August 12, 2016: Sustainable House Day 2016

Long time readers will know that we have opened the doors of the Greeny Flat to visitors for Sustainable House Day for the last two years. Well we’re at it again on September 11th for our third consecutive  Sustainable House Day. The Greeny Flat will be open from 10am to 4pm and you can register to attend on the Sustainable House Day Website.

You can also view our SHD profile at this link here.

There are two other exceptional houses in our local area which will be open on the day. One I have written about before being Glenn and Lee Robinson’s ‘Bundanoon Net Zero Cottage’. This is a wonderful example of a simple, passive solar home and granny flat. It employs many of the same principles as the Greeny Flat but with different finishes and a different look. If you haven’t been to see Glenn and Lee’s place I HIGHLY recommend a visit.

The Robinson's wonderful Net Zero Cottage in Bundanoon will be open for Sustainable House Day too.

The Robinson’s wonderful Net Zero Cottage in Bundanoon will be open for Sustainable House Day too.

The other is a straw-bale house in Exeter. I have not heard about this project before but it looks really interesting and well designed and I look forward to writing about it in the future. Put together these three projects will make for a very enjoyable and worthwhile day-out for anyone interested in beautiful, sustainable homes, productive gardens and low-carbon living. We hope to see you on September 11th.

This beautiful straw-bale home in Exeter will also be open for SHD 2016.

This beautiful straw-bale home in Exeter will also be open for SHD 2016.

If you feel like travelling a bit further afield (or live outside the Southern Highlands) you can search for sustainable homes in your area on the Sustainable House Day website (click on ‘Find’ to search). One project that’s well worth a visit if you’re in the Wollongong area is the ‘Illawarra Flame House‘ at the University of Wollongong which won the International Solar Decathlon competition in China in 2013.

The Better, the Worse and the AGLier

In our Newsletter way back in April 2015 I wrote a segment entitled ‘The Good, the Bad and the AGLy‘ about the ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ nature of Australia’s biggest polluter. By that, of course, I mean the company AGL who are listed as the single largest emitter of CO2 in Australia but are also the largest single producer of renewable energy. Well the AGL paradox continues this week….

On the one hand we have this article from Ecogeneration about how AGL is set to build ‘the world’s largest virtual power plant’  in South Australia. Under this scheme ‘The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has conditionally committed up to $5 million funding for AGL to install 1,000 centrally-controlled batteries in South Australian homes and businesses with a combined 5MW/7MWh storage capacity’.

‘Using cloud-based software, a virtual power plant (VPP) directs energy storage units to operate in unison to meet peak energy demand across an entire community or service area, helping consumers utilize their own rooftop-generated solar or stored solar power during peak demand periods and reduce their power bills, says battery-maker Sunverge.’

This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about back in our Newsletter dated May 29, 2016 and entitled ‘The Future of Energy?.  This is the beginnings of a Smart Grid system where the grid can communicate with homes and businesses to maximise the benefits of distributed solar and storage; reduce peak demand; control loads to coincide with periods of peak production; and allow homes and vehicles to trade energy back and forth with the grid. One of the main things inhibiting the realisation of Smart Grids has been the cost of energy storage. So I was excited to read that, under the AGL program ‘…the first 150 customers in metropolitan Adelaide will be eligible to purchase a discounted Sunverge SIS 5kW/7.7kWh energy storage system for $3,500, which includes hardware, software and installation.’  This is less than half the installed cost of a Tesla Powerwall battery and, with an estimated pay-back period of seven years, is likely to be taken up with enthusiasm by AGL’s customers in South Australia.

On the other hand… there is this campaign called ‘Dirty AGL’ by which aims to expose some very dodgy shenanigans that went on recently in the South Australia power network. According to…

‘A damning analysis released today has revealed that AGL and the other big energy giants exacerbated the recent energy crisis in South Australia by withholding power from the grid. If true as reported, AGL’s actions pushed up power prices as part of a deliberate strategy to maximise the company’s profits [1].

The report suggests that AGL pocketed tens of millions of dollars at the expense of consumers who, as a result of AGL’s devious actions, paid a premium for their power.

This is pretty shocking behaviour on AGL’s part.’

There are precious few facts provided to back up these claims. You may well have heard about how the wholesale price of electricity in SA recently shot sky high to something like $14,000/kWh and how this has been blamed (particularly by the Murdoch presses) on the unreliability of renewable energy. From what I’ve read it had much more to do with the natural gas prices and the fact that Australia has recently started exporting massive amounts of compressed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). This has done two things… 1) it has caused the price of electricity to go up because compressing massive amounts of natural gas requires massive amounts of electricity and 2) it has caused the price of natural gas to spike which also raises the cost of electricity (because a fair portion of our nation’s electricity comes from gas-fired power plants). If the campaign is true, it could have also had a lot to do with AGL and their cohorts withholding power from the grid.

Regardless of the murky facts of the case,’s campaign is calling for AGL to ‘get out of the business of fossil fuel energy’. Given the imminent threat of global climate change I reckon that’s a good idea regardless of what AGL may or may not have done in the past so I was happy to add my name to the campaign.

In Other News

Also this week there was…

Solar Smelting!

This article from Energy Matters about research from Swinburne University into smelting iron ore using solar energy. This seems like a very good idea given that currently there are 2 tonnes of CO2 produced for every tonne of ore processed.

This article from Solar Quotes about why it can be a good idea to oversize the number of solar panels relative to the size of your inverter. Basically it’s can be a clever way to get around restrictions on the size of inverters that can be connected to the grid.

160812 3d-printed-clay-straw-house

This article from New Atlas (formerly Gizmag) about a low-cost method of 3D printing simple structures out of clay and straw. The ‘house’ in the article was ‘printed’ for just US$55.




And finally for those interested in energy efficient transportation, there’s this article, also from New Atlas, about a new kind of suspension system which generates electricity every time you drive over a bump. Under development by Audi, the system is not too impressive on smooth roads generating a measly 3W but managing a very respectable 613W on a bumpy road.

Thanks for reading… more next week.


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