The Block is a popular reality TV show in Australia. This year they took on the challenge of renovating and building six luxury homes in the middle of winter in Victoria, off grid. Six houses, each on 10 acres. It was a tree change with a sustainability twist. The original homestead only had a single-phase line running into the property. How do you power six homes, all the tools needed for a renovation and a build, a site office, and a McCafe?
That’s when RedEarth Energy Storage was contacted to provide the power as a sponsor. It was a great opportunity to educate the Australian public on electricity 2.0 — the benefits of solar plus battery.
RedEarth installed 5 temporary off-grid systems. Each HoneyBadger system was comprised of a 10 kW inverter, 33 kWh of battery storage, and 18 solar panels producing 7 kW. The solar panels were mounted as a small ground array. This gave the houses construction power — tools to do the build — as well as heat for the cold nights. There was zero grid power to any of the blocks.
All power for the site office and the entire Ch9 production crew came from the portable off-grid skid supplied by Linked Energy, which also included a fully loaded (eight batteries) HoneyBadger.
“We had to do a bit of education with them so that they could understand how their stored energy was being used and decide how they’d use it. For example, after a few days of rainy weather, they had less stored energy than they’d usually have, so they’d have to decide which appliances and tools they’d use, and when. Having these temporary systems created a great way to introduce them to energy monitoring before we installed the larger, permanent systems which didn’t have the same restraints,” RedEarth Energy Storage’s chief commercial officer Scott Andrews told me.
“They also weren’t allowed to use backup generators after 8pm due to noise restrictions, so that was an additional challenge they faced, especially with the cold mornings. Everyone managed exceptionally under the conditions.”
RedEarth technicians worked in knee-deep mud at times to install and maintain the equipment. They had daily contact with producers, builders, and crew over the 6-month project. RedEarth is happy to report that the rain, sleet, snow, and mud had no impact on the HoneyBadgers nestled on their concrete slabs. At the end of the filming, the HoneyBadgers were sold — also saving shipping from Victoria back to Brisbane.
On episode 14 of The Block, technicians showed contestants how to monitor their energy use and predict their battery’s capacity to run their houses overnight. Between the filming in April and the show going to air in August, RedEarth launched its new monitoring app — RedPi — which allows customers to monetise their stored electricity. RedPi connects to and reads the inverters in their systems.
The Block is still not connected to the grid. Instead, each house now has a permanent 50 kW solar ground-mounted array with a 102.5 kWh DropBear battery. RedEarth notes that these are oversized compared to Queensland installs due to the lack of effective sunlight hours during the Victorian winter.
The Block contestants and production crew were impressed with the performance of the RedEarth Battery systems. I expect as more episodes go to air that the Australian public will be impressed with electricity 2.0 also — the benefits of solar plus battery.
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