Gorgeous Green House

The Renovation Journey of a 1940’s ‘Traditional’ to 2015 ‘Contemporary, Green & Gorgeous’


6 Comments

A Case For Investing in Solar Energy: East Coast Radio Interview

ECREast Coast Radio are running a wonderful series on sustainability and eco issues with Kerry Dell. It is aired on Wednesdays at 09:00 pm.  I was included to share our experiences around investing in Solar Energy.  My intention is to help people think about this investment in a broader context,  which includes the ROI!  Here is the link:

http://iono.fm/c/1612

 

 

Advertisements


5 Comments

What is the Cost of Going Solar?

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Solar geyser and panels on The Gorgeous Green House

Government mandated power outages for South Africans are to be part of our lives for many years to come.  As we complain and our economy suffers  one might think that many people and organisations of reasonable means are installing solar systems.  This is not so.

Barriers to entry are certainly perceived high cost, but also general lack of knowledge of how these systems work.

One of the frequently asked questions about The Gorgeous Green House is ‘how much did your solar system cost’?

I’ve learned that if I answer the question directly people’s eyes tend to glaze over and they mentally check out of the conversation.  I wish to challenge people to think differently about the subject as it may lead to a different set of conclusions (and hopefully actions!).   So I now answer that question with the following questions:

  • Do you know what you are currently paying for electricity? (you would be surprised at how many  people can’t answer this question)
  • Do you know what increases are on the cards going forward?
  • Have you drawn up a spreadsheet to really get to grips with what you will be spending over the next few years?

We did this exercise, and based on our rather shocking, (but not unusual) $200.00 (aprox. R2000.00) per month electricity bill, we projected our forward costs based on the 12.2% increase that we experienced this year and the 25% increase that ESKOM are asking for. As we have installed, these costs are now savings.

This is what it looks like in South African Rands (divide by 10 for a rough conversion to American dollars):

Old (Non-eco) House Electricity Account:

Aprox 2 000.00 per month

  12.2 % Annual Increase Accumulative Saving 25% Annual Increase Accumulative Saving
2014 24 000.00   24 000.00  
2015 26 880.00 50 880.00 30 000.00 54 000.00
2016 30 105.56 80 985.56 37 500.00 91500.00
2017 33 337.48 114 323.04 46 875.00 138 375.00
2018 37 899.46 152 222.50 58 593.75 196 968.75
2019 42 523.19 194 745.69

Like us, you may be rather shocked at how much you will be spending on electricity over the next few years.  The reality is, however, that South African’s have benefited from relatively low rates compared to the rest of the world and on that score we have little to complain about.

Medupi Coal Station.  As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Medupi Coal Station. As unattractive as it is unhealthy.

Our government’s solution to our energy crises is the building of even more filthy, polluting coal powered stations and extremely controversial nuclear stations.  The science shows us that with some political will and sensible interventions we can avoid these options with healthy, earth affirming renewable energy systems.  Starting at home seems like a good place to begin.

If you do you sums as above the next step would be to consult a reputable solar provider  for a quote.  You may be very surprised at the ROI time frame.  Ours will be somewhere between 4 and 5 years. If your quote to go ‘off grid’ is not possible, why not start smaller.  You can add to and expand your system very easily as your means allow.  In the meantime at least benefit from avoiding the incessant power failures!

We plan to be in our house for many years so relatively soon we will be scoring financially and using electricity in a way that serves our concern for the health of the planet!

In addition, we continue to lobby our authorities to implement systems to pay small scale electricity generators  for their excess electricity as this will offer further incentive to others to get on board. Watch this space!


10 Comments

Top Billing Visits the Gorgeous Green House

The Gorgeous Green House  will be making her TV debut this Thursday 16 July via the very glamorous No.1 South African magazine programme Top Billing. ( 07:30 p.m. on SABC 3). For those outside of SA there will be a shorter segment on You Tube – will advise when I know.

This 3 day process was absolutely fascinating. At times it was nerve wracking, and at times tedious (“take 43”!).  It was also overwhelming and humbling as I know how the intro goes:

Good evening and a very warm welcome to Top Billing. Tonight we come to you from the Gorgeous Green house in Durban, the culmination of one couple’s desire to ‘live more gently on the planet’. It’s quite fitting as this Saturday is Mandela Day, a day to remember that everyone can help to make the world a better place.

This was how we experienced the overall process:

Day 1:  Lorna interviews Jane, Caitlin (daughter), Chen (architect) and James (vertical garden designer) about the house

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Jane extolling the virtues of the eco kitchen

Interviewd In the lounge: "no we didn't get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration:.

Interviewd In the lounge: “no we didn’t get in an interior designer, the garden is the decoration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

James, Jane and Lorna explaining how the vertical garden works

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Walking, talking and shooting, eeks!

Day 2:  Lorna arrives in elegant evening gown, make-up artist in tow, to do all the ‘links’ that appear between the different segments of the show

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Sparkling Lorna Maseko

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna next to the pool

Lorna verandaLorna bedroomDay 3: The director and team return with a drone to take aerial images!

Thanks Top Billing for this wonderful opportunity to get our “living green’ message out to such a wide and diverse audience.

Awesome team: Adrian (director).Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera)

Awesome team: Lucky (Technician),Mfundo (Camera), Adrian (Director)

Setting up the drone

Setting up the drone

Away it goes!

Away it goes!


8 Comments

Wonderful Professional Images of the Gorgeous Green House

Our architects Sagnelli Associate Architects are entering our project into the  AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture.   The exceptionally talented Grant Pitcher has been commissioned to take the photos for entry.

http://www.grantpitcher.co.za/architectural-photography/the-gorgeous-greenhouse/

My favourite is this one. It is a birds eye view shows off the solar technology, roof garden and eco-pool from a vantage point not seen before.

gorgeous green house

Good luck Chen Sagnelli and team for the competition!


3 Comments

Join the Rooftop Revolution, it’s the Solar Solution!

Join the Rooftop Revolution

We’ve got 24 hours for South Africa to Go Solar!

 

In the midst of a crushing electricity crisis, Greenpeace considers it a right of every South African to produce their own power, and to feed extra electricity into the grid and get paid for it as a long-term energy solution.

This means being permitted to put solar panels onto rooftops and connecting to a decentralized energy system, where energy can be generated near the place where it is needed. This would have a double impact of increasing energy efficiency, while allowing electricity production to finally be in the control of the people who need it.

As we have seen in examples in more than 50 countries, a rooftop revolution is not only feasible, it is ready to go.

So this is great news!

What is holding this back? Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork, with barriers imposed by the South African government.

YOU can change this!

Greenpeace is urging government to make the process feasible for South Africans.
IN THE NEXT 24 HOURS
we are sending a formal submission to NERSA (the National Energy Regulator of South Africa), and with your help we can put the pressure on NERSA to simplify the regulations governing installing solar panels and feeding extra electricity into the grid.

It’s pretty technical, but essentially we believe that if you sign this petition to NERSA then there is a clear indication of support for simplifying the regulations, and focusing on helping people install solar panels, rather than burying them in paperwork. 

 


8 Comments

Gorgeous Green House Covered by Papers Nationally

daily_news

It has been a fantastic week of media exposure for the Gorgeous Green House. Lindsay Ord has written up our story and shows how living green can be much more accessible than many people realize.  If you missed the article in your local paper you can see the online IOL version HERE.

Star 125cape-argus

 

 


2 Comments

Net Metering: South Africa slow to compensate small scale generators for excess energy

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

Solar Panels on the Gorgeous Green House

South Africa’s current energy crises resulting in up to 6 hours of blackouts (the term load shedding is misleading) on any given day has everyone’s attention.

In this post I would like to focus on one opportunity that is not yet getting traction in our country but has been fairly commonplace in developed countries around the world for several decades.

Net Metering is a fairly simple idea: it is generally an arrangement with a service provider whereby excess electricity generated by a customer who has installed their own solar/wind/other electricity generating technology is used to offset electric energy provided by the electric utility to the electric consumer during the applicable billing period.

For example, this system has enabled German citizens to build and own nearly half of all the wind turbines, solar PV, and biogas plants in the country. Individual German citizens—not their utility companies–have invested more than $100 billion in renewable energy. They have done so because they are paid a fair price for their electricity and because they can install the size, type, and amount of renewables that is the most economic for them and the best fit for their communities.  energyblog.nationalgeographic.com

This model appears to be a ‘no-brainer’ in its potential to incentivise property owners who can easily calculate a faster return on an investment in alternative energy while contributing to a greener planet.  A document recently released  by NERSA (National Energy Regulator South Africa) has pointed out:

MECHANISMS should be developed to allow the integration of electricity generation by solar panels on residential, commercial and industrial buildings into the power grid.

Nersa’s document comes during what it says has been a great increase over the past year in the number of private rooftop photovoltaic (solar) panels installed on residential and commercial/ industrial premises at the cost of the owners. These are connected to the grid and could feed surplus power back into it.

The owners of a number of rooftop grid-tied solar systems have agreements with municipalities on net-metering, which sets off the electricity consumed with the surplus electricity supplied to the grid.  The Gorgeous Green House has signed such an agreement with our local municipality but are yet to see any credit for surplus electricity. The Mercury Newspaper and IOL have been covering aspects of this story and approached eThekwini for comment as to why the process has not been implemented.  The full story can be accessed here.  Leshan Moddliar from eThewini’s response was:

 “Currently, the municipality is not ideally structured to remunerate renewable small scale embedded generation, as processes are designed to buy power from Eskom and supply customers. When a customer wants to generate electricity, power is now flowing in the reverse direction and it does pose a challenge to integrate to current systems.”

 One can’t help wondering why this ‘structuring’ is taking so long to sort out. We signed our Power Purchase Agreement in October 2013.  Perhaps the real reason is as the NERSA document points out:

“The widespread installation of rooftop solar panels, which is also referred to as embedded generation or distributed generation, poses a real threat to municipal and Eskom revenues,” 

My follow up questions for Leshan are as follows:

  • What has eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM been doing in the last few years  to address the structural issues that are preventing the implementation of our PPA?
  • Why is it that other municipalities have pilot projects running and NERSA are not inhibiting them?
  • What is eThekwini/NERSA/ESKOM doing to learn from these models and other successful projects around the world?
  • To what extent is eThekwini prioritising this opportunity in light of the energy crises?
  • What are you time lines?
  • What is your comment in terms of the NERSA document (quote above). Is it possible your reluctance to move these projects forward is because it poses a threat to your revenues?

Unfortunately, several e-mails and messages left for Leshan have elicited no response.