Energy at the Ecovillage

After many years investigating various battery options for the Ecovillage we have chosen the Tesla Powerpack. Our decision was based on its success, performance and warranty, and confidence gained from the sheer number of Powerpacks that have been deployed worldwide. The Powerpack battery provides 232kWh, with up to 130kW of power, and is the ideal size for our clusters, which average 23 lots each.

As with every aspect of the Ecovillage, and the choice of all of our preferred suppliers, quality and warranty were at the forefront of our decision. Tesla has given us a 15 year warranty on each of our Powerpacks and a significantly reduced annual servicing cost for each unit due to the volume we’re ordering.

I’m thrilled to confirm that our order for seven Tesla Powerpacks for stages 1-3 has been finalised and they are currently being manufactured in the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada, USA.

Electric vehicles

As some of you may know, I’ve been driving a Tesla Model S electric vehicle for three and a half years now and I can’t believe how good the vehicle really is. I’ve done 63,000kms and it’s yet to require a service. All I’ve had to do is replace the tires. I charge it from the solar panels on our roof at home and at the office, so it’s basically free to run and doesn’t emit any CO2 or toxic emissions. The vehicle is also regularly improved with wireless internet upgrades, so it’s already a lot better than the first day I purchased it. The body is aluminum, so it has a long, rust-free, life and I’ve been led to believe that they expect the brushless electric motors to last for millions of miles.

Over the next few years we’re going to see a significant increase in EVs hitting the market including more affordable models. Some of our Stage 1 community members are already talking about share EVs in the future, which is really exciting. If you’re thinking about buying an EV at the moment, my advice is to wait until you’ve built in the Ecovillage next year and let’s monitor our vehicle use and start to explore the potential of shared EV ownership. Wouldn’t it be great to share the costs of ownership and maintenance while driving on free energy derived from our household PVs?

SolarWatt PVs and Fronius inverters

This year saw the end of the generous 40c/kWh Synergy rebate on excess solar power generated from our household PVs.  So we decided to upgrade the solar system on our Perth home to a 5kW (Fronius inverter) with 6.4kWs of PVs (SolarWatt), the same that we are using in the Ecovillage, which have the world’s best 30 year solar panel warranty. We also installed a Tesla Powerwall (13.5kWh). This has been an incredibly positive experience and has now enabled our home to be 100% self sufficient in renewable energy for the house and vehicle. We’re still connected to the grid, but if we were living there permanently and using the EV regularly, we would disconnect as we wouldn’t be exporting the 14.5kWh’s of energy required each day to cover the connection cost of $1.03/day and we’d be producing and storing all the energy we’d need. The daily supply charge that we’ve negotiated with our energy retailer is a lot cheaper than this, but I do wonder how long it will be before we have sufficient EV use of our excess household PV energy before each of our clusters start disconnecting from the grid.

Tesla Powerpacks

As you’re aware, the price of the Tesla Powerpacks are included in the residential land prices at the Ecovillage. However, to get an affordable price on the high quality solar panels that we wanted, we’re bulk buying 500kW at a time, direct from SolarWatt in Germany. This will enable us to on-sell them direct to each of our future residents at the cost price of around 70c/kW. This will also enable each of our residents to be able to claim back the STCs once their PV system has been installed.

We decided to increase the size of each of the cluster’s micro-grid connections to Western Power to 300A to enable us to be able to offer larger 3-phase connections to the cottage and family lots. We strongly recommend that you maximise the size of your PV system while such generous STC rebates are still available from the Federal Government. These will cover a large portion of your system’s cost and the larger systems will provide you with more income from excess energy sold back into the grid or, in time, from your cluster’s EV charger.

We’re about to go to the market to get quotes from various local electrical contractors to get the best price possible for the installation of household PV and inverter systems. Once again, we’re trying to take advantage of our bulk buying opportunity. The chosen electrical contractor will then work with your builder to install the system prior to completion of your home. We’ll be getting quotes for the following systems over the next few weeks, so please read our Energy Handbook to ascertain which size system your home is approved for:

  • 5kW Fronius single phase inverter with 6.4kW SolarWatt (20) panels
  • 8.2kW Fronius 3 phase inverter with 10.88kW SolarWatt (32) panels
  • 10kW Fronius 3 phase inverter with 13.12kW SolarWatt (41) panels

Reclaim heat pumps

The other exciting news on the energy and bulk buying front is that we’ve done an amazing deal with the WA wholesaler of one of the world’s best heat pump hot water systems, made in Japan by Reclaim Energy. We have explored all of the best options for hot water in the Ecovillage as it’s most likely your highest household energy use, and therefore it’s incredibly important to get it right.

There’s no doubt that an efficient heat pump is the best option for Witchcliffe, and Reclaim is as good as it gets in terms of efficiency (2.1kWh to heat 315L of water). In addition, it is one of the few low carbon environmentally friendly heat pumps available using CO2 as its refrigerant. Reclaim also offers the best warranty in the industry to WA, with 6 years on the heat pump and 10 years for the vitreous enamel tank. The other benefit of the Reclaim heat pump is that it’s whisper quiet and can be configured to come on during daylight hours to run off your PVs. Your builder’s plumber will install the heat pump on your behalf.

Like many of our Ecovillage deals, these prices won’t be published as they are a special price for Ecovillage residents only. The info will be available to our future residents only via each strata’s secure sales contract portal on the Ecovillage website.