Off-grid home solar system in Australia

Sylvia Wilson in front of the home solar system that powers both her home and her Tesla Model S in Queensland, Australia [Photo Credit: Screen capture of Australian Broadcasting Corporation video story about Sylvia Wilson found at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-09/sylvia-wilson-drives-an-electric-car-lives-off-grid/11395392]

Yes, you CAN do it all — power your entire home’s electricity use AND all of your electric driving via home solar, as Australia’s Sylvia Wilson proves.

Her off-grid home solar system, complete with a large lead-acid battery pack storage unit installed in 2015, provides 100 percent of her electricity for her driving and 100 percent of her home electricity needs.

In a feature story about her published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the former farmer notes that her passion for the environment and her late husband Rod’s interest in technology inspired the couple to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle at their property near Calliope in central Queensland, Australia.

They started by installing 32 solar panels, but after adding air conditioning and an electric car into the mix, they ended up needing 12 more.

“We’ve got 44 altogether now — except if there’s a long wet week, I’m fine,” Wilson says in the story published by ABC (Australia).

Wilson and her late husband Rod wanted to prove a point when they decided to live off the grid and convert their property to solar power.

“We were both trying to prove a point — we believed in it, but could we do it? And that’s what we proved, that we can and very happily live [off the grid].”

Within a few years, she and Rod Wilson did a 20,000-kilometer, three-and-a-half-month journey around Australia in her Tesla electric car with charging costs of just $150 for the entire trip, according to ABC.

“It was 110 days and most of the places we stayed were very happy for us to charge the car there,” she tells ABC.

Wilson said the expense of installing solar panels and buying an electric car have been worth the benefits.

“The setup cost is there; it’s a bit like insurance, you invest in the future with insurance and it’s the same with solar and with an electric car. Once you get over the hassle of thinking about the money you’ve got to spend to do it, it’s very easy, it’s very cost effective,” she notes to ABC. “[The solar panels] cost me a lot to set up but it costs me nothing to run.”


She has had to spend almost no money on maintenance of her Tesla Model S.

“I haven’t spent much money, it hardly needs a service, it’s magic,” she notes in the ABC story. “There’s so many fewer moving parts in an electric car than there are in an internal combustion engine.

“Your cost of running the car is significantly lower, and of course when you’ve got solar, it reduces your power bill,” she adds.

The Wilsons liked the idea of pushing conventional boundaries, reports ABC.

“We were both trying to prove a point — we believed in it, but could we do it?” Wilson says. “And that’s what we proved, that we can and very happily live [off the grid].”

Her solar setup requires the use of a battery bank.

“It’s an old-fashioned setup now because we put it in in 2015, so they’re lead-acid batteries but hardly any maintenance has been required,” she tells ABC. “It’s been a good investment and it’s been a good experiment.”

Weather has rarely impacted her electricity system, Wilson notes.

“There’s been a couple of cyclonic influences that have made it overcast for five or six days, I’m lucky here that we’ve got other power on the property,” she tells ABC. “I can plug in somewhere else so it doesn’t bother me.”

While the couple spent a lot of money on their Model S and on the older lead acid battery system to store solar electricity generated by their system, Wilson notes that costs have come down significantly since 2015, when they first began their self-contained solar-charged approach.

Wilson says she and her husband were lucky to afford the car but she understood that price was a big factor for most people.

“Even just in three years since we’ve had the car, the price of solar and these cars are starting to come down,” she explains in the ABC feature piece. “It won’t be long before there’s a crossover point where the electric cars are not more expensive than a comparable internal combustion engine car — I would say within the next three to five years.

 

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