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Peter and his daughter, Beth Simmonds at an early Field Days in Mudgee, teaching the people about solar power and wind power in the home.

Solar and Wind Electricity

In the 1980s, in Mudgee, and indeed across Australia, little was known or expected about the use of solar generated electricity. Wind generated electricity had been tried a generation or two ago, with 32 volt generators on isolated farms, mostly installed by a company caled Quirks.

But photovoltaic solar electricity panels were new, mostly used in isolated outback water pumping situations.

In the 1970s, many farms cut off 25acre blocks of land to sell to Mudgee immigrants from Sydney and other places. The blocks were without electricity, often in rough, isolated and rugged areas. Getting the power on could cost anything up to $20,000.

The Simmonds family first bought their 25 acre block in Mudgee in the mid 1970s. They sold up their house in Sydney and moved into a garage while they built a new home. The family used a generator in the garage, but on investigating the power supply for their house, were quoted $9,000 just to put the power on. Then there was a stiff service fee every quarter for reading the metre on top of one of the highest electricity charges in the state.


The family decided to investigate other sources of power, and approached Quirks and Solarex in Sydney, Quirks for wind powered electricity, Solarex for solar generated electricity. They had spoken to one man from Maitland Bar, Carl Maikin, who was using one solar panel to run a 12 volt black and white television and a light.


Advisors at Solarex saw no reason why solar panels could not run a whole household. They supplied eight  37 watt panels which were wired in with a 24 volt wind generator from Quirks, leaving one system to back up the other. The family already had their generator in case of emergency. The Simmonds family believe they were the first in Australia to pioneer the use of solar and wind energy to supply the power for a whole house. This was in 1981, but if there is someone else, please let us know. The family had an inverter for 240 volt appliances, washing machine, vacuum cleaner etc.


Word spread amongst the ‘blockies’ of Mudgee region, and people came from everywhere to see and talk about the natural electricity. So the Simmonds family became agents for both Solarex and Quirks, forming their own small business, and attended the Mudgee Small Farm Field Days to educate people on the new electricity system. Hundreds of families on small blocks around Mudgee adopted th new form of energy source. From that time on many small farms used solar and/or wind energy for their electrical needs.

The Simmonds family liaised with Government Departments, major appliance manufacturers and Solarex to improve the system, leading to the five star rating for white good appliances and improved insulation and drawer access for fridges and freezers. Many 12 and 24 volt appliances were imported to provide 12/24 volt freezers and other appliances, often incorporating marine equipment for household use. Thence began 12 volt camping equipment, including small 12 volt fridges.


At that time, a system needing under 300 watts at any given time could be supplied at 12 volt; a system needing more than 300 watts would need a 24 volt system.


To work out a system:

Add up how many watt hours per day needed for the 12 volt appliances.

Add how many watt hours per day needed for the 240 volt appliances.

Multiply the 240 volt watt hours by 1.2 to cater for inverter losses.


Divide the daily watt hours by 12 to get the amp hours per day.

Multiply the amp hours by 1.2 to cater for battery losses.

Divide the amp hours per day after battery losses by 5.5, which is the peak expected sun hours averaged over a week).

Then divide the result by the output of the panels, 2.75 amps.

The result should be the number of panels needed. Take any decimal points up to the next panel.



12 volt lighting = 20 watts times 3 lights times 5 hours per night (in winter).

= 300 watts.

Plus 240 volt TV at 300 watts for 2 hours per day = 300 x 2 = 600 watts x 1.2 (inverter losses) = 720 watts.

Add the two to get the daily needs. = 1020 watts.


Divide 720 watts by 12 volt to get the amp hours per day. = 60 amps

Multiply the amp hours by 1.2 to cater for battery losses. = 72 amps

Divide by 5.5, which is the peak expected sun hours averaged over a week). = 13.1

Then divide  by the output of the panels, 2.75 amps. = 4.72 = 5 panels needed for a 12 volt system, or 6 panels for a 24 volt system.

Peter Simmonds and his family at an early Mudgee Small Farm Field Days with Solar and Wind energy.

Diane and Peter Simmonds at an early Mudgee Small Farm Field Days with their solar and wind renewable energy.


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The first natural energy, solar and wind electricity system set up by Peter and Diane Simmonds at their home in Mudgee in 1981.