When knowledge is power Part 2 by Catherine Watson

Republished from the Bass Coast Post*

Werner is qualified to run a power station so I’m interested to hear that he also has problems with AusNet. Around the middle of a hot sunny day his solar system stops feeding into the grid. Turns out it’s because Harmers Haven is literally at the end of the line. Two of his neighbours also have big PV systems and collectively they produce almost 40kw on a hot day. Too much for a system that’s regulated to stay below 250 volts so it doesn’t damage household appliances.

I struggle to get my mind around the difference between 40 kilowatts and 40 kilowatts an hour. Sometimes I nearly grasp it but then it recedes.  How do volts relate to watts? Doesn’t matter. I’ll know by the end of the course.

We watch a video of Saul Griffiths, a laid back renewable energy guru, who explains why Australia is perfectly placed to lead the world. It’s not just our abundant sun but our enthusiastic adoption of solar panels – the highest rate in the world. You know, the PV panels that governments and power companies have been telling us are actually a bloody nuisance and disrupting the efficient working of the market.

Not according to Griffiths, who says we just need to think about how to use them more efficiently. He talks about the sweet spot of battery storage – not the home and not the central power station but the substation that connects to a neighbourhood or small suburb.

The most important thing any of us can do to reduce emissions is to go all-electric. House, car, the lot. The beauty of it is that it will also save us money. It’s win-win-win. You don’t have to go out and buy everything right now, but plan ahead so that when your gas hot water system gives up the ghost you replace it with an energy-efficient electric hot water system, ideally with a heat pump. Factor in the EV some time in the future.

While we watch the video, Werner jumps up periodically to write on the board apparently random thoughts: “Petrol 12c/km … EV 1c/km. Power generation without water. Atmospheric rivers. Hydrogen wars.”  He writes: Last year China built 20GWs of offshore wind. Europe built 30GW.”

I ask “Is that a lot or a little?”

A lot, he says. Enough to power the entre eastern seaboard of Australia. Australia is just starting on its offshore wind generation journey with exploration of possible sites around Gippsland.

So how much renewable energy does Australia need? 25GW if we’re replacing the current load – but if the entire economy, including transport and industry, switches to electricity – as it must – we need three times that. So 75 GW.

By the time we walk out at the end of three hours we’ve caught Werner’s buzz. Feels like a revolution is coming, and we’re a humble part of it.

*author editor/publisher of the Bass Coast Post. The full article can be read here.