New Scientist 13 July 1966
A NEW, self-contained solar power unit, which can provide significantly cheaper electricity to remote households, has been launched by NSW energy minister Michael Egan. It's one of several niid-winter initiatives which demonstrate the growing viability of solar power. The solar electricity system, known as Power On, is designed to use the sun to provide about 70 per cent of a typical household load. A back-up diesel generator supplies the other 30 per cent. The system can deliver up to two kilowatts of power from its solar panels alone, and this can be increased to 5.4 kilowatts vath the generator running. The installed cost of the unit is about A$30 000-a bit steep for the suburbs, but less than the cost of connecting to the grid for many people in niral Australia. (The price of erecting power lines is generally reckoned at about A$10 000 a kilometre.) And the average cost of operation is about half the typical minimum charge levied on remote consumers by electricity providers. The Radnidge family, for instance, who live in the hills near Newcastle, estimate they are saving about $100 a month on their electricity biu by using solar power. Connection to the grid would have the cost them about A$45 000. For not-so-remote users, it is now possible to go a step further and sell solar electricity back to the provider. That idea was pioneered in Australia by Peter Fries, a freelance journalist living on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. His house, Solar One, has solar panels on the roof as well as a connection to the electricity grid. In effect, he uses the grid as an electricity storage device instead of batteries. During the day, he feeds power into the system, and gains credit for it from the South-East Queensland Electricity Board. At night, the house draws power from the grid and incurs a cost. But, living in sunny Queensland, most of the time Fries sells more power than he buys.