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ReNew article on Going Hybrid

Solar PV hybrid training course (review by ATA)

by Andrew Reddaway

Earlier this year I attended the Australian Solar Council’s Solar PV Hybrid Training course. Below is a student’s perspective as a guide to others considering this course.

Four days from 9 am to 5 pm were split between classroom lessons, hands-on exercises and special activities. No prior experience was required—attending with me were a mix of solar installers broadening their service offering, utility employees, university students and specialists in renewables and energy efficiency.

Classes were comprehensive, detailing the entire workings of a solar electricity system from the photovoltaic cells to calculating how much battery capacity is required for an off-grid house, to rule-of-thumb cost estimates. Concepts were illustrated with real-life examples, including common pitfalls such as poor planning, unrealistic expectations and commercial pressures.

I found Glen Morris’s teaching style engaging and relaxed. Participant questions frequently sparked lively discussion among the whole group, giving useful insights
into broader issues such as the electricity ‘death spiral’. As a long-term off-grid solar installer, trainer and vice-president of the Australian Solar Council, Glen’s depth of knowledge is outstanding. Outside class, we had many opportunities to pick his brains about specific issues. A solar installer who lives at Moora Moora assisted Glen, and
an equipment manufacturer also gave a presentation.

Most hands-on exercises were held in a shed kitted out with solar panels, a wind turbine and a range of off-grid equipment. DC voltages were kept low, enabling all participants to join in safely. Working in a few groups, Glen assigned us tasks culminating

in a small, off-grid solar system. Just like chefs in a kitchen, competition for tools was sometimes evident! Participants with electrical qualifications were given tasks in an operational equipment room that supplies electricity at 230 V to a group

of buildings. The gear in this room was impressive—manufacturers often supply Glen with new models for testing.

Other exercises included using devices to calculate the shade cast by a tree at different times of the year. We also toured the facilities at nearby inverter manufacturer Selectronic.

The course is held at Moora Moora Cooperative, an off-grid community located on Mount Toolebewong near Healesville, 70 km from Melbourne. The community’s heart is an old farmhouse, with members living in clusters of houses scattered in the surrounding bush.

One afternoon we toured some of the houses (including Glen’s) to check out their off-grid systems. We saw a broad variety of approaches including micro-hydro, defunct wind turbines, passive solar, solar hot water and mini-grids servicing multiple houses.

Most course participants took advantage of the included accommodation: backpacker-style bunkrooms upstairs in the well-heated farmhouse. However one Melbournite stayed at a B&B in Healesville where his family was holidaying. A highlight of the week was the food; three meals plus morning and afternoon tea expertly cooked by a chef who lives in the community!

Andrew attended the course in exchange for advertising in ReNew and this course review. See pv-hybrid-training for course details.