A 100 per cent off-grid, solar and battery-powered community in Victoria’s Yarra Valley region has introduced electric vehicles into the mix, and the success-story of the transition holds a message for us all: build it, and they will come.
Moora Moora was first established as an off-grid cooperative community in 1974 and has grown, since then, to host 30 off-grid homes, 70 people and, now, three fully electric cars.
Glen Morris, a solar and battery storage installer with decades of experience and a company called SolarQuip, has been a part of that community for 18 years now and, in this time, has established the Smart Energy Lab training facility on-site at Moora Moora.
Morris’ expertise and his position at the leading edge of distributed renewable energy technology and training – his tech workshops are renowned throughout the Australian renewables industry – has had its benefits for the rest of the cooperative.
While each of the households in the community have their own power solutions – ranging from solar, to wind and even micro-hydro power – Morris has been able to up the ante, often using equipment he is asked to demonstrate in training sessions, or to promote to the industry.
This was the case with the solar tracking system he installed that is optimising the generation output from a soon-to-be 100kW array Morris built as part of a solar and battery storage microgrid that helps power seven of Morris’ nearest neighbours in the community.
And this was also the case with electric vehicles. When Morris was offered the opportunity to install electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), no one in the community had any practical need for it. But Morris said yes. And then the EVs started arriving.
First was Morris’ partner, who bought a Kona Electric (“because of the excellent range”), followed by two neighbours, who also bought Konas. Another upgraded her utility for a hybrid plug-in Mitsubishi Outlander, while another again inherited her mother’s Holden Volt.
“It’s kind of a bit like, if you build the infrastructure, the cars will follow,” said Morris. “[The installation of the charging point] was probably only just at the end of last year… so, suddenly, all these EVs arrived. It’s amazing… So we then had to put more charging in.”
So far, the community is up to three 22kW charging points, which Morris says can fully recharge a Kona in roughly 1.5 hours. The charge points are connected up to the same solar microgrid that powers seven homes and Morris’ Lab. (Another community member has installed their own trickle charge system, powered by their own dedicated battery and solar add-on.)
“So we’ve got plenty of capacity,” Morris told The Driven from the Energy Lab by zoom. “On a sunny day, we could charge 10 cars, no trouble at all.”
And for overnight charging, Morris has built a range of dedicated battery systems just to charge the cars. “And so you pull up, plug your car in at the end of the day, in the morning it’s fully charged.”
All of the cool tech aside – the charging set-up at Moora Moora also includes a Smappee system (above), which dynamically balances the load across multiple EVSE and optimises solar consumption (particularly good for on-grid applications), *see more details below – Morris says the switch to electric has been “just fabulous.”
“It’s just been a wonderful experience. I mean, you know, if you’ve ever driven an electric vehicle, the performance is insane… So, yeah, just really nice to drive, silent, beautiful responsiveness…”
The only down side, he adds, is that the Kona is a “city car” and his family lives on a dirt road, which doesn’t always make for the smoothest ride, particularly when there are potholes involved. But Morris has a solution for that – a downpayment on a Rivian ute.
To read more on this story, please go to the original published on The Driven’s sister site One Step Off the Grid.