Posts Tagged ‘solar’

I am starting to do some research into solar panels, because after the grid goes belly up then a little bit of juice would be a wonderful luxury.  The problem with solar panels however is they are not easy to hide.    You can’t exactly put big-ass panels hidden away in a corner because then they would not get any sun.  This principal is also why Goth kids tend to be very pale.   But if one puts them proudly up on the roof, then after society crumbles you are just asking for the barbarians to come to your driveways gate.  So……

Maybe portable Solar Panels are the way to go?   For example a solar back pack?

My local Fry’s electronics has a got one shelf of other options as well……
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I am starting my research into Solar Power and I am just generating lots of questions.

How much Juice do I need?

I am surprised how much my total kilowatt hours (kWh) jumps around from month to month.  No surprise the summer months use the most juice at around 600 kWh.

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Based on the info above I think I should try to make a solar system that generates 200kWh a month.   But how do I break that down by day?   If a kilowatt hour is equal to 1000 watt hours, does that mean I need 4 separate 50 Watt solar panels to equal 200kWh a month?  I read the Wikipedia entry on kilowatt hour but it just made me more confused.

How much will this cost?

The cost might add up to somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000.  The Fed. Gov. helps somewhat, currently 30% of the cost of the system can be used for a tax credit. Arizonagoessolar outlines Arizona incentives.   A post- incentive price tag of $15,000 to $20,000 gets mentioned a lot in the random examples.   This is a lot of money, it is also possible to lease a system, would this be better?

What type of system is better Grid-tie or Off-the grid?

Grid-tied are hooked into the grid.  During the day, the power generated goes into the grid and at night I pull of the grid.  Some companies have “net metering” which is if your system generates more than you use you get paid by the power company.  It looks like SRP (my local company) has a plan like this in place.  SRP also has a incentive plan to help lower the cost of installing the system.

Off the grid systems are not hooked onto the grid. Because you are now dealing with own storage they seem to be a little harder to figure out at first, but I would expect might be worth it. After all, the Grid-tied system makes you still dependent on the electric company system. In my mind a big hunk of a reason to go through all the trouble of building a solar system is to free oneself. Figuring out how to have both grid-tied and off-the-grid systems just overwhelms me.

One site said if your monthly bill is not at $75 or above, than the cost of establishing the systems may not be worth it.   Plus a full solar panel system on top off a house is like a giant ad to the post-APO hungry hordes. Maybe I should just get a back-up emergency solar system, like this one they had at Fry’s electronics…

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I got the idea of making compost tea from the Grow  House as well as the book Gardening When it Counts.    It is also my first experiment with solar energy.  The solar panel pictured above hooks up to a tiny little air pump.  This system is supposed to be used in backyard ponds.   I bought it years ago, for around $120, when I was thinking about making a little pond in the back yard, which I finally decided against because of my irrational paranoia over West Nile Virus.

In some old socks I stuffed store-bought compost.  I let the compost soak in the water bucket, and the solar pump keeps the water gently moving.   I believe this is going to let me water less and help me deal more effectively with the heavy clay soil of Phoenix.

Update: The pump is dead. Oh sad day. I think I probably should have put a sock around it or something, because my guess is the crap floating around in the water junked it up. My other guess of what happened is the cats pulled the pump out of the bucket because they are like that, and then the pump blew a gasket when it was spraying air without the resistance of water. I went to Fry’s to see if they had another pump I could use, not luck. So I guess I got to buy one from siliconsolar.com, where I originally got the whole system.

Update to Update: I wrote the good people at siliconsolar.com to get there opinion of why the pump might have died.  They were very quick with response, which I like.  They said the pump being out of water would kill it,  which now is what I think happened.  I think the feral cats took the pump out of the water.  The siliconsolar folks also sent me a link to some trouble shooting videos, which I also like.

The last temporary visit of the local library yielded some useful videos on how to prepare for Humanity’s waterloo.

There were two decent videos on how to build an enviromental house.  From what I have seen so far, the community of people preparing for civilization’s curtains tend to be a conservative bunch.  One place where the preppers and the far left overlaps is Extreme Pro-Green Building. After all, surviving on your own is the goal of both groups. And I tend to like it when extremes meet.

Back to point of this post, the library had two decent videos on how to build green, a lot of the techniques might be good to know once the giant wire spider stops giving us it’s venom. They were a good start for me on how to approach the learning construction task. I really have trouble with hammers.

Building with awareness the construction of a hybrid home is a good overview of the considersations one might consider.

Building Green Hosted by Kevin Contreras goes into much more detail.  With four discs he walks through multiple aspects of building green during all stages on construction.

Apollo’s Path

Posted: April 6, 2011 in backyard, solar
Tags: ,

As I have been planning and planting the garden I realize that I don’t know the sun’s path intimately.  I know summer has longer days but that’s about it.  Native Americans throughout the America’s had structures that marked where and when the sun was on the two solstices and two equinoxes. 

In Phoenix, on top of South Mountain there is a petroglyph, art chipped into the rock, that marks the summer solstice.

Above:  The view of the sun rising on the Summer Solstice from the view of the Hohokam petroglyph.

Below: The petroglyph itself.  The semi-vertical line that bisects the petroglyph points to the spot on the horizon where the sun rises on the solstice.  From that angle it sun rises on the eastern edge of Four Peaks, a dominant mountain in the area. 

With all this in mind, in March I started marking where the sun sets.  My backyard faces West, so chalk on the back wall is easy to track.

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At this point I am not exactly sure why it would be useful to know how to track the sun, but I figure if almost every civilization ever has tracked it, then I should as well. 

Some dates to mark:

The vernal equinox is the start of spring.  The day is 12 hours long. The Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. (March 20, 2011)

  • T he summer solstice is the longest day of the year because the Sun reaches the most northern point in the sky at local noon.  The days will now start getting shorter. (June 21, 2011)
  • The autumnal equinox marks the start of fall. The day is 12 hours long. The Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. (Sept. 23, 2011)
  • The winter solstice begins winter. It is the shortest day of the year, when the Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky at local noon. The days start getting longer. (Dec. 22, 2011)

I am looking forward to the weekend.  I had to work last Saturday, which made the last two weeks go long.  I have not been able to do many experiments in the last couple of weeks, so I spent more time doing internet research.    This weekend’s plans include the following:

  • Turn Brittlebush leaves into medicine.   A couple of weekends ago I went for a hike and saw the desert has a ton of brittlebush right now.   I gathered some leaves and have dried them out, so now I think I am supposed to mash them up or something.  While doing research I learned the sap from brittlebush can be used as incense and/or gum, which I think is pretty cool, so next time out I might see how much sap I can gather.

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Brittlebush in AZ Desert Botanical Garden

  • Build a solar still, which will involve digging a wide hole.  One is supposed to dig in a place that would have water in the soil, but as I am doing this in my backyard, I am going to supplement the water still but putting in weeds and sucking the water out of the plants. 
  • Use shadow of stick to figure out which way is west.
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    • Prep for the no grid water for the weekend experiment.
    • Gather water bottles.
    • Gather pine needles for composting toilet.
    • Begin gathering some Creosote Bush stems.  According to Survivorman, one can burn the stems in a fire and the smoke can be used to clean (or rather disinfect) oneself.  The plant makes its own chemicals that make animals and insects not want to eat it, and these same chemicals can be used to disinfect oneself if you don’t have any water.  It is also one of the few desert plants that can be used for toilet paper in a pinch (bad pun intended).     One a side note, the plant is a virtual medicine cabinet for many other uses as well.   Maybe make some tea out of it?  Creosote is so good at repelling harmful stuff, I wonder if it would work on Zombies?

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    Creosote in AZ Desert Botanical Garden

    Last weekend, I built a solar over and tried to make sun-dried tomatoes in them.

    Needed:

    • Two cardboard boxes, one slightly smaller than the other.
    • Aluminium foil.
    • A piece of glass or clear plastic. I used clear plastic because I figured for first attempt best to learn on something that does not break easy.
    • Glue.
    • A knife.
    • Old issues of the New Times, specifically the ads for the strip joints in the back, because this is going to get hot!
    • Some other stuff that will be obvious.

    Step 1: Figure out the angle you want, generally 30% in summer and 70% in winter.

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    Step 2: Cut larger box at that angle desired.  Fold flaps back and cover with tin-foil, the flatter the better.  Be generous with the glue at the edges.

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    Step 3: Cut smaller box at same angle. Smaller box is to fit into larger box eventually.

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    Step 4: Line inner box with tin-foil.

    Step 5:  Place smaller box in larger box, use old New Times to insulate the oven by placeing crumbled snewspaper sheets between the boxes.

    Step 6: Place box at angle to get sun, best if box is portable.  Cover box with clear plastic.

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    Step 6: Watching a pot boil in the sun takes forever.

    Lessons Learned

    First time around I hit about 150″, it was about 70″ degrees outside. I cooked tomatoes and tried to boil water. Water never even came close to boiling, but would have made a nice tea.

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    In four hours the tomatoes were slightly dried out but not dried out for preservation.

    Temperature wise it did not seem to matter if I use glass or a sheet of clear plastic.  Some videos I had watched said they had gotten the temp. to 250 degrees, so I have a lot of room for improvement.   The glass was not flush with the box, so that is where I would begin working on improvements.