Q&A from the Community Gathering 2017, on 29th June

  • Question:  What happens if your neighbour decides to put on an extension or renovation and your building might get shaded?

Answer:  The Shire Planning people have a say over that.  Follow up with the Yarra Ranges Building and Planning Teams


  • Question:  With the proposed [Yackandandah] mini-grid and Ausnet’s interest, are they intending to hard wire the houses with new poles and wires to contain them all together?  Aren’t they all interconnected?

Answer:  For monitoring systems to function, you do need wiring.  Mondo Power is the arm of Ausnet that is deals with Yackandandah.


  • Question:  What is the single most important thing you can do to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint? 

Answer:  Use less!  It’s called the megawatt.


  • Question:  What is the lifespan of a solar panel?

Answer:  Most solar panels are mandated for a lifespan of 20-25 years with a performance warranty.  At the end of this warranty time they are usually still producing solar power at 80% of their original capacity.

  • Question:  How do you dispose of a solar panel at the end of its life?

Answer:  Solar panels are made of aluminium, plastic and conductor parts.  The plastic can be peeled off, the conductor parts need to be melted off, or crushed.  At this point, it’s better to re-use the panel for another purpose, such as for shading.

  • Question:  How do you dispose of a battery at the end of its life?

Answer:  Lead-acid batteries are the most recycled item on the planet and this has been done for years.  It is easy to do and low cost.

Lithium-ion batteries are a new technology and the answer is not known.  The makers were asked “how do you recycle them?” and their answer was  “We’ll work it out”.  There was no end-of-life strategy other than pollution when they were invented.  There is one company that is now experimenting with recycling.

  • Question: At Wombat Hollow Microgrid do you need other back up for solar?  Are there times when the solar is going to need other support?

Answer:  It’s very hard to have a solar only off-grid system.  Almost invariably you need a back-up generator.


Question:  How long do batteries last?

Answer:  Lead-acid batteries are a 150 year old technology, so there has been 150 years to study the answer to this.  Lead-acid batteries last 10-15 years.  The technology is ageing well and for some batteries we don’t know how long they last because they are still working.

For Lithium-ion technology we just don’t know yet because the technology has not been around long enough to study this.  Most warranties quote a 10 year lifespan, or 6000 cycles.   There are several answers depending whether you are asking about cycle life, shelf life or design life.

  • Question:  How do you solve the problem of selling power to your neighbours?

Answer:  At the moment you can only sell your power legally through an energy retailer.  You cannot sell across boundaries without a retailer.


  • Question:  Does the manufacture of solar panels produce a lot of carbon?

Answer:  You are asking about the amount of energy used for the production, and whether it is polluting or not by the end of the life of the panel.  This is called Embodied Energy.  In short, the energy payback once the panel is made is very short ; approx 1-2 years.


  • Question:  Does Yackandandah use the “TRY” Project for promotion of the town and in the Tourism Strategy ?

Answer:  Did you say Famous?  Yes.  There are opportunities for small country towns.  Deep learning, bike paths, and community gardens are all economic and business opportunities.

  • Question:  The mining of lithium has a bleak reputation with it’s social and environmental consequences.  What are the alternatives?

Answer:  It is good to look at the impact other than just cost.  Environmental and social consequences, such as child labour, are a point to be considered.  The example of the Industry’s management of of  nickel cadmium wet cells is a point to learn from.  The mining of lithium in the Pilbara has just opened this week and could produce up to a quarter of the world’s supply.


  • Question:  What return are you offering your investors (ENOVA)?

Answer:  A Start-up business is not allowed to put any figures into a prospectus.  The Enova Energy 2016 Annual Report  explains their 2015-2016 financial details.


  • Question:  Which way should solar panels face, to get the best bang-for-your-buck?

Answer:  Although the north side is preferred for best efficiency, if solar panels receive sun exposure, they can function.


  • Question: During a bushfire, will there still be power if the grid is interrupted?  Is the Hospital off-grid?  Does being off-grid make a town safer during a bushfire?

Answer:  It doesn’t make sense to go completely off-grid.  To progressively bring in our own storage makes more sense.  The aim is to become less dependent on the transmission wires between towns and become more decentralised.  The goal is to generate more renewable energy than total power usage of the town.  If the grid was interrupted there would be no power at all.  It is better for people who can’t afford storage to make use of the elements of the grid that we can use within the township, and to restrict the transmission between the townships.


Where to from here?

HealesvilleCoRE makes a call for ongoing questions and feedback.  Please don’t hesitate to ask…