Power Shift: Affordable Power

By , March 15, 2015

When we decided that solar panels may make better sense than wind generators for our power needs and peace of mind (see Power Shift: Increasing Our Energy Independence) I began to wonder why we didn’t do this in the first place? When we installed our PV array at the end of 2007, we put up a paltry 256 watts, installing four 64 watt panels.

When I found the receipts, I got my answer. At the time we installed solar, we could barely afford the panels to replace our ailing Winco generator. Since then, prices on solar panels have dropped significantly!

This led to an important epiphany: for less than the price of a new wind generator we could dramatically upgrade our solar array .

In fact, I started planning a new array using last year’s Backwoods Solar catalog. While in the process, their 2015 catalog arrived. Since I’d already written notes in the old catalog, I kept them both handy. However, I soon found myself checking prices in the old catalog by mistake. When I looked in the 2015 catalog for the most current prices, I found that many of them had dropped by about $50 per panel!

Anytime the radio news mentions solar power, they always seem to work in its “high cost.” I suppose if one lives on the grid, and relies on paying a few pennies per kilowatt, the cost would seem high. This glosses over the fact that the means to provide one’s own power continue to become less and less expensive as technologies, uses, and acceptance by the general public expands. I also ignores the longevity of solar panels. Eventually, the cost amortizes, and the subsequent power is free.

To be fair, wind power shares this characteristic. We stayed with Southwest Windpower for so many years because we used and developed skills for dealing with their products. However, we have gotten fed up with wind generators in general from this very association. With the company dissolved in the U.S. (see My Wind Generator’s Company Goes Missing) our current generator is unsustainable. When it breaks down next time, we may have to pay to fix it, rather than repairing it ourselves.

Solar panels’ passive nature, with few or no working parts, lower profiles, and less reliance on extreme weather conditions for peak operation led us to embark on this new plan, this power shift away from wind toward solar.

Sizing a photovoltaic array to match the power a properly operating wind generator produces proved to be quite a process. I’ll describe some of in a future post.

5 Responses to “Power Shift: Affordable Power”

  1. Mark says:

    What about the days with little sunshine, is solar still a better option over wind?

  2. Charity says:

    I’ve been looking at upgrading solar for the past month. Last fall I installed 600Ah battery bank . . . sounds small compared to your 900Ah! I only have 90W of solar and am looking at something in the 750W range. I end up running my gas generator about 15+ hours a week to keep my battery bank charged at this point in time. I’m enjoying your recent posts about electricity as I’m learning a lot. sigh . . . always so many decisions and investment needs.

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Charity, glad to hear you’re getting something out of this topic. I worry that it may be boring the general readership.

    Our 900Ah bank sounds big, but, as I say, we’re effectively using it as a 225 Ah bank with a whole lot of reserve. When our Ni-Fe bank comes, we’ll be down to 400 Ah, and even that represents about 30% more power than we regularly use.

    90W sounds like it could use an upgrade, particularly if you’re having to haul fuel to your site. Stay tuned, as I’ll walk through what we did to figure out how to size the bank and decide on the size of solar panels.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Very timely question, Mark! I address that very topic in the next scheduled post, March 17th.

  5. Drew says:

    I looked into solar panel a few years ago and was blown away by how expensive it would be. It took a lot less time than I thought it would for the price to come down. Thanks for sharing!

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