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Qualification - Proficiency Award in Self Sufficiency

Course CodeVSS110
Fee CodePA
Duration (approx)500 hours
QualificationProficiency Award

Convert Your Property for Sustainable Living off the grid!

Many people dream of living the good life, the simple life, living off the land? Do you want to make your dream a reality? If you do, we can help. This 500 hour course provides you with in depth knowledge of self-sufficiency.

This course is suitable for

  • anyone wanting to learn more about living in a self-sufficiency way.
  • anyone who wants to live an environmentally friendly way
  • someone who wants to start to live the good life for their own health and wellbeing.
  • anyone who would like to help others to develop their knowledge and understanding of self sufficiency, such as teachers, trainers etc.

The course requires the completion of three 100 hour modules and a 200 hour workplace project/research project.

Study two core modules - Self-sufficiency I and II. Then choose the remaining modules from a list of electives below. This enables you to tailor the course more to you and your interests.



Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Qualification - Proficiency Award in Self Sufficiency.
 Industry Project BIP000
 Industry Project II BIP001
 Self Sufficiency I ASS100
 Self Sufficiency II ASS101
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 1 of the following 7 modules.
 Alternative Energy VSS102
 Mud Brick Construction ASS103
 Permaculture I (Permaculture Foundations) VSS104
 Permaculture II VSS105
 Permaculture III VSS106
 Permaculture IV VSS107
 Organic Agriculture and Farming BAG305

Note that each module in the Qualification - Proficiency Award in Self Sufficiency is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

Learn to Live Off the Grid

There is a lot more to living ‘off the grid’ than simply switching off the mains and supplying your own power. It sounds easy but many aspects need careful consideration before you even start making decisions and embark on such a project.  

Electricity can be generated by various methods: through chemical reactions or by using the sun's energy, or by physical methods such as using wind or water to turn a turbine. The most commonly used home electricity systems utilise solar energy, however hydro or wind turbines are also domestic alternatives. Wind turbines and small-scale hydro systems are self-contained systems which convert kinetic energy created by wind or water and convert it into mechanical power and ultimately electricity.

In wind energy, as the wind turns the blades kinetic energy is caught by a rotor, this rotary motion drives the generator (i.e. mechanical power) and produces electrical energy. Wind power is often used in conjunction with solar energy so if the weather is still, you can use the stored solar energy. Wind energy can also be stored in batteries and when the batteries are fully charged the excess power is then redirected into a dummy load (most commonly an electrical heating element). The turbines also switch off during times of excessive wind speeds and of course in times of no wind – no electrical energy is created.

Before you even start to decide on what energy system you might ‘like’ to use, you need to consider what type of energy collection system best suits your property. If you are purchasing a property and planning to set up a stand-alone electricity system, the aspect of the block is essential for efficient storage of solar power.  If there is stream or river that has running water, hydro turbines can be considered or a windy area can lend itself to be suitable for turbines – a combination of two or three energy sources is preferable as one can back up the other. On our land we did not have wind or water, so have utilised solar energy for our power needs.  

Solar Power

Solar panels need to be positioned so that they are broadside to the sunlight.  The orientation, while important, has a degree of leeway.  Obviously, the panel should be placed in a location that receives as much sunlight hours as possible with minimum shade. Panels are frequently positioned on pitched roofs that are facing either north or south.

A small stand-alone solar set up requires connect to rechargeable batteries for energy storage.   As the solar panel, will charge a 12V DC battery which in turn will need to be connected to an inverter to create 120 V AC (the actual voltage required may vary between countries) power to run appliances and general home use.


This form of alternative energy is most commonly generated by hydroelectric power plants with dams which the release of stored water (dammed) to drive massive turbines.  Hydropower is one of the oldest energy sources and has been used to mechanically drive mills for centuries.
When a river is dammed, in mountains or hilly regions, it creates a massive reservoir of water. This body of water contains potential energy.   In a traditional hydroelectric power plant, water is released through the dam wall from the reservoir into a penstock (like a big tube), it then passes through the turbine which drives the electricity generator.  

A dam is not always required, in a diversion hydroelectric power plant part of a river with considerable natural fall where the water is diverted into a canal and used to drive the turbine.  A diversion system can be well adapted to a small system. If there is a fast moving stream or an adequate vertical fall in the stream it is possible to produce up to 20kW of power.

Wind Power

Just as moving water can be used to generate electricity so can moving air. One of the advantages of wind power is that the wind may still blow even if the sun is covered by clouds. Developing a two-energy source system by using both these resources is an excellent method for alternative energy self-sustainability, however initial costs may be daunting.

Assuring the wind has the strength for the turbines is essential. Just because a site looks windy, it may not produce the necessary wind velocity to produce sufficient energy. Turbulent wind can negate benefits of a rotating propeller. Turbulence can be developed from nearby trees, buildings, etc. It is therefore important to ensure the proposed turbine site is above any ‘external’ influence.

To ensure an even air flow in the area under scrutiny, place a ribbon on the end of a long pole and position this in the wind stream. If the ribbon flows strong and evenly, then this is a good indication of a good site. Air speed is best measured by an anemometer. Note that air speed increases with height due to no ground surface friction. At a height of 26 metres, the wind speed reportedly is about 50% more than at ground level, which can equate to about 300% increase in power at this height.

Small wind turbines can regulate their wind load by several methods. They can be set to turn 90o to the weather in very strong conditions to prevent damage. The pitch of the blades can also be changed so there are fewer loads on them in strong wind conditions.

Things to Consider

If you are building a new house and have decided to live off the grid then design it for off the grid living. Design it to be energy efficient and include items, features and designs that will help you meet your independent energy needs.  
For example:

  • Utilise natural light to avoid dark spots which may need artificial lighting during daytime.
  • Use top grade insulation to keep the cool in and heat out in summer and vice versa in winter.  
         Insulate all walls (internal and external).
         Insulate the roof or ceiling cavity.
         Avoid windows facing full sun in summer.
         Consider using tinted glass
         Block-out drapes or double blinds (total block-out (very efficient) over sun exclusion fabric (which still allows you to see out).
         Explore the possibility of underground or partially underground building.

  • Design to catch the breeze in summer for natural cooling, avoiding the use of air conditioners, evaporative coolers or fans.

  • Position the building to catch the morning sun in winter and summer shade.

  • Consider planting deciduous trees on the northern side to shade in summer but allow sun through in winter.

  • Place of windows and doors for cross ventilation.

  • Design aspects such as high ceilings to create a larger air space (can be harder to heat in winter though).

  • Choose all building materials carefully.

What Next?

If you do want to live the dream? If you are ready to begin the good life, then why not get started? We are not saying that living in a self-sufficient way is easy, but it is an excellent way to improve your own health and well being, your own state of mind. Work with the land, grow your own produce, produce your own goods or help others to do that.

Self-sufficiency can become a new way of life, a new passion to live by.

So begin that dream today and enrol now.