Angus M Robinson

Managing Director, Leisure Solutions Pty Ltd


With a 4.95 kWh solar panel installation on the roof for the past six years, we have seen a substantial savings in electricity costs, but what has been frustrating is the inability to access any of this power during blackouts caused by storm activity - for safety reasons, the switching arrangements to the grid do not allow home generated electricity to flow back into the grid.

But this past summer, like so many folk on Sydney's leafy Upper North Shore, we have experienced two blackouts, one extending for the good part of the week with resultant loss of food in the fridge and freezer, no fixed line NBN nor landline nor the ability to charge up mobile phones (other than driving around the district using vehicle 12V chargers), and of course no TV. And we have not been impressed by the inability of Ausgrid to restore power services in a timely manner.

A quick risk analysis was in order, and we figured that in future years, with climate change taking place at an ever increasing rate, we would be likely to suffer more frequent blackouts caused by severe storm activity, and we also noted from the Ausgrid outage maps, that as part of an extensive grid circuit, we could lose power from the grid even if the storm damage was in located in an adjacent suburb. The factor of securing energy security over considerations relating to ROI on securing battery backup became paramount.

So last week, we secured a 5.8 kWh battery system from a large and very reliable supplier which offered a system, including blackout protection, all at a special price that we figured we could achieve a reasonable ROI over the ensuing years. The blackout protection covers one critical power circuit (fridge, TV, garage door, and access to NBN services) on the basis that we did not operate heavy power usage appliances such as dishwasher, washing machine, electric kettle etc. The blackout protection does not include circuits connecting pool pumps and the stove/oven or the HWS booster attached to the solar hot water service. We have established now that the fully charged battery, operating under normal sunny conditions, can power the house overnight.

And would you believe that during the windy afternoon earlier this week (hardly a major storm), our area lost power and the blackout protection kicked in. We didn't even know about until Ausgrid advised us by SMS that a blackout was in progress!

Apart from the knowledge that the blackout protection arrangements now enable us to access power being generated from our solar panels, whilst still connected to the grid, it was very reassuring to realise that in our own small way, we were truly making a contribution to reducing global emissions. As an added bonus, our system is also connected through the grid to a 'Virtual Power Plant' (an interconnected system of residential solar systems working together to collectively generate and store energy to sell on the open energy market at a superior prices when electricity demand is high, with technology developed by the CSIRO)

The availability of smart phone and desktop access to a cloud based platform which provides real-time monitoring of the performance of our solar panel/battery system, with its grid connection, represents a significant step forward in understanding both the mechanics and profitability of the system.

When governments keep talking about their incessant efforts to reduce the cost of electricity, it may well evolve that the punters become more interested in issues related to security of power, as climate change increasingly impacts on the quality of their lives. After all, we do think that we live in a developed country, forgetting that other countries e.g South Korea have invested heavily over the years in services infrastructure by 'undergrounding' their electricity supply lines and thus guaranteeing security of supply.


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Angus M Robinson

Managing Director, Leisure Solutions Pty Ltd

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