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Shellharbour Solar Expo A Huge Success

19 October 2010 4 Comments

I spent most of Sunday helping to staff the Jamberoo FutureCare table at the Shellharbour Solar Expo, at Shellharbour Workers’ Club (who actually have 22 kW of solar panels installed themselves – see photo).

The expo was organised by Jamberoo FutureCare, in conjunction with Shellharbour and Kiama Councils. There were a number of solar power and solar hot water suppliers there, displaying their products and giving people quotes. There was also a wind power company and a few other energy-related displays. FutureWorld had the table next to us, which was great as I finally got to meet Meryl who I’ve exchanged plenty of emails with in the past.

We put on talks on solar hot water, solar power, and residential wind power. The talks were so popular that the lecture room was filled to capacity several times, and we had to schedule repeats of the presentations.

We estimate that around 500 people attended on the day, which was way higher than anything we had hoped for! We had to run out and photocopy more of our information sheets a couple of times.

I met and talked with lots of interesting people, and hopefully helped explain some of the mechanics of having solar power and hot water installed, how the government rebates and incentives work, and what it’s like to live in a house with those systems. We also chatted a fair bit about sustainable living in general.

One great couple I met had just been on a four-year tour of Australia by caravan, relying on solar power and bottled gas for all their energy needs. Upon returning they realised it really doesn’t take much energy to meet their requirements, and so they’re working towards taking their house in Wollongong totally off the grid. They’ve already disconnected from the town gas main, and would like to disconnect from the electricity, water and sewerage services as well and handle it all themselves on-site. It’ll be really interesting to see how they go!

Russell Hawkins, my partner in crime for the Jamberoo FutureCare “Home Journeys” documentary, was also there to shoot some footage. It’s great to have that project under way!

A highlight of the day was the raffle – the top prize was a 1.5 kW grid-connected solar power system, fully installed! It was generously donated by GreenSmart Electrical. Other prizes included $1000 towards purchase of a solar power system from Solar Shop Australia, $500 towards purchase of a hot water system from SolaHart Wollongong, a HP mini notebook computer from Bass Electrical Engineering, a $250 energy pack from Pyramid Power, and two solar sun jars from C2C Solar. A huge thanks to all the donors.

Given the success of the day, I’m sure there will be another similar expo held again in the future. So if you missed out, keep an eye on the media for details!

For those who missed out on copies of the Jamberoo FutureCare handouts, here they are:


  • Jason said:

    If you have to make a choice, it is better to go with a solar power generation system than a hot water system. With my 1.5 kW system in Brisbane, I am able to cover the cost of our energy usage. We pay about $0.19 for normal tariff power and get $0.52 for any net power we export. The deals in NSW are much better than this at the moment (although likely to change soon as it is not sustainable). We use normal tariff electricity to heat our hot water, we use a pump every time the tap is turned on, and we treat all sewage on site (which requires power). Thus we generate about one unit of power during the day and consume about three units of power at night. The cost of my system was around $3000. Now to get a solar hot water system installed, it is far more costly and the energy saving benefits are not as good. At least that is case for my household as we do not use much hot water. So if you have to make a choice, install solar panels first. Then look at the solar hot water options second. Get yourself signed up to one of the government feed-in programs before they are closed!

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Jason: I absolutely agree, and that’s what I tell people. Given the very low tariff for off-peak electricity, and the very high feed-in tariff for solar electricity, the decision is pretty straightforward. The simplest thing most people can do to reduce their water heating bill is to turn down the thermostat on the system. When I did this, it reduced our off-peak electricity consumption from 15-16 kWh/day to 8 kWh/day. Just make sure it’s still at least 60 degrees inside the tank (modern systems are designed not to go below this temperature for health reasons).

  • Meryl said:

    Wow – mentioned in a Green Change Blog post! Famous. Nice to finally meet you too.

  • Darren (author) said:

    @Meryl: Hehe, now I just have to get around to visiting FutureWorld with the kids!