But look on the good side, there was a time, not to long ago, when no one was the slightest bit interested in solar electric power, there wasn’t a single solar module factory in existence.
After 45 years of believing solar energy will take over the world, and we will have a new age, the solar age. I’ve learned that every time it’s growth runs into problems with its development of sales, about every 5 years something happens that makes solar burst alive again, and makes up and greatly surpasses whatever set backs have occurred. I could easily recount this happening during my time working in solar, but the simplest way to remember it, is that whenever the power goes down, electric power prices go up, or environmental catastrophes occur, it sends the interest, sales and support of solar energy skyrocketing.
At some point when people realize how electric utilities are cornering the solar energy market, and making a humongous fortune buying solar produced electricity at a fraction of the price of natural gas, coal, oil or nuclear disasters it will be stopped!
Here is something for your blog, if you like.
Tropical Storm Gordon is howling outside as I write this. The satellite is down so, for all I know it has strengthened to hurricane force. One thing is clear and that is we are on the wet side.
I’m thinking about my solar power system and that is something I should have been thinking about earlier. Circumstances prevented me from taking all of the preventive measures that I would like to take, but the lights are still on and that is what matters.
There’s nothing like a hurricane to make you appreciate your solar or other backup power system. Few things will test your system like a hurricane and, boy, they can come up quick.
Keeping your system in good shape is important and maybe you should make a maintenance checklist, if you haven’t.
It is often gloomy for several days from the time one of these things comes up until it is finally gone, so make sure the batteries are in good shape. Keep them equalized and desulphated to maintain capacity, because you won’t have time to do it when the storm alert is issued. Top up the water and tighten the bolts. Clean up any sign of corrosion you might have creeping in. Try to go into the storm with a good charge.
The girls went joy-riding on one of the golf cars this morning before the rain started. The batteries on the solar system were not topped up so I didn’t put the golf car on charge…that’s another 800 watts that went into charging the house batteries. Batteries from the other golf car are tied into the main batteries to help out in case I need to add some more loads if the grid goes down. Golf cars are the handiest things on a farm and even better when carefully integrated into the solar power system.
My panels are shingles. They are not rated as highly for wind as I would like, but they should be good for this one. There is a trick to increase the wind rating and I am a little nervous that I have not done that. As I add the next 32 feet of length to the solar roof, you can bet I will be installing the extra step. ‘Cane season is far from over.
Do you check your ground mount racking? Tighten the nuts and bolts and check for rusty iron? Do you pick up loose odds and ends that might blow around? I strapped one module that was leaning against the shed to a tree and wish I had started earlier.
Are your inverter and charge controllers protected from rain blown by a 100mph wind?
How about tree limbs? It has been a long time since we have had a big storm around here, so tree limbs have built up around the power lines, seriously jeopardizing the grid service. I have one oak tree that I wish was a little farther away from my solar array. There’s a good project for a calm day in October.
This is my first hurricane for this system. I think it is ok, based on my experience with storms and construction here on my farm, but I will feel better after I know my Solar Shed project has some “experience.” Come tomorrow morning my power should still be on, maybe even the part of it that comes from the grid. If the grid is down and my power is still running, then I will probably be feeling pretty smug.
Y’all stay dry and check your system before the next storm.—Neal
Here’s another. BTW, good idea with the email blast with the hurricanes looming. As for your panels, batteries, 12v cooler kits, I wonder if you actually tried this over time? I think you are a little light on both battery and solar. I tend to double what the spec sheet says you need in theory and add 50%, though!
Keep an eye on Isaac.
So what about AGM batteries?
I like the 230 amp golf car style batteries he John sells, but there are some pretty good reasons to go with AGM batteries, like they won’t spill acid or make explosive gas. Which is better?
John says the AMS230 batteries last a lot longer for most customers than the much more expensive AGMs and my nearest solar neighbor to the west, Tom, agrees, because his lasted 2 years. But wait a minute! I read a lot of boater forums and some liveaboard cruisers report AGMs running fine after 9 years while others agree with Tom on the 2 year life. What gives?
Here’s the important thing to remember: An AGM battery just isn’t a flooded battery and you can’t treat it like one. Another important thing to remember is RTFM, or “Read The Fine Manual.” Seriously, the battery manufacturer will have a nice PDF file you can download and read at your leisure. Do it their way and you will find that an AGM battery can live to a ripe old age.
Here’s what I figured out with Tom’s system. He has a big array of 10kw on a 48v system, so it is not uncommon to have 200 amps of charge power going on. All batteries have “C” ratings, like C5, C10, etc. for charging and discharging. AGMs can discharge like nobody’s business, but you have to charge them e-e-e-easy. I think for the Outback RE-105 batteries he has that comes to 30 amps per string and he had 3 strings, which would give him a max charge rate of 90 amps. Granted, the batteries would not be getting the full 200 amps if the central air and the clothes dryer were running, but sometimes they were getting 200 amps and they simply boiled out the water!
But wait, they are sealed aren’t they??? Yeah, up to a point, but they can vent. I experimented on one string of those batteries while Tom brought in a couple of strings of shiny new flooded Trojan T105 batteries. I pulled off the Outback battery labels and popped off the caps below. I then added distilled water to match the height of the white mats…it took a gallon per battery….and then charged and equalized them for several days. Most of the batteries came back to nearly new specifications and are back in service!
What’s with the boaters, then? As best I can tell, some of them are only charged through their solar systems with charge controllers set to AGM and an appropriate plugin when in port. Those are the guys who had batteries that lasted a long time. The others had them charged from the engine alternator in parallel with the starting battery, effectively overcharging them and boiling out the water.
So, maybe AGM batteries are pretty good after all. RTFM. –Neal
It looks like Neal’s the man when it comes to Power Outage solutions! He just keeps sending me great ideas I can share with our customers.
City condo guy can have a battery backup system, too, especially if he owns a warehouse full of that stuff! I don’t think I’d stay in the condo if a ‘cane were coming, though.
Here’s another handy idea. You know those little solar sidewalk lights? You can put them outside during the day and bring them in at night. I wouldn’t read by one, but you can find your way around the house with it. Most of these have a AA or AAA battery in them, either NiMH or NiCd. You can put regular alkaline AA or AAA batteries in them if you want them to run all night. Just keep them inside and they will last for days, if you don’t want to worry about someone stealing them or have them submerge when it floods. Whenever I remove a battery that won’t run the blood pressure machine or other small gadget, I put it in a box if it has any life left in it. They will still last a long time in a super low drain application like running that one tiny LED in a garden light! This works in a condo, too!
Once again our friend, Neal, has incredibly great advice for keeping your house from being without power. You too will be awed by the results!!
Since a lot of us are thinking about storms these days, I’d like to remind everyone, especially folks new to making their own power, that you probably have a perfectly good, heavy duty generator out in the driveway. Yep, your car. Some of them will even produce 110 volts with no added equipment. If you also have a golf cart in the garage, you already have an 8-10 kwh battery bank you can use in an emergency by adding a $200 inverter.
Looking back at a hurricane that took our power out for 5 weeks, we started out not having any idea how long the power would be out. I was reluctant to drag the 3500 lb. diesel generator out of the barn if I didn’t have to. We had an automatic battery backup system for the lights that we could tap into for the kitchen basics, but that would reduce the battery life to two days. Initially we powered two fridges, microwave, coffeemaker and TV from our cars.
Alternating between an F250 and a big, red Chrysler LHS, we used the running vehicles’ batteries and an inverter to make the 110 for a few days. (DON’T do this with the cars in a closed garage or you could die!!!) After we got the chainsaw and tractor to move enough trees to make the half-mile run to the street the challenge was to clear a mile of street to get to an escape route to a main highway. There were miles-long stretches of rural roads with not a single power pole left standing. By that time it was pretty clear it was going to take a while to get the grid back up. I shut down the car and dragged out the diesel. I ran it a little in the mornings and evenings to charge the 8 GC batteries in the backup system and give a little 220 for the water heater, stove, clothes dryer etc. (With that scheme we had a fairly normal lifestyle and only burned 43 gallons of diesel the whole time.)
Meanwhile, I loaded up a trailer with batteries and an inverter for Mom’s house so she could keep her fridge going, charging the batteries from her minivan. We even pulled a hand-operated antique washing machine I had on loan to the museum so she could do laundry. The neighbors were awed.
In Pensacola, my brother had a manual battery backup system (inverter, 4 GC batteries and a Rubbermaid tote) on the balcony of his townhouse. A set of heavy cables from his pickup truck kept them charged.
Getting one of John’s Sun Electronics DC emergency kits is a good way to get started toward maintaining a bit of normalcy after a storm and with the inexpensive solar panels he has, you might not even need to run the car for power. He also has everything you need to put together an automatic battery backup like I had. That is a great building block if you want to add solar panels later.
Just having some lights on during and after a storm is a tremendous boost to morale. Make your power backup plans BEFORE the storm. Don’t overlook resources you already have and be sure to top up your tanks while the pumps are running and the lines are short.–Neal
THANK YOU NEAL!
✨Definitely the joke of the day 😂😂😂.
Trump has a heart attack and dies. He goes to Hell where the Devil is waiting for him.
“I don’t know what to do,” says the Devil. “You’re on my list but I have no room for you. But you definitely have to stay here, so I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ve got three people here who weren’t quite as bad as you. I’ll let one of them go, but you have to take their place. I’ll even let YOU decide who leaves.”
Trump thought that sounded pretty good so he agreed.
The devil opened the first room. In it was Richard Nixon and a large pool of water. He kept diving in and surfacing empty handed over and over and over, such was his fate in Hell.
“No!” Trump said. “I don’t think so. I’m not a good swimmer and I don’t think I could do that all day long.”
The Devil led him to the next room. In it was Tony Blair with a sledge hammer and a room full of rocks. All he did was swing that hammer, time after time after time.
“No! I’ve got this problem with my shoulder. I would be in constant agony if all I could do was break rocks all day!” commented Trump.
The Devil opened a third door. In it, Trump saw Bill Clinton lying naked on the floor with his arms staked over his head and his legs staked in spread-eagle pose. Bent over him was Monica Lewinsky, doing what she does best.
Trump looked at this in disbelief for a while and finally said, “Yeah, I can handle this.”
The Devil smiled and said, “Monica, you’re free to go!”