It’s not easy to reach Rob Cooper’s property in rural Western Australia, about 130kms north-east of Perth. Once you hit the turn-off from the bitumen 30kms outside York, there’s a twisting, turning trek through paddocks of curious sheep until finally reaching his weekender, perched on a small hill overlooking his 113 acres of pretty farmland.
When Rob first investigated running power from the grid to his shed-home there in 2008 it would have taken five power poles and about $69,000. By 2015 it had risen to $89,000 and last year is was a whopping $122,000.
And aside from running the power to the block, the cost of that electricity would had risen too; since 2008 power prices have risen 117 percent, more than four times the average price increase across sectors, according to the ABC’s Joshua Byrd’s report in 2018.
That upward trend will continue. Figures released by Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) in its residential electricity price trends report released 2017, shows residential electricity prices in WA are expected to have an average annual increase of 6.3 percent over the two years to June 2020.
Rob says in comparison solar systems have fallen in price. When he first started looking for one around 2015, the cost was nearly $70,000. His Delta system came in at just under $20,000.
“Who doesn’t want to live off the grid looking at the cost of power?” he laughs. “Solar has dropped in price considerably and the power companies supply on grid have gone up considerably.”
“But here power bills and water bills are non-existent thanks to the solar power and rainwater.”
“And in the future, I’ll build a four bedroom by two bathroom shed-house and this Delta system I have here now will run that.”
That house will probably come when he retires from his job as a mine site safety superintendent in the state’s north, where he works eight days on six days off.
For now though, he spends as much time at his ‘retreat’ as he can. The solar power system has been a labour of love. It’s housed inside the 15m by 15m shed which has a kitchen in the corner and behind that a bathroom. For now, he sleeps in his motorhome, which is parked-up inside.
The motorhome, the fridge, kettle, television and anything else that runs on power is fed solely from a 22-panel system, which he hopes to expand soon to 26, just to speed up the charging rate.
The inverter and two batteries complete the set-up that allows him to live blissfully power bill free.