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.

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

Available Here
Things we stumble across while installing Off-Grid Solar…

Things we stumble across while installing Off-Grid Solar…

What a day for Chris and Nathan who are in the heart of the NT installing another large off-grid solar system.

Today they stumbled upon this poor beauty stuck in a cattle grid… Fortunately, the boys were on hand to help the rascal out of trouble! Happy to report that the animal is fit and healthy with no major injuries.

Good work guys! 

Free Consultation & Feasibility Study

Available Here
Off-grid cattle station goes Solar

Off-grid cattle station goes Solar

This off-grid cattle station located close to the Gulf of Carpentaria previously operated solely from diesel generators spending $65,000 per year on diesel. With our bespoke 160kWh battery and a 44kW ground mount solar system, they are now over 90% self sufficient (allowing for excessive bad weather). Our electricians have done an absolutely incredible job on this project.

Well done Chris and Nathan!

How Much Does an Off Grid Solar System Cost?

Using an off grid solar system means that you get all the electricity to power your home or business from the sun. In rare cases, you can get some additional power from other sources such as wind. If you live in a remote area, the only viable option that you have is to use an off grid solar system.

The good thing is that technology has developed over the years; therefore, you don’t have to spend colossal amounts of money to get a high-quality system installed in your home.


Off grid solar system cost

Although the price of stand-alone systems has come down, it’s still quite costly, but they now offer excellent value for money. You can comfortably expect to have a full return on investment before you need to replace any components like batteries.

If you are currently connected to the grid an easy way of working out how much you should spend on an off grid system is by looking at your power bill. It will say how many kWh per day you are using from the grid and you should expect to pay $950-$1250 per kWh you are using. For example, if you are using 30 kWh per day and pay $950 per quarter for power you should expect to pay around $33,000 for a system that will genuinely do what you need it to do. As off grid solar is still a rather new field, a lot of companies are still finding their feet and don’t really know how to calculate system sizing correctly and nine times out of ten it will be done incorrectly.

If you can work out what your total expected kWh usage is per day by measuring your appliances and their anticipated run times you can follow the same rule of thumb as above.

You can reduce the amount you spend on a comprehensive off grid system by reducing the number of solar panels and batteries in favour of a generator. This will reduce your capital outlay, but you will have ongoing costs with fuel and maintenance of the generator.

If you can afford it going with more solar panels and batteries is a far more viable option in the long run.


Advantages of off grid solar systems

While the cost of installing an off grid solar system might seem like a lot, it is worth it as these systems come with many advantages. Since the system relies on batteries to store the power generated by the solar system, you will have electricity to use even when the panels are not working. For example, during the night.

Another advantage is that since the system is completely separate from the electrical grid, you will have power to use even when there is a widespread power outage.

Who wants to keep on paying electricity bills for the rest of his/her life? When you install an off grid solar system, you don’t have to worry about electricity bills as all your power will be provided by solar energy – which is free!

The other huge benefit is the power quality you receive through an off grid solar system. With a high-quality inverter charger like Selectronic SP PRO, we can guarantee you a pure sine wave of power and a steady voltage that is usually substantially better than the power from the grid. This means your appliances and machinery will last longer and need less maintenance.


Important points to consider before going for off grid solar power systems

Cost: This is the most important factor to consider since your budget determines the type of system you can install. We narrowed the system types down to three options:

$1,000-$1,500 option: This is the most basic option, and it’s ideal when you don’t need a lot of power. Experts recommend it if you need power for a few 12-volt lights and a 12-volt radio. The system usually consists of a 140-watt solar panel, a 12-volt sealed AGM and a 100 amp-hour battery etc.

$5,000-$20,000 option: This solar power system will give you enough power to use some of your 240-volt AC appliances. The kits for the system include a few solar panels that range from 500-3,000 watts, 12 or more AGM or Gel batteries, and a controller to regulate the charging. You cannot expect to run appliances like air-conditioners with a system like this.

$20,000 option+: This is when you start talking about serious components that are built to last. The batteries make up about 50% of the cost of going off-grid.


Best off grid solar system installation

For ideal results, you should make sure that your system is installed by a professional team of solar system installers. For it to safely and reliably provide you with the power you need for a long time, you should ensure that you install high-quality solar panels such as Q CELLS, Phono Solar or SunPower and batteries like Sonnenschein, Exide or Hitachi.


What next?

We understand that you probably have many more questions specific to your situation. Get in touch with our friendly sales team or leave us a message and we will call you back.

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