One Melbourne family’s investment in solar energy is paying dividends – and now they want everyone to join the solar power revolution.
Ten years ago, one couple in Melbourne’s southern suburbs were ahead of the clean energy curve, eagerly researching the latest advances in solar technology and making plans for a greener future. Fast forward to today, and the Gates family are leading the way with their solar-generation and solar-storage systems.
The green team
Hannah Gates says she and her husband’s initial motivation for installing 12 solar panels – also known as solar PV – was simple. “We wanted to go green and help the environment,” she says. Gates, a recent retiree, and her husband, who works in the building trade, liked the idea of generating some of their own electricity. When they discovered that home-owners could sell their excess solar power back to the grid for others to use, they were even more excited. “It seemed like a great way for us to ‘give back’ to the neighbourhood,” she says.
More recently, the couple engaged EnergyAustralia to install a further eight panels and to set up a Redback battery system, which allows them to store excess power generated during sunny periods, decreasing their dependence on the main energy grid.
Today, the Gates’ four-bedroom residence is fitted with 20 high-quality solar panels. “We’ve got the ideal-shaped roof: we were able to install 20 panels all facing north [in two stages],” she explains.
Redback: smart on several levels
The Redback battery storage system also allows the Gates to monitor and manage their home’s solar energy in a compact, elegantly designed, wall-mounted unit. “I’ve shown many people and they’re fascinated,” Gates says. “The other systems don’t have as many controls to look at and lights flashing and that sort of thing – they’re a bit boring-looking. Whereas the Redback is very interesting – it’s a good-looking, sleek model.”
Gates says the accompanying Redback app is particularly impressive. “It’s great: you can have it on your mobile or on your home computer,” she explains. “The app shows you your overall consumption, how much is being generated off the roof and how much of that energy is being stored in the batteries.”
Solar panel cost
In total, Gates estimates the complete generation-and-storage system cost about $12,000 – more expensive than some configurations that use different panels. “But we wanted reliability, which is why we didn’t go for a cheap brand,” she says. “We’ve heard stories of some installation companies going out of business and customers being unable to get their panels serviced.”
The Gates reckon they will recoup their $12,000 investment within 10 years and could then save more than $1,000 a year in electricity costs. “If we’d bought our panels from a cheap company, it probably would have paid off within about five years – that’s without the batteries,” she says. “But because we’ve invested in quality, it’s going to take longer to pay off.”
She adds that the benefit of installing a larger number of panels plus a battery system is the potential savings after the initial investment is recouped. “Our system has the potential to generate almost all the power we need, which will be especially useful when we are both retired.”
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