Solar Reflections

The picture in the blog header was taken off our back deck.  We have an unobstructed view and that side of the house gets plenty of sunlight. But that is facing north.

This  is the view off our front porch, which faces south.

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As you can see, the front of our house faces the woods and is therefore shaded much of the time.  So our house isn’t suited for solar roof panels.

But our barn is near the house and its southern exposure would make it an excellent site for solar collectors, it seems to me. If we ever put in a solar power system, we’ll install the panels on the roof of the barn.

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Whether that will happen remains to be seen.  In hindsight I wish I’d done it back when the tax credits would have been valuable.  But even though it will cost us more now than it would have then, I haven’t given up on it.  It’s on my wish list every year.

Meanwhile we are least using the sun to energize our garden fences and poultry net fencing.

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I’ve been reading through a stack of old Mother Earth News catalogs a friend gave us, dating back to the 70’s.  Across that 40 year span the magazine has numerous articles about solar power and how it is becoming increasingly viable and affordable.  Yet it is still rarely seen (at least in the U.S.).

I’m looking forward to the day the sun provides our electricity.

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16 comments on “Solar Reflections

  1. shoreacres says:

    I see small-scale solar all the time. It’s used around here to power maritime markers, road signals, and so on. Also, it’s the power for assorted “thingies” I can’t identify. It’s the perfect solution for things like that, I’d think.

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    • Bill says:

      I see those too. I’d like to use them more around here. A couple of large solar parks have gone up nearby lately. The panels are enclosed in a fence and there are sheep living inside the fence to keep the grass mowed. That’s a good design it seems to me.

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  2. Dani says:

    Bill – Your barn roof looks perfect for solar panels.

    Please bear in mind though that your “power room” (a well ventilated area) in which the cables from your solar panels meet the charge controller and thus lead to the batteries / inverter cannot be too far from your panels. Otherwise loss of power occurs due to the length of the cables.

    Perhaps you could add on a small structure to your barn to house your power room 🙂 There is also an ambient temperature range to bear in mind – I think it is min -4oc, max 28oC but please check with a local solar power supplier.

    Ideally, your power room should be a separate space (away from animals / humans / foodstuff / feed) because of the fumes produced by the batteries when they are charging.

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dani. I admire folks like y’all who are getting it done. If we go solar we’ll stay on the grid, which will make things simpler but has its own issues of course.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, solar panels have evolved over the years are more efficient and durable than a couple decades ago. The biggest hold up for solar panels to move forward is the storage. Until the power storage issue is solved, in my humble opinion, solar will not really be a popular way to go to save money. In my state, solar panels can be hooked in to the utility company power grid and the excess generated power is purchased by them. So in essence the panels would be generating power for the utility power company. I would expect the purchase price is nominal but still it eliminates the cost of maintaining a battery storage and it would lower the monthly utility bill. My thought has been for the last ten years, why not require all new houses to have solar panels hooked into the grid. It wouldn’t really cost that much more compared to the cost of the house and in a decade or so the production of electricity would be huge and the cost of solar panels would be much less which would only add to the practicality of adding panels to new housing start ups. Makes sense to me but I’m just a country boy that has brainy ideas that some times work. 🙂

    If my fence at Terra Nova Gardens doesn’t keep the pesky raccoons out, I may have to go to electrified fencing. Of course being within the city limits, I’d have to find out if there are limits on such things are maybe not allowed. Perhaps it would have to be posted with signs to warn the two legged critters to the hazard. Anyway if that were to happen it would have to be a battery operated fence. The garden is in a not so good part of town so somehow the battery would have to be secured and yet have ventilation to keep fumes from building up. Hopefully, I won’t have to go to that final step. I have a couple more levels of fencing ideas before it gets to that.

    Have a great solar reflection day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Here the utility company is not required to pay the owner when the meter is spinning backward. That makes no sense to me. Having the ability to sell the extra juice when we have it would help.

      My electric net fencing has never kept the coons out of my corn. I tried that and every thing else I could think of and they still wiped me out. If you go that route I hope you have better luck.

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  4. Joanna says:

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing Bill. I often wished we had bought a solar panel electric fence charger when we lived in the States, but we didn’t know then that we would be actually farming. It was a dream of ours but not one we thought would come so soon.

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    • Bill says:

      I had solar on our list of things we wanted to do but it was lower on the priority list. I didn’t factor in the tax issue, which makes a big difference.

      For the first few years on the net fencing I relied on rechargeable batteries because the solar panel was too expensive (about $70 if I recall correctly). Those batteries are very expensive and if they run down too much you can’t recharge them. I went through lots of them. Finally I bought one of the solar panels and I’ve never lost a battery since then. They’ve saved me lots of money and work. That was a case of being penny wise and pound foolish.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. valbjerke says:

    I’m curious as to whether or not you have anything such as ‘net metering’ programs in your state. Our province has such a program – basically, should you install a solar or a wind powered system, and you produce more hydro than you can use, the hydro company purchases the hydro from you. This of course requires that they themselves install the transfer unit (and yes it does cost), but considering how much sun hours you have, it might be worth looking into to see if such a program exists in your area.

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    • Bill says:

      We don’t have that here for some strange reason. If you generate more than you use, they get to keep it for free.

      I should probably stop fretting over the solar power so much. My rough guess is that it would take approximately 20 years to pay for itself and we’d still be on the grid. But it’s been a dream of mine and it’s dying hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeff says:

    Have you calculated the angle for optimum solar production? The latitude of Danville is about 37 degrees north. How far from the front porch is it to the tree line? Where is the shade line in the winter and the summer? Have you ever contacted a local solar installer for a free estimate? It doesn’t look to me, from the picture you posted, that the trees are close enough to the house to affect the performance of solar panels.

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    • Bill says:

      The sun is too low in the sky in the winter. And there are trees not visible in this photo–a large stand to the left and a large oak to the right. The front of the house is shaded in the summer. Plus our house is a Cape Cod style so the front roof isn’t well-suited for panels. The back roof is perfect but it faces north and doesn’t get much direct sunlight in the winter. In any event that’s all academic since the barn is right next door and is perfectly situated. That’s where they’ll go if we get them. We recently joined a local solar coop so the resources are available if we decide to go that route.

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  7. avwalters says:

    Funny you should feature solar powered electric fencing–as it’s a choice I’m in the process of making (and blogging about.) Solar is a tough choice here, where you may not see sun for many months in the winter. In California it was a no-brainer; here not so easy. I have never understood why every rooftop in the Golden State doesn’t sport solar panels.

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    • Bill says:

      If you use rechargeable batteries instead, just be very disciplined about keeping them charged. If they drain too low then they won’t hold a charge and they’re very expensive. The solar chargers have worked great for us.

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