Portable solar panels camping – fridges, reviews

Portable solar panels camping – if you’re thinking about a portable solar panel purchase for your campsite – to power laptops, charge phones, or even run a small fridge – you’re on the right article! Let’s take a look at the three main styles of portable solar panel and which you should choose.

Portable Solar Panels Camping

You have three main choices with regards to portable solar panels – and your choice depends on your unique circumstances.

Portable Folding Panels – the best option if you only camp a few times a year or you’re on a budget. These panels are quite heavy and inflexible, but they’re very simple to move to find a spot in the sun. Unless you’re a pro, we generally recommend starting here. 

Solar Blankets – the mid-range choice. More expensive than portable folding panels but worth the extra investment if you’re a frequent traveller – especially if you’re concerned about space and weight. It’s extremely simple to hang a solar blanket over the hood of your car, over your tent, on a nice sunny rock…

If you are going to have a look at the solar blanket option make sure you pay a little extra for a quality brand as these solar blankets aren’t the cheapest to begin with. If you’re going to invest in them it’s worth your while to get something that will last!

We can recommend the 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS from Redarc. 

Solar panels camping - 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS Redarc
Solar panels camping – 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS (source: REDARC.com.au)

Fixed Panels – for the grey nomad or the frequent traveller, fixed panels have very low setup and are very easy to get working. You do need to park your trailer (or however/wherever you have fixed them) in the right spot to get as much sun as possible – which can be a little annoying. But in terms of performance vs. ease of use, these are the Cadillac of portable solar.

Alternatives for Portable Solar Panels

Although Portable folding panels, solar blankets and fixed panels comprise the bulk of what we’ll recommend for solar camping, there are a couple of caveats we should mention befor eyou go and buy anything.

If you’re not sure how much power you’ll require we can recommend the REDARC Solar calculator selection tool which is a fantastic tool for those planning a getaway!

If you want something simple just to charge a phone or a power bank we recommend giving Solar Paper by YOLK a look.

Any questions or feedback on any of these products? Do you have an issue with your solar powered camp? Please let us know in the comments and we’d be happy to help!

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Enova’s Community Solar Garden Signups

We wrote last year about the Byron Bay based community solar company Enova who became a generator and a reseller of renewable energy. They’re now launching a community solar garden which is an amazing idea for people who aren’t able to reduce their electricity bill by installing solar power. Let’s learn more about the Enova and their plan to revolutionise solar for people in apartments, renters, and many more…

Enova and the Community Solar Garden

Enova Solar Garden
Enova Solar Garden (source: Enova.com.au)

The official Enova website is currently accepting applications from both ‘hosts’ and ‘members’ – that is to say that if you have plenty of free space on your rooftop you could sign up as a host, or if you’re a renter or live in an apartment or can’t get solar for any other reason becoming a member is a great idea. According to the website, “Enova is set to build a 99kW solar system and “sell” the panels to customers who can’t have solar at home”

For the most part it won’t be a ‘solar garden’ per se – most of the power looks like it’ll be generated from rooftop solar. 

According to Echo Net Daily, a Byron Bay based newspaper, a visit from Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler met with a great response for the Enova team. Mr Butler visited Enova HQ last Tuesday (June 12) and had some positive things to say about the plan:

Mr Butler said he was ‘excited to support innovative projects like Enova’s Solar gardens’.

The gardens will  ‘make an important contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future, in addition to allowing access to the benefits of solar for renters.’ Mr Butler added. 

With regards to the concept of a ‘solar garden’, the more literal of us are in luck. A feasibility study in Eastern Australia is currently doing research into solar gardens for renters and how viable the concept is. According to EnergyMatters, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given $240,000 to the $555,00 project – which will be undertaken by the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on how Enova’s community solar garden goes and also keep an eye on the feasibility study into the ‘real’ solar gardens. Some more great news for community solar!

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Lightsource BP offering residential PPAs

Lightsource BP, a UK based solar and smart energy solutions company, is preparing to move into the Australian market where they will offer residential rooftop PV solar power at no upfront cost – instead using the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) model usually reserved for large-scale solar installs. 

Lightsource BP Solar in Australia

Lightsource BP in Australia
Lightsource BP in Australia (source: bp.com)

Lightsource Labs Australia Pty Ltd (LS Labs) have applied to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to launch their product, asking for an individual exemption to hold a retailer authorisation. The application says that LS Labs could launch their product in NSW, SA, QLD, and VIC within a couple of weeks, so all eyes on the regulator to see if they’re happy to grant the exemption.

The way LS Lab’s product will work is that they will supply, install, operate and maintain a solar array, batter and smart metering system to homes, and then sell the renewable power to the client at a fixed price under a PPA model. According to Renewables Now, the period of PPA could be up to 20 years and price per kWh will depend on the terms of each individual contract (i.e. it’ll be cheaper depending on how long the contract is). They also note that customers will be offered the opportunity to buy the system at any time after the second year of the PPA.

RenewEconomy is reporting that Lightsource BP partnered with French company Edf in the UK – using LG Chem batteries as part of the ‘Sunplug’ program. These PPAs were around 9.9p/kWh (~$0.18 AUD) so it’ll be interesting to see how this fares in the Australian market. 

Last month, Lightsource BP acquired Ubiworx Systems to help support a plan for the global launch of a smart-home solution. Kareen Boutonnat, COO of Lightsource BP, said at the time that the “power of the home” will be very important with regards to shaping the world’s “new energy future” – a situation where the energy market transcends monitoring and controlling of consumption, turning ‘smart homes’ into ‘genius homes’ (as we call them). Will be exciting to see where this goes over the next few years! 

 

 

 

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Solar Gardens – ‘ground solar’ – ARENA funding.

Those unable to get traditional solar systems installed on their roof may wish to take a look at the upcoming solar gardens scheme we will see in Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are funding a trial of the ‘ground solar’ in (mostly) regional areas of NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

Solar Gardens – Alternatives to Roof Solar

Solar Gardens in Australia
Solar Gardens in Australia (source: ARENA)

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, those without a rooftop who still want to invest in solar power will be in luck if they’re based in Blacktown, Shoalhaven, Byron Bay, Townsville, or Swan Hill – ARENA and ‘other participants’ are providing around $550,000 in funding to assist the trial.

Dr Liz Develin, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s deputy secretary of energy, water and portfolio strategy (wonder if she has to buy extra long business cards?) discussed how the department are hoping to achieve with the rollout:

“We are trialling solar gardens with the aim of helping renters, low-income households and those living in apartments save on their energy bills,” she said.

“Blacktown is a hotspot for rooftop solar and we are really excited to see how this trial goes. The average Western Sydney household with a 4-kilowatt solar system on their roof could already be saving up to $900 a year.”

Specifics on the scheme are still a little thin on the ground (sorry…) but the solar gardens are ‘generally’ under 100kW so as to keep the STCs (small-scale renewable energy generation certificates). The University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures and the Community Power Agency will lead this project.

Solar gardens are growing faster than any other segment of solar power in the US (200MW of new capacity was rolled out in 2016) – so perhaps this is the start of a revolution where the word ‘solar’ doesn’t necessarily conjure up the image of panels on a roof. I have no doubt we’ll see blockchain technology integrated or, for the bigger gardens such as those at mid-large size apartment blocks, some microgrids available to help balance demand.

Are you interested in applying to join the solar garden trial? Watch this space. More info to come as we have it!

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SunYield by Stoddart Group – Rental Solar

Brisbane-based Stoddart Group have announced Australia’s ‘first landlord and tenant friendly solar solution’ which they are naming SunYield. They’ll have solar systems + storage installed as default for any new homes built by the group – the systems will also be integrated with SunYield system which makes it simple for renters to benefit from the solar system as well as the owners. 

SunYield by Stoddart Group

Stoddart Group’s General Manager for Energy Systems Adam Taylor was quoted in a press release discussing how difficult it can be to find a balance where having solar installed is beneficial for tenants and landlords:

“Renters have long missed out on the benefits of solar power simply because it was too hard or complicated for landlords to justify the cost.”

“SunYield changes this by ensuring that solar on a new rental property is a good deal for the landlord, as well as the tenant” said Taylor.

“With SunYield, if the tenant chooses to use the solar panels, all solar and grid power is measured automatically via a smart switchboard and the tenant receives a single monthly power bill for all electricity consumed from both the solar and the grid. The process is completely automated, with the landlord then receiving a payment for all solar generated, whether it was used by the tenant or sent to the grid.

“With this technology, the landlord owns the solar system and can either sell the power to their tenant at a discount to the market rate or export it to the grid if the tenant chooses not to buy it.”

The SunYield package has a 6.5kW solar system with a Stoddart Smart Board (which replaces the standard meter box). It’s battery-ready and is being delivered in conjunction with Powershop and Reposit. It was launched in Queensland with leading investment builders Choice Homes, Brighton Homes, Fortitude Homes and MetInvest, who will all include the solar system as part of their new home builds.

This is a lot different to other types of rental solar schemes we’ve seen – having the solar + storage built in to the price of a new property means there’s no annoying paperwork or organisation required by either party, and there’s no requirement for the renter to use the solar system if they don’t want to. 

For example, last month we wrote about SunTenants – a scheme where the system is bought by the owner but subsidsed by renters (who, in turn, save money on electricity). There’s also ShineHub which offers ‘fixed rate, free access’ but they retain ownership of the panels/storage. 

We’re starting to see more and more different options to offer solar power to renters – great to see another option which simplifies the process and is a win for everyone! 

Stoddart Group plan to install 15,000 systems over the next three years. 

SunYield by Stoddart Group - General Manager for Energy Systems Adam Taylor
SunYield by Stoddart Group – General Manager for Energy Systems Adam Taylor (source: supplied)

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ShineHub offer ‘fixed rate, free access’ solar.

A company named ShineHub has released a ‘fixed rate, free access’ contract Australia wide (except NT and Tasmania) where users can have solar+storage installed for free. The trial program will be for 1,000 contracts and will be expanded in the future. 

ShineHub’s fixed price solar service.

Shinehub Fixed Price Solar
Shinehub Fixed Price Solar (source: shinehub.com.au)

ShineHub’s contract means that they actually own the system and are responsible for the maintenance of it. The contracts run for 20 years and lock the customer into a 20 year contract to buy the electricity the system produces. According to the team the cost of an average system ShineHub will install is $15,000, so that’s quite a big saving if you’re not able to stump up for the system upfront.

“This is the first contract of its kind available to residential homes across Australia for a solar and battery package,” ShineHub co-founder Alex Georgiou told news.com.au in an interview.

“This provides a simple way to purchase (a system) and everything is taken care of. There are no additional fees, we’ve taken the uncertainty out,” Mr Georgiou said.

“It’s a very easy way for consumers to get what they want, without getting scared off by either the cost or the reliability.”

The program could be particularly good for landlords who don’t want to stump up the fairly sizeable upfront cost to install solar+storage but want to help their tenants enjoy the reduced electricity prices having solar panels can bring. We’ve written fairly extensively about the difficulty of installing solar power for renters – perhaps ideas like ShineHub could be a step in the right direction so they’re able to  enjoy some stability with regards to their electricity bill.

Some more information about the service:

  • Installation will be in July this year.
  • You can buy out the system at a discounted rate. If you want to sell your house it’s possible to transfer the ShineHub contract to a new owner.
  • You’ll remain connected to the grid and will have to pay the ongoing access fee for it.
  • They’ll use Bloomberg rated Tier 1 solar panels from Longi, Alpha ESS’s SMILE5 hybrid inverter and battery system.
  • ShineHub are partnered with 85 certified solar companies in Australia to help deliver their idea. 

If you’re interested in applying for one of the ShineHub systems, you can contact them for a consultation to see if you’re eligible. 

As per news.com.au, the average electricity rates and ShineHub prices are listed below.

NSW:

  • Highest price is: $0.39/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.24/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 20 per cent to 35 per cent.

VIC:

  • Highest price is: $0.34/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.21/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 14 per cent to 30 per cent.

SA:

  • Highest price is: $0.47/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.35/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 35 per cent to 50 per cent.

QLD:

  • Highest price is: $0.35/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.22/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: 18 per cent to 30 per cent.

WA:

  • Highest price is: $0.26/kWh
  • Average rate is: $0.26/kWh
  • Price starts at: $0.18/kWh
  • Typical savings bracket: Around 30 per cent.

 

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SunTenants offer solar power for renters.

A new Australian company named SunTenants is trying to solve the problem of making the installation of solar panels / storage on rental properties a tenable one for both parties involved. 

SunTenants – about the system.

The process works for both residential and commercial systems, and is simplified into four steps on the website:

  1. Owners install a solar PV system
  2. Tenants pay extra rent, but save more on electricity
  3. SunTenants will monitor the system to ensure it’s a mutually beneficial setup.
  4. Owners will make returns on their investments, and tenants will save money on their electricity (more than the extra rent they’re asked to pay).

For owners, the enhanced property value and increased rental yields will equal over 10% return on the solar investment, according to founder Dr Bjorn Sturmberg.

An article on The Fifth Estate quoting Dr Sturmberg at the All-Energy Australia 2017 Conference:

“Almost one in five Australian households have solar – that’s over 1.7 million properties,” he said. (In Queensland and South Australia over one in three Australian households have solar power installed.)

“But one in three Australians are locked out of solar.” Dr Sturmberg continued. “They’re locked out of energy efficiency as well. They are locked out of EV charging when it comes along. They are locked out of everything because they rent and or live in an apartment.”

“It’s a problem because solar is now the cheapest energy and so you are locked out of taking control of your energy bills,” he said.

“There’s a huge amount of value in there,” Dr Sturmberg continued. “How do we unlock that value?”

His solution is SunTenants – where both the tenant and the homeowner are incentivised to ‘invest’ in solar power for a rental property. 

An example of the SunTenants System

On their website, the company offer the following example of how their system can benefit both the landlord and the tenant:

SunTenants Rental Solar
SunTenants Rental Solar Example Figures (source: suntenants.com)

If you want to learn more about the system they have released an overview video about the process which you can view below:

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Solar Power for Rental Properties

Solar power for rental properties may start becoming more common as the cost of installs decreases and councils/community groups work on ideas such as giving landlords interest-free loans to install solar on their rental properties. With over 30% of Australia’s population currently renting, we need to figure out a way to make it viable for landlords and renters alike to benefit from renewable energy.

Solar power for rental properties

According to the ABC, 1.8 million Australian homes have PV solar installed on their roof – with a record amount being installed last year. This increase is due to two main factors – rapidly increasing electricity costs and decreasing cost of the actual solar technology.

According to Andrew Reddaway from the Alternative Technology Association, Australia could save 5.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas if we work on increasing solar panel uptake for rental properties. 

“It’s a bit of a risk of the country dividing into the solar energy haves and have-nots,” Mr Reddaway said. 

Whilst not exactly a ‘two speed economy’, the increasing number of renters mean that we need to have a look at finding ways to get solar installed on these houses. There are obvious ramifications for having a situation where it’s not feasible for landlords to install solar power on properties they own – unfortunately magnanimity / environmental concern aren’t powerful enough drivers for owners to shell out $10,000 for a system. What sort of system would be fair, keeping in mind having solar power on the roof will also increase the value of the property. 

“It’ll be the tenant who sees the benefit on the electricity bill, whereas the person who pays for the solar system is generally the landlord. So the main question is: What’s in it for the landlord?” Mr Reddaway continued. 

Z-Net Uralla, a community group in regional NSW, have teamed up with the NFP CORENA (Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia) to give landlords interest-free loans to install solar on their rental properties. CORENA work with both parties to discuss a fair increase in rent to help loan repayments.

“We are hoping that the partnership can be a model for communities elsewhere to copy,” Margaret Hender of CORENA said.

Solar power for rental properties - Margaret Hender CORENA
Solar power for rental properties via no-interest loans – Margaret Hender of CORENA (source: https://corenafund.org.au)

The energy inequality currently being inexperienced has led to a few different attempts at trying to bridge the gap. CORENA have their interest free loans, and there are options for renters to install their own portable solar for apartment buildings, as we investigated last year. 

The city of Darebin has been offering interest free solar loans for residents,with repayments added to household rates. 

Are you a renter or a landlord and have any experience with solar power? Let us know in the comments. 

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WA Solar – Installs rising, but so is ‘energy inequality’.

The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has created a research report on WA solar entitled Power to the People: WA’s Energy Future. It highlights the rapidly rising trend of solar power in Western Australia but also a more sobering statistic – so-called ‘energy poverty’ where those in a lower income bracket are spending up to and over 15% of their income on energy (with the average household energy (electricity, gas, and heating) bills no more than 4%). 

WA Solar Overview

WA Solar Installation Predictions 2017
WA Solar Installation Predictions 2017 (source: theconversation.com / CER)

Western Australia’s rooftop solar PV capacity is set to reach 2000MW by 2022 – a figure larger than every power station in WA bar one. According to the ‘Power to the People’ report, WA rooftop solar PV has increased by a massive 37% over the past 18 months. 

Western Australia solar power installers have been hard at work – with around 25% of suitable residences having solar panels installed – which brings WA to third place in Australia, behind Queensland (32%), and South Australia (31%). 

Energy Inequality in WA

WA Today also reported on the ‘energy poverty’ situation – according to the Power to the People report, low-income families pay almost $1,791 per year for energy. This is up $440 since the last year – and the report also revealed that at least one in ten single parents are spending a massive 15.1% of their yearly wage on energy. Around 25% of them spend more than 10% of their income on energy bills – while middle-income families only pay around 3% of their annual income. 

Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre director and author of the report, Alan Duncan, noted that it’s common for those on a lower wage to be renting, and at this current point in time there’s little reason for owners to install solar panels on their rental properties: “However, there is a need to revisit incentives for new solar installations, with landlords having little financial motivation to install solar on rental accommodation, and homeowners deterred by the initial upfront costs involved.”

As stated before, in WA 25% of suitable dwellings have rooftop solar installed. However, in lower socio-economic areas, only 7.4% have solar panels installed. What’s the future to combat this and try to find a way forward so we can install solar power for rental properties? Technology upgrades, government incentives, or something else? Soon enough we will reach critical mass for owner/occupiers and need to find ways to bridge the rental gap. Can the Government come up with something to help? Watch this space…

 

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Solar Power for Renters / Apartment Owners

An article on the ABC website has highlighted some of the problems with solar for millions of renters and apartment owners – they aren’t able to take advantage of solar by because they don’t own a roof to put solar on. What is the solution to offer solar power for renters?

Solar Power for Renters / Apartment Owners

With home ownership rates sinking rapidly as the prices rise, more and more renters are in the market and it’s becoming increasingly likely that the country may move to a more renter heavy population. In countries like Germany with similar high rental populations there are strong laws for renters with regards to their rights, price rises and much more. Will we see a similar change in Australia? If so, we will see a lot more people renting the same place for long periods of time. What kind of incentives can be offered so they’re able to take advantage of solar power as well? It’ll be interesting to see how this goes in the future, how stratas deal with owners wanting to install solar, and what the ramifications for residential solar in Australia are.

Solar Power For Renters and Apartments
Solar power for renters and apartment owners – what’s the future? (source: wikipedia.org)

Solazone have several options for renters who want to make usage of the myriad benefits solar energy can offer:

  • They have solar panels that can be installed on removable frames which will not have any affect on the roof – so if you decide to leave the property you can take them with you.
  • These can be connected to battery back up systems.

Before you start thinking about removable solar panels, if you’re a long term tenant (or planning to be), consider:

  • Is it worth opening a dialogue with the homeowner with regards to installing a conventional PV solar system on the roof, where the owner would benefit from a) the solar rebate and b) the added value to the property?
  • Is there an area in the backyard where a ground-mounted solar system could be installed?

Please note that even if you are thinking about installing removable solar on the roof or a removable ground-mounted solar system in the backyard you’ll still need to run these ideas by your property manager or the homeowner.

Solar Panels for Apartment Balcony

Low Tech magazine have an article about ‘how to get your apartment off the grid‘ which as a lot of useful information about installing solar in an apartment building.

Although the roof is generally off limits, there are some clever ways you can utilise windows and balconies to generate power. If you can adjust the tilt of your solar panels that will allow you to gather more energy as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about hte specifics, please see a two-part video below about an apartment balcony solar power setup by Ibodini2008 on YouTube – it’s really interesting!

Have you had any luck installing solar in your unit or apartment? Please let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear about it.

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