GOING OFF THE GRID: THE COMPANY THAT COULD SOLVE SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S ENERGY WOES
28 August 2017, Written by David Simmons
ADELAIDE business Fluid Solar has officially unveiled its $8 million head office, which has run all winter on renewable energy totally independent from SA's beleaguered power grid.
The company has devised and built its office using solar thermal technology, which converts the heat of the sun into storable energy.
Managing Director of Fluid Solar, Roger Davies, believes in the power of the company's technology, and is ready to go toe to toe with the big players in energy.
"We can compete directly with coal fired power if we're given the opportunity to do that," says Davies.
Davies' proposal sounds promising as the technology is already proven using the company's own office, and can even be retrofitted onto old buildings in Adelaide.
Since April, Fluid Solar House has operated free of the electricity grid, saving more than $28,000 in power bills.
The building was able to disconnect from SA's electricity grid due to its ability to generate 250 kilowatt peak of solar thermal and electric power from the building's combination of photovoltaic solar panels, concentrating solar thermal tubes, and wind turbines on the rooftop.
Davies says Fluid Solar's technology can be deployed anywhere, and onto any building.
"This is the future of affordable, energy-smart housing, from rural remote shacks to medium-rise commercial buildings," says Davies.
Fluid Solar House is also part of Tesla's car-charging network with provision for 11 parking spots for electric vehicles that will be charged completely by solar power harvested from panels on the building's roof.
Business News Australia spoke to Davies about how Fluid Solar can solve SA's energy crisis with their ground-breaking technology.
Could we see the whole or large parts of Adelaide being powered by your technology and off the existing grid any time soon?
In terms of 'can we move large amounts of energy off the grid?', the long answer is 'yes, we can'. The key to the solar thermal is the amount of energy that you can collect per square metre is at least two or three times the amount of energy that you can collect from the solar panel. Whereas the entire roof typically is not large enough to put panels to run aircon in the building, solar thermal is able to collect more energy and therefore you have enough energy in the first place to meet substantial amounts of the building's energy.
If we were going to do a retrofit process, what I'd be aiming to do is carve 10 or20 per cent off the energy consumption on as many buildings as were suitable and that process could be done fairly quickly, in two, three or four years a large number of buildings could be converted. So those buildings will not go off grid but what we could do is cap the peak demand of the building so not every building in the city is simultaneously wanting electricity on 3pm on a February afternoon when it's baking hot. Moving the energy peak demand relieves pressure on the grid and that makes the grid less expensive to maintain and it also means that all consumers can benefit from a lower cost.
So that will be able to stop the kind of thing we saw earlier in the year where the whole state blacked out?
That's correct. At the moment, the opportunity as a grid manager you either have to just turn off part of the gird, and that's called load shedding, and that means that a whole suburb goes out for an hour and that's clearly not a very acceptable practice but that's really the only option open to them if the demand exceeds the amount that can be supplied from Victoria. Short to medium solution of capping the peak demand of buildings would be very valuable even though you're not saving a whole lot of electricity, you're reducing the peak demand for electricity so the grid can continue to supply everybody's needs.
How much would a system like this cost a business or residential home?
Retrofitting is very individual, you'd need to see the particular circumstance, what they're doing at the moment, how they're heating and cooling. One of the things that we can offer is a greater level of comfort. Because rather than simply sweltering in the heat or shivering in the cold you've actually got enough free energy effectively to be more comfortable for most of the time. Certainly people would appreciate being able to stay warm in winter rather than having to rug up and freeze.
I'm working at the moment with some financiers who would be able to take a position where they're loaning money directly to a consumer in order for them to do conversion of some of their energy demand to a renewable resource like solar thermal. Government regulation could make that easier but my view is that if something stands up on its own with no government incentive or initiative then it's a plainly good idea and people will do it.
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons