Klaus Menzel has been traversing the Outback with his two camels, Snowy and Willy, for over ten years now. As if that wasn’t quite cool enough, Willy is also famous for pulling a solar-powered ute across the country, which Menzel uses as a clean energy-powered home-on-the-go. It seems that a few solar panels on top of a camel-mobile is all you need to be a 21st century outback nomad.
For most of us though, giving up the creature comforts that come with good, old-fashioned electricity isn’t an option; why would anyone choose to invest in an entirely new system of energy generation, especially one that’s not even connected to a traditional energy grid? What if, for instance, the sun doesn’t shine for a few days? Does that mean you’d be stranded – sans fridge, sans communication and sans hot shower, even?
Read on for a quick primer on what living on off grid solar really means. Of course, not like you’re curious to find out whether you could live like that or anything.
What’s “Off Grid?”
Literally speaking, “off grid” means disconnecting from traditional non-renewable power sources like fossil fuel (diesel, coal, etc.) and nuclear energy, and living sustainably and naturally. It doesn’t always involve a Thoreau-esque removal of yourself from society, and it certainly doesn’t mean total self-denial of twenty-first century conveniences. In fact, some of the most modern homes built are all eco-sustainable.
What’s Solar Power Got to Do With It?
While off grid lifestyles can involve organic living, at their very core is the issue of sustainable power generation; the term itself is indicative of that.
We’ve already talked about Australia’s tremendous potential to be a leader in solar power generation, and why solar energy is the way of the future here.
Even more interesting though, is that fact that off grid solar power is being touted as the next step in the development of solar power systems in Australia.
This report, for instance, states that the largest installations of solar energy in Australia within the last two decades has been for off grid uses, which are mostly agricultural and industrial. The graph below shows just what a huge capacity for solar power generation this actually is.
Is it Sustainable Everywhere?
The concern has been that off grid solar system installations are better suited to rural areas, rather than urban ones, and the power consumption demands of Australian cities don’t allow for homes to be disconnected from grids entirely, even if they are using some amount of solar power generation. While this may be true, there’s no reason that one or more types of renewable energy systems can’t be combined to allow for off grid living.
Tasmania’s King Island, for instance, aims to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 95% by the end of this year, by combining wind and solar power systems for 100% off grid generation.
If they can do it, why can’t the rest of us? Stay tuned for the next installment of this post, which discusses the pros and cons of going off grid and looks at how it can be done. And at the Green Power Company, we’re no strangers to off grid installations, so give us a ring for more information (Note: camel and ute not included).