Power for rural kit homes

A lot of rural kit homes are bought for installation on rural sites, and one thing we know about rural sites is that power can be difficult to install. And by difficult, this also means expensive! People often get quoted $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more to get grid connect power to their homes – soemtimes when they are just a few hundred metres away from power lines.

Stand Alone Power is the solution.

For an amount that is often LESS than the charge for connecting to the grid, you can create your own power.

To discuss how we can help please call  on 1300 792 011 or visit our page on Stand Alone Power.

LJW Solas has been installing battery backup power for over 30 years with thousands of installations through NSW.




Solar Tracking Systems – the best option for off grid power

LJW is an expert in the installation of remote power and stand alone power photovoltaic systems.

Stand alone power systems often use a tracking system because it gives increased output by up to 40% compared to a fixed axis system. It also changes the pattern of production, by creating more power at the start and end of the day. With stand alone power, this is important because it reduces the demand on the batteries.

This short video is a larger system and is interesting to watch.

Also see here and here.

Solar Power – Renewable Energy in Dubbo NSW


(Original Source Here)

Dubbo living up to its sustainable city goals

Dubbo Council and the Dubbo community are making significant contributions towards the environment through a wide range of projects and activities.

This includes Dubbo’s committment to being a sustainable city.

Sustainable Cities are vibrant urban regions which are economically productive, environmentally responsible and socially inclusive. Dubbo is all of these and strives to continually improve.

Council’s role is to help raise awareness and educate the community as well as develop and implement plans that make Dubbo a great place to live. Following are some great examples of how Dubbo is implementing this commitment:

Dubbos first Sustainable City Expo.

As part of Dubbo’s commitment to this the Council’s Annual Energy and Water Expo is being improved this year and transformed into Dubbos first Sustainable City Expo.

The name change allows a wider range of environmental issues to be included.

The expo aims to provide the community with the opportunity to speak with the experts on the latest technologies, appliances and services available to assist them to live more sustainable lifestyles. In addition Council will be showcasing their latest renewable energy projects and invite other businesses and community groups to do the same.

Along with the workshops and demonstrations there will be family fun activities. Exhibitors are encouraged to include their own sessions in the expo program.

If you would like to be involved, please call Council’s sustainability team on 6801 4000.

11 September 2011
10am – 4pm
Victoria Park, Darling St, Dubbo

Last year, the expo attracted 26 exhibitors, and approximately 700 people.

Dubbo City Council’s Renewable Energy Project

Dubbo City Council is directing $330,000 funding into renewable energy initiatives for the Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre, Family Day Care Centre and community education programs.

The project is part of the Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo (BOD) Alliance ‘Inspiring and Integrating Change Program’, funded from the NSW Environmental Trust Urban Sustainability Program.

Dubbo City Council’s Renewable Energy Project for the Victoria Park Precinct could see over $32,000 in annual cost savings to the Organisation.

Mayor of Dubbo Cr Allan Smith said the project would increase renewable energy use in the Victoria Park Precinct, implement efficiencies and reduce operating costs.

Initiatives include:

Dubbo Family Daycare Centre: lighting retrofits, solar hot water and solar photovoltaic (PV) installations
$5800 annual cost savings or enough energy to power 2.5 homes;
Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre: installation of solar hot water system to reduce the cost of heating the children’s pool
$2300 annual cost savings or enough energy to power one home
Western Plains Cultural Centre: installation of 300 PV panels
$24,400 annual savings or enough energy to power 15 homes
“A renewable energy feasibility study has been conducted for Council facilities in the Victoria Park Precinct which identified solar technology as the most suitable renewable energy source for Council to consider,’’ said Cr Smith.
The Victoria Park project complements Council’s ongoing efforts to achieve its renewable energy and energy reduction targets through the Dubbo ALIVE program, which also includes:

The recent installation of solar panels at 12 Council facilities Solar lights installed at the DRTCC and APEX Oval car parks
Solar taxiway lighting introduced at Dubbo City Regional Airport
Solar hot water systems installed at suitable Council facilities
Completion of energy audits (so far identifying savings of about 38 per cent).
Solar panel project one of the largest in Australia

The Western Plains Cultural Centre (WPCC) part of this plan will actually make it home to one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) installations to be undertaken in Australia, the same size as a similar system installed at the Sydney Superdome.

Dubbo City Council is calling for tenders to construct a 70 kilowatt solar panel for the WPCC which Dubbo Mayor Cr Allan Smith says could result in over $24,400 in annual energy savings.

Mayor Allan Smith explains, “The system proposed will include about 300 PV panels and is expected to cover approximately half of the roof area of the gallery at the Western Plains Cultural Centre,’’ he said.

“The system is expected to save enough energy to power 15 homes, in addition to an 88 tonne carbon saving for the Centre – which is equal to two million black balloons.’’

Cr Smith said some work had already been done in previous years to improve lighting and reduce costs at the WPCC.

“In addition, a recent energy audit identified further work to be undertaken on lighting, appliances and air conditioning which could see a further $30,000 saved annually at the Centre,’’ he said.


What is a black balloon?
A great way to show the impact our power use has on the environment, helping us to visualise something we can’t see. Imagine that one black balloon contains 50 grams of carbon. www.savepower.nsw.gov.au

Solar Farms great for rural Australia

The increasing cost-effectiveness of solar energy could see more solar power plants established in regional Australia.

The nation’s first utility-scale solar farm is under construction near Geraldton in Western Australia.

Rob Bartrop, from developer First Solar, says decreasing set-up costs mean solar has become competitive with other renewable forms of energy.

“A lot of smaller communities throughout Western Australia and indeed Australia rely on diesel generation, which aside from being a very high emitter of greenhouse gases is roughly twice as expensive as solar electricity today,” he said.

“So we see that small scale solar farm market as really the low hanging fruit and the obvious choice.”

Original article here

On Grid Solar Power v Off Grid Solar Power v Hybrid Power

On Grid Solar

Most residences are attached to the grid, and draw their power in off the grid for use within the house. It is metered on the way in and you are billed for that power. When a solar power system is set up in this scenario it runs in parrallel exporting the power back out to the grid.

There are a couple of tariff systems possible (net v gross metering) but in essence with a gross metering system the power all goes back out to the grid: The power is not used inside the house. Some people are disappointed by this, as they like the idea of being self reliant for power. With a net metering system you use the available solar power and this is supplemented by power from the grid. You don’t really get a choice of gross or net metering – in NSW we used to have a gross metering system until early 2011, and those people that signed up in that scheme will get it until 2016. For anyone signing up for solar now in NSW only a net feed in tariff is offered.

In either case, if there is a power cut the solar system shuts down for safety reasons as well (to avoid exporting power back out onto lines which are considered “dead” when they are worked on). This is the sort of system that most solar companies provide.

Off grid solar power

An off-grid solar system (also referred to as Stand Alone Power, or Remote Power) is a replacement for being connected to the grid and is often used in remote areas where there is no power available. The power from the solar panels is also connected to batteries, and any excess power that is not used within the house is stored in those batteries. This type of system is several times more expensive to set up. It is often done as a necessity, rather than a first choice. It is often viable when building a new house – often rural – and the cost of connecting to the grid is excessive.

Recently we have spoken to people that have been quoted as much as $130000 to connect to the grid. This makes the option of becoming independent great! There are several components to an off grid system including the panels, a special inverter/charger, systems for charging the batteries and often a backup generator in case the solar is insufficient ie it is cloudy for longer than the period of autonomy. Generators can be wired so they start automatically when needed, so the system is seamless.

This is the area in which LJW really shines as we have been doing off grid for over 25 years

Hybrid systems

We are getting a lot of inquiries at the moment from people who are connected to the grid but want to run a battery backup system. This is normally a reflex to a large power bill that they have received, and they want to become independent of the power companies.

Hybrid systems give people indepence from the grid, and a way to store the excess energy that they are producing rather than exporting back to the grid and being paid almost nothing for it (as is the case with the net feed in tariff in NSW).

We are building hybrid systems… we’d like to  share with you how they can help.

There’s several basic reasons:

– You don’t want to produce excess power and not be paid for it – capturing it and using it makes sense.

– Your usage doesn’t match solar production – so you are producing power all day, but consuming at night (after your solar has stopped working).

– You might already have a system that exceeds your requirements for example you had a system installed under a gross feed in tariff, but you have lost yoru tariff… now you have  a system that doesn’t make sense under a net feed in tariff system.

– You get frequent brown outs or black outs and want to still have power in those times. You can gain some autonomy.

– You have Time of Use billing – and you just don’t want to pay close to 50c per kwh for that peak period of power usage.

If you do want to discuss this option, please call the office on 1300 792 011 we can run you through the options.


Update: December 2011 – LJW Solar has recently won a grid interactive hybrid system for battery backup grid connect solar for a Council. This is a 30kW project, and is a first in Australia.
Update: August 2012 – Bega Hybrid system 30 kw is installed. Ask us about it!

Glossary of terms for Solar Power – PV Systems

Alternating Current (AC) – The main grid and all of your electrical appliances run on AC. That means the flow of electricity constantly changes direction between positive and negative sides. Generally, mains current shifts direction at a rate of 60 times per second. (opposite of direct current or DC)

Ambient Temperature – The temperature of the surrounding area.

Amorphous Silicon – A thin-film, silicon photovoltaic cell having no crystalline structure. Manufactured by depositing layers of doped silicon on a substrate. See also single-crystal silicon an polycrystalline silicon.

Ampere (Amp) – The unit of measure that indicates how much electricity flows through a conductor. It is like using cubic feet per second to measure the flow of water. For example, a 1,200-watt, 120-volt hair dryer pulls 10 amperes of electric current (amps = watts/volts).

Ampere-Hour (Ah/AH) – A measure of the flow of current (in amperes) over one hour; used to measure battery capacity.

Annual Solar Savings – The annual solar savings of a solar building is the energy savings attributable to a solar feature relative to the energy requirements of a non-solar building.

Average Demand – The energy demand for a given location over a period of time. For example, the number of kilowatt-hours used in a 24-hour period, divided by 24 hours, tells the average demand for that location in that time.

Avoided Cost – The amount of money an electric utility would need to spend for the next increment of electric generation to produce or purchase.

Azimuth Angle – The angle between true south and the point on the horizon directly below the sun.

Battery back-up – Batteries can be sold with your solar electric system. They can store the electricity that you don’t use immediately, so that you can use it later. This is your best protection against black-outs, as by law your power has to be cut in a black-out even if you are using solar power.

Capacity Factor – The ratio of the average load on (or power output of) an electricity generating unit or system to the capacity rating of the unit or system over a specified period of time.

Circuit – One or more conductors through which electricity flows.

Concentrator – A photovoltaic module, which includes optical components such as lenses (Fresnel lens) to direct and concentrate sunlight onto a solar cell of smaller area. Most concentrator arrays must directly face or track the sun. They can increase the power flux of sunlight hundreds of times.

Converter – An electrical apparatus that changes the quantity or quality of electrical energy.

Crystalline Silicon – A type of photovoltaic cell made from a slice of single-crystal silicon or polycrystalline silicon.

Customer Load – The amount of power your site uses. Load may be expressed in kilowatts (capacity) or kilowatt-hours (energy). A site’s peak kilowatts generally refers to when electric demand requirements are highest.

Demand – The level at which electricity is delivered to end-users at a given point in time. Electric demand in measured in kilowatts.

Direct Current (DC)- The flow of electricity that flows continuously in one direction. This is the type of current which is produced by your solar energy system, and must be converted to alternating current (AC) by your inverter before you can use it.

Electrical Grid – The electricity transmission and distribution system that links power plants to customers through high-power transmission line service.

Energy – The capability of doing work; different forms of energy can be converted to other forms, but the total amount of energy remains the same.

Energy Audit – A survey that shows how much energy used in a home, which helps find ways to use less energy.

Fixed Tilt Array – A photovoltaic array set in at a fixed angle with respect to horizontal.

Grid-Connected System – A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system in which the PV array acts like a central generating plant, supplying power to the grid.

Hertz – The unit of electromagnetic frequency that is equal to one cycle per second.

Interconnection – The linkage of transmission lines between two utilities, or between a utility and an end-user, enabling power to be moved in either direction.

Insolation – The solar power density incident on a surface of stated area and orientation. It is commonly expressed as average irradiance in watts per square meter (W/m2) or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day (kW·h/(m2·day)) (or hours/day). In the case of photovoltaics it is commonly measured as kWh/(kWp·y) (kilowatt hours per year per kilowatt peak rating)

Inverter – A device that converts direct current electricity to alternating current either for stand-alone systems or to supply power to an electricity grid.

Irradiance – The direct, diffuse, and reflected solar radiation that strikes a surface. Usually expressed in kilowatts per square meter. Irradiance multiplied by time equals insolation.

Kilowatt (kW) – 1,000 watts. A unit of measure of the amount of electricity needed to operate given equipment. For example, a one kW system is enough power to illuminate 10 light bulbs at 100 watts each. (volts x amps = watts)

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) – The amount of kW produced over a period of time, or one kilowatt of electricity supplied for one hour. For example, a one kW system, if operating at full capacity for 5 hours will produce (or use) 5 kWh of electricity.

Mains Grid – The interconnection of electricity generation plants through the transmission and distribution lines to customers. The grid also refers to the interconnection of utilities through the electric transmission and distribution systems.

Maximum Power Point (MPP) – The point on the current-voltage (I-V) curve of a module under illumination, where the product of current and voltage is maximum. For a typical silicon cell, this is at about 0.45 volts.

Megawatt – One thousand kilowatts or one million watts. One megawatt is enough to power 1,000 average California homes. Meter – A device that measures levels and volumes of customer’s electricity use.

Mounting Equipment – Equipment/apparatus used to fasten solar (PV) modules to the roof. Peak Load – The highest electrical demand within a particular period of time.

Multicrystalline – A semiconductor (photovoltaic) material composed of variously oriented, small, individual crystals. Sometimes referred to as polycrystalline or semicrystalline.

Net Metering – These grid-connected PV systems allow residential customers to run their electric meters backwards or offsetting their normal utility bill. A new meter is still needed to be fitted by a licenced electrician.

One-Axis Tracking – A tracking system capable of rotating about one axis.

Orientation – Placement with respect to the cardinal directions, N, S, E, W; azimuth is the measure of orientation from north.

Peak Sun Hours – The equivalent number of hours per day when solar irradiance averages 1,000 w/m2. For example, six peak sun hours means that the energy received during total daylight hours equals the energy that would have been received had the irradiance for six hours been 1,000 w/m2.

Photovoltaic Cell or Module or Panel (PV) – A device that produces an electric reaction to light, thereby producing electricity.

Photovoltaic (PV) Array – An interconnected system of PV modules that function as a single electricity-producing unit. The modules are assembled as a discrete structure, with common support or mounting. In smaller systems, an array can consist of a single module.

Photovoltaic (PV) Conversion Efficiency – The ratio of the electric power produced by a photovoltaic device to the power of the sunlight incident on the device.

Polycrystalline Silicon – A material used to make photovoltaic cells, which consist of many crystals unlike single-crystal silicon.

Solar Energy – Heat and light radiated from the sun.

Solar Panel – Devices that collect energy from the sun (solar energy). This is usually solar photovoltaic (PV) modules that use solar cells to convert light from the sun into electricity, or solar thermal (heat) collectors that use the sun’s energy to heat water or another fluid such as oil or antifreeze.

Solar Resource – The amount of solar insolation a site receives, usually measured in kWh/m2/day, which is equivalent to the number of peak sun hours.

Solar Thermal – The process of concentrating sunlight to create high temperatures that are needed to heat fluids, like water (solar hot water) or to vaporize fluid to drive a turbine for electric power generation.

Stand-Alone System – An autonomous or hybrid photovoltaic system not connected to a grid. May or may not have storage, but most stand-alone systems require batteries or some other form of storage.

Storage – Storage refers to saving surplus electricity produced by a photovoltaic (PV) system. Generally, batteries are used as storage devices.

String – A number of photovoltaic modules or panels interconnected electrically in series to produce the operating voltage required by the load.

Tracking Equipment – Structure that houses PV modules and that can automatically follow the sun across the sky throughout the day to maximize output.

Volt (V) – The amount of force required to drive a steady current of one ampere through a resistance of one ohm. Electrical systems of most homes and offices use 120 volts. (volts – watts/amps) (volts = amperes x resistance)

Watt (W) – Electric measurement of power at one point in time, as capacity or demand. For example, light bulbs are classified by wattage. (1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt).

The importance of solar trackers – great for off grid solar power

Solar trackers

1kW tracking system

1kW tracking system

In most cases, solar panels are set up on fixed arrays – either on a roof or a ground mounted system. In cities, almost all solar is on household roof tops.

A tracking system is somewhat more complicated to set up but allows the entire array to move throughout the course of the day and follow the sun. This means that the system will produce about 30-40% more power each day than a fixed array.

So, if they produce so much more power, why doesn’t everyone put them in?

The reason is that while they produce more power, they also add about 30% to the cost of a system.

So, from a cost per kWh produced point of view, it is almost even.

In fact, as the price of panels falls, it will become better value to just put on a bigger system, rather than a more effective system.

However, on an off grid system, one thing has a big impact that changes this and makes trackers highly valuable.

Trackers change the pattern of production, not just the total output

The normal pattern of solar production throughout the day is a “bell shaped curve” with a peak around midday if the panels face in a northern aspect.

With a battery backup system, in the periods where solar is not producing, batteries provide the power to the house.

This discharge and charge cycle for a battery is normally not a problem, as long as the discharge is not too deep. Anything more than about a 30% discharge (70% charge) level will place stress on the battery and shorten its life.

So, this is where trackers come in… they give a more even production of power throughout the day – so this reduces the stress on the batteries. Given that the batteries are an expensive part of a system (perhaps 1/3 of the total cost) then extending their life is worthwhile.

To learn more about stand alone power, please download our guide attached or call our sales team on 1300 792 011. We have specialists in stand alone power, and several of our team live “off grid”.

Flat v tilted panels – the importance of installation method

The ideal orientation of fixed panels is North, and the ideal pitch is around 30 degrees.

The difference in output from this ideal is explained in this document.


(skip to page 19 for Sydney data)

You can see that facing East or West at a 30 degree pitch will lose around 16-18%.

On a commercial installation, a flat installation is often used. This would seem to be illogical, given that a flat install would seem to lose 13% of production.  I’ll explain why it is still used though, and in fact will become more common.

Flat panel installation v tilted panel installation

While an optimal facing installation will produce more power, it also costs more to install.

In fact, the additional cost to install using a tilt frame system will often exceed the benefit of the increased production. This is due to the increased cost of frames and labour.

It can be more cost effective to simply install a larger system to achieve the same output.

Another benefit of installing flat is that it takes up less roof space.  When tilts are used, there is a substantial gap between the frames that must be allowed for. For frames on a 30 degree tilt, the gap is around 1.8m between the back of one frame and the front of the next.

As an example, recently we designed a system for a building in Sydney. The goal was to fit on 100kW. This was easily achievable using a flat install (and allowed room for later expansion of say 20kW). If we have used tilt frames, we would have only been able to fit approx 60kW on the roof.

It is important to allow for water run off, but that only needs a few degrees – and this is often part of the roof structure anyway – very few roofs are dead flat – they slope gently at 5-12 degrees to allow for water run off.

This graph shows the difference from season to season as well.

Seasonal solar performance

In our practical experience, we think the difference between flat and tilted is around 10% of output. We had one client that had a flat installation, and added more panels + requested us to put them on tilts. The gain was just 10%. This is why we often recommend a flat installation.