Episode 7 – Battery storage – Tesla Powerwall 2

Battery options modelling

In the middle of all that work on evacuated tubes, we learned that change was imminent in the SA Government Home Battery Scheme. To qualify for the maximum $6k subsidy, applications had to be lodged by 15th April.

Our modelling indicated that our 21kW PVs were generating enough power to usefully support up to about 55kWh of battery storage, corresponding to 4 x Tesla PowerWall 2 batteries. In cost-benefit terms, a sweet-spot would be with 2 batteries. In the depths of winter in July we’d still generate enough net power to fully charge the batteries for use overnight.

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Episode 6 – More evacuated tube solar hot water boosters

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

2020

This was the crisis year for so many people – bushfires, COVID, job losses – and it also happened to be the year of our most adventurous emissions-reduction planning, carrying out 2 major projects a few months apart.

Stage 2 solar hot water boosters

The evacuated tube solar hot water boosters we had installed in 2018 were performing well, so it was time to build the second stage. We’d completed the design work in 2019 and had commenced the Development Application (DA) process with the City of Adelaide in September 2019. DA is required by Council if solar collectors are not mounted flat on the roof. After 9 weeks of back and forth, providing additional drawings and details, we finally received Planning Consent in mid-November.

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Episode 5 – Finalist – Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

2016 to 2019 – Carbon Neutral Adelaide

Since 2016 we’d had regular contact with the Carbon Neutral Adelaide team, culminating in our carbon emission inventory for the 2017 year. I’d also attended the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Awards nights in 2017 and 2018.

I’d found the Awards nights to be highly motivating. To be in the room with such a mix of corporates, NGOs, SA Government and Adelaide City Council people, all focussed on working more efficiently and will less emissions was memorable and inspirational.

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Episode 4 – Major PV upgrade

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

2019

For years we’d been tossing around options for increasing our solar performance without losing our high feed-in tariff (56c/kWh) for the 4.8kW PVs that were installed when the Christie Walk community built the Sturt Apartments in 2006.

But by 2019 it became clear that preserving the high feed-in tariff was a false economy. We’d be better off financially and environmentally if we replaced the PVs and inverters with a high performance 21kW system.

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Episode 3 – Evacuated tube solar hot water boosters

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

May 2018

We started investigating the retrofit option for our hot water system: installing solar collectors as boosters to our existing heat pump hot water. One company stood out as a solid option: RunOnSun, based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. Their website wouldn’t win a Webby Award for design, but the content is comprehensive and very educational. MD Andrew Butterworth has spent more than a decade applying Sydney University research on evacuated tube solar hot water and finessing it for efficiency and robust performance. The fixings supplied by RunOnSun are robust too; more than adequate to secure the system in cyclone conditions.

We decided to split the retrofit project into two stages. Stage 1 – 60 evacuated solar collector tubes – would be evaluated before moving onto Stage 2 – an additional 48 evacuated tubes.

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Episode 2 – Doing a carbon inventory

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

November 2017

I received an email inviting me to a meeting with the Carbon Neutral Adelaide team. They were scoping out a number of sites for selection as a possible “Carbon Neutral Showcase Site” and Christie Walk was on the list.

This was very exciting.

An important goal at Christie Walk is to act as a sustainability model, to demonstrate what’s possible, and to motivate others to take action. Close cooperation with Carbon Neutral Adelaide would enhance that outreach work.

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Episode 1 – In hot water again

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

April 2016

Our apartment building (Sturt Apartments at Christie Walk) was nearly ten years old. It was time to start thinking about sustainability upgrades to reduce our carbon footprint.

Lighting was an easy place to start.

We worked with Adelaide lighting maintenance specialists Globebusters, who replaced unreliable CFL lights in our atrium stairwell and entranceway with long-life LED oyster lights and floodlights. In the courtyard, twin LED sensor floodlights replaced the old energy-hungry incandescent lights.

May 2016

Hot water; one of life’s great privileges. But our little luxury comes at a cost for us, and a carbon-cost for our warming planet. It’s a particular issue in our 4-level block of 13 apartments.

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Aiming beyond NetZero at Christie Walk

Adventures with an environment-conscious inner-urban community

I’m fortunate to live at Christie Walk in Adelaide. It’s a community of 27 homes and gardens on 2,000m2. It was initiated by Urban Ecology Australia in 1999 as a demonstration project, to promote ecologically-sustainable and community-enhancing urban design and development.

The buildings range from stand-alone straw-bale homes to a 4-level apartment block, all designed for comfortable high-density but low-energy living.

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Eco-city dreaming comes true

The facilitator asked us to do some dream-work.  That’s normally not so hard, but there we were, standing in an awkward-shaped T-allotment strewn with bits of broken glass and featuring some derelict out-buildings.  The site had previously been a city recycling depot and in a way one of our goals was to continue that recycling heritage.  We were asked to dream of what the features would be for our ideal sustainable-living community on the site. 

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A ray of hope

Today – the 11th anniversary of Nicola’s untimely death – I needed an extra ray of hope in the gloom of grief. It arrived from an unexpected source.

There’s another anniversary in December that’s also important to me. December 12th 2015 saw the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement.

I noticed that Nicola is included in the dedication to Kaveh Guilanpour’s fine photoessay on climate diplomats at the Paris negotiations.

Photo: Kaveh Guilanpour

It’s so heartening to see the faces and words of negotiators from around the world – from local activists to Heads of State – as they explain to Kaveh their motivation to fight climate change.

So many people working so hard to salvage the future. That’s a ray of hope for sure.