Solar Park in Wiltshire Driving Locals Green

Over 14,000 people have signed a petition against large solar farms in their area following plans for a development covering 2,000 acres (810 hectares) in Wiltshire.

Lime Down Solar Park is designed to create 500MW of clean energy – said to be enough to power 115,000 homes – from six sites in villages in the county.

Developer Island Green Power says it will give a “net gain in biodiversity”. But locals say it will simply take away land that could be used for food growing, and provide no direct benefit to the local community.

The sites would be connected into the National Grid’s substation in Melksham, the proposals say.

The finance behind Lime Down is being provided by Macquarie Bank, an Australian company dubbed the Vampire Kangaroo — an Antipodean adaptation of the ‘vampire squid’ label applied to Goldman Sachs for the way it sucked up money — so most of the income may end up overseas.

The company has been widely accused of piling up debt at Thames Water, which it owned from 2006 to 2017, contributing to the problems at the water company.

With so many question marks over the environmental credentials of solar parks, it should be a cause for deep concern that Macquarie is involved .

The local MP, James Gray, who is against the scheme, blames ‘Wall Street hooligans’ for inflicting the Lime Down plan on his constituency and believes a British company would deal with the local community more sensitively.

He says this is not a party political issue as all the mainstream parties are fully behind Net Zero, as he is. He argues a Starmer-led government would be even more determined to push through Net Zero policies.

As locals see it, the whole political class appears to be ranged against the rural community of North Wiltshire, and their votes have nowhere to go on this issue except to fringe parties who have no hope of forming a government. So there is little political pressure on the Secretary of State to turn it down.

Many local residents are furious that big, titled landowners have been secretly in negotiation with Island Green and there are accusations of greed. On several estates, the land being offered for solar development has recently been taken back from tenant farmers. The rent being offered is a closely guarded secret, but sums in excess of £1,000 per acre per year are routinely advertised by renewables companies on the internet, perhaps five times the return that might be expected from farming.

Some farmers have been open in saying that they did not think there was a future in farming any more and this offered a lifeline. Others had been told by the developers that they would be surrounded by the solar complex whether they liked it or not, and had taken the attitude that if they couldn’t beat the development they …

Read More »

“Gas-Free Town” Launches Solar Offer

As one of the westernmost towns in the country, Esperance is at the leading edge of Australia’s renewable energy generation. It is transitioning from gas to solar energy, and the process, started in 2017, is almost completed with a new initiative to include the remaining households that were unable to do their own solar installation.

The story begins in 2019 when 14 remote farms ditched their electricity supplied via conventional powerlines for solar energy based micro power systems (MPS).

A Government-owned corporation supplying electricity to around 100,000 residents and 10,000 businesses scattered across approximately 2.3 million square kilometres, had tired of maintaining long stretches of powerlines servicing small communities and farms, and  subject to hazards such as lightning strikes, falling trees and high winds; creating a major cost burden.

Micro Power Systems – Safer, More Reliable, Cheaper

Since 2017  the government agency, Horizon Power, has been trialling solar power based stand-alone systems at various locations that have not only proved to be more reliable, but also cheaper for Horizon to operate and maintain.

The MPS units use solar panels and battery storage sized to a property’s requirements, along with a back-up diesel generator for emergency charging  when needed. Battery storage will be sized to ensure it can meet a customer’s energy requirements for a typical 24 hour period without any solar electricity input. Diesel top-ups will be taken care of by Horizon, which will be remotely monitoring fuel levels.

All costs associated with design, installation and maintenance of the units are met by Horizon Power, which owns and operates the systems. Customers pay the same tariff that currently applies for electricity from the overhead network.

The newly established Shark Lake Renewables Hub, comprising solar panels, wind turbines, and a battery energy storage system, is set to expand its capacity, making Esperance a beacon of sustainable energy for the entire region.

Horizon Power has recently  launched “Sunshine Saver,” a subscription service that aims to make the benefits of renewable energy accessible to all residents, including those unable to install rooftop solar.

In this gas-free town, where over 50% of power comes from a mix of solar, wind, and battery storage, Sunshine Saver aims to empower households to save on energy bills and contribute to a greener future. Designed for up to 500 eligible customers, the base subscription fee of only $1 per day provides five units of energy daily, resulting in an average 11% reduction in energy bills or A$186 savings per year.

But the savings don’t stop there. By shifting their energy use between 6am and 6pm, when excess solar power is fed to the local grid, customers can enjoy an additional 10% discount on power costs, even without direct access to rooftop solar panels or electric vehicles.

The town’s electrification process began in 2021 when the reticulated gas network ceased operations, prompting Horizon Power to facilitate the transition to …

Read More »

California’s original off-grid store relocates

Real Goods, the California-based original purveyor of off-grid living supplies, has relocated to Ukiah, California. The move follows the companys acquisition by altE Store in September of this year. Real Goods second ever store was also located in Ukiah.

Real Goods new business address is 2005 N. State St., Unit G, Ukiah, CA 95482. The new location, about two miles from the city center, will have office space and a larger warehouse. The larger warehouse allows Real Goods to offer a greater selection of solar energy products and systems, and faster shipping to West Coast customers.

The move follows the September 2019 acquisition of Real Goods by altE Store. Now powered by altE, the Real Goods sales and customer support teams continue as part of the altE family. altE CEO Sascha Deri commented on the move, “Our new warehouse will more than double the inventory capacity of Real Goods. This move enables us to not only provide a wider range of renewable energy system products to our local customers in the Mendocino County area but also decrease shipping costs to our customers on the entire West Coast.”

As part of its acquisition, Real Goods has begun offering competitive wholesale programs for professional solar installers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington state, with expanded inventory and distributor pricing. To apply, call Real Goods at 800-919-2400.

Formerly EcoTerra, the Solar Living Center remains in Hopland, California. The Center continues to be a home to the Solar Living Institute, Solar Living Store, and Emerald Pharms. For more information, find the SLC online at https://solarliving.org/slc/ or call (707) 472-2456.

Read More »

Oz utility takes its customers off-grid

After a devastating bushfire, one remote WA farming community takes steps towards a solar solution — and it’s cheaper, safer, and more reliable.

The deadly bushfire in a remote West Australian farming community has led to a renewable energy first in Australia.

A government-owned electricity company is taking customers off the grid by giving them standalone solar units, so they can pull down ageing and costly power lines.

In November 2015, bushfires swept through the Esperance region, 800 kilometres south-east of Perth.

Four people lost their lives, thousands of livestock perished, and 30,000 hectares of crops were destroyed.

More than 300 power poles were also burnt, leaving about 450 locals without power for months.

The natural disaster led Horizon Power to rethink the way it managed its electricity network.

Some Horizon Power customers affected by the fire were offered solar panels as a trial, instead of rebuilding the lines.

After the fire ripped through Scadden West farmer Peter Vermeersch’s properties, he had to use generators for electricity.

“Probably two or three months sitting there with generators going. Yeah, it was a bit of chaos for a while,” he said.

He was one of five Horizon Power customers who took up the offer of getting electricity from solar panels, batteries, and a backup generator instead of via poles and wires.

Initially, he was sceptical of the solar option.

“The main issue was wondering if the power supply was going to be reliable,” he said.

At first there was not enough battery capacity on the solar units, but Horizon quickly fixed this and the new system is now more reliable than being on the grid.

“They have been really good. I don’t think we have had an outage on them,” Mr Vermeersch said.

“There’s also the advantage of not having poles and wires through your properties. There’s not that risk of machinery running into power poles.”

First utility company in Australia to kick customers off the grid

Horizon Power is now installing 17 further solar units on farms east of Esperance, and will tear down about 60 kilometres of ageing power lines.

It is the first time a utility company has removed traditional infrastructure and convinced customers to get off the grid.

Horizon Power chief executive Stephanie Unwin said it would save customers money.

“You are not replacing poles and wires … we no longer have to send out our linesman to patrol the lines, so that’s great,” she said.

“Maintenance is much lower, we will only have to send someone out once a year [to check the solar units].”

20,000 to get off-grid in a decade

The WA Government is behind the move and the state’s Energy Minister Bill Johnston said off-the-grid, clean energy made sense.

“So this is good for remote and farming communities because it gives them better energy and more reliable power,” he said.

“But it’s good for …

Read More »

Cooking with the sun

There are several different ways to use the sun in cooking, aka solar cooking or solar ovens. If you live in a sunny place, the desert, anyplace with unobstructed sunshine, you can use a solar oven to cook most meals.

There are parabolic cookers, these are like using a hot grill, you pretty much have to be right on top of it all the time to cook with these.

There are panel cookers, these use a silver (usually mylar) foil covered cardboard, the DIY ones are often made from a window shade made for vehicles. The nice thing about these are they are very portable, light and easy to set up. The bad thing about them is they don’t reach and maintain a very high temperature, and being light weight, they can blow away in wind.

The third major kind are box cookers, these work just like a small oven, they can be made of a cardboard box, or for a more permanent solution, made of wood or plastic. It is essentially an insulated box with a glass top and to make them work even better, reflectors are added to the top. This is the kind I like best.

I have scoured YouTube in search of the best build, I see many mistakes being made, mainly in the materials used in building them, you don’t want to use anything that will off gas or become toxic when it becomes hot, using styrofoam, some types of glue, some kinds of wood even will out gas toxic fumes when heated, I cringe when I see these being used.

I found one video that really jumped out at me, though I’m sure there are many more, I liked this one. The first video shows how it’s built, I will admit that my ADD struck and I had to move the video along a bit, but the build is solid. The second video shows a whole chicken being cooked in this solar oven. Enjoy!



Read More »

Black Hills Energy Cuts Renewables Payout

Last week the South Dakota Public Utilities unanimously approved a 19 per cent reduction in pay for renewables – that is the generation credit rate Black Hills Energy pays to small renewable energy producers. This is a kick in the teeth to all who invested in renweable energy thinking they could forecast the payback time and the hit on their own personal finances.

The generation credit rate will be set to 2.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, from the current rate on 3.32 cents.

The commissionion says it may also wants to set generation credit rates differently for the kinds of fuel used to create it – so coal will get less and solar will get more.s. The decision to base the credits by sources will come no later than 2019.

“Black Hills Energy should broaden its electricity sources. About 90 per cent comes from burning coal”, he says. 

Nelson praises Richard Bell, an engineer and customer of Black Hills Energy, for bringing the concept to the commission. Bell is one of 35 small producers who receive credits on their electricity bills for the electricity they supply to the company.

 Small producers might drop out

However, due to the credit reduction, Bell is worried that small producers will drop out, and explains that many people are going to go off the grid if they are going to be compensated at such a low rate.

The commission voted 3-0 to accept the Rapid City company´s proposal. The reduction will take place on June 1st. 

 Not happy with Black Hills Energy´s deal

Joining Bell at the witness table was Jay Davis, a Rapid City lawyer who has a renewable-energy system on his house and receives generation credits from the company. He invested roughly $11.000 to install the panels and received a 30 per cent federal credit. 

“We wanted to set a good example for the rest of the community, a positive and forward looking example”, he says. 

Davis is not pleased with the deal he is getting from Black Hills Energy at the moment. He explains that he pays 9.98 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity at his house, but gets 3.32 cents credit for the electricity produced by the solar system on his house. Worse, he says, the company charges him $9.25 monthly because he is a customer and another $12.99 per month in cost adjustments. 

Manager sees no reduction of coal in near future

Lisa Seaman, Black Hills Energy´s manager of resource planning says she does not see the company reducing their dependence on coal very much.

 “Not in the near term”, she states. “Right now the utility has enough electricity without the 35 to meet the needs of customers”.

 Nelson sees Seaman´s point, but says the company needs to start taking the small producers into consideration in the future. South Dakota’s voluntary goal by utilities is 10 percent for renewables. Black Hills

Read More »
South Africa goes off-grid

South Africa Power Crisis

The local authorities in Cape Town, South Africa face a power crisis as electricity theft, unpaid bills and switching to renewable energy puts pressure on the electricity companies. Even though the economy and population has grown, the city expects to sell far less electricity than it has since 2006.

Solar electricity panels are appearing on rooftops all over the cities of South Africa, leaving municipalities from Thembelihle in the Northern Cape to Mantsopa in the Eastern Free State in trouble – and it is getting worse.

Leslie Rencontre, Director of Electricity in Cape Town explained the increase in prices to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) last week: “Where you see a decrease in electricity sales, which we are seeing because of high prices and the introduction of renewable energy, the increase in the electricity tariff has to take that into account.”

As new data confirmed last week, municipalities around the country rely heavily on the profit they get from reselling mostly Eskom power to their towns and cities. In Johannesburg about half of the city´s prepaid electricity boxes claim that the households have used no electricity. It is thought that people have stopped paying for electricity due to the higher prices.

– We are facing massive bypassing of meters and sabotaging of meters, Quentin Green, acting Chief Executive of the Johannesburg agency, City Power, told NERSA.

He explains that between the revenue loss of such illegal connections and the need for maintenance, some of it caused by the load from those illegal connections, they cannot sustain the business.

For most local governments, about a third of their revenues come from electricity sales, where the money is put into other vital services such as roads.

As the price of electricity increases, so does the number of people who choose to live off the grid and use solar power to get electricity instead. These small electricity storage solutions are becoming more and more attractive, but this can eat to absurdities.

– One of the key threats we discussed with NERSA  previously is that we were finding higher-end households were able to reduce their electricity consumption and were then accessing subsidies aimed at the indigent, Rencontre said, referring to packages intended to make more electricity accessible for the poorest of the poor.

Cape Town, Johannesburg and a dozen other municipal areas have appeared before NERSA to demand and beg to be allowed to increase the amount they charge residents for electricity. In terms of NERSAs guideline local authorities can increase their prices by about 2 per cent, but must get permission for anything above that. Last week municipalities askes for a hike of more than 20 per cent for business customers.

– We really hope and believe that NERSA will look favourably on this application,” David McThomas, a manager for the Breede Valley district in the Western Cape said.

In …

Read More »
solar shed

Solar sheds for sale

UNITY, Maine – 11 April –  For Joas Hochstetler, manager of the Amish-owned Backyard Buildings, the idea of manufacturing a solar shed equipped with solar panels was always in the back of his mind.

After all, as part of their mission Hochstetler’s family and others in the Amish community that has settled in Unity use solar power technology in a variety of ways, from powering lights on their carriages to charging power tool batteries.

“Solar is pretty passive, there’s no moving parts, you don’t have to feed it, it doesn’t take gas,” Hochstetler said. “We’ve already made the decision to not be on the grid […] so the benefits of solar for us are just endless.”

Despite perceptions of Amish communities being wary of technology, off-grid solar power technology offers a way for those in the community to stay off of the mainstream power grid in a way that is minimally intrusive to their lifestyle. Hochstetler said that Amish people were some of the early adopters of solar.

So when Matt Wagner of Insource Renewables approached him in January about teaming up to produce a shed that was equipped with the same solar technology found on traditional roof-mounted systems, Hochstetler was sold.  After all, the sheds he makes were already solar  powered – in the sense that solar is his only power source.

“We’ve talked about it before but didn’t have a reputable company to collaborate with, or the solar expertise,” Hochstetler said. “I like the principle of solar, so I would gladly do work in a field that will generate more solar power for the state.”

For the last six years, Backyard Buildings has been manufacturing a wide range of portable structures including storage sheds of varying sizes, animal shelters and even small cabins.  In some instances, Insource Renewables was contracted by customers of Hochstetler’s to install heat pumps in large sheds they’d purchased with the intention of using them as off-grid camps.

Wagner initially proposed the idea of just collaborating on installing heat pumps in some of the buildings before they were sold, and the idea quickly morphed into making storage-type structures with solar panels mounted on the roof.

For both parties, the opportunity to work with another local company to bring a new solar energy option to their customers was a boon. “What we found is we can basically deliver the same size solar array we would put on someone’s roof onto this solar [shed] building for about the same cost, and you get this great shed. It’s sort of a no brainer,” Wagner said.

With Insource Renewables bringing the solar expertise and Backyard Buildings bringing the construction know-how, prospective customers are able buy a shed that is outfitted with a solar array that can capture enough energy to power their entire home, as well as a soundly constructed shed that can serve a range of …

Read More »
Sun tax, Spain, Off-grid, solar panels, tax, grid

Spain’s Sun Tax to be axed

In October 2015, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a controversial tax on those using electricity produced by their own solar installations. However, a new government says solar panel owners could soon see the back of the so called sun tax.

What is the sun tax?

This legislation causes those with self-consumptive photovoltaic systems to pay the same grid fees as those without solar panels. This covers the power contracted from an electricity company. But they also have to pay a second “sun tax” which means solar panel owners pay for the electricity they generate and use from their PV systems, even though it doesn’t come into contact with the grid.

There are other facets of the legislation which also caused more outrage. Photovoltaic systems up to 100 kW are not able to sell any excess electricity they produce. Instead, they must “donate” the extra to the grid free of charge. Systems over 100 kW must register if they wish to sell the extra electricity. Community ownership of PV systems, of all sizes, under this legislation is prohibited. Not only this, but the legislation is retroactive; meaning installations prior to the introduction of the tax must comply. If the conditions are not met, then the PV system owners are subject to a penalty fee of up to €60 million ($64 million). To put this in perspective, this is twice the penalty of a radioactive leak from a nuclear plant. Unsurprisingly, this caused outrage.

Exceptions to the tax

There are some circumstances where the tax does not apply. Fear not off-gridders, this tax is only for those connected to the grid. If you run an off-grid system then no grid tax needs to be paid at all. Installations smaller than 10 kW are also exempt from paying the second sun tax. The Canary Islands and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Spanish territories in Africa) are also exempt from the second tax. Mallorca and Menorca pay the second sun tax at a reduced rate.

The Spanish government defended the legislation by saying the fees contribute to overall grid system costs. However, the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF) pointed out how uneconomic the new law was. Their spokesperson stated, “Each kWh imported from the grid by a self-consumer will pay double the tolls compared to a kWh imported from the gird by another consumer.”

Change on the horizon

The current legislation is an unnecessary burden placed upon solar consumers who want to be more economical and environmentally friendly. This has been recognized by opposing political parties and other unions and consumers. The political party which initially brought in the sun tax is now a minority. Therefore, there is now the opportunity for all opposing parties to remove this expensive and impractical legislation.

In January 2017 a law proposal was registered in congress, beginning the process of the sun tax removal. The urgent changes …

Read More »

Feeling Hot Hot Hot: Solar Cooking in Action

Cooking can be challenging in itself. Following recipes, getting the right ingredients and hoping it comes out tasting delicious – unless you’re a top class chef, everyone has had a fair few burnt dinners in their time. When you’re off-grid however it’s not just worrying about what it tastes like, but how to cook the food in the first place!

Harvesting the power of the sun for cooking has been a practice conducted for many years.

Solar cookers have been on the market since the mid-80s and have become a popular option for safe and easy cooking with no fires or fuel involved. There are obvious benefits to solar cooking, after the initial investment it is a free renewable source of energy. Not only this, but it is seen as a healthier way of cooking without smoke from fires etc.

Solar cookers convert the sun’s rays to infra-red radiation producing heat. Therefore, it is not the sun’s heat itself or the ambient air temperature outside the cooker that causes the food to cook.

There are three main types of solar cooker which can vary in their design and build.

The solar box cooker is derived from a box with reflectors that funnel the sun’s rays into the chamber which contains the food to be cooked. These models can reach very high temperatures, on average between 200-350°F, which is ideal for most baking needs. With a good heat retention and little need for supervision it is perfectly safe to leave food for long periods without fear of burning. Being a box shape these cookers are less likely to tip over and when constructed will have high levels of insulation.

The solar panel cooker on the other hand doesn’t reach temperatures quite as high; between 200-250°F. Essentially the design is a pot or pan within a plastic enclosure, with a 3-5 side reflective panel surrounding it to channel the sun’s rays. This type of design is best for slower longer cooking periods, leaving food very succulent. With no adjustments needed to track the sun, little supervision is needed.

Finally, the solar parabolic cooker can maintain the highest temperatures of the three main types and so can be used for grilling or even frying food. It can cook food much quicker, however usually smaller amounts than what can be held in the box or panel solar cookers. Also more attention is needed when cooking using this model, as the angle and direction of the cooker will need to be changed more frequently to track the sun.

There are many plans and designs for you to try if you want to have a go at a DIY solar cooker. Many designs include using materials commonly found around the home or are easily obtainable. For example, cardboard boxes, aluminium foil, black paint, some form of adhesive and even umbrellas!

If you don’t want the hassle
Read More »


Join the global off-grid community

Register for a better experiencE on this site!