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Living with Batteries

By David Macilwain, Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health (WATCH)

When people ‘who already had electricity’ began putting solar panels on their roofs, we off-gridders were a bit sceptical. These people weren’t used to skimping a bit to save power, or even at all, and weren’t about to give up on all those juice-guzzling devices we never had. Quite the opposite in fact – as the market persuaded them to need all sorts of new things that used power, or new bigger and hungrier old things like plasma TVs and ducted air-conditioning.

But then, as the roof-top solar revolution progressed, we became bemused; our friends said “our electricity bill was zero last month” – in a way that also boasted – “so we produced all our own power!” “Well that’s great” we might have said, mumbling something about kilowatts and the recent sunny weather.

And it was great – the 66 cents F.I.T.! – and it must be said, that along with the ‘Pink Batts Scheme’ and solar hot water incentives, the generous feed-in tariff did more to reduce emissions than any of the current schemes.

So it couldn’t last, that FIT, and for some, it had to go!  Now the tables are well and truly turned; visitors say “we’d really like to get off the grid, like you”…. “but you’ll need batteries” we say, blankly.

Ah yes! Those batteries. And the 9pm personal power cut, just as you’re in the middle of watching the latest episode of ‘Night with the Stars’, everything goes off. And now it’s your own fault, one way or another – batteries always need tending, and in winter that sometimes means resorting to a generator or battery charger.

Of course with more batteries, and more solar panels to charge them, then the lights would have stayed on, only at a high price – the cheapest batteries now cost far more than the solar panels in an off-grid system.

But now people say – “we’ve heard the price of batteries is coming down, and the new ones are so much better – so stylish, and well, greener.”  That’s ‘Fake News’ we say – but they’ve stopped listening, and miss our punchline – “the Grid is Great!” And we could all ‘live lightly ON the grid’ delivering power from huge solar farms connected to ‘pumped hydro’ storage.

And no more flat batteries!