Click to enlarge
It's a 5 kilowatt system, consisting of 20 solar panels. We just had enough room on our roof, with our existing solar hot water system (centre). The installers even had to move the tv antenna, so they could fit them all on the northern side.
Why such a big unit? We run a septic system 24/7 and a water pump for the house too. Plus we don't have a wood burner at the moment, so the house is heated via electricity during winter. Our bills during that time can be in excess of $800 per quarter.
Our anaerobic septic system
Of all the things we weighed to use our money for, solar was the only one which would reduce our expenditures consistently. We originally saved the money to buy a wood heater, but it would only reduce our expenditures during winter. We still intend to get a wood heater once we save the money again, but its a big outlay for such a small window of return.
The fact I'm talking about money when speaking about solar is I don't believe we deserve any credit for being environmentally minded. A grid connected solar system, depends entirely on the electricity network to operate. It does provide free energy from the sun, but this particular system relies entirely on fossil fuels to operate. In terms of sustainability, you really need a "stand-alone" solar system, which means the solar panels are connected to a battery bank, instead of the electricity grid.
Pineapple and sweet potato
Our main environmental challenge is the green we can produce in the landscape. It takes a lot longer to make a return in the garden, than one afternoon with tradespeople on the roof. People who mind their gardens or find ways to eat locally, contribute a greater effort to being environmentally friendly because its a daily commitment and generally uses more elbow grease than fossil fuels.
I've written about solar before, and I wouldn't say my views have changed a great deal. We only purchased panels recently, because the Queensland government decided to remove the generous subsidy they were giving households, putting solar energy back into the grid. That's why I made the appointment to speak to a solar company recently - I wanted to hear what solar would look like without the government subsidy.
Once I saw households would be paid "market value" for the excess energy they produced by their electricity supplier, I felt it was a more realistic system of exchange. I've written about what government subsidies can do to a household budget and the price of goods here and here. I intend to write a third and final post, in my series about Individualism. It was always going to be about solar, because that has been the latest government incentive to get households to change the way they do business.
Our hands aren't completely clean however, as we did receive some subsidy for installing the system, but I will discuss the details of that in my final post about Individualism.
In the meantime, the sun has decided to go into hiding. While I know our panels aren't producing as much power because of it, the garden really needs these gentle days of reprieve from the sun. It triggers so much growth and change that I cannot begrudge it's necessity.