SOLAR PANEL UPGRADE

October 17, 2010

SUNDAY

Sonny

Last month I ordered 3 additional 210 watt Kyocera PV solar panels as part of my stage 2 upgrade.  I promptly ordered a 6 panel rack mounting system through Alt-E Solar Store but then had to wait over 4 weeks until DPW (the manufacturer) shipped it.  John and I decided to start the project first thing Saturday morning (right after a cup of coffee).

 

New Solar Panel Upgrade

 

The first action was to get to town to hit up Lowe’s for installation supplies. PVC conduit, 10 and 8 gauge wire, ground rod and clamps and of course some lunch and we were ready to finally get started around 2:00 p.m. About 4 hrs later we were covering up the trench and flipping the disconnect to “on”.

We set these panels to face South-East to gather the early morning sunlight before my main PV array even gets any sun on it. The “Rack Mount” is designed for 6 panels and soon we intend to add another 3 panel on the bottom to close-out the install. If all goes well it will happen sometime next month.


NEW BATTERY BANK INSTALL

October 9, 2010

Saturday

Linda

The weather today was beautiful.  Blue clear skies and warm temperatures made it the perfect day to be outside.  John came over bright and early this morning to help Sonny install the new bank of batteries that arrived yesterday.

Connecting cables

All he asked in payment was a cup of coffee to get him started. You would not believe how heavy each one of those batteries are.  I definitely would not have the strength to lift and carry them to the battery box where Sonny would install them.

Getting them in place

We are hoping to get a little more juice for those extended cloudy and rainy days that come along.  Winter will be a another good test for our system with its months of grey and overcast days.

We still need to finish that project we started a few weeks ago of putting the R-19 insulation under the house.  That will be a big improvement.  We don’t want a repeat of last years wool socks and L.L. Bean slipper requirement. Back then you could get frost bite by just touching the floor with your bare foot. Brrrrrr.  Cold feet don’t set well with me. Cold weather is ok, but I am too old to be like Ebenezer Scrooge eating gruel in a fireless room.


PHF UPDATE

August 29, 2010

Sunday

Linda

Pot Hole Farm is in the end of summer phase. We pulled out the string bean plants as they were no longer producing and the carrots I planted didn’t do well. They looked squished and stunted like little orange mutant carrots. Not very appetizing at all.  They actually need a more sandy soil rather than the clayish and rocky soil we have here. I recently found out that like potatoes they need to have dirt pushed up on them as they grow, forming a hill. Our garden this year was an experiment anyway and this particular one failed.  Sonny crinkled up his nose and carried them to the compost pile as if they were nuclear waste.  I don’t think carrots will be on the garden menu next year.   The tomato plants are turning brown and dying off. Grass has begun to take over the now vacant areas where the red potatoes were planted and the pumpkins have taken over the squash and zucchini plants. We still have Lima beans and the sweet potatoes and pumpkins will be harvested before the first frost.

Yep, Its a Pumpkin

This weekend Sonny and I cut up one of the large limbs that broke off an ancient Maple tree this past winter. It was the size of a small tree itself and will help to keep us warm this winter. Our minds are beginning to turn from summer projects to winter preparedness. We need to install the wood stove, put in insulation under the house, and cut wood for our winter fuel.  Those are the major projects but there are also small things like painting the root cellar and the door trim of the chicken coop. We need to install a solar panel on the roof of the chicken coop so we can run a light in there during the shorter winter days. Chickens need about 12-14 hours of light to produce eggs.  We also ordered and received three more 205 watt solar panels and he plans to order a ground mounting rack for them next. I think he is wanting to try to get a third bank of batteries before Christmas.  Sonny wants to make sure that we have enough energy to support the house when grey days arrive.

It’s possible we may have phone service in the near future. I was surprised last Wednesday when a guy showed up with a ditch-witch to dig and bury the new phone cable. At least we are that far now. We have to wait for the phone company to come out and attach the connection box to the house and hook us up.  It’s hard to say when that will be but its one small step closer to being able to communicate with the outside world.  I know my Mom and daughter-in-law will be ecstatic when it gets connected.  The phone lines will be smoking when that day arrives.


Summer of Sustainability: Off the Grid in Doddridge County

August 18, 2010

Summer of Sustainability: Off the Grid in Doddridge County – WBOY-TV – WBOY.com. (click this link)

Last Saturday one of the local television station came to our place and did an interview with Linda and I about our Off Grid Homestead. Although it was very hot and humid it was still fun to do. The link above includes the video of the story they actually aired on tonight’s 6:00 p.m. local news. Hope the paparazzi don’t start running up and down my road taking pictures of me when I’m out trying to mow the lawn.


CRAZY AUGUST STORM

August 4, 2010

Wednesday

Linda

A loud rumble of thunder was my alarm clock this morning. It was 0630 and the overcast sky was dark.  We already had a good storm last night with rain and thunder clappers and lightening.  It appeared this morning may be a repeat.  I threw on some clothes, let the dogs out and hurried down to the coop to check on the chickens.  I wanted to make sure they had plenty of food and water in case this was going to be an all day thing. The storm passed but the sky was still cloudy.

I thought I better turn on the generator for a while since we didn’t have much sun the day before to charge the house batteries.  I hit the manual start button. Nothing.  I checked to make sure that the main switch that connects the generator and the charge controller was in the correct position.  It was.  Tried the manual start switch on the generator again. Nothing.  I checked the propane tanks. Full.  At this point I was at the end of my trouble shooting abilities.  I emailed Sonny at work to see what he thought.  Apparently we left the cut-off switch on the generator panel “on” and it ran the primary generator battery down.

So Sonny called John (since we don’t have a phone yet) to come over and hook up a external charger to it.  In the meantime I dragged our backup gasoline powered generator out of storage and hooked it up and with a couple of pulls on the rope it fired up.  It worked just fine.  I let it run until John and Carol showed up. I was already supposed to be at their house this morning.  Instead they had to run over and rescue me.  Once John got everything set up they went home and I let the battery charge for about three hours.  I think we’re fixed now. I won’t be leaving that switch on again.

The sun popped in and out for a while and I headed over to John and Carols for the afternoon.  Carol was going to make me a home cooked meal.  We spent a nice afternoon in her studio.  She’s a great sculptor. She is working on a bust of John.  I’m amazed at the likeness.  While the artist was at work I played with some clay myself.  My fourth grade art teacher would have been proud of the Magnolia flower I created.  I didn’t intend for it to be a magnolia but that’s what it turned out to be.  You can’t argue with art.

I was getting hungry and looking forward to that ham and homemade macaroni and cheese.  John came in and informed us that a big storm was on it’s way heading East from Ohio.  Sonny called shortly after that and said it was getting real close.  Around here the roads can quickly flood and there is always a chance that a tree can get washed out and fall across them as well.  I had animals at home to think about so I hightailed it home.  I was getting close to my destination, about two miles away from home when the sky became angry and drops of rain hit the windshield. The wind was beginning to whip up and blow leaves and brittle branches off the trees.  I prayed a tree wouldn’t fall on top of the Jeep.

Cold Front

When I reached the mile mark there was a huge limb across the road. Thank goodness it wasn’t a full sized tree.  I really hate backing up (my tracks look like a snake).  With some maneuvering I was able to drag the big branch to the side of the road.  When I reached home the wind had blown over my patio chairs.  Once again I let the dogs out before the storm really hit hard and ran down to check on the chickens.  They were safe and sound in their little coop and I battened down the hatches.  The dogs and I, and of course Annie the cat were safe and sound while the storm raged. I just wish I could have had my ham dinner first, but that’s August.

Heat, humidity, and big storms to remind us that we are pretty small in the scheme of things, and the Almighty has the reins.


Trenching Cables and Wiring PV Array

February 5, 2010

Once we finished installing the 10” steel pipe install for the pole mounted PV panels we next had to get the wires buried. I got a local guy to bring his Kubota back-hoe over to dig a trench from the pole to the electrical room. We then put it in 1” electrical PVC pipe to protect the wires. We pushed several of the 10 gauge cables through as fast as we could and was finished in time for him to grab his John Deere lawn tractor to start back filling.

We then had the Kubota (with a back hoe) dig out a spot out over near the mud room for the future root cellar we plan to have blocked up in the Spring. Just when he was finishing up his front wheels dropped down in a water drain ditch and ripped off his hydraulic filter and within seconds all the fluid was lost. That is why he had to use the John Deere to finish up.

The next day John and I finished connecting the PV panels, grounded each and connected it to the recently pounded in 9′ grounding rod. We then connected 3 PV panels per bank in a series with their MC connectors. There were a total of 4 banks. Next we put a 3’ piece of 2×6 in the ground and mounted the Midnite Solar Combiner disconnect box to it. Installed 5 of the 1/2” strain reliefs in the bottom of the disconnect box for the ground and the 4 banks.


Overview of the Major Components

February 4, 2010

Xantrex controller and distribution panel

After doing a lot of searching on the web I finally arrived at the Alternative Energy Store aka AltE. I called their tech support and was happy to find that they had no issue with spending the time helping me understand what the major components did in the system. I wanted to over engineer my system to allow me to grow into it.

Originally discussed one of their pre-packaged systems but as they educated me and I gained a better understanding of how a PV system was suppose to work I began asking more questions. I wanted to make sure I could add additional components such as a Micro-Hydro or a Wind Generator down the road without being told “Oh you can’t do that with this system”.

I finally decided on a Xantrex 2.5kw system that includes the Inverter/Charger, Charge Controller, two banks of 8, 190 Amp-Hour 6V batteries, Automatic Generator Start (AGS) and distribution panels. There are also tons of cables and connectors with the system. The PV are 12, 205W Kyocera solar panels, mounted them on Top Mount configuration.

12 PV panel on Top-Pole-Mount


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