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Monday, September 7, 2015

Waiting for the sun power



It's about 9 a. m. when I'm writing this. I've got about an hour or so before I begin the day's chores. By 10 a. m. the sun will really make a difference on the solar panels. There's a small meter mounted on my kitchen wall displaying the level of power in the house battery bank. Once the needle is firmly in the green it'll be time to wash dishes and do laundry.


My laptop doesn't use a lot of energy so it's a good device to use while waiting for the sun. The major draw on the solar electric system is the water pump. Water intensive use is best done when the sun is shining.

Sure, if I absolutely had do laundry it would not be all that hard to flick a switch and tap into the grid for the extra power. However, I'm not a big fan of the local utility so I give them as little money as possible.

One of the big arguments against renewable power is that it's unreliable. The sun does not always shine nor does the wind the wind always blow. Battery and other energy storage methods are improving in leaps and bounds so that argument is losing force. One of the major trends right now is to use existing power generation more efficiently.

One way some utilities do that is to have variable rates. If you move your heavy power use activities to off-peak hours the cost per kilowatt goes down. You can still use heavy power draw equipment during peak hours, but it's going to cost you. The net effect is that utility can better use existing power generation and avoid building more power plants.

That's great for them, but I'm doing basically the same thing on a small scale, and it's great for me. Of course, I've got the advantage of being able to have power without the grid. By watching when and how much power I use, my moderately sized solar electric system can power the house for a very long time all by itself.

Americans have gotten used to having all the power they want all the time. Much of the rest of the world has learned to use it when they've got it. Grid failures are on the upswing so it's a good skill to acquire. Anyone who's thinking of installing alternative power can save a lot of money by timing their heavy power usage.

-Sixbears

12 comments:

  1. That's common sense approach. I have you partly to blame Sixbears for pulling me toward solar energy! I like very much being as free from the utilities as possible, as soon as possible. The boat is progressing, i am trying desperately to finish the outside of the wheel house before winter sets in. After that my solar system is going to be the first things I work on in the depth of the probably soggy British winter! I have found time to fiddle and made myself a small solar generator in a box, so that I can play and learn in the warmth of the house. I can now charge all our gadgets such a mobile phones and tablets, I even produce light yay! I got a small inverter now that can run a few things and overall that's big progress toward more independance from the system.

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    1. That's a perfect way to learn the ins and outs of solar. The neat thing is that you also have usable power right now.

      Boats and solar go together so well.

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  2. If I had given solar power more thought when I chose the location for my house and buildings, I'd have had more luck when I tried it. I have bigger mountains all around me, and even though I cleared the meadow for sky access, I just didn't get enough sunlight. Especially in winter. So I went to the generator for back up during our frequent power failures, but I am essentially grid reliant. I thought about putting a small hydroelectric installation on my creek, but when we have big rains I am pretty sure it would be destroyed. You are better set up than I am in this department.

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    1. I did a lot of research at the time as I had to do it all myself. That was probably a blessing in disguise.

      I even did tweaks like pointing the solar array a bit westward instead of due south. There's a big hill to my east and morning fogs. My sight lines to the west are better so I get a few more watts that way.

      Also learned that at this latitude that a tracking array made less sense than just adding more panels.

      Did more math back then than I did since high school.

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  3. Why don't you use a manual hand or foot pump to move your water from one place to another... there's some excellent models available... I use a hand one on TFT and on my yacht Shoestring I used a wonderful foot pump model, a Whale brand, it was robust and never failed to provide...

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    1. My well is located down the hill from my house. However, it has an overflow. I can fill jugs right from that and hoof them up the hill. I've done it in the past when the electric pump died.

      You know, I could put a small cistern in my loft and gravity feed the whole house. That could actually make some sort of sense. I could pump water when the sun shines even if the battery bank died and have water to use later -or I could fill the cistern by hand, one jug at a time. That way strong people could fill the system and frail people could still easily use water at the tap.

      Dang! Now you have me thinking some more crazy ideas.

      Whale pumps have a great rep.

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  4. Wish I could go solar but it would cost too much. And I have such a great southern exposure!

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    1. Get a small 30 - 100 watt system with charge controller. Add a battery, 12 volt outlet, and maybe even a small inverter. It wouldn't cost all that much and you'd be able to charge phones, play a radio and have some light. Pretty handy in a power outage and you wouldn't have to store gas. Check out the prices on Amazon right now to see what they go for.

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  5. My son has solar panels and a generator on line, too, for emergencies.

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    1. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

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  6. Solar is definitely my choice if I ever get my own place again. In time I might get some smaller system for Mom's house for the storm season.

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    1. Even a small system is better than no system. My van now has a switch so I can charge the starting battery from the solar panel or the camper battery.

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