Contact us today to visit the solar energy house and get extensive hints, tips and notes for free as part of the tour...
Our old house was located in Mt Roskill, Auckland, New Zealand , and is unique in that we generated all our own electricity on site with solar electric modules, (PV's). Up until March 1999, we were completely self sufficient, and stored the power in a large battery bank to use when required.
In March 1999 we realised with the help of Alice Leny of Greenpeace that there was NO legislation in New Zealand stopping us from selling our EXCESS electricity back to the power company. So we 'grid intertied' which means we spun our electricity meter backwards, and got credits from the Power company (Utility Co) when we have excess power.
If only we had known I was going to do this.. how different the house construction would be when Sam Cope and I (Simon) built it in 1990....
It would be made out of earth - adobe/rammed, would be facing true North, and would have the roof pitch at 60 degrees so the PV wouldn't look soooo ugly!
What Do You Do When Everyone Asks You The Same Questions Over & Over Again (Prior To The Internet?) - Write A Book Of Course!
In 1993 Simon realised there was no NZ based book, or real expertise (all textbook, and secondhand knowledge) on solar power available here, so he co-wrote a book with Bob Riley: Solar Made Easy. ISBN 0-9583334-1-6. AIT Press. It will eventually be rewritten, as times have changed - mainly the electronics, and the PV technology has improved, and the market has matured ...
What's the Excitement About? Why on earth did we do this?
Many of you wonder if there is a real commercial market for grid-tie solar.
The remote power market has grown steadily over the last 20 years. Remote consumers often have no other access to power, it is prohibitively expensive to run utility lines to provide power, and the use of a generator is inconvenient. These reasons compel them to choose alternative energy. On the other hand, the grid-tied domestic markets, commercial and residential, normally have constant, reliable, and convenient access to power. Why then would they choose an alternative energy system?
Utility interactive systems are available both with and without battery systems. Which system is right for the consumer depends on the application. Those systems designed to run directly from the sun may not require battery backup. However, people with systems deployed where off-hour or backup power is required should consider investing in a battery backup system.
A number of reasons compel energy users to choose solar for grid-connected power. First, there are economic reasons. If an area suffers from high-energy costs associated with peak utility hour charges, solar energy produces most of its power during those peak hours. Peak power requirement hours can be supplemented by solar, this is called peak shaving. Utilities forgo building more generation facilities by installing solar in their territory to offset peak hour power needs.
Reliable backup or standby power is another strong economic reason for buying a utility-interactive system. From the very small user, such as a home office, to a large user such a bank, hotel or gas station, individuals and companies depend on reliable power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do You Remember The Power Outage (BlackOut) In Queen Street & Auckland Central In 1999?
People who were in Auckland central during the power outages that occurred in 1999 went up to 14 days without power. In this age of global commerce, 14 days without a fax machine or computer could destroy even the smallest company. With the onslaught of utility restructuring, the government and utilities predict a greater frequency of outages. An alternative energy backup power system provides a real economic benefit to consumers and businesses that put value on reliable power. A NZD$2000 to $7500 system can provide low cost insurance to avoid costly downtime due to power loss. A NZD$10,000 to $75,000 system can provide long term to endless power supply. The addition of solar panels and batteries to utility interactive systems serves to enhance the economic gain of a fully integrated system.
Non-economic based decisions also drive commercial and residential consumers to choose solar. These reasons are not as tangible, but are equally if not more compelling, and could be referred to as "doing the right thing".
Hardened alternative energy professionals often claim the grid-tie market will not be a reality until power produced competes dollar-per-dollar with utility power. Commercial examples from other industries contradict this.
When You Are Standalone And Rely On The Sun 100% To Provide ALL Of Your Electricity...
Solar modules from a westly angle. They are facing true north at a fixed angle of 60 degrees to the horizontal. This is ideal for winter conditions to maximise solar input. Winter is when we use the most electricity, and the least sun shines, therefore, the entire system is designed around this time of the year. Hence the reasons why we have such a large battery bank. (We eventually started with a small pack of 6 'golf-cart' batteries, which then grew to 12x L16 Heavy Duty batteries to eventually the 'mother of all battery banks' - 48x 2volt cells @ 60kg each - a wall of batteries worth $15,000!!
Thank Goodness For Grid Intertie Technology - AKA Electronic circuitry, 'The Microcontroller' & Software...
Now that we are grid-intertied, we do not need a large battery bank, nor do should we need to cater for the winter months. We ideally should now change the angle of the modules for summer (~18 degrees to the horizontal), and make electricity (hay?) while the sun shines, and gain a large ‘credit’ in the summer months, and then draw off this credit in winter…
We will do all that when we build our next solar house…..(‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind).
Consumers do not buy Nike’s or Reeboks because they are economically comparable to other generic sneakers. They do not buy 4x4 Vehicles, Porsches, Mercedes or Volvo’s because they cost the same as a Toyota or Hyundai. Consumers buy Rolex’s when they could just as easily buy a watch from their local The Warehouse. Evian water, which costs more per litre than petrol, is purchased and consumed instead of tap water.
The examples could continue on and on; it’s about perceived value. Solar and other renewables are associated with positive value: uniqueness, positive public relations, non-polluting, greenness, technology appeal, independence, and so on. Schools, commercial companies & institutions, have all put solar on their roofs here in New Zealand. These were not economically based decisions.
My father, Sam W. Cope Jnr - builder with the help from his (also) talented brothers (David & John the carpenters, Peter the blocklayer & painter) helped me build my first house (very exciting). Cost $75,000 in materials to build in 1990.
Anyway, in 1994 I did what I had been consulting & telling others to do since 1985 - use solar PV modules to run their appliances and machinery etc - so I started to add PV solar electric modules to the roof of my house... Read The NZ Herald article
Solar Made Easy - By Simon Cope & Bob Riley
ISBN 0-9583334-1-6. AIT Press
We sold 2000 copies in the first print run within months, and quickly had 2nd run of 4000 copies out - we had a big seller (from NZ standards!)
Starting off with 12 solar electric PV modules + the separate solar hotwater system... then along came Kristina, a flatmate, and increased demand... so we added more PV modules...
Time and time again, solar and other alternative energy technologies rank the highest on opinion polls. People think solar is great; it’s green; it’s cool. Maybe you too should look at it more closely? (Come and visit the Solar Energy House in Meadowbank, Auckland? Learn more...)
Start slowly – replace those old appliances (incandescent light bulbs at less than 5% efficient should be illegal to make, let alone purchase!!) with more energy efficient models. Install solar hot water, and between doing this step alone, you have probably reduced your power bill by 40-60% already. Visit us at Solar Energy House to learn more.
OK - Back To The Solar House In Mt Roskill (Please!)
To continue reading about our old (first) solar house in Mt Roskill then click here as we delve deeper into the bones of the system..., otherwise if you want to skip straight into learning about our NEW solar energy house then click here. Or maybe you want to personally visit us individually, or in a group with others - if so, click here to book a tour/visit today.
Solar Energy House C/- Simon & Kristina Cope | 19 Manapau Street, Meadowbank, Auckland 1072 | New Zealand | Contact us now to arrange your tour