Feb 20, 2016: Grow, Cook, Eat – Offgrid Power – and Welsh Cars

In last week’s Newsletter we featured a couple of small, affordable, relocatable homes. This week we look at

Moss Vale Community Garden‘s New Off-grid Power System

The Community Garden at Moss Vale

The Community Garden at Moss Vale

Moss Vale Community Garden is located on Railway St between the tennis courts and the old bowling club. It has been in operation for over ten years providing food growing opportunities, skills training, education and delicious produce to the Moss Vale community. Soon it will be getting a big boost in the form of an off-grid solar power and battery storage system. The 3.7kW PV system has been made possible by the great generosity of Manuel Cilla of Cilectric Pty Ltd along with a grant from the Corena Fund.

Manuel Cilla of Cilectric find shade under the new solar power system.

Manuel Cilla of Cilectric finds shade under the new solar power system.

Manuel, through his company Cilectric, specialises in off-grid and large scale commercial solar power systems. He has very kindly donated a great deal of time along with a lot of materials and equipment to provide the gardens with an uninterruptible power system for pumping water and running lights, stoves, etc in their straw-bale kitchen.

160219 Comm Gard power system2

The inner workings of the soon-to-be-operational off-grid renewable energy system.

The photo above shows the battery storage and control boxes for the off-grid power system. The box on the top left houses the main switches and circuit breaker board. The yellow box top right is the SMA “Sunny Island” controller. This is the brains of the system and decides when and where power is sent to the loads or stored in the battery. The silver box below it is the battery, a 6.4kWh LG unit that offers more storage and a higher peak output for the same price as the Tesla Powerwall (and in a smaller unit). And the red box next to it is the SMA “Sunny Boy” inverter which changes the solar power from DC to 240V AC.

On the subject of solar power, anyone who is currently enjoying the 60c/kWh Feed In Tariff will want to read this article from Roof Juice. It explains why it is completely unnecessary for people who are on the 60c FIT scheme and using gross metering to have to pay $600 to $1000 to replace their meters when the scheme runs out. Net metering can easily be done with the meters you already have and their is talk of a class action suit to protect home owners from being forced to pay for unnecessary equipment.

Meanwhile, local readers who are interested in community gardening, organic food, cooking, eating, off-grid renewable energy or electric vehicles might want to come along to the Grow, Cook, Eat Festival in Moss Vale on March 20th (see below for more details). I will be displaying the PHEV which will be charging from the solar power system which Manuel will be on hand to explain, and the Community Garden will be open for viewing as well. I hope to see you there.

Grow, Cook, Eat Festival – March 20th – Moss Vale

Sunday March 20th marks the date for the annual Southern Highlands ‘Grow, Cook, Eat Festival‘. This year the event will be held at the old Moss Vale Bowling Club on Railway St (right next to the Community Garden). The event is billed as

‘A community event providing delicious local food, market stalls, talks and demonstrations, children’s activities, wood fired pizza, live music and local arts.’

As mentioned above, I will be helping with one of the talks and demonstrations about off-grid power and electric vehicles. I haven’t been to one of these festivals before so I’m not sure what else will be on show apart from lots of yummy food, local wine, arts and music. It sounds like a lot of fun. For those readers who can’t make it I will let you know how it goes after the event.

The Latest in Welsh Hydrogen/Electric Vehicles

The Rasa hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle during road testing.

The Rasa hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle during road testing. Source: Gizmag.com

When I read this Gizmag article about The Rasa hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle I thought, ‘Wow, this looks like a real game-changer’. So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that it was being developed in Wales of all places. Who would have thought it would be the Welsh to come out with the first small, practical, hydrogen-powered electric vehicle? Wales is not exactly famous for producing world-beating high-tech automobiles. But I have to say, this one looks very promising. It’s not commercially available yet and the article gives no indication of the expected price but a full production model is scheduled for some time in 2018.

The design brief for the road-legal two-seater was for ‘lightness, strength, affordability and safety as well as the maximisation of fuel-economy and the minimisation of pollution’. Water is the only tailpipe emission and, even if the hydrogen is sourced from petroleum, the carbon emissions are claimed to be the lowest of any car yet made. That’s a pretty impressive claim and is achieved by the use of such technologies as:

  • In-wheel electric motors
  • Carbon-fibre shell
  • Regenerative braking which stores energy in a bank of super-capacitors
  • Faired rear wheels
  • Gull-wing doors
  • Total weight of 580kg
  • Top speed of 100km/h
  • And a fuel economy of 0.9L/100km.

Another interesting development with this car is that the company intends not to sell but to offer it to customers for a monthly fee that will include a distance allowance plus all repairs, maintenance, insurance and fuel costs. If anything goes wrong with the car, the owner will not have it repaired, they will simply swap it for a new one. The company describes this as ‘a lightness of ownership that neither places a burden on the pockets of motorists or the surrounding environment’.

It sounds great to me. I just wish it were available now in Australia. Unfortunately, with current government policy and manufacturers apparent reluctance to advance electric vehicle uptake here, it might be a VERY long time before we see The Rasa on the streets of Sydney.

By the way, on the subject of hydrogen vehicles, I was also quite fascinated by this other Gizmag article which describes a drone plane powered by hydrogen fuel pellets. Liquid hydrogen typically has to be stored in large, heavy pressurised tanks which makes it a tricky fuel to use, especially for planes. The drone in this article was flown using a new type of fuel pellet made by Cella Energy in Britain which can be stored in an unpressurised container and which releases hydrogen when heat is applied. This is converted to electricity by a fuel cell to power the electric motor which drives the prop. The combined weight of the pellets and the fuel cell are reportedly less than the weight of the Lithium-ion battery that was previously used to power the drone. The idea of using hydrogen pellets instead of pressurised hydrogen could potentially solve some of the major problems that have limited the usability of hydrogen as a an energy storage medium and a replacement fuel for petroleum. It will be very interesting to see how this technology develops.

Petition for Compulsory Solar Panels

Finally for this week… this article from the Energy Matters Newsletter describes a petition that has been started ‘calling on the Australian Federal Government and all state premiers to make solar panels mandatory on new houses’.

13,286 people have already signed the petition which you can find here... including yours truly. As the wording of the petition puts it…

‘We don’t want to sit back and do nothing and leave a world not worth living in for our grandchildren.’ 

Hmmm… perhaps I’ll start another petition calling on our governments to introduce higher energy-efficiency standards for buildings in Australia too.

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