Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Work: Living on Solar Power - Final Installment

March 2003

A hard winter was broken with some good news. Queen’s University had purchased too many 75-watt solar modules and were selling them for half price. We couldn’t turn it down.

We bought and installed six more modules, bringing us up to three arrays of six modules each, 18 in total, theoretically providing 1350 watts of peak power every sunny hour. The actual production is more like 1000 w, but this should be more than enough in the summer and not quite enough in the winter, close enough for us.

Since we’ve been here, we’ve replaced every major system: fences, septic tank and drain field, well, well pump, furnace, batteries, solar modules, inverter, windows, generator, telephone, fridge and washing machine, but our current solar power system should be sufficient for years to come. It’s been a long slug with a steep learning curve and some mistakes along the way but it’s worth it. We have power without monthly bills and don’t contribute to the pollution caused by huge grid generating plants.

We started with:

Solar modules: 4 x 75w = 300 w
Batteries: 225 Ah NiCad
Inverter: 600 w
Generator: 3-cylinder 6.5 Kw water-cooled propane

Now we have:

Solar modules: 18 x 75w = 1350 w
Batteries: 2770 Ah lead-acid
Inverter: 2500 w S/W
Generator: 1-cylinder, 5.5 kw propane-gasoline
Heated, underground generator house
Amp-hour Meter
MPPT charge controller

We use about four or five thousand watts a day, while the average Ontario house uses 20 thousand, and we do it all on solar without feeling the least bit deprived. Visitors never guess we produce all our own power unless they happen to see the modules on the roof and in the back yard. You probably want to do it differently but, if we did it, so can you.

When we moved to the country we didn’t know the difference between AC current and DC current, but we gradually learned enough to get by. Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, all you have to do is start. Let me tell you, it’s worth it.

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