Storage from the Sun

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When I wrote this post last month, I mentioned that we were getting a battery system for our solar panels.

Well, the installation was completed on Tuesday afternoon and since then all of our electricity consumption has been independent of the grid.

As well as the battery system we also have more panels.

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This is the cabinet which holds the batteries.

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Inside, it looks like this.

003The interesting thing about the system which we have is that it is a hybrid system.  In fact, we really have 2 banks of solar panels – the original ones which we have had for 5 years remain connected to the grid and any power generated is fed back to the grid with a monetary return to us.  The only things that we have connected to this system are the oven and a single outdoor power point.

Everything else is powered by the solar panels of other system during the day and at night by the excess which is stored in the batteries.

This also means that we can power our home from the batteries (except for the oven) during any periods of power outage.

Following the completion of the battery installation on Tuesday, we have had four brilliant, sunny days.  The screen shot below shows our generation and use and tells the story clearly and simply.

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This shows the last month and each bar is one day.  The yellow bar shows the solar generation, the green line is power exported to the grid, the red line is our consumption and the black bar is power drawn from the grid.  The last 4 days are since the battery system has been operational.  Our solar generation is higher (we now have more panels), 100% of what we generated from the grid-connected panels was exported to the grid and most importantly, we have not used any power from the grid.

I know that every day will not be clear and sunny nor will we have as many hours of daylight as we are getting at the moment as we head towards the summer solstice.  However, we are confident that we will continue to be able to supply our power needs independently of the grid.

There are numerous new technologies available for battery storage systems so it would pay to very carefully consider your circumstances before rushing into a decision like this.  However, if you live in Australia and are interested in more details about our system please email me and I can get some information for you.

Name & Shame

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I have been busy with work recently and so not much time for my creative pursuits – gardening, cooking and sewing.  However, I have been making an effort to finish off some jobs that have hanging around.

Many have been things that I keep meaning to do such as reviewing our phone and internet plans with the current providers.  I wrote about this project a couple of days ago and you can read it here.  I have decided that the exit fees for our mobile phone contract are too high so we will stick with what we have for the moment and be more vigilant about reviewing the SMS messages that we receive advising that we have used 60% and then 80% of our data quota.  I did discover that we can negotiate a new plan once we are within 3 months of the end of our current contract.  I have made a note in my diary for the end of December to do this.

Despite not getting quite the outcome I had hoped for, I am certainly not naming and shaming our telephone or internet providers.  I am saving that for our electricity company!!

I have written several posts about my battles with Origin Energy since I began this blog in March 2011.  I will not bore you with links to them all here but if you put ‘electricity’ or ‘Origin Energy’ into the search function on the right-hand side of the page you will find most of them.

2012-07-26 01Yesterday, I made yet another phone call to Origin regarding the non-appearance of our latest bill/statement.  The meter was read on 28th May which is almost 2 months ago.  This has happened every quarter since we had the solar panels installed in November 2010.  Despite numerous assurances about ‘the system’, ‘a block on your bill’ and other nonsense being sorted out it never happens and I am just about about breaking point.

As usual, the people who answer the phone copped my wrath, always prefaced with “I know it is not your fault directly”.  This time I have the name of the person who took my call initially as well as the contact in the Solar Billing Department.  I have advised that I will be sending a letter to the General Manager with a copy to both of the people with whom I spoke directly yesterday.

We have been receiving electricity bills for over 30 years and they have arrived in the mail, as regular as clockwork, within 3-5 working days of the meter being read.  This has been the case year in, year out without fail until we had the solar panels installed.

Suddenly, when we are in credit rather than having a bill to pay, we do not receive any notification until I ring up and beg/plead/argue/debate the issue every 3 months.  Initially, we were advised that credit would only be paid every 12 months or if we wanted it more often it was up to us to ring Origin and request the payment. Previously, I had an automatic direct debit set up to pay our electricity bill.  It is clearly far too difficult for Origin to set up a simple direct credit to my bank account every 3 months when my electricity account is in credit!

I have to battle to even find out how much credit is owing to us while Origin get interest-free use of money which is rightfully ours.  Shame on you, Origin!!

Things have improved marginally in the past 18 months.  I discovered yesterday that I can now make an online request for payment of any credit balance into my nominated bank account.  All I need now is to receive the statements for our electricity account in a timely manner so that we can use the money which we have accrued through the purchase of solar panels and judicious use of electricity.

Origin Energy – lift your game and get this sorted out – NOW!!

I suspect that I am not the only person with billing issues since installing solar panels and I am very keen to hear if anyone else has a similar story to tell.  Please leave a comment at the bottom of this page or on my Facebook page.  Alternatively, you can email me.  The email address is at the foot of this page.

I am particularly in the experiences of other Origin customers, but please feel free to comment, regardless of which provider you have.

To my overseas readers – do you have similar problems?