Solar powered business & home – getting off the grid


Last year we bought a little house; a yellow brick veneer complete with 60s wallpaper. And one year on it essentially looks the same inside. We’ve gotten to know it now, and we have big plans for this house. But rather than following our instincts to tear wallpaper off the walls and rip up the faded floral carpet, we’re trying to school ourselves to do the big projects first.

When I made the decision to run my business from home, we built a shed.

When we paid the first power bill, we very quickly started investigating solar panels.

This had always been a long term goal for us personally, but when we did the sums to now include my business power usage, it became practical very quickly. In fact, the system should pay for itself within 6 years.     

We’ve actually installed more than twice the number of panels than a normal family home would have. Almost every flat surface is now covered in solar panels – both sides of the shed roof, and the front and back of the house roof as well. In a few years time we plan to add battery storage to our system so that we can save our extra energy and use it later (eg at night or on overcast days). This technology is just too expensive at the moment, but it’s predicted to start becoming more viable in a few years.

Idealistically, I’ve always loved the idea of going solar. But until we started doing the research, I hadn’t realised the practical limitations involved with the current technology.



For example, for a working couple or family who are out most of the day and only home in early morning and late evening, while there are great environmental benefits to the decision, the financial benefits are negligible. If you don’t use the power when it is produced (ie while the sun is shining), it goes into the grid, and at a current return of only 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour, an average 4kW system installed in Melbourne would generate about $1 per day (averaged out over the year).

For my business this works in my favour, as I work during daylight hours, and I tend to be busiest in summer. So on average across the year, we generate more electricity than we need to run both my business and our home. However, on a cloudy or overcast day (ie, most of Autumn and Winter), I still have to buy energy. We have chosen a company that offers a 100% renewable energy option to meet this short fall until we can store our own energy in the future. But until then, we are still not quite ‘off the grid’.