POWERWELLS UPDATE 2: building, networking, travel – and a smouldering volcano!

POWERWELLS UPDATE 2: building, networking, travel – and a smouldering volcano!

PowerWells Update 2: Community Consultation Trip Powered By GEM Energy

Building, networking, travel – and a smouldering volcano!

So much has happened for Nick and Brad aka PowerWells over the last month, we scarcely know where to begin this report. In short – the guys have had their hands full!

They have built the first five Wellsons (their amazing fully recycled power generation kits made from recycled solar panels and laptop batteries) to be deployed as case studies for an effective larger rollout in the future. Brad and Nick have found the locals welcoming, organisations such as Dojo Bali well-organised, and the issues with sourcing parts surmountable – things have fallen into place.
They have been learning as much as possible about the needs of remote communities and built strong relationships with locals, expats, aid organisations and social enterprises all around the region.

The first three completed Wellsons are ready for deployment.

They have taken road bikes to where road bikes should not be taken, and have encountered smouldering Mt Agung – a ticking time bomb 75 kilometres north-east of Kuta that has been spewing smoke on and off for the past six months. A more calming highlight was the Nyepi religious festival in March, with a big parade followed by a day for quiet reflection which includes not using any lights or electronics all day – the entire internet across Bali was even turned off for the first time!

Powerwells On Scooters Volcano

Mt Agung looming in the background – the volcano is due to erupt any day

In early April Brad and Nick set off on another travelling stint of their community consultation tour again to deploy their first three Wellsons at meaningful homes. Through their excellent work building relationships, Brad and Nick were able to leave the mobile phone charging stations with three different organisations who will move the kits around to villages and community hubs that have need for them and keep in touch with Brad and Nick. It’s a great way for the guys to an ear to the ground and gather the data they need to ensure the future success of the PowerWells mission.

As to where the Wellsons are currently housed – our guys left Wellson # 4 with the East Bali Poverty Project, an organisation that has been supporting the region for the past 20 years building roads, medical centres, and schools. The Wellson is currently providing light and a phone charging facility in the workshop of their social enterprise East Bali Bamboo Bikes. Once the still predicted Agung eruption occurs, it will be deployed at the evacuation camp built by the East Bali Poverty Project, and then be moved around the province wherever it is needed.

Wellson # 3 went to the NGO IKAN KECIL Foodbank and Community Centre which provides food and other supplies such as dust masks to some of the unofficial evacuation camps that have sprung up around Mt Agung. They are currently focusing on some community building projects in the area and preparing for the volcano’s eruption which is still predicted to happen in the near future.

PowerWells Wellsons deployed at KECIL Foodbank and Community Centre

Wellson # 2 was installed at the Green School’s innovation centre as a showcase for a sustainability event before it will be moved to a remote village in the area. Green School was founded in 2006 and focuses on sustainability, holistic education, recycling, and innovation. PowerWells have made some great friends here, and we look forward to seeing their plans for future partnerships come to fruition!

PowerWells Wellson installation at Bali’s Green School

While travelling off the beaten track, the guys kept coming across may houses that ran extension cables up to a kilometre long from houses with electricity to charge phones, torches, and run lights. Seeing this was great validation – while these houses do not need their power generation kits, it showed them how the houses with electricity act as hubs where the surrounding community congregates. Brad and Nick gained a lot of valuable knowledge about the needs of remote villages from the people and organisations they met along the way.

It was time to expand their community consultation tour eastwards – island-hopping from Lombok to Sumbawa, Flores, and Sumba!

Brad and Nick were lucky enough to catch a ride on the Rainbow Warrior from Bima – Greenpeace International’s massive ship that assists in their various missions around the world’s oceans – and Nick somehow managed to find the time to feature on the Smart City Podcast talking about how to address inequality in remote communities.

We are so proud to support these changemakers on their mission for energy independence in remote communities – stay tuned for updates on their facebook page and via our blog!

GEM Energy sponsor Brisbane-based renewable energy start-up PowerWells

GEM Energy sponsor Brisbane-based renewable energy start-up PowerWells

PowerWells in papua and indonesia

Scrapped solar panels and laptop batteries combine into power generation microsystems to bring energy independence to remote locations.


For PowerWells co-founders Brad, Nick, and Amatus, it has been a busy three months. The three guys from very different backgrounds (a former town planner, an e-waste specialist, and a West-Papuan tinkerer) met at a Hackathon at Substation 33, an e-waste recycling facility near Logan in Brisbane’s south, in late November. They quickly realised their mutual desire to come up with something that could make a difference to the lives of those in developing communities. Here in Australia, they saw e-waste all around them – major battery dumps, technology and devices merely three years old constantly becoming landfill, and in one of those lightbulb moments – the PowerWells concept was born.

The PowerWells story sounds like a start-up fairytale, which is not to say that it hasn’t been a lot of hard work. In just three months, the three entrepreneurs have formed a partnership, designed a fully recycled power generation kit, tested and finalised the microsystem’s design on-site in an Indonesian village, raised over $12 000 through their crowdfunding campaign to finance the first 100 kits, and – tadaaaaa – secured GEM Energy’s sponsorship for their upcoming community consultation tour to rural Indonesia!

It may come as a surprise to some, but villagers in regions like remote Indonesia use their mobile phones a lot. Just like the rest of us, they like to stay in touch with each other and the world and take advantage of the economic and educational opportunities provided by global interconnectivity. They also use these devices as a convenient way for providing lighting at night – a cheaper option than kerosene, small batteries or candles. In the absence of mains power, people often travel long distances to the nearest town to charge their phones.


PowerWells Installation in rural Indonesia

PowerWells Installation in rural Indonesia


PowerWells are set to change that energy poverty dynamic, unlocking valuable time and resources for remote villagers.

One full charge of a PowerWells microsystem can charge a single iPhone up to 100 times, or up to 50 devices at once. The idea is that a village’s PowerWell will become a similar central point for the community, just like a village well – a place where people come to charge their device and socialise, before taking their charged device and using the power where they need it. The power will also be valuable for lighting up communal spaces at night.


PowerWells lighting up communcal spaces at night

PowerWells lighting up communal spaces at night


The cost for one PowerWell (and yes, the name was inspired by the Tesla Powerwall) is just $120, made up of a single solar panel, a battery pack made from 25 upcycled laptop batteries, and a few other, easily sourced recycled materials.


kids charging phones with PowerWell

Kids in rural Indonesia charging phones with a PowerWell


If you think a PowerWell might even be an ideal addition to your home, so you can say bye-bye to the grid, you might need to think again though. The amount of electricity produced by the kit is comparably small for what we Westerners are used to consuming. PowerWells won’t (yet) be powering fridges or air conditioners. But for remote villagers all around the world, PowerWells will make a huge difference.

The PowerWells concept is a powerful example of energy independence and GEM Energy are excited at the opportunity to support these gamechangers on their mission. For us here at GEM, solar energy is not just a way to make a living, it’s our way of life – we are passionate about renewable energy, and we want more people to have access to it – not just in Australia, but throughout the rest of the world as well.


We are proud to support PowerWells on their Indonesian Community Consultation Trip to ascertain how the power generation kits can best serve local villages.


Stay tuned for our weekly PowerWells updates!


PowerWells Research and Development


Australians all around the country are going solar with their homes or businesses

Check out GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions today.

South Australia and Tesla to build world’s biggest virtual power plant

South Australia and Tesla to build world’s biggest virtual power plant

It seems like the South Australian Government really is serious about increasing its constituents’ energy security and affordability. Just a few months after delivering the world’s biggest battery at Hornsdale windfarm using Tesla Powerpack batteries, the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has unveiled plans for the world’s biggest virtual power plant propelled by solar PV and Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries.

How virtual power plants work – Image credit: Government of South Australia

The virtual power plant will be a state-wide network of solar panels and battery systems with the capacity to power about 20% of South Australia’s average daily electricity requirements, or about 75,000 homes. The virtual power plant will offer 250MW capacity and 650MWh of storage, adding competition to the market and thereby reducing electricity bills for consumers.


Private homeowners signing up for the program are set to save about 30% on electricity bills while also getting some protection from blackouts. A major benefit of this new home energy technology is the Powerwall 2’s ability to keep powering your home even when the grid is down – as long as the battery is charged.


At least 50,000 South Australian homes, about half of them public housing, will be fitted with solar PV + storage systems by 2022. A trial has already started with several hundred public housing properties having the systems installed at no cost to the tenants. The solar systems consist of one 5kW solar PV system with one 13.5kW Tesla Powerwall 2 battery per household. The intention with this early rollout is to lower costs for those who need it most while benefiting the wider community through the generation of more renewable energy to shoulder the daily power demand.

From the FAQ on the South Australian Government’s Energy Plan website:

“Although 1100 homes will have the home energy systems installed as a part of the trial phases of the program, their power will be aggregated through the virtual power plant software and the benefits distributed to all Housing Trust tenants that sign up. This will model and demonstrate the expected operation and value of the broader system and provide data to stakeholders and investors about how the virtual power plant will work.”

Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery system installed

Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery system

Main objectives of the project:

  • Provide significant cost savings to consumers participating in the program
  • Demonstrate the ability of a virtual power plant to deliver savings to households and improve grid resilience
  • Introduce competition into the South Australian energy market, putting downward pressure on energy prices
  • Establish a new, dispatchable renewable energy power plant, providing energy when it is most required
  • Provide significant employment opportunities for installers and opportunities for involvement by South Australian manufacturers


The $800 million virtual power plant will be financed in stages, with an initial $2 million to be provided by the SA government as a grant, and a further $30 million as a loan from the SA government’s Renewable Technology Fund. The rest of the cost will be covered by private investors.


The independent solar electricity network will be privately owned and operated, with a variety of ownership and financing structures available to private households. Tesla will be responsible for the installations, while a suitable retailer to handle customer liaison and billing will be found after the initial trial stages.


You too can get solar + storage for your home or businessCheck out GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions today.

GEM Energy’s large-scale commercial solar installation for Industria REIT reaches 75% completion mark

GEM Energy’s large-scale commercial solar installation for Industria REIT reaches 75% completion mark

commercial solar installation

One of the Solar rooftops at Brisbane Technology Park

GEM Energy are currently close to completed on a commercial solar installation across 6 properties at Brisbane Technology Park, owned by ASX listed Australian real estate investment trust, Industria REIT. The innovative 1.0 MW commercial solar installation is scheduled to be completed in early 2018 and will generate around 41% of the sites’ electricity consumption, creating stability for tenants and robust returns for shareholders.

For Industria REIT, the $1.6M capital investment at their Eight Mile Plains site makes perfect sense for a variety of reasons. For starters, the expected financial yield of 15% is double that of the usual yield they gain from buying property.

Then there is the issue of rising energy costs plaguing most Australian states, with Queensland having experienced price hikes of 136% over the last 10 years. Industria REIT will be able to provide valuable stability for their Brisbane Technology Park tenants by keeping electricity rates consistent with FY 2017 prices.

The property trust is also focused on corporate responsibility and increasing their sustainability track record. The commercial solar installation across the 6 rooftops is projected to generate over 40% of the sites’ electricity needs, spelling a sizable reduction of the organisation’s carbon footprint.

Lastly, Industria REIT is keen to future-proof their assets. All of GEM Energy’s solar systems can be expanded, and Industria REIT already have plans to do so by adding more solar panels as well as battery storage after the project becomes fully financially viable over the next one to two years.

Industria REIT's Commercial Solar Installation at Brisbane Technology Park. Components are Canadian Solar panels.

Solar Rooftop at 37 Brandl St, Brisbane Technology Park

Brisbane Technology Park – Commercial Solar Installation Specifications

  • Project Size:
    • 1.0MW of Solar Panels Across 6 Properties

With the installation schedule on track and the first 3 of 6 commercial solar installations at Brisbane Technology Park now completed, GEM Energy’s engineers are monitoring and finetuning the systems to ensure they are working at optimal capacity. The project is one of the largest business park installations in Australia and will be completed in early 2018.

GEM Energy’s National Sales Manager, Aaron Hilton commented,

“We’re really pleased with how this project is progressing to date, and so is the team over at Industria REIT. Given their existing embedded network, installing one of our systems was an absolute no-brainer. We can’t wait to see the results on this project.”

Commercial solar installations have seen significant growth over the last couple of years, including in regional Australia where electricity costs can be even higher than in metropolitan areas. Councils, schools, community organisations and businesses such as Industria REIT are turning to renewables to save money on bills, increase financial stability and become more sustainable.

View more information on this project and GEM Energy’s range of solar energy solutions for your home or business.

Free Consultation & Feasibility Study

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Progress Update: Bundaberg Solar Hospital 70% completed

Progress Update: Bundaberg Solar Hospital 70% completed

Bundaberg Solar Hospital Progress

GEM Energy’s installation of the largest Solar Energy System on an Australian hospital is now 70% completed. The Friendly Society Private Hospital at Bundaberg decided to jump aboard the solar train amidst rising energy prices and a wish to operate more sustainably.

The 575kW system is projected to pay for itself in just 4 years and save the not-for-profit hospital over $3M in the first 10 years.

Solar Energy will reduce the hospital’s electricity consumption by a whopping 919,000kWh per year, with an additional reduction of 229,000kWh achieved through the LED Lighting Upgrade completed by our in-house Commercial LED Lighting Specialist.

Read more about Bundaberg’s Solar Hospital.

Free Consultation & Feasibility Study

Available Here