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My Energy Obsession

| 2/9/2011 12:20:46 PM

 I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’m a little bit obsessed with my energy usage. I thought I’d share a typical Sunday at Sunflower Farm Off-Grid Retreat with you, to give you some idea of just how obsessed I am. Well, a typical day in my mind anyway. Believe me, Michelle looks at the world radically differently than I do.

We had friends over for breakfast. I boiled water and cooked potatoes (for the home fries) on the woodstove. When the potatoes were cooked enough I put them into a huge cast iron frying pan with onions, again on the woodstove. I also had a few kettles of boiling water on the woodstove to be used for our tea and coffee. I cooked the rest of the meal on our induction electric stovetop. It was a sunny morning and the batteries were already fully charged so I had power to burn. I toasted our bread in the electric toaster.

Of course the energy used to cook our food is only part of the picture. Lots of energy is used to ship food from where it’s grown to where it’s consumed. That morning our potatoes and onions had come from our garden. The cream in our coffee and the eggs were local. The bread was from a local bakery – if I’d grown and processed more wheat this past year, it might have also come from our garden! The worse energy offender on our menu was the coffee, which was not grown within 100 miles of our place. As meals go, it was pretty low on the carbon scale.

Later that day Michelle was working on accounting, and trying to listen to the radio. She kept losing the station though, so I turned on the TV/satellite dish which offers about 100 music channels including hits from the 1970s, the 1980’s, blues, jazz, dance, you name it. It was a mid-winter day and I was able to leave the TV on all day! How great is that? Once my batteries are charged I’ve got to use the excess juice some way or another!

Solar panels work best in the cold. It was -22 ° C (- 7°F) that day. The panels also work best with the type of clean air we have this time of year. During the summer, we often experience a “haze” of pollution wafting in from Toronto and the Ohio valley. It’s surprising how much particulate in the air can restrict the output of my PV panels in the summer. This time of year we have lots of snow on the ground, which reflects even more light at the panels. All of these conditions were working to our advantage and when I checked my Outback Charge Controller, it indicated that there was 2320 watts coming in from my panels. This is close to the rated capacity of all the solar panels on my two trackers, so was pretty exciting to see how well they were working.

charge controller 1

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