Pow­er­ful so­lu­tion

Townsville Bulletin - - Voice Of The North - Opin­ion Christy Vena, Townsville

WHEN I moved to Townsville from frigid Vic­to­ria in the late 1980s, I was sur­prised there wasn’t more use made of so­lar power here.

It seemed the per­fect spot to show what could be done.

S o me f i v e y e a r s l a t e r I couldn’t un­der­stand why the coun­cil hadn’t made so­lar pan­els manda­tory, for new dwellings at least.

Le­ich­hardt Coun­cil in Syd­ney had done it way back then. Why not us in a city where we hide from the sun’s power?

Sure it’s an­other cost, and a ma­jor one, which puts ev­ery­body off, but there are so many other re­quire­ments i n t he build­ing process, why not a pro­duc­tive one that we ac­tu­ally get to ben­e­fit from?

Now we’re 18 years down the track, and I’m sign­ing up for a so­lar sys­tem. Townsville is a ‘‘ so­lar city’’ now with lots of stuff on the coun­cil web­site.

So­lar still isn’t manda­tory on new dwellings but I thought they might of­fer re­bates or some sort of en­cour­age­ment for ratepay­ers to make the change.

It was ab­so­lutely no sur­prise that they didn’t have a ded­i­cated so­lar per­son, that the sus­tain­abil­ity of­fice con­cen­trates on ‘‘ ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple" a n d ‘ ‘ c r e a t i n g b e h a v i o u r change". There’s a point at which the coun­cil’s quest to SUR­PRIS­ING AL­TER­NA­TIVE: So­lar could see an end to coal-fired power, es­pe­cially in the North cre­ate ‘‘ be­hav­iour change" be­comes a gag-in­duc­ing smoke­screen for lack of ini­tia­tive and ac­tion.

So for­get lo­cal gov­ern­ment. I see how it could all work from a big pic­ture point of view.

I’m get­ting a 12-panel sys­tem that costs a lit­tle over $ 12,000. The gov­ern­ment pays half, so it costs me around $ 6100. The sys­tem is con­nected via my switch­box to the grid.

Here’s the bit that maybe peo­ple don’t re­alise. I don’t run my house on my own so­lar power.

My house pro­duces power which is fed back into the grid, and then comes back to me via Er­gon. The so­lar sys­tem I’ve cho­sen is de­signed to cover my us­age so the happy out­come is that I shouldn’t have a bill.

As long as I get a sys­tem big enough to cover my usual use I will, in ef­fect, power my whole house­hold ( no air­cons but a pool, my bill about $ 380 a quar­ter).

Then if I don’t use all I pro­duce, Er­gon pays me for the ex­cess. If I use more, I get a bill. Here’s tip­ping I’ll mod­ify my be­hav­iour so I don’t get that bill.

My neigh­bours have done it and they as­sured me it all works ex­actly as de­scribed.

It struck me this is the way our whole en­ergy sys­tem can make an evo­lu­tion­ary step.

I be­come an en­ergy pro­ducer rather than a straight con- sumer, re­plac­ing my re­liance on coal-fired power with a mea­sur­able so­lar con­tri­bu­tion. In the process Er­gon’s role also evolves – it be­comes an en­ergy man­ager, mon­i­tor and dis­trib­u­tor rather than a di­rect con­duit for coal-fired power. I’m sure en­ergy or­gan­i­sa­tions like it un­der­stand they also need to evolve to re­main cen­tral in the un­avoid­able move to mul­ti­sourc­ing en­ergy.

Once you take away the fear that you won’t be able to run two plas­mas and a hairdryer at the same time with so­lar, this big pic­ture be­comes clearer. For­get build­ing mas­sive so­lar farms, Townsville is a po­ten­tial mas­sive so­lar farm. The in­fra­struc­ture ( houses, roofs) is al­ready here, the source of the en­ergy is here and in­ex­haustible. The ‘ plant’ does cost ini­tially, but see it as a se­ri­ous life in­vest­ment.

It does mean try­ing to cut down your us­age be­tween 9am and 5pm – your so­lar sys­tem’s peak pro­duc­tion time – but there’s noth­ing wrong with that. Yes, the coal in­dus­try will suf­fer, but Tim Flan­nery once re­marked that Aus­tralia used to run on the sheep’s back, and look how that changed. Think of it this way: We had the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion but now, surely, smoke is so last cen­tury. We des­per­ately need an en­ergy evo­lu­tion. Bring on the Re­new­ables Revo­lu­tion which, like any real revo­lu­tion, should be fu­elled by us, the peo­ple.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.