th.

“We own this small farm, which is the original Burkes Pass Pub farm, and we bought the house almost 10 years ago now, just after the big snow. We decided at some point we'd build another house on the property and we let the cattle wander and where the cattle camped at night, that's where we built the house. The cattle find the warmest places.”

“We set out from day one to build an off-the-grid house. We designed the house in order to do that. I had a friend who I've known for quite along time through a couple of careers who specialised in off-the-grid systems.”

“We built the house, not only is it built for the wind and all the snow conditions, but we built it to get this amount on sunshine into it as well. So we get a lot of passive solar warming in the house,” John said.


John and Barbara Corcoran have built their house to be off the grid. They have solar power, solar hot water and collect rain water as their water supply. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.
John and Barbara Corcoran have built their house to be off the grid. They have solar power,
solar hot water and collect rain water as their water supply. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.


It snowed heavily in mid-June, which closed roads and shut businesses and schools. But the Corcorans carried on as normal, Barbara said.

“We're better than the neighbours, they were all out of power and we store about three days worth in the batteries. Since the 2006 storm lots of people now have generators so you can hear the hum of generators around the place. But our generator plugs into the system and so our house operates as normal, it's not like you've got cords and you decide ‘do we run the freezer or anything’?”

“It snowed that one day and so I didn't make the toast that day and we just kind of hunker down a little bit but you're just doing your ordinary things.”

“I didn't do anything much that day. You had the lights and you had everything else you wanted to run. Just not the big appliances and the next morning I went out and swept off the snow on the solar panels and even the second day, it was pretty murky outside, but we still made some power. We were back on the tracks,” Barbara said.


John and Barbara cope fine in the wild weather, with Barbara simply heading up the back of the house to sweep snow of their solar panels after June's heavy snowfall. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.
John and Barbara cope fine in the wild weather, with Barbara simply heading up the back of the house
to sweep snow of their solar panels after June's heavy snowfall. — John Bisset/Fairfax Media.


Barbara said the house ran so well in a power cut, the pair forgot most others were out of action.

“The thing that happens, it's the reverse of that, is we'll be up and sorted and our daughter goes to school in Timaru so we drive her to Fairlie to collect a ride and you'll look and go ‘it's dark in Fairlie, there's been a big power cut, no one's doing anything except us’,”

John said being off the grid had been a huge success, working “150 percent more than we thought it would”.

“The only thing we're connected to the grid for is sewerage. It's town reticulation.”

“We've got no electric hot water heating, so we have a very good solar hot water system. There are six solar hot water panels on the roof … we've got a big fire with a wet back and a huge supply of fire wood, so we never have to worry about running out of hot water,” John said.

Other Burkes Pass residents were yet to hunker down with the Corcorans. “But they know we're here,” Barbara said.


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« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2015, 04:16:01 pm »


from The Press....

Off the grid: Hydro power in Little River

Little River resident Murray Peden has lived off grid for 17 years.

By JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON | 5:00AM - Saturday, 04 July 2015

Murray Peden, a mechanic who operates an off-grid workshop on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury. — John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ.
Murray Peden, a mechanic who operates an off-grid workshop on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury.
 — John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ.


“LOGICALLY, anyone who goes to alternative energy and hasn't got a solar hot water system is an idiot. I haven't got a solar hot water system,” laughs Murray Peden, in his home in the hills high above the isolated rural community of Little River, Banks Peninsula.

Despite that shortcoming, he has lived here off grid for 17 years, and even operates an automotive workshop, Banks Peninsula Automotive, alongside his home which he shares with his wife, Tori, and their two young children.

The steep southeast-facing section is 700 metres from the nearest power supply. “I thought that could either be a disadvantage or an opportunity. I looked at it as an opportunity.”

Peden realised the potential of the site when he saw the small spring-fed creek running through it. This provides their drinking water and has also been harnessed to drive a mini hydro plant.

Although the unit produces only 125 watts, which is less than that required to operate a large household light bulb, it is sufficient. The electricity is stored in a bank of batteries, and because it is charged 24/7 the battery pack doesn't need to be large to cope with the fluctuations that would come from only using solar-powered photovoltaic panels, as most systems use.

His system has since been reinforced with 450 watts of photovoltaic panels, but as they receive only three hours of sunlight during a winter's day, the hydro is essential.

“The idea of not having power, not being able to turn lights on, doesn't appeal. I did research and worked out we could set up here and live, not just survive. I want to have the TV and a microwave, but the idea of not paying power bills is always appealing.”

A coal and wood-burning range heats the water, warms the house via under-floor heating pipes, and cooks the meals.


Murray Peden's off-grid home. He later installed solar panels but they get just three hours of sunlight during a winter's day. — John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ.
Murray Peden's off-grid home. He later installed solar panels but they get just three hours of sunlight
during a winter's day. — John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ.


Operating an automotive workshop on alternative power has required some clever thinking. Most commercial machinery requires three-phase power, and this isn't available from Peden's system.

His vehicle hoist, essential in a workshop, operates on hydraulics, which require an electrical pump. A part from a forklift has been modified to do the job, and the A-grade mechanic is proud of his handywork. “I sometimes work in town, and their hoists are a bit slow. Mine's better,” he grins. Tyre machines and compressors have also been bought with their power requirements in mind.

Peden was initially quoted $25 000 to supply mains electricity. His alternative power system has cost slightly more than that to install, but ongoing costs are minimal.

“It's so neat telling people, ‘I don't pay power bills’.”

Peden's six neighbours are also on alternative power. “The power companies are never going to get a look in here,” he says. “If I have a power cut it's because I've caused it.”

Tori laughs, “That's because you don't clean the leaves out of the hydro intake,” she gently chides.

A small price to pay for self reliance.


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« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2015, 04:16:14 pm »


from The Press....

Off the grid: Hippies of Motueka

The Andersons insist they aren't “greenies”.
They just always had a dream to live off the grid.


By CHARLES ANDERSON | 5:00AM - Saturday, 04 July 2015

Big power lines go straight past the house, but aren't tapped into. — Alden Williams/Fairfax NZ.
Big power lines go straight past the house, but aren't tapped into. — Alden Williams/Fairfax NZ.

THEIR FRIENDS now call them “the hippies of Dehra Doon”. Up a long shingle driveway, 10 minutes beyond Motueka, past the solar panels, the kereru sitting on tree branches and the free range turkeys, are the Andersons. They insist they aren't “greenies”. They just always had a dream to live off the grid.

“It seemed like an adventure,” Grada says.

They had lived in North Canterbury when the Canterbury earthquakes hit. They escaped to Motueka and then this year saw this home advertised. It was entirely powered by solar. It had a wood range that also heated their rain water, which they are entirely reliant on. That range also heated the slab that the house sat on. It had a Nissan Terrano diesel engine generator for when things got desperate.

It was perfect.

“We fell in love with it,” Grada says.

They moved in during April. The first few weeks were a bit strange when they mistakenly used up all their power and had blackouts in the evenings.

“To start with it's a bit scary,” Grada says. “You feel quite vulnerable.”

Then they learned. Only put the washing on in the morning when the sun is shining. Put the deep freeze on a timer. Live within your means.

Brian, a dairy farm engineer by trade, could fix anything. So they soon figured out that they didn't need all the gadgets that often make up a modern lifestyle.

“It's all nice but it consumes power. We really wanted to bring our life back to being down to earth,” Grada says.


Battery packs charged by solar panels at the Anderson's place. — Alden Williams/Fairfax NZ.
Battery packs charged by solar panels at the Anderson's place. — Alden Williams/Fairfax NZ.

After the earthquakes they realised what could happen by being too reliant on the grid. Curiously, that grid sits right beside their property in the form of large steel power pylons. Their sustainable bolthole seems somewhat like the Andersons are giving conventional power the middle finger. On their property they can go on if conventional power fails.

“Here you can survive. That was the appeal,” Grada says.

And if the world collapsed they would be just fine.

They have deer and wild pigs, sheep and pheasants. There is a veggie garden being started and huge forestry block out the back for wood.

“We could live here without the world.”

But more than that it was about a simple lifestyle.

“Bringing your life back to an appreciation of the simple things. It really does you good.”

The Andersons now think they will never leave. “The hippies of Dehra Doon” is a name that's just fine by them.


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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2016, 06:30:58 pm »


from The Dominion Post....

Kiwis living off the grid say nature will provide all you need

By BESS MANSON | 5:00AM - Saturday, 23 January 2016

LIVING self-sufficiently and off grid is to live a life embracing Mother Nature and all she has to offer. It might not always be easy but as this group of Kiwis living the off-grid life say, all you need is the sun, the rain the wind and, occasionally, a torch.

MOTHER NATURE PROVIDES

Dean Lee and his partner Dianne Penwarden quit the mines of Western Australia for the good life in the Marlborough Sounds.

Dean Lee and Dianne Penwarden at their Crail Bay property.
Dean Lee and Dianne Penwarden at their Crail Bay property.

For 10 years I used to eat breakfast with 200 other blokes while I was mining in Western Australia. Living remotely was just a pipe dream for a long time.

I bought some land in Crail Bay in the Marlborough Sounds five years back and moved onto it with my partner Dianne 18 months ago.

We both worked hard to pay off our mortgages and be semi-retired out here.

I used to come pig hunting down here in the 1990s and always said I'd like to come and live here. At 53 I've finally made it.

We have 30 acres and run some cattle on the land. Our closest town is Blenheim 2½ hours away by car. We're lucky if we see one car a day pass by our place.

We don't get many visitors this far from town. But we love the quiet pace. Every morning we wake up to a choir of bellbirds and tui.

We started out living in a converted container on the land when we moved out here and we extend into our new house as we build it bit by bit.


Dean Lee and Dianne Penwarden bask in the tranquillity of their remote Marlborough home.
Dean Lee and Dianne Penwarden bask in the tranquillity of their remote Marlborough home.

The house is designed to be north facing for maximum sun. Our 15 solar panels and 24 batteries give us all the energy we need.

We have an eco-friendly fridge and freezer designed to run on solar power, a gas oven and a barbecue. Our water is gravity fed from a spring up in the hills above our land. We keep a big vegetable garden, hunt for wild deer and boar, and fish in the bay. We killed a cattle beast in the New Year. That'll keep us going for a good while.

Most of what we need comes from Mother Nature.

Going off grid was a pretty easy decision. It would have cost us $50,000 to get hooked up to the grid from here. That was about what it cost us to set up our alternative energy system.

And we just reckon, why buy power off a big company when you have the sun? Even on a cloudy day down here it charges our batteries.

There are not any downsides to living this way. Occasionally a storm might bring a tree down on the road but then we'll just chuck the chainsaw in the back of the ute and chop it up for firewood.

We're thinking of getting a boat which will allow us to get to Havelock in 40 minutes. For the meantime, we only bother going into town every two or three weeks for supplies.

We live a life of peace and quiet in a beautiful spot, living that pipe dream of mine.


A PLACE I BELONG TO

Liz Brook, a former Dominion photographer, lives off-grid on a farm in Feilding.

Liz Brook cleans her solar panels every three months. — Photo: Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ.
Liz Brook cleans her solar panels every three months. — Photo: Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ.

I chose to live using alternative energy because I suppose I've always been a bit “off grid” myself.

On a trip to the United States in the early 1980s I saw an amazing house that was totally self-sufficient which really inspired me to do the same one day.

That house was in Beverly Hills and had all the bells and whistles.

My dream house was a little more modest. In 1988 I bought a small 69-hectare farm near Feilding in the Manawatu. I still had an idea that I would be on the grid, but would mostly run the house on alternative power. As it turned out it was going to cost more than $15,000 to run the electricity to the house, so the decision was made. I would go totally off grid.

Luckily I came across a solar power idealist in Palmerston North who was about to move to Auckland, and was willing to sell his equipment to me for a very good rate.

There was no house on the farm, so over the next nine years I had it built stage by stage as money came in. I literally camped in a woolshed on the property until the house was finished.

My alternative energy is run on 12 solar panels, a small marine wind turbine and 12 deep-cycle batteries. I use “sky juice” for my water supply. Basically, everything is powered by the sun, the wind and the rain.

I have an extra low energy fridge made in Denmark, and a low energy washing machine. I use a wood fired stove for cooking. I usually get someone else to cut my firewood but when push comes to shove I'll do it myself. There are plenty of trees on the property that provide fuel.


Liz Brook maintains her power house, the batteries which store her solar-sourced electricity. — Photo: Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ.
Liz Brook maintains her power house, the batteries which store her solar-sourced electricity.
 — Photo: Murray Wilson/Fairfax NZ.


I have a composting toilet, and there are two long drop toilets in the garden.

I can truly say my house is warm in winter and cool in summer.

The cost to power my house on alternative energy over the years has been minimal. I have no real idea, but every now and again I have to spend money on new batteries, or a new inverter, but really it is a lot less than paying a monthly electricity account. Some of my friends are paying upwards of $600 a month. That would just cripple me financially.

People thought I was a bit mad to live off grid, but with frequent power cuts up here and the cost of electricity from the grid, I'd say I'm not the one who's mad.

I do have to maintain my equipment to keep it all working. I clean my solar panels every three months and I have to make sure I top up my batteries.

In the early days I was not so organised. I'd be sitting there watching TV and suddenly the lights would go out and I'd have to reach for the torch.

I am hyper-aware of the need to conserve energy. I even turn off my fridge at night in the winter. I have to educate my friends who come to stay to turn off lights and other equipment when they leave a room.

I'm 75 now and lease much of my land to a farmer who has more energy and strength than I do, but I am still reasonably self-sufficient growing my own vegetables all year round, and I farm a few sheep and goats for meat.

There are days when I think about alternatives to living here. Trouble is, when I arrived this place was just a paddock. Now it's a home, a lovely garden and a place I feel I belong.


HARD TIMES, HAPPY PLACE

An off grid home ensconced in remote bush in the Far North is a work in progress for writer Polly Greeks and her husband James McLean.

Polly Greeks with her children Vita, left, and Zen, at their off grid home in the Far North.
Polly Greeks with her children Vita, left, and Zen, at their off grid home in the Far North.

We were pretty clueless when we packed up all our possessions, drove north and embarked on our so-called Great Land Adventure. We had a vague notion that it would be nice to live in nature, grow some vegetables and enjoy night skies untainted by city lights, but we didn't really know what we were in for. That was a good thing.

James bought the land on a whim in 2002 — 15ha of native bush in the Far North, flanked by Department of Conservation reserves, criss-crossed with tumbling streams and utterly lacking in amenities.

When we arrived at the end of 2010, the first thing we had to build was a road so we could actually access the place. Once that was done, we dragged an old caravan onto our future house-site and set up camp.

Before we figured out how to set up a gravity-fed water tank from the stream, we used to trudge down to the water daily with the wheelbarrow and lug it back up. Clothes were washed by hand until we discovered the Kaitaia Laundromat, an hour's drive away. We took bucket baths, read by candle-light, and kept up to date with the world via a transistor radio.

With winter approaching, we decided to construct a roof. Our builder said it would take him six weeks to erect but then he went off on some Grand Designs bent and spent the next year working on giant macrocarpa trusses. Eventually we parted ways but his legacy remains in the dimensions of our home — a 5 metre high stud and 7m-wide rooms.

That first year on the land was definitely the hardest. It seemed to rain for months on end.

The streams all flooded and regularly cut off our access, and mould fuzzed across every surface in the caravan. Sometimes, washing dishes in our outdoor kitchen, I cried in the rain.


Polly Greeks' off grid home in the Far North.
Polly Greeks' off grid home in the Far North.

Luckily though, James and I had spent the previous year teaching in Northern Iraq, and whenever things seemed dire, we took comfort in the fact we'd rather be here than back over there.

Our first child Vita, now four, spent her first six months living in the caravan with us. Then she and I retreated into a rented cottage for the second winter while James finished building our first room. It's made of mudbrick, with recycled doors, windows and slate flooring. The mezzanine floor where we co-sleep is constructed from giant bamboo off our land. Since then, we've added a bathroom and kitchen, and we're building the lounge this summer.

We operated an outdoor kitchen for 4½ years, so finally moving indoors to cook was cause for great celebration — no more possums raiding the fruit bowl! The indoor hot shower runs off a gas califont and we also have an outdoor fire bath. Our toilet's a composting one.

We don't have a fridge. We have a generator which the washing machine and power tools run off, but long term we hope to install a hydro-power system. For now, a sole solar panel enables us to charge phones, laptops and lamps. Connecting to the grid is out of the question for us — we're too remote.

There are lots of other households around us who are all off-grid. Our neighbours have lived there for nearly 30 years and are about 80-percent self-sufficient. They're our gardening gurus. We still do a weekly grocery shop, but most fresh produce now comes from our garden. We've also planted more than 50 fruit trees.

We've added another child to the family — Zen, who's now one. Vita tells us she would rather live by the sea, but we're delighted to see our two children growing up in the bush. Hopefully they emerge as creative beings with a sense of connection to the natural world.

Socially and culturally, we've taken a hit by leaving the city but our slice of wilderness nourishes us in so many other ways. Every time we come home we sort-of expand into the peace of it.


ALL MOD CONS

Jenny Doring, retired credit analyst, 69, lives in a metal-clad wood home in the Wairarapa.

Jenny and Geoff Doring at their off-grid home near Carterton. — Photo: Loren Dougan/Fairfax NZ.
Jenny and Geoff Doring at their off-grid home near Carterton. — Photo: Loren Dougan/Fairfax NZ.

My father helped design the Karapiro Power Station on the Waikato River so I think he'd be pretty amused to know his daughter was living off grid.

We have been using alternative energy for 20 years now.

My husband Geoff and I raised our family of four children in Johnsonville and when they all left the nest we got a section out here on the Waiohine Gorge Road near Carterton and set about building a house designed to be off grid.

Geoff had originally enquired about the cost of hooking up to the local grid. When we discovered it would set us back $20,000 we looked at alternative energy options and realised we could buy off grid systems for the same amount and avoid ever paying a power bill.

We started coming to the house at weekends, but every time we got back to the city we would always ask ourselves why we were coming back to the rat race when life out here, living self-sufficiently, was so rewarding. So in 1995 we moved out lock stock and barrel.

The kids thought we were a bit strange at first, but now they accept our new life.

When we built the house we had to take into account where the sun rose so we would get all day sun to power our solar panels. We began with two but we now have 12. We have a wind generator, a gas oven, a dozen deep-cycle batteries and a wood burner that is connected to the water cylinder. We burn gorse wood from our own land and we use water from the sky. We waste nothing, using our grey water on the vegetable garden.

When you walk into our house you wouldn't think we were living any differently to someone on the grid. We have a microwave, a big flat-screened TV, fridge-freezer, all those electrical norms but they all run on green energy.

Our friends asked if they could come and stay with us at the turn of the millennium because they thought they'd all lose power. We knew we'd have no worries whatever happened when the clock struck 12.

We never run out of power. We are completely independent of the power companies and we never have to think about a power bill.


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« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2016, 04:49:58 pm »


from The Timaru Herald....

‘Power rangers’ to save the cloudy day
as Timaru school goes off the grid


School switches to solar power.

By CHRIS HYDE | 8:55AM - Tuesday, 03 May 2016

A total of 112 solar panels installed on three classrooms and the roof of a distinctive new shaded seating area could generate up to 29,000 watts of electricity on a full sun day. — Photograph: John Bisset/Fairfax NZ.
A total of 112 solar panels installed on three classrooms and the roof of a distinctive new
shaded seating area could generate up to 29,000 watts of electricity on a full sun day.
 — Photograph: John Bisset/Fairfax NZ.


BRIGHT YOUNG MINDS and a few rays of sun are all a 600-pupil Timaru primary school needs to power it through the day.

A $135,000 investment in solar power and efficient light bulbs over the school holidays has taken Bluestone School off the grid and the kids are hoping to keep it that way.

Principal Ian Poulter said a total of 112 solar panels installed on three classrooms and the roof of a distinctive new shaded seating area could generate up to 29,000 watts of electricity on a full sun day.

The school's average daily usage of power across its 23 classrooms is between 5,000 and 7,000 watts meaning on those days it will be feeding back into the national grid.

Monitoring how much power they're using is now a crucial job. Pupils known as “power rangers” are the ones tasked with keeping Bluestone off the grid.

On Monday's cloudy day they broke even across the day but there was a couple of peaks where usage exceeded what was being generated.

Poulter said power rangers — the chore of which will be rotated between pupils — would ensure non-essentials were switched off and heat was not escaping through open doors and windows, particularly during interval and lunch.

“This is definitely the way of the future,” Poulter said of the solar panels. “I travelled to Germany in the holidays and they are everywhere, they've got huge paddocks of them.”

“For a country that calls itself clean and green we need to start looking more at this, particularly with water use being so contested now.”

At the same time the school was installing the panels ($65,000) it was also investing in a conversion of every light bulb in the school to LED ($70,000).

Poulter said school staff were surprised to find it was lighting, not heating, that was using the most electricity at the school each month.

Now the bulbs were more efficient and also produced cleaner light, he said.

The money for both came out of the Ministry of Education's annual property funding which the school had carefully managed to save up for this project, Poulter said.

“We think they'll love that we're using it for this. We anticipate the cost will be repaid in eight to nine years and then every year after that is profit.”

“It's pretty exciting.”


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If you aren't living life on the edge, you're taking up too much space! 

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