Perspectives / A happy ‘off-the-grid’ Cape Tribulation Property Owner


I recently had the pleasure to stay with and chat to (alias) “Frank”, who owns a small short-term accommodation business at Cape Tribulation. Frank’s entire property is “off the grid” – with both the main house and the accommodation being supplied with electricity from solar panels and a small hydroelectric system.

Frank reports that there are about 60 residential properties (some with short-term rental accommodation) in Cape Tribulation and all are off the grid; while four have hydro-systems, the majority rely on solar power only.

The details of Frank’s stand-alone system are:

Frank’s hydro system for off-grid power in the Daintree

• Eight X 365 watt solar panels
• 16.3 amp car alternator in hydro system
• 24 x 48 volt gel batteries
• Kubota 3-cylinder diesel engine as back-up (uses 400 litres of diesel per year)
• Smart system to manage the power supply and battery charging
• Inverter to convert the 48 volts to 240 volts

To live off-grid, there is a need a need to limit the use of high-energy-using appliances such as air-conditioners, dishwashers, irons and toasters.

Frank says that he is very happy with his off-grid life.

He has no need for extra electricity to be supplied via any type of external grid and he is sure that most other residential property owners feel the same way.

Interestingly, 2020 was a very dry year and the creek stopped running, however the solar system produced all the required electricity. Conversely, on rainy days when solar generation is more limited, the hydro system comes into its own.

This is the first of what we hope will become an occasional series of interviews with Douglas Shire residents living north of the Daintree.

Gel batteries for an off-grid power system in the Daintree
Power management system and inverter for the off-grid power supply in Cape Tribulation