Solar

Turnstyle is on Solar!

As of late August 2012, Turnstyle has a solar photovoltaic (PV) power station on our roof.

Sample daily solar output graph Sample weekly solar output graph

Turnstyle is at a rented premises. The PV system was organised and funded by Turnstyle and we negotiated and signed a written agreement with our landlord that will allow us to continue to rent the property for the estimated five-year payback period until we break even on the cost of the system (when we expect that the income we get from the electricity generation will roughly add up to the initial system cost).

Turnstyle gets to generate and use renewable energy for no extra cost and not support the burning of fossil fuel or any upgrades to large-scale remote grid infrastructure. If we are careful with our electricity use, we might reach the payback period before five years and then we will get the benefit of the extra income as well.

We won’t be causing the need for any new electricity grid infrastructure and because our system will mostly provide electricity to the grid at times of high demand, this reduces the need for grid upgrades to meet increasing peak demand and it also reduces the average price of power. So everyone’s power bills will be lower because of us (and because of all the other houses and businesses with PV). This has been demonstrated in areas where there is already a large amount of PV installed, including Germany and South Australia.

You can compare Turnstyle’s output to that of the University of Queensland 1220 kW system at UQ Solar Monitoring. The UQ system is currently the largest rooftop PV installation in Australia.

Usage

The performance of the panels will slowly reduce over time – they have an output warranty of 95% of nominal power after 5 years and 80% after 25 years. When we were planning the system the Turnstyle household and space (10 Laura St) was using 13 kWh of electricity per day. Since the solar installation we have used an average of 12 kWh/day and our solar panels have produced 14.5% more electricity than we use. Thanks to everyone who’s been turning things off when they’re not in use! The excess will be helping to power our neighbour’s houses.

From August 2012 to September 2014:
* 10,513 kWh of electricity was produced by our PV system (average of 13.7 kWh/day).
* 9,180 kWh of electricity was used at Turnstyle (average of 12.0 kWh/day).

Contributors

Special thanks to all who have helped to fund the Turnstyle PV installation, including:

* A large donation from the (retired) UQ EcoBug Food Coop;
* Your donations to Turnstyle;
* Loans from members of the Turnstyle Bulk Buyers Cooperative and the Turnstyle residents.

Installation Process

For anyone who’s wondering what the installation process is like, here is a summary of what happened for us:

April 2012
Turnstyle residents start discussing solar.

22 June 2012
Contract signed with an installer and deposit paid on a 3kW solar PV system. Installation is expected by end of July.
This was possible after the following steps:
* Discussions and presentations about home solar by a couple of suppliers.
* Various quotes obtained from different suppliers.
* Much discussion in the house about which system to go for and how to pay for it.
* The drafting and agreement of a contract with our landlord to let us install the system.
* Discussion with a couple of groups about helping us to fund the system.

5 July 2012
Network connection agreement received in the mail from Energex (a Network Connection Agreement for an Inverter Energy System). We signed it and sent them back a copy.

9 July 2012
The installer’s electrical contractor came around to look at the meter box, roof, etc. As expected, we are likely to need a $150 backing board upgrade in the meter box, but otherwise all good. He reckons installation will be in 1-2 weeks.

10 July 2012
Agreed to the backing board upgrade for the meter box. Installation scheduled for 17 July.

17 July 2012
12 panels (3 kW) installed and generating. Discovered after a few hours of it running that our meter is counting UP instead of down so we are paying our retailer for the power that we are producing for them. Switched off the solar until Energex comes to change the meter (they say this may take up to 10 business days).

1 August 2012
Energex had advised us that the meter would be changed today. They didn’t show up. We called them the next day and were told that we just had to wait and they would come soon.

17 August 2012
Lodged a complaint online with Energex that a month had passed since they advised us that they had all the required paperwork to schedule a meter change yet we’ve not been given any idea when they will change the meter (other than their website information which states that it should have happened within 10 business days). Our panels are still sitting idle on the roof.

20 August 2012
Our meter was finally changed and our system is up and running. Woohoo!

4 September 2012
Sorted out a few installation issues (some panels had been installed facing the wrong direction. Hmmm). Production is now full speed ahead!