FOSSIL FREE DAY 5: ABUNDANT CHEAP SOLAR POWER

IMG_1289Solar panels are cheap these days. When I put a panel on our sailboat ten years ago, one panel cost about $600. Now the price is less than one quarter of that.

But professional installation is still pricey. And when we had an installer look at our house he took one look at the trees shading our roof and laughed. So I have made do with a couple of DIY solar projects in places that are easy to reach with the ladder, and without breaking into the house wiring. Four panels I installed  on our roof four years ago run a battery bank for charging the electric motorcycle. The two panels I put up on the side of the house on Saturday charge another battery bank that runs a small 500 watt inverter tapped into a generator outlet.  For reasons I now forget, the circuit only runs to two outlets in our living/dining room.

But solar power production is way up this week! That April sun is climbing higher in the sky, and the shading trees haven’t leafed out yet.  I have been charging my motorcycle exclusively from the rooftop solar panels since last Thursday — three days of solar is about enough for one round trip to work. Two round trips a week by motorcycle and two paddling and pedaling trips a week, and I am most of the way to a 100% renewable commute, at least during the sunny, ice free half of the year.

In an accommodation to my fossil free Earth Week eccentricity, Robin went and ordered one of those solar ovens. But today I experimented with solar cooking of the more indirect sort — I ran our electric crock pot off of the circuit powered by the new solar panels.  I started a rice congee cooking before we left in the morning, and it was ready to season, garnish and eat when we got home.  And the battery bank wasn’t dead.

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It’s easy enough to skip the gas clothes dryer in the April sun, too. But my experiment with a camping sun shower bag was not as successful. That one suffered from the setting sun and the cool April evening – it was just a five gallon bag of cool water when we got home.

Composed and published on a solar powered laptop computer.

 

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