My solar system has now generated over a MWh (Megawatt Hour) since it was installed in late March with the Powerwall. Essentially that means my panels have generated…

wait for it…

zoom in to close up …

dr evil


One Million Watts!

Yep, that’s lame, but I’ve been waiting to kick that off for weeks now. And some would say that picture has a striking resemblance to me.

On average that makes it a bit over 25kWh per day solar power generated, which is quite good considering we had a few cloudy days. Record day so far is about 33kWh generated, which might get broken around the summer solstice next year when the days are a bit longer.

March in Australia generally resembles February, but at this stage it is even warmer than usual in Sydney. You can read a really good summary at The Conversation about why its happening this year in particular.

I’m also following 9th Dan Chart-Master, Ketan Joshi on twitter, to see what statistical wizardry he’ll come up with next in terms of climate science and weather patterns.

This record period above 26oC (79oF) has certainly provided some amazing solar power statistics for the first week in June.

Fairly healthy rates for import and export, and its just a shame I’m yet to take advantage of feed-in tariff. I’m still awaiting changeover to Diamond Energy so I can take full advantage of Reposit Power with the Powerwall later this month. SO excited. GridCredits!!!

If I was on my current provider’s plan (which I’m not because I’d have to sign a new agreement), I’d have imported about $1.70 worth of power after all discounts, and made about $4.40 in feed-in tariff. Throw in 7 days of connection charges of $4.94 after discounts, and I’m $2.24 in the red, theoretically.

However, I’ve consumed 110.17kWh of my own making, or nearly 16kWh per day. That is actually pretty low against the household average over the year (~20) and if I didn’t have solar panels, that 110.17kWh + connection fees would be somewhere in the order of $31.70.

So really, when you think about it, I’m almost $30 to the good!

Right at the start of you can see a little red block. This was an anomaly where the battery management firmware was confused by 29th February (Leap Day). Yeah, as a developer I can tell you it happens, occasionally. I’m assured its fixed, and because we’re on daylight savings time right now it started at 1AM on the 29th Feb and went through until 1AM on 1st March. Cool.

There is a big spike on 3rd March which was air conditioning going on for a very warm afternoon. On the morning of 7th March the battery finally went to sleep after the previous evening’s efforts cooking dinner and dessert.

Why burn stored energy doing all that baking in the evening? Firstly, it was a work day, but mostly, let’s just say that you can’t put obsessive battery monitoring ahead of my wife’s roast chicken, followed up by chocolate cake. You just don’t.

Our electric oven is running a bit out of kilter at the moment, judging by the noise coming out of the fan assembly. I’m getting that rectified next week, which should decrease duration of usage, by providing a more efficient cooking cycle. Moar cakez!

I recently added a new network attached storage (NAS) for backup duties, after the old one finally threw a shoe – i.e. one of its RAID partitions. The new one has power recovery so can handle being on a timer, along with the TV and games console running from that outlet. Only a few watts saved, but every bit counts when you’re trying to get the battery through the night as often as possible, under varying circumstances.

Powerwall Zen

As I’ve learned a bit more about the Powerwall, I’ve also tweaked some of the larger hardware pieces to exist in harmony with each other and the solar system in general.

Powerwall Zen

For example, the pool pump needs to be running for a certain number of hours per day to ensure cleanliness, and takes about 0.8kWh at standard operation. I’ve worked out the pump capacity (Qmax) and rate of flow correctly, to ensure I use only the minimum hours per day. I also figured out that running it later in the day allows the battery to top up earlier as the panels start cranking up the flow mid-morning.

In partnership with this, the timer on both our washing machine and dishwasher are set for the early afternoon, when the sun is at its highest. I leave a gap in the pool timer of 2 hours in the middle of the day so both these devices can run without issue, even when the sun isn’t so bright.

As always, a solidly overcast day can throw some of these plans out of whack, and that’s why a grid connection is a must. Beyond keeping the warranty of the Powerwall at 10 years (off-grid is only 4), in suburbia there is simply no reason to disconnect, with the grid as your fallback.

And I’m only a couple of weeks away from generating GridCredits, getting the battery topped up before the 2PM peak boundary makes sense both financially, and from the data it will provide to advance our knowledge of micro-grids in a modern urban environment.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I smell cinnamon cupcakes baking…

In my last post I alluded to having some thoughts on whether my house was making the most of solar power, particularly in regard to how I was using it. Knowledge is power, and the knowledge I’ve gained in the past few of weeks of my solar power usage has been very interesting.

Understanding which appliances burn the most power, what the usage patterns are, and the effect of weather, are all critical to getting the most out of the investment. This ensures that I can achieve the ROI I want, and that I’m a responsible user of any fossil fuel energy I’m required to draw from the grid.

Though the weather today was pretty good.

In all my analyses, the ducted air conditioner keeps cropping up as the villain (and at some point I’ll reconcile myself to that).

Its a difficult issue to address, as ripping it out of the roof space and replacing it with something else would just cost a load of money, and may not practically address the issue of solar power for cooling on a bang-for-buck basis. I need to ensure I’ve investigated other ways to either offset its use, or reduce my reliance on it.

Air conditioning comes down to a simple premise: comfort. You use it because you have too much outdoors in your indoors, so to speak.

That’s not a bad thing in the world of modern convenience, where our cars, offices, and houses are all air conditioned. However, have you ever thought that air conditioning is just treating a symptom of the main problem, and not the root cause?

The root cause – intrusive heat in this case – is going unaddressed. Even if you have a really efficient unit with all the bells and whistles, you may be able to do even better through other, more practical means.

Beyond “don’t leave the door open!”, there are many factors affecting your use of air conditioning or heating, often reflected in the design and quality of your building. Do you have adequate insulation of suitable quality? When was the last time you had it checked? Gaps around the doors? What about covering the windows?

Windows are a general weak point for heat transfer into or out of a building, particularly in large parts of Australia, where we don’t suffer the kind of harsh winters that require central heating or double glazing.

As a design point, a lot of modern houses here open up windows far more, which often results in more energy usage. One design element I need to deal with in my house are the large, west-facing windows.

About 8 square metres of glass, pictured at 1PM Sydney time today, before the sun hit

Both windows are in the same room at the front of the house, are 1800mm (6 feet) high, with the one on the left nearly square and the other about 2700mm (9 feet) wide, getting hit by sun all afternoon. The internal venetian blinds, while slowing the direct heat down a little, aren’t stopping it from advancing into the room in the first place.

Simple science: the sun hits the glass, which heats up, subsequently transferring its heat to the cooler air inside that is right up against the glass. That air rises (because heat) and more cool air is drawn against the glass. Rinse and repeat for 4-5 hours on a hot Aussie summer day!

Some people also look at tinting their windows or installing double-glazing to assist with this, but I remain unconvinced about either option in terms of value-for-money in most parts of Australia.

Tinting provides an extremely thin buffer, so it is only going to slow things to a certain degree – better than nothing of course, and relatively cheap compared to other methods. The downside is that in winter its going to perform the same function, stopping heat from entering the house via those windows. As a side note, the privacy aspect of tinting is lost when the lights inside are brighter than the lights outside i.e. at night when you are using that space.

Double (or triple) glazing is the architectural method of choice for sound proofing and insulation of glass. While its overall effectiveness year-round as an insulator cannot be questioned, the expense often makes the average home owner hesitate. Double-glazing in summer is best used where you can keep the internal temperature cool, and therefore stabilise the buffer between glass panes at a temperature somewhere between the outside and the inside. Generally speaking, if you’re not keeping the room cool through e.g. air con, the buffer will heat up, and start transferring that heat into the room.

In my opinion, and that of several electricity companies, the best way to stop this kind of heat transfer is to stop the heat hitting the glass in the first place. In essence, you create an external buffer zone where the sun’s heat and UV rays can’t get to the glass in the first place.

There are several options available, from adjustable fabric awnings, metal shutters, louvres, window shades or fixed awnings.

Rather than run out and spend a pile of money on anything custom-made for those windows, I decided to experiment first on our north-facing garage window. In the garage I have a network cabinet* in which I have my network backbone with appropriate patch panel for all the points around the house. I don’t want that equipment to overheat, and shielding that window should help prevent that.

* on reflection, probably a mistake to put it there, but it wasn’t going anywhere inside the house, according to my wife. Its called “compromise” I think…

Window coverings

I went to Bunnings Warehouse and, for the princely sum of $297, bought a fabric awning (1800mm wide, 2100mm drop) to cover the garage window from the worst of the heat. That’s it on the right, and I put it up myself in about an hour.

The awning can quickly be retracted in case a storm blows up, or in winter when I want the sun to warm up that side of the house. Sydney winters may not be harsh with snow and such, but we tend to have low tolerance for cold as a result ?

I’m going to keep an eye on this for the next couple of weeks, as we move into cooler months, and see how it performs as the sun moves back north and puts more sun on this window.

Some (including my wife) may say that these kinds of awnings are a bit daggy, and yes you can buy them in stripy patterns if you want to be reminded of your grandparents’ post-war bungalow. However, if they do the job then I think for next summer I’ll be pushing to cover the rest of the problem glass on the north and west sides of the house.

It will be a battle royale between her Better Homes and Gardens and my New Scientist approach to this whole thing.

In the meantime, the best we can do is shut the problem room off during the heat of the day and let it become the buffer zone. My issue with that longer term is the electronic equipment in that room is under strain during that time from heat. And its the rumpus room for the kids, so now I have them in the main room watching my TV!

Garage door

The double garage door also faces west, and therefore gets a lot of heat in the afternoon. That was an issue from the day we moved in (late 2013), so after a bit of research I bought a roll of Green Insulation Reflecta-GDI which looks a bit like this once fitted.

Garage Door Insulation
Reflecta Garage Door Insulation
It definitely works – I can’t touch the bare metal of the door for more than a few seconds on a hot day like today (35oC / 95oF in the sun), while the insulation is merely warm , slowing the heat transfer into the space.

Measure your door panels before you order and, once fitted, you may need to recalibrate the garage door lifter to account for any weight change (it isn’t much but some units are sensitive). No adhesive required as it designed to fit most modern panel garage doors in Australia by sliding into the space at the correct width. That is actually a shot of it overhead – no issues whatsoever with staying in place in over two years.

While we’re on the topic of garage heat, DON’T close your garage door immediately in summer after you park the car in there. The heat you trap will radiate into the house through plasterboard before it will escape through brick or wall insulation. Leave the door up and get some air flowing through the place for at least half an hour.

Not so bad to trap that car heat in winter, but make sure the engine is off!

Solar Power Design – more than panels

If you’re in the process of building or renovating, you may have already made a lot of decisions around how you wants things to look. Some of those things may focus on solar power, while many more are about the right fittings, colours, and facade for your home.

Those with solar power aspirations will already know how important aspect is, though after discovering what I have about my own house, I believe it should be more than how many panels your roof can hold.

If you haven’t adequately considered the thermal efficiency of your home, you may not be capitalising on your investment properly.

Even if you’re not considering solar power for your house at this point, you might think about getting the place pre-wired while the build is occurring, as Jennian Homes in New Zealand is doing with all new builds.

Consider the design factors around your insulation (wall and ceiling) as well as windows and cooling or heating options. Sometimes these things can be lost when you’re focus is on the right marble bench top, or the right tapware.

The builder may promise the latest, you-beaut ducted AC, but it may end up costing you more over the longer term. Look instead at smaller, more efficient air conditioners (like split systems) to cool or heat the space you need. In either case, make sure you understand the energy requirements of these add-on extras and how they will affect your power usage.

A few little decisions now can save you hundreds or thousands in the future, particularly as prices rise (and they will) and governments feel pressure to adopt renewables standards across the world.

The Powerwall copped a hammering this week, with another really hot day in Sydney showing up to get everyone’s air conditioner roaring, and the good news is I can see how much.

The SolarEdge inverter I have (SE5000 model for those playing at home) feeds back data to their HQ, which I can access through a web portal. At the moment I’m just taking screenshots to log interesting events, and provide feedback to everyone in the chain.

As you can see, its great from a consumer perspective to understand your power usage at-a-glance, as well as the Powerwall and panels data. So I know this week how much I’ve exported, used on my own needs, and what I had to take from the grid.


You can see that 25th Feb was the hot Thursday, with temperatures reaching 41oC in the shade. The ability of our family to tolerate that kind of heat is not pronounced, so the air conditioner goes on.

The big red spikes above the “4k” line represent our ducted air conditioner going on. Yep, its a hungry beast. Generally speaking, it seems to kick off around 5kW to run as an absolute minimum, and generally goes around 6kW, depending on the ambient (room) temperature versus the thermostat.

One thing I didn’t fully understand when I got my system installed was the power parameters. I have a 5kW inverter, that means the system can move 5kW from the panels and Powerwall as a maximum.

So, for example, if the panels are blazing and the Powerwall  is full, but I need to run the ducted air, it is going to pull a maximum of 5kW from my panels and battery combined, and then go to the grid for the rest.

Yeah, bummer, right? Unfortunately, the house came with this A/C so there isn’t much I can do about it at this point, beyond mitigating my use of it and setting my house up a little better. More on that point in a later post, when I get more time to think about it.

So, back to reviewing the data, and let’s continue by just looking at the solar generation side of things – and to make it interesting, let’s drill down on the days leading up to the full moon (yes, the portal has a drag-zoom setup – its pretty cool).

So we have some nice, parabolic curves representing power generation during the day. The peak is generally around 2PM each day (keep in mind we’re in DST here) and quite often hits in around the 4kW mark. However, I’ve seen individual readouts above this. I guess the graphing software tries to smooth curves as often as possible.

This isn’t the best bit though – notice the little squiggles happening around midnight on each day? I’m told by the installer that customers have reported moonlight triggering the panels, and I guess, being photo-voltaic in nature they respond to any light bright enough. Yep, that’s right:


Here is a zoomed-in version from the night of the 24th Feb through to about dawn on the 25th, showing the fluctuations. Not much graph smoothing here!

I’m kind of geeking out over this, in case you hadn’t guessed. Sure it isn’t a lot of actual power (up to 70 watts), but you must admit, that is pretty cool.

But going back to the top chart for a minute, you can see from the 25th onward a lot of red readout in the low-levels, meaning the Powerwall has ceased covering “Self Consumption”. The day after was cloudy, so little opportunity to replenish the levels.

After some awesome sunlight today with a nice cool breeze (no air con!), the Powerwall is sitting around 70% to get me through tonight and beyond.

It helps that we were out today, not using much power, and having an awesome lunch at Barbuto Restaurant in Narrabeen, followed by a stint on the beach in the afternoon. Great day!

My name is John, and I had the privilege of the first Tesla Powerwall installation in Australia (maybe the world, they say). It has been a short, but very interesting journey so far, and as it continues I hope to share useful information, a bit of humour, and a hopefully less swearing than I provide in person*.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention Natural Solar at this point. Chris Williams, Oliver Coleman, and the whole crew have been really helpful in putting my system together, and I’m seeing results already.

Tesla Powerwall

I’ve got all these grand ideas about what I want to do here, but I typed most of this up on a Thursday night, having come home from at work with little in the way of motivation after a 41oC day here in Sydney (106oF for any Americans reading).

You’ll have to forgive the absence of anything like style on this site. I am one of the least creative people you’ll meet in terms of design and UX in general. My job as a database guy is more about structure and numbers, and its a different kind of beauty…

The good news is, I know people who are fully conversant with the interwebs, and have great advice, which they will no doubt give, so this will improve over time.

I just thought it was time to get it started, and the best place to start is at the beginning.

Why did I install Tesla Powerwall?

There were many battery options out there already, but this one happened to fit my needs best, and I’ll definitely cover that in more detail in a future post.

The installation itself has been covered in a fair few outlets in the mainstream like The Australian/AFRNews CorpSydney Morning Herald. All of them seemed to have their own angle on Tesla Powerwall, and what its going to do for the planet, or their otherwise empty column inches that week. At least, those they’re not stealing from Huffpost or some random entertainment website…

Further coverage in tech sites like Gizmodo and Mashable got a few tongues wagging, as well as some extremely weird translations resulting in me being “aristocrat of a nerds” (seriously, read it).

Ultimately, there is a financial argument that underpins why I got a Tesla Powerwall (or any solar hybrid system) installed. Despite being accused of a “profligate Western middle class lifestyle” I’m by no means rich (and no steve f – if that is your real name – the pool isn’t heated). I earn above the national average, and am fortunate enough to have a smart, talented, hard-working fox of a wife who earns something similar.

Ultimately, I make no apologies for trying to enjoy my life while offsetting that with investment in renewable energy, but some people can’t be pleased.


Renewable energy investment makes up the second leg of the argument. There is a growing need for research and development into solar, wind, and other forms of power. We can’t keep burning things to make lights come on when we have, as Elon Musk said, a giant, free source of energy right up in the sky. All we need is the will to change.

The good news from my perspective, now that I’m following sites like Renew Economy and One Step Off The Grid, it is clear that this movement away from coal and oil is only accelerating, if we can get our politicians to listen for long enough.

The third part of my desire for this is sheer nerdliness. I’ve been watching Tesla for a while now, and what they’re doing is impressive under the leadership of Elon Musk. You can read about Elon Musk in a long and humorous fan perspective at Wait But Why if you don’t know much about him already.

In summary: Built Paypal, started Tesla Motors with the world’s sexiest electric car, and has this thing called SpaceX who launched and then landed a freaking rocket so they could re-use it later.

In any case, Tesla and SpaceX are working to improve our situation on this planet, and try to get us to other planets. If you haven’t watched the Tesla Powerwall launch, I recommend it.

For me, its about looking at the system and how I can learn more about it. Maybe there is a job in renewables that I can take my tech skills to? I don’t yet know all of what the future will hold.

What I do know is that I’m down with lower household running costs, a smaller carbon footprint, and analysing the data available to me from the system.