Northern Rivers June 23 – the Australian electricity grid is shrinking.
Central generation and wide area distribution networks are facing a collapse in profits due to the low cost of distributed solar generation and battery storage. The village of Tyalgum is undergoing a feasibility study to take the township and surrounding homes off the grid completely.
The cost of storing rooftop solar energy is now well below the high cost of Antipodean electricity networks, creating new possibilities for decentralising, democratising and decarbonising electricity now.
The Northern Rivers area is at the forefront of this process in Australia with local councils, the State Government and Community groups working together on a number of renewable energy projects.
Byron Shire Council is planning to become carbon neutral . Lismore Council has a target to render its operations 100% carbon free in eight years with the community funding two new 100kW solar installations on council buildings.
And Tyalgum, when it makes its decision, will be a bellweather for the whole country.
With some of the highest penetration rates of rooftop solar in Australia, the Northern Rivers has an ideological commitment to a fossil fuel free future, including resistance to coal seam gas projects in the region. People are literally “Taking Back Their Power”, adopting affordable energy storage that creates more energy independence now.
They are electing to use the grid for backup power only in Hybrid solar homes, or not at all in a growing number of Off Grid solar installations cropping up within towns and rural properties in the region.
As more homes and businesses reduce their grid dependence, the electricity network becomes less profitable and attrition will make it more attractive for the operators to cooperate with communities seeking to develop their own micro grids.
Each community will have its own energy storage and solar generation facilities.
Local, autonomous energy cooperatives will take over the poles and wires and look after their own power needs at a fraction of the cost paid now for grid connection.
It is no longer just ideologies and care for the planet that is driving this revolution.
Solar with storage is now cheaper than grid power and the falling price of battery storage is making this an inevitable transition.
The main hurdle is funding the initial cost of new systems and prototype community investment programs are emerging to assist those unable to afford them.
Investment is repaid from ongoing power savings and then the system is given to the user to generate free power from then on.
This will even allow rental properties to have cheaper, 24 hour solar power and ensure that whole communities can transition into autonomous, 100% renewable energy cooperatives.
The idea of centralised generation and distribution of energy has outlived its useful days and we can now celebrate the dawn of a new era of energy independence.
Thanks to Vincent Selleck, managing director of 888 Solar Tek
Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site
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