Just after Leigh Adamson retired, the house next door came up for sale. He snapped it up, removed the side fence to create a rare half acre block in suburbia and is now remodelling the second house as student accommodation as an alternative retirement income. Above all though, Leigh is readying both homes for the oncoming energy storage revolution with small grid-connect solar systems.
At the back of Leigh Adamson’s house is a Lord of the Rings inspired man-cave that towers over his Californian bungalow in suburban Geelong.
Hand built, with an exposed timber frame designed professionally, the shed – which seems too humble a name for such a structure – gives you clue that Leigh is the type of guy who loves a practical challenge.
As well as a small 1.5kW grid-connect system on his own home, Leigh has added an evacuated gas boosted hot water tube, a roof cavity-to-room heat transfer and recently built a sun room at the back of the house with materials he sourced on eBay.
“We don’t have double glazing at the back of the house, so the sun room provides a heat trap,” he said. “In winter it’s lovely to sit in there and have breakfast, in summer we close the blinds and it stops most of the heat coming in the house.”
His latest is converting the property next door into accommodation for up to 7 students. But this is no ordinary house share; as well as a planned 3.6kW system to be installed in December, Leigh has changed the gas water heater to electric in preparation and will plant a communal veggie patch to be used by both himself and his family and the students.
“I’ve always been interested in this stuff, I’ve wanted solar panels since I learned about them in 1976 when I was 16 doing environmental studies in year 12,” said Leigh. “My teacher was building a rammed earth house in the Grampians and was going to have a off grid solar panel/battery system.”
“I could not understand then why this wasn’t happening on every house roof in Australia, a sun drenched country.”
“I learned about climate change then and because I was living in a drought and flood prone area of Victoria, the Wimmera, I was acutely aware of how important it was then to do something to mitigate climate change.”
Leigh went on to teach environmental science himself and says that, over the years, he’s been disgusted by the behaviour of politicians, business leaders and the fossil fuel industry in attempting to stymie the uptake of renewable energy and energy storage.
“Funds for us as a family were tight, so it wasn’t until 7 years ago that I was able to afford my first grid connected solar system, which I was able to purchase them as part of a group bulk buy in my local area.”
“My overwhelming reason for wanting to do this was to assuage my rage at what was going on in Australia with wealthy and powerful groups acting to cling onto their massive profits at the expense of the world and ordinary people.”
“Ultimately, the aim is to get enough batteries to go off-grid with both my houses, as it will give me absolute satisfaction that I have acted to protect the planet in a meaningful way.”
“Saving money was a secondary interest and really more of a bonus.”
Like many, Leigh believes the oncoming energy storage revolution will enjoy a massive uptake by ‘average’ Aussie families like his.
“I believe, to coin a cliche, it will be an absolute GAME CHANGER,” Leigh says. “My prediction is that batteries will greatly contribute to people detaching from the grid or buying nothing from the grid and using it only as a back up supply.”
“I currently drive a hybrid car, which is fantastic, and I will be getting an all electric car the moment they become affordable, so I can plug into my house to recharge from my solar system and be completely energy self sufficient.”
Leigh anticipates energy storage leading to a huge shake up of the traditional energy sector, solving the energy cost problem for many households and helping to create solutions for climate change.
“I also hope it will give the message to our lamentable leaders that the power/social dynamic is changing rapidly and that they need to sit up, listen and act in the interests of people and not just their corporate mates.”
While Leigh had very little knowledge or information before installing his solar system, he encourages other householders interested in solar and battery storage to get involved with whatever is happening in their local community.
“Make the greatest impact in the shortest time; get an electric boosted evacuated tube or heat exchange water service,’’ says Leigh. “Gas prices are set to sky rocket and it’s fossil fuel, and you’ll be able to cover the cost of your electric items with future solar panel and battery system.”
“Get a recommendation for a good solar installer and have your system properly designed and sized to meet your current and future needs and have it future-proofed so you can easily add on a battery bank in future.”
“And join an energy pressure group like Solar Citizens to add your voice to the growing number of rooftop solar owners that are tired of being treated like second class citizens by the utilities and government.”
“I’m excited about the future because I can see a turning point coming and I want to be on that wagon.”
The specs: The specs: Leigh’s house currently has a small 1.5kW grid-connect solar system with 6 panels on the roof. The PV system installed by Aaron Lewtas from Green Energy Options who was previously a student of Leigh’s when he worked as a teacher.
Emma Sutcliffe is a journalist, climate activist & proud owner of an off-grid property in Little River, near Melbourne. As Contributing Editor to One Step Off The Grid she meets other off-gridders, a job that makes use of her considerable skills for nattering & drinking tea. If you’d like to share your story, she’d love to hear from you.