Another record month!

April 30th, 2015

Even though we had a third of the month in heavy clouds and rain, another third in general grey bla and a good third in clean clear sunny days we still set a record. 406.9 kWh!


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What the H#!! is it?

April 3rd, 2015

It has really poured the last couple of days. The kind of heavy downpours that make visibility fall to only a hundred feet or so. During a break in the rain I went out to pick some Spinach for lunch and on my way back up the driveway I saw this (see attached) right in the middle of the driveway… Too far from anywhere in the middle of the driveway to have washed down from the woods. It most likely fell with the rain.

It is really rubbery and sticky feeling.

Any guesses? Answer below.

FROG EGGS! I moved them to a location better suited than a gravel driveway.

IMG_3702


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384.8kWh for March!

March 31st, 2015

Last day of the month and we have a new monthly record—384.8kWh! January we did 237kWh and February it was 271.6kWh. Very efficient system. I hope the Latitude challenged summer sun can keep this at least constant. 


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Potatoes and such

March 31st, 2015

Last year I was a Rural King, buying seed potatoes and onion sets, and started a conversation with an older gentleman (I guess I’m now an older gentleman too…) about when to plant potatoes. He had a thick Scottish accent and told me he always put them in the ground on St. Patricks Day. That was a few weeks prior to this conversation. Oh well. I did get them in that day and we did have a good harvest—three bushels.

The Potatoes we harvested last year lasted all winter and we still have about a bushel left. Most of them still looked good but some were sprouting and it was already past St. Patricks Day. I got them out today.

I also planted some Swiss Chard and Sweet Pea in the upper garden.


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Going solar – some thoughts

March 23rd, 2015

Solar (Photovoltaics) is great! Don’t let any negative spin turn your head. They simply make electricity from the sunlight for free (once you’ve paid for them and have them installed). We had wanted solar for years but every time the possibility was floated, the system conceived and totaled we backed away. This is fairly common from what I’ve found.

Three years ago I really needed a good and reliable tractor. We had been through several mowers and had a 50 year old tractor that started infrequently. We decided to stop putting “X” dollars each year into repairing and invest in a new small tractor that could mow, till and lift. It was a great investment. Some friends were over and one said her husband had tractor envy. We all chuckled. Then I pointed to my 15 year old truck and asked, already knew the answer was a newer model truck, “What do you drive?”

Why am I talking about my tractor here? I guess it’s the same logic at work. We choose to keep driving a perfectly good albeit rough around the edges 12 (at the time) year old truck and instead buy a new tractor. We did the same last year to justify the solar. “What do you drive?”

After having been through this project I thought I pass along a few things that everyone should understand before starting. I’m absolutely NOT trying to scare anyone away from going Solar, or other, I think we all need to do more of this.

Thoughts:

Hire a professional. Nothing else needs to be said. I have a good friend that did it all himself and did fine but I wanted a pro.

Federal Tax credit. 2015 is the last year (currently) for a 30% Federal Tax Credit for home Alternative Energy installations. 30% Tax credit is a big deal but be warned that if you are self employed, as I am, that Tax Credit is NOT valid… WTF? A good account can find other ways to make an Alternative Energy installation Tax friendly but not to 30%.

Efficiency. We designed a 3.6kW system with the anticipation of generating 3.6kWh’s every sunny hour. Well, it doesn’t work like that. Our average best case is 2.7kW and here is why;

  • The panels themselves are temperature sensitive. When it’s over 25ºC (77ºF) the efficiency goes down. Not by that much but if its 95º you could loose 10%.
  • The distance the panels are from the inverter and the distance the inverter from the loads is a factor. When I first read that large scale power plants in Southern Indiana, that generate electricity for Chicago, have to generate twice what is needed because of Line Loss over distance that’s when I decided I had to have my own Solar array. Our system required the panels to be 110 feet from the batteries, inverter and loads. I don’t know what that loss is but it is another efficiency loss.
  • Those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere know that Winter comes with cold weather and short days. Here on the WInter Solstice, December 21, we get 9:26 hours of light. To make it worse, we are in a valley and get even less direct sun. 83% (of total possible) actually. When it is cold the panels are more efficient but this January we were averaging 7.6kWh a day.
  • The March 20th and September 23rd Equinox are the days that the hours of sunlight is the same as the hours of darkness. 12/12. I’ll have March’s averages soon but as of today we have averaged 11.8 kWh per day in March. So the theory is once Summer Solstice (June 21st) comes we will be up to 14:56 hours of light and look out we’ll be cooking with Photons for hours! One catch. Along with those 14+ hour days come another phenomenon. The sun rises and set far more to the North so the panels, which face true South @30º, will not get direct sunlight for all those hours. By looking at the charts below the hours of direct sun on the panels in June will be less than January… Unless you have a tracking pole mount system. So I am very curious to see what this will do to the daily averages in June and July. Check back this summer.

March 23 (2015)

bloomington-indiana-2

Credit: http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/bloomington-indiana.html


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Time to energize (Part 4)

December 30th, 2014

Alex and Wes got us done just in time! December 30 we had the inspection by the County and REMC. REMC brought in a trainer from Ohio and several of their guys came to learn. I guess we are one of the first few in this rural area. We passed and are online!

OutBack Power has a new system called OpticsRE. We connected the Mate 3 to a wireless bridge and out through a secure internet connection to OutBack. There their system crunches the numbers and we can access (via any web browser) daily, weekly, mouthy, yearly and up to five years of stored statistic on our system. We can even control any accepts of the various OutBack components. Basically anything the Mate 3 can do through a clunky menu system can now be done with great ease thanks to a great User Interface.

Meanwhile I’ve been continuing to work on the siding and started to get the fencing back together. I made a back door that opens into the garden from the shed. That will be nice in the garden season!


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Time to energize (Part 3)

December 19th, 2014

Finally the fun part begins! Wes got the trenching and wiring started while Alex was up on the roof working on the racking. We ran three sets of wires from the new Solar Shed to the house. One was the really heavy gauge DC cable to take the the DC current into the house where the batteries, charge controller and invert are. Then we ran a straight 110V AC line so there could be good clean power in the new shed. Finally they laid the conduit for future expansion. We could add a straight grid tie later if we want.

Today we “Through the panels up!” To be honest the couple hours that took was visually rewarding but still anticlimactic. They still have a lot of wiring and configuring to do.


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Time to energize (Part 2)

November 26th, 2014

A month into the shed with the end of the year deadline looming it is time to put the roofing on. Then Alex and Wes could get started. The balance of work (siding, doors and gates) could be done while they are working and after they are done.

We choose metal Standing Seam roofing material. Besides not having any through penetration of fasteners the metal standing seem allows for the use of the S5 clamp system. The S5 is used to mount signage, snow guards, etc. and more recently the solar industry has caught on.

The solar components started to arrive by semi truck. There were three total shipments that came at three different times. All but one driver braved our steep driveway. Hats off to these guys and their abilities to move such large machines in such tight places.

We had one scare. The batteries shipment arrive looking pretty tattered. Upon a full inspection the batteries themselves were fine. Several of the hardware sets were lost but Colorado Solar had new ones shipped right out.

We went with (12) LG MonoX Neon 300 Watt panels to make a 3.6kWh system. They are one of the top efficiency panels available today.


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Time to energize (Part 1)

October 25th, 2014

This year we decided to finally go solar! After years of dreaming, talking and scheming about it, we finally pulled the trigger. It will take several months to complete primarily because we need to build a building for the panels. The house may face South but it surrounded by trees and is really tall. Plus that roof is over twenty years old!

Alex Jarvis, from Solar Systems of Indiana, and Master Electrician Wes Biddle were called in for final planning (and installation). It was determined that the best location for the panels was, you guessed it, in the garden… well actually the north side of the upper garden. We gave up six raised beds but I did save the soil.

The cost of a pole mount system was actually more than what I could build a shed for and you can always use another shed! So, with Alex and Wes tentatively scheduled for November/December we pulled the trigger! We ordered all the components from Colorado Solar and started clearing and digging.

We went with a “BI-Modal” system. It is grid tied and we sell back to REMC when we are producing more than we are using and we have a battery back-up system that powers critical loads when the grid is down.

Nino one-linenonedit

The One Line Plan


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Fast Food – Knob Creek Style

October 16th, 2014

IMG_2269

In the garden season you’ll often find me eating fresh garden produce straight from the garden—straight. Just a quick rinse, save the seeds, slice and eat!


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