Dr Wendy Miller and her husband Ray were at the start of the rooftop solar revolution.
The grid-connected solar system they installed at their Brisbane family home in 2000 was for a time an officially registered power station on Australia’s energy network!
“That was an interesting time,” Wendy says.
“I remember, perhaps not so fondly, the robust discussions with government and the network to get ‘permission’ for our system to be connected. But it did lead, a number of years later, to being invited to Queensland’s feed-in tariff discussions as a consumer advocate.”
Wendy and Ray have been ATA members since 1997, when a renewable energy subject at their local TAFE made them keenly aware that their actions impacted on their children’s future.
As a family of five, they decided to reduce their energy consumption, renovating their hot 1970s house: installing ceiling insulation, changing roof colour, adding external window shading, buying energy efficient appliances when replacements were needed and installing solar panels and solar hot water. Over about eight years their electricity use fell to about a quarter of what it had been.
In 2008, as ’empty nesters’, Wendy and Ray took advantage of a move to the Gold Coast to take their sustainability drive to the next level and construct their 9-Star ‘eBay House’ – so called because much of the construction and fit-out was bought secondhand.
Wendy, now a senior research fellow in energy efficiency and housing at the Queensland University of Technology, talks proudly of their home’s rainwater collection, water and waste recycling system, the rooftop solar system and revegetation of the once bare block.
“I’m really pleasantly surprised at how the price of solar has decreased since our first system. In 2000, a 1.5kW system cost in the vicinity of $16,000. Now you can buy a system four times as big for a quarter of the price!”
Wendy says the ATA and its publications provide important services. Apart from the chance to share ideas or ask questions about sustainable living, the ATA is a voice for the people, advocating for sustainability at governmental levels. Before shifting down the coast, Wendy was a long-time ATA Brisbane Branch member and convenor.
This is a modified version of an article by Richard Finn that first appeared in ReNew Magazine issue 139.