View Full Version : solar power systems
19-01-2006, 12:40 PM
I thought I would see what % of those here use solar power, apart from a small electric fence running on solar we have nothing, Yet.
Of those that do have a solar systems are you connected to mains power or do you have a stand alone system, what type of battery banks do you use or recommend? do you feed power back into the mains system if you do, do you have batteries or none at all.
Maybe if those who do have solar systems could give a little feedback on what works for them and what does not.
Does anyone have a wind turbine that works with their system?
I have been looking at what packages are around and the type of systems availble, my thoughts on a system for here would 8x120w panels (at a guess) and a small wind turbine with no battery backup, instead a petrol gen-set as we have only lost power here a few times over the past few years. I do computer work from home during the day so if I could draw from the system that would be good, I'm still learning about solar power and wind power but would like to invest in it down the track sometime.
19-01-2006, 02:48 PM
I'm certainly no expert on Solar but here is my 2c worth.
As yet, I would not consider going Solar an investment because of initial setup and replacement costs. A small setup to power your place could cost in excess of $30,000 and a decent battery bank could cost around $10,000 to replace every 10 years. Currently, the economics of it just aren't there until battery technology improves.
In rural australia, government subsidies of 50% are apparently available for properties not readily able to connect to the grid.
I would suggest subscribing to any Green Energy program your electricity retailer (Energex) has so your power is generated using renewable sources.
A small disclosure is required here - I work for an electricity retailer (not Energex btw).
p.s. I haven't forgotten about the Lomandra and Sugar Cane I am growing on for you.
Richard on Maui
19-01-2006, 03:18 PM
We are off the grid on solar. I think we have about 1100 watts of panels, a SW trace inverter that could be grid interactive if we were anywhere near the grid, and we have 8 UL-16 batteries. So it is a 24 volt system. Our neighbours all have 48 volt systems, but I don't really get why...
I think as Derek said, it is a nice thing to be using solar power, but it is pretty expensive. Of course, if you look at all the other costs of using coal fired or heaven forbid, nuclear power, solar starts to look like a pretty bloody good deal. :lol:
19-01-2006, 07:38 PM
Battery replacement of $10,000 every 10 years equates to $1000 per year.
I spend about $1200 a year on electricity as it is, so going solar means I'm still out in front by $200 bucks a year!
The capital cost is, as pointed out, fairly onerous, but if it is built into your original building costs (if building a new home), then it is easier to justify.
I'm hoping to install a Sunball system, once Greg Watson releases it to the commercial market in February :)
20-01-2006, 04:14 AM
that's a whack of power hey? using that much for my cents worth wind/solar probably won't be much good to you anyway dunno?
when we did our home work we got figures like derek indicated except the batteries where around $6k but not much difference, and apart from the initial layout of lots of componenets with built in obsolescence around #30k you had to be putting at least $1k away per year to replace the system as it wore out, it made for very expensive unreliable power. just ask yourself what happens when there is no sun with a solar system, got a mate with one and he prays for sunny days, they have to be power misers just to excist sometimes. and as for feeding back to the grid that for me is a fools paradise the best advice i got there was forget it.
wind would probably be more reliable if they would get away from the swing propellor system that can't cope with any eddies and is a high maintanance system requiring a tower in most cases (look at those ugly habitat space consuming wind farms yuk). so they still need a generator driven by some sort of fuel to either top up batteries or run the home, think about it hey.
now the other down sides quiet big ones, living in rural we need cool/cold capacity storage and a good supply of it eg.,. large model fridge and freezer to say the least and if we got into grazing our own beef one of those 2 meter cold rooms would be ideal suited, wind/solar just simply won't power them you would still need the grid to power them, on our last ask we where told that in practise solar would only power a small fridge no more than about 420 litres and maybe a small freezer.
so we would have had to expend $30k app' to supply lights and incidental power for small appliances, and still have the grid for food storage and still need a reasonable kva size generator, didn't add up! well not in our budget.
up here with on demand pumps a 500 liter fridge and large freezer we use around $500 give or take a little, in power per year, even in the 'burbs using gas for hot water and cooking our power bill was around $400 per year. we looked at solar there as well in a regular poorly designed home and that was going to be around #30k just for lights and small appliances.
and for my bit centralised so called renewable power is going to be very very expensive at the meter, reckon the poorer people won't be able to afford it, and like those habitat space consuming ugly wind farms solar panel farms will look just as bad won't kill as many birds i s'pose? dunno?
but anyway before jumping in on the 'catch cry renewable' (at a price) scene for you home do your homework in depth, there are many componenets all with their own price tags that need raplacement from 10 year to 20 year periods. decentralised system were each home provides its own power is the way i feel we should be going as a sustaibnable society but currently the designers are locked into narrow track old design thought patterns, why can't wind units probably going to be the better out of the 2 or have both (hang the expense hey) why can't they be used with a turbine like those spinners we have on our roofs? why bird killing noisy and possibly dangerous propellors mounted on towers, and if something happens guess we'll see you in court facing liability litigation under duty of care.
yes we see storage of power as being necessary in these systems, so at present battereis are needed, and the otehr side of the coin what about recycalabilty of components and what abouit all the plastics in the components must be lots of polluting aspects in making this stuff? and old batteries??? hey you tried getting rid of an old car battery lately the dumps out, takes a lot of in depth thinking doesn't it.
anyhow our cents worth as we see it.
len :? :shock:
20-01-2006, 04:56 AM
All good points you've raised. A dual solar/wind system would probably suit most people better. However its not windy everywhere in Australia;- it would be ok if I lived in Cape Otway, but I don't. I've looked at the wind roses for this area and the winds are intermittent, to say the least, and very seasonal, so its not an easy avenue to pursue.
Having said that, there are plenty of solar fridges on the market which take far less power than the conventional ones to run, and I have made enquiries about them overseas. I can't find an Australian distributor of solar fridges.
I'll have some time to plan all this, probably towards the end of this year, so will work towards the best compromise available.
Thank you for your thoughts
20-01-2006, 05:31 AM
would be interested in info on solar or solar compatable fridges/freezer as that is one aspect of family life yo can't get away from no matter how good an eco' home you build, and for the main even us we need a 500 litre fridge and a medium to large chest freezer, and like i said we like our beef so a 2 meter cold room with freezer section would be more applicable.
this is all working within in the standard 12 volt systems, i was told to get the fridges converted to 12 volt but it all takes money and it's still all got built in obselescence.
we get good wind here but we absolutely refused to pay for a testing station to be built for up to 12 months, we reckon the installer of wind should have enough knowledge or they pay for the recording equipment. might not be needed if the technology used turbine type wind collecting equipment and wet finger tech'.
so the factor in points are the obscelesance cost that starts at around $1000aud per year just for batteries alone and the recovery cost of the system needs to be added in as it doesn't have any savings to balance expense against well apart from maybe environmental?? still feel it comes under the feel good catagory and for those who can afford to look different.
so keep us informed as you go along always very interested as us humans need to do something but moving environmental issues from our back yard to someone elses backayrd isn't it.
20-01-2006, 06:57 AM
I just did a google and found a few australian manufacturers/distributors of 12v/DC fridges, which are claimed to be suitable for solar power. I haven't had time to check their specs and power requirements. The mob I was talking to in the US is:
If you want a current MS Excel pricelist for Sunfrost, which lists models, power requirements etc, PM me with your email addess - you are welcome to a copy
20-01-2006, 07:03 AM
Len, talking of wind systems, I have been playing with a design, which has already changed from this design some what but it gives you an idea of where i'm heading, the design has some good and bad design features, I have some very smart friends who are always willing to pick holes in my ideas. Once I build my shed I will have a place to work on a prototype, but in the mean time doing it in 3d lets me develop and show my friends some of my crazy ideas. :lol:
The video is 550k (half a megabyte) right click the link and save as.
http://soulkeeperproductions.com/baz/vi ... owtech.avi (http://soulkeeperproductions.com/baz/video/wingflowtech.avi)
20-01-2006, 07:34 AM
Hey there Bazman,
Our home and property is run solely on solar power - no connection to the mains - washing machine, lights, stereo, television, DVD player, power tools, water pump to the header tank - with no problems. We have a John Morgan designed system which consists of:
~ a six panel solar array of 450 watts
~ 750 amp hour of battery storage
~ a 1.6KW sinewave inverter
~ a 0.75KW battery charger - which uses a petrol driven generator, not that we need this much, used once this winter.
All our wiring runs are short, the panels are mounted near the battery bank and pull switches are used for all lighting adding to the efficiency.
20-01-2006, 08:00 AM
Franceyne, how long have you had the system in and running?
Len, speaking of cool rooms, in issue 93 (oct-dec05) of Renew magazine there was a story about a sustainable farmer and he had a strawbale coolroom with in his shed.
Three strawbale walls built on a concrete slab in which semicircular pieces of 19mm poly pipe had been set, high tensile fencing wire was passed through the foundation and over the wall to tension the bales down, wall were plastered with a cement render and a cool room door and roof fitted. insulation greater than R7 and he only runs the drop in refrigeration unit at night, not during peak demand. Enough room for three and a half tonnes of fruit.
I have found the Renew mag pretty good info on solar and other sustainable technology.
20-01-2006, 08:04 AM
Our house was built just over five years ago Bazman.
We also have a cool cupboard - mudbrick walls, internal room with a polypipe coming from under the (external) water tank, underground and a vent taking hot air up through the roof - it works a treat.
20-01-2006, 08:34 AM
thanks spritegirl, will check that link asap, but what i am looking at is the size of these units?? and what about a seperate freezer and what size ie.,. litre storage capacity as in our needs are a 500 litre fridge and would need a medium size chest freezer the tucker box type square don't hold enough. being 12 volts they will run direct from the solar/wind supply source without an inverter in most cases bet they aint cheap and would wonder at length of service.
thanks bazman, still an initial cost and effort in creating the cool room i guess but these are some of the things that need to be taken into the equation, could also convert one of those small shipping containers i have seen ones around 10 foot long, or convert one end of a 20 footer or even 40 footer using high grade styrene as used in boat eskies and a small air cond unit would then most likley keep it cool enough for fruit and vege's not so sure about meat though well over the mid to longer term that is between butchering needs. things like root cellars as well but there are many and varied logisitics to consider.
need to think in rural we would want to feed ourselves as much as we could with our own efforts so storing 30 or 40 jap pumpkins, as many beans as will store, tomatoes, capsicums, cabbages, cauliflower, broccolli you name it hey ok we get enough of this stuff in season then there is the in between season as new crops start up. and for home grown grass fed meat poultry pork etc.,. need to be accommodated.
with wind my thinking is take a gander at all those whirly birds on all thos roofs just to condition the captured air in wasted roof cavity space they are mostly truning most of the time, so we need wind catching equipment to harness small amounts of wind and convert that to small amounts of power amps over a continuous multiple system.
and my mate with the ssolar uses his generator a lot more he is in high rain fall belt in sunshine coast hinterland and lots of cloud cover.
franceyne what did your system cost if i may ask? and what are the limitations if you incorporated that into a normal wiring plan in a normal home? eg 6 fluor lights 16 power points not all used at the same time but stereo's, computers, tv's etc.,. all on standby, then there is hot water big big auto washing machine and the cold storage capacaties i mentioned earlier. then on the weekend hubby come handyman wants to do some welding anyway you get the picture.
and at the end of the day there is still a whole lot of manufacturing needed.
great thread this hey
20-01-2006, 09:25 AM
I think a solar hot water system to replace the 30 year old tank would be a good start and gas to replace our old electric setup in the kitchen.
Len if you do get a container, I think it would be worth getting as much of it under shade as possible. the cool room from above was inside a shed in the shade all the time.
With the whirly birds, they would have very little touque to get power out of, I have seen some strange looking wind systems online. like these:
20-01-2006, 09:54 AM
yes the container would have a shed over it or at least a roof and eastern and western sun protection.
if you add solar hot water system into your solar power installation costs it could turn out quiet dear just for hot water, and on those overcast days most solar h/w systems have grid booster.
yeh a friend of mine said that to me too but we realy need to think outsode the square and explore all possibilites. he got an old ceiling fan and held it into the wind and ascertained that you could not grab hold of it ans stop it but a full spinning spinner can be stopped with little effort. the difference i see is the old ceiling fan had an armature on it acting like a fly wheel, you getting where i am coming from?
say we needed to fit some extra flat blades on top of a spinner to get more wind thrust could that work with an attached armature at the other end like a ceiling fan has. just think we will be stuck with expensive and high maintancnace propellors unless we come up with an alternative and in the 'burbs would the neighbours like you to have a noisy prop??? ok maybe even the spinner could be made bigger in diameter and still not be terribly expensive and not need a tower needing approval and maintanance.
hot water is easy if your roof is built strong just run some black 3/4 fire house up there in close loops and a very small pump to cycle the water through a very heavily insualted storage tank. a black 44 gallon plastic drum on top of a shower house out in the sun will do for showers, someone in the estates just north of us has that yeh it's in their front yard can just see them scooting from the shower with a towel wrap back to the house hey lol :lol: anyhow simple affordable solution that lasts.
we have bout 80 meters of 1.25 inch black pipe running on top of the ground from the bore it gives us water so hot enough for a bath that you need to run inthe morning to have a cool bath late in the arvo' all free and simple well almost, might not be terribly convenient.
20-01-2006, 10:01 AM
had a look at those fridges freezers they don't use sizing that relates to how we size a unit we might buy for our home eg.,. 520 litre fridge/freezer typical combo, and a 320 litre chest freezer we have a 160 it is too small to do much with.
didn't get to looking at prices bet they aint cheap but?
20-01-2006, 10:25 AM
Hey there Len,
Our system is a small system, it cost around the $18,000 6 years ago.
In our current system we have 12 fluoro lights and 8 double power points...we keep nothing on standby and only have the fan in the Rotaloo working all the time. Hot water is solar. Fridge is gas. The system handles the power tools fine (although we do not have a welder).
The fellow that designed our system has set up his own home to handle every modern appliance, tool and gadget - it is kind of a show piece to illustrate what solar systems are capable of.
20-01-2006, 01:24 PM
It may even be worth going with a gas fridge until such time as solar fridges are more affordable and/or solar panel configurations are more efficient..that might be 10 years away..I'm going to look into both and will post a comparison here on the forum
20-01-2006, 02:43 PM
yes the cost of things has to be part of the considerations,as when they need replacing you are going to have to be able to afford.
should imagine that a gas powered fridge of the capacity i mentioned could be somewhat more expensive than its mains powered counterpart from most regular retail outlets, likewise with the solar/12volt units. also as well lpg gas is more expensive than say if you where in a suburb that had natural gas available, so the extra cost would need to be factored into the overal cost of the system.
in our case we where able to design and build an eco' warm-home/cool-home for $50,000aud and solar for fridges (small units) and general power was going to be around $30,000aud extra, not including a generator which would need to be able to power a welder on acreage and owning a tractor a necessary item. we where going to use gas for hotwater and cooking or an alternative black pipe on the roof for hot water but it all got expensive and we could see in the future being on a limited income we could have problems at replacement times.
and putting money away to cover obsolescence app' $1200aud per annum and near that much again to cover the initial investment was out of the question for us. as that represents app' 10% of income alone.
also for those who's lifestyle suits some systems, items of discussuion about what could have been done better or anything like that all helps the learning in these chats. there usualy always is a better way.
we get a lot of wind here we reckoned as did a few otehr observers more than enough to keep batteries fully charge, but the wind generator people want extra money before they even begin to install so they can work out all that stuff that a wet finger can tell you hey chuckle.
len :) :)
Richard on Maui
20-01-2006, 03:37 PM
Our solar guy talks about how much "lifestyle" you can buy for your dollar. He reckons that the bigger fridges are more cost effective to run on solar, (if you have enough panels and batteries) because they are almost always better insulated than the smaller fridges.
Len, yes, batteries need replacement, and sometimes inverters and charge controllers will fail in the ten year range (sometimes they last a lot longer too), but I think many solar panels for sale today are guaranteed to last 20 years. The panels is where most of your money is.
As I said before, you add up the true cost of mains electricity, and solar is a bargain.
20-01-2006, 11:25 PM
Solar/wind hybrids are excellent ways to maximize your energy production. Frequently the wind is blowing when the sun is down, and the sun may shine on a calm day.
I am a dealer installer for solar/wind systems. I sell a few "larger" (small by most standards) systems a year the last few years, and before that I have been selling small one or two panel systems for farmers who live beyond the grid. I have designed and built several solar water pumping systems using piston pumps, diaphragm pumps and a few kinds of submersible pumps.
I just, last night, got back from the first half of installing a smaller system (300 watts solar and 400 watt wind turbine with 1000 watt inverter, 400 amp hour battery fat 12vdc) for the Toledo Institute of Development and Environment ranger station at Paynes Creek National Park. I have installed another, slightly larger system (375 watts solar, 1.8 kw inverter) for them at Abalone Cay in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System bought a larger system of 650 watts solar, 2 kw inverter for their ranger station and research centre at Hunting Cay.
We live with solar. Our system is 450 watts of solar, an 800 amp hour battery at 12 volts and a 1.8 kw inverter. I have a simple wind turbine (obtained from an alcoholic exyachtsman in the terminal stages of that disease of the humid tropics that expatriots frequentyl catch, Gringo Debacheritus, which involved drinking, more drinking, and losing all of your money. Very tragic... but its an, and you'll excuse the pun, ill wind that blows nobody good.... and I got the turbine, an Ampair 100, with a solar panel and some dive equipment, for USD200, a steal of a deal... and I sold the panel for USD200) ... but haven't gotten around to installing it yet....
We mostly run lights and some fans on the DC current, and the inverter powers some of the computers, the sattelite internet, a well designed and highly efficient washing machine and the occasional power tool. We ALWAYS have lights, tho sometimes we budget our energy because of weather... foregoing washing machine in day so we can use internet at night... etc
All of the systems I have installed have been for locations where the grid doesn't reach and will most likely never reach, either because it is in the sea on an island, or on a small feeder road where it would not be cost effective for the utility to run lines, or to pump water for irrigation or for house water.
Our system would cost about USD6-7000 or so to buy. I got all of the panels for either free or for very cheap because I am a dealer, and also because I am a bit of an opportunitic scavengar... It also started out as a 1 panels, two light system, with a small fan for the bed... not one of the components is from the orignal system, it just grew, and grew....
When Hurricane keith slammed Ambergris Cay, I ended up with 8 panels for about half what they were worth, and sold 4 of them for 3/4 of what they were worth, and ended up with two "free" (and the other two for about the price of one). I aso watch as villages become electrified, and I go in a month or two later and buy up the panels. I then package the panels with charge controllers and fusing to sell as one or two panel systems, and I sell the whole engineered system for less than retail.
I make some money off of the larger systems, and I don't lose money on the others, but I really believe in solar, and my interest in solar is based on a desire to spread the technology.
Solar is cost effective... especially if you are off the grid a short distance. However, it may not appear cost effective in short term accounting when compared to grid power, because all of the hidden costs of nonrenewable energies, acid rain, nuclear waste, global warming, melting icecaps, carbon pumped into the environment, damage to watershed from big dam hydro, invasions of sovereign nations under false pretexts (WMD and BLTs) for their oil, etcetera, are usually not factored into the equation. If the true cost of nonrenewable enregy to the envoronment and human health were taken into consideration, solar and wind would become "cost effective" quickly.
Each solar panel has about three years worth of embedded energy, meaning that three years of sunlight shining on the panels will make as much energy as went into the solar panels creation. After that, its "free energy".
Most panels on the market now come with a 20-25 year warranty, which speaks well of the reliability of the technoilogy.; In fact, the first panels made for NASA 40 years ago (at USD10,000 a watt versus the USD5 or so per watt now), are still running fine out in space.... I can't think of anything else with such a warranty!
And, you are right, Derek, the weak link is the batteries. Lead acid batteries last between 3-15 years, depending on the battery. Most batteries will last 5-7 years, though we have a set that is 8 years old. Then the whole bank must be replaced. Nickel cadmium batteries last longer, but have cadmium, which is highly toxic.
The one good thing about lead acid batteries is that they are very easy to recycle, and in countries like the US where thay have mandatory buy backs of batteries, +%99 of batteries are recycled.
Before the US's rural electrification prorgram in the 1930s, most farm houses in Americas rural midwest ran off of 36 volt Wincharger wind turbines. These turbines are still around, and many of them are being repaired and returned to service....
The batteries that they used were nickel iron batteries, which are very long lived batteries. Short of mechanical destruction, there is nothing that you can do these batteries that will damage them that is not chemically or electrically reversible. The chemicals involved are an alkali solution.
These batteries still work! I have read of batteries that sat in a barn for 70 years and were bought up for next to nothing and put back into service.... they still function fine.
The problem with these batteries is that no battery company wants to make them anymore. Why give up on your repeat customers who will be back every 2-15 years by marketing a battery that will last indefinitely? And, hence, noone makes them anymore (except in China, and they are expensive and do not have a great track record...)
As long as lead acid batteries are the norm, the batteries will remain the weak link...
We don't have any fridge. I buy ice now and again, to out in our drinks... but we just eat fresh most of the time. Sunfrost fridges are the best! They are really well designed, with lots of insulation, and the compressor top mounted.... and they are pricey... but compared to a tradtionbal, inefficient fridge, designed to end up in a landfill in 8 years, they are great. They are designed to run on DC power, obviating the need for a fridge... and I drooled when I saw the first on here in Belize (missionary guy bought iot down on a bus...)
There is another company named "Sundanzer" which makes top loading chest fridges and freezers to that same caliber of uqlity, and these are also very efficient, and a bit cheaper and might be a way to go. Not sure where they are located, and as Sunfrost is on the west coast, it may make shipping for you cheaper.... My friend, Jakob, just bought one, so I will have to ask him what he thinks after a few months....
And, microhydro is the way to go, if you have the ability to do it. A good combination of flow and drop, that is the best place to be (and, sadly, we are not there :lol: ). Wind is a good way to go, if you have the right site... and solar is good, but much more costly than either wind or microhydro.
Does anyone have a microhydro appropriate site?
21-01-2006, 12:56 PM
hi, i'm new to this group (but not to permaculture - started learning with bill mollison and others at tagari back in the early 80s). i've followed this thread with great interest. is everyone here aware of "peak oil" and how, globally, everything will be changing very soon as cheap fossil fuels will become more scarce at the same time that world demand continues to grow dramatically, resulting in more expensive energy to power transport (including farm tractors and food deliveries to supermarkets), fertilisers, oil-based plastics and medicines, etc.
locally-produced essentials (including energy) will not just be a "feel-good" decision -- it will become much cheaper than stuff brought in from far away. and eventually, local things may become all we can find/afford. for more info see:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 22peak+oil (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2215604490907671840&q=%22peak+oil)%2
http://seabed.nationalgeographic.com/ng ... &start=200 (http://seabed.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/forum.tmpl?issue_id=20040601&forum_index=4&start=200)
i have saved many files on this topic (both for and against the idea of "peak oil") so contact me if you'd like them.
many "PO" activists don't believe there is much we can do to prepare for the effects of the loss of cheap fossil fuel energy. like climate change, they think it's gone too far to recover. but i am an optimist and want to find ways to minimise the losses (pain). one very hopeful sign is the adelaide invention of the sunball
already mentioned by aussie_spritegal. again, you can contact me if you'd like more in-depth info on this system.
anyone heard about the aussie guy who turned a chest freezer into a very energy-efficient fridge? Tom Chalko, Mt Best, Australia, mtbest.net. A fridge that takes only 0.1 kWh a day (running 90 seconds per hour). if you can't find his website, i've saved the files.
i've come across a few other great ideas that are rare to see discussed anywhere (like those nickel-iron batteries mentioned by christopher, and the strawbale/mudbrick cool rooms from bazman and franceyne).
anyone with info on "earth tubes" and "solar closets"?
Richard on Maui
21-01-2006, 04:31 PM
okay ginger, send us the files on the .1 kilowatt fridge! send us the files!
oh, and welcome to the forum!
look around and you'll see there has been abundant discussion here on the PO subject.
me, I just really wonder. isn't there vast amounts of natural gas to be tapped after the crude runs out? sure that will involve changes in infrastructure, but that's an economists wet dream isn't it? I must admit I haven't done too much reading on the matter, as I find too much evidence all too depressing. I have a hard enough time passing open windows some days as it is. (lucky I live on the ground floor, eh?)
hopefully you will find time here to tell us some of your stories from Tagari farm. I was there in 1999 and 2000. Really loved that property. Wish I had a million bucks so I could buy the place and go fishing in doug's dam and the y-front, and look up at the pinnacle as the wind and rains tear in...
21-01-2006, 05:53 PM
i'm new to this forum and i can't figure out how to send you the file on the aussie homemade chest fridge. i tried the personal message system but couldn't see any way to attach a file. i hve it as a pdf (original) and i've converted it to a word file (makes it possible to highlight bits and add comments)
what am i missing? any solutions?
21-01-2006, 06:18 PM
duh! i didn't see your email address at first. i've just sent the files.
i'm in the habit of collecting online info and appending it to files already on the same topic. so most of the files are assorted collections
i was in tagari, tasmania, for about 2 weeks, doing the first PDC (same one that Max Lindegger did, i think). i haven't been to the NSW version of tagari.
natural gas is expected to reach peak a few years after oil. most of the USA home heating uses natural gas and they're not able to produce enough to satisfy local demand. that's why the world rush to secure LPG, LNG, etc supplies is happening now. and it's why the LPG for my old taxi keeps going up in price.
I'd love a copy of that freezer/fridge conversion...I've seen something which must be similar done for keeping multiple beer kegs cold, but I didn't know they could be such great energy savers. I've PM'd you my email address - thanks in advance!
Just on the natural gas thing...we have recently signed a deal with the US to export our natural gas...at last estimate Australia had around 100yrs worth of natural gas if this was used instead of oil at our current rates...so effectively we are preparing to export our last major energy asset (besides uranium)...as our major oil wells peaked long ago. The Chinese are gearing up to take the uranium off our hands...
Ginger is quite correct unfortunately Richard, demand for natural gas as a heating source is outstripping supply in the US despite the large quantity they import...compounding the looming problem is the fact that natural gas is essential in producing commercial fertilisers and plastics.
I saw an article the other day where agricultural advisory boards were telling farmers to use less fertiliser than previously recommended because they can no longer afford it...along the lines that half as much fertiliser will still grow you 3/5ths as good a yield as before.
The huge rise in fertiliser prices over the last few years reflects the rising cost and dwindling reserves of natural gas...makes you wonder where traditional commercial agriculture will be a decade from now...it really isn't looking remotely viable unless either the supermarkets or the consumer absorbs a massive price hike (wonder which it will be... :? )
I'd like to hear more about earth tubes and solar closets Ginger...the latter sounds vaguely familiar...
BTW, I really love your "good idea junkie" slogan... :lol:
22-01-2006, 11:22 AM
just did a google and found a few australian manufacturers/distributors of 12v/DC fridges, which are claimed to be suitable for solar power. I haven't had time to check their specs and power requirements.
aussie_spritegal try http://www.waeco.com.au they have fridges & freezers for raps systems. I have a fridge freezer and it runs well and stays cold even in our 40C+ temps of late :)
Forgot to mention this site:
Has some fridge conversions etc - fairly wide range and lots of other interesting things...offers a great example of the sort of savings and improved efficiency the Sunball will bring if you compare Quirks costings for a solar setup with traditional panels versus a Sunball system.
Might be something there people are interested in...Len, I see they have a few whoppers there which would keep you out of trouble mate... :lol:
23-01-2006, 09:08 AM
My husband and i installed a small (800 watts) system about 4 years ago. We are not on 'mains power' and only use the solar system and gas hot water/cooking. Our complete system cost $16,500, but we got a government rebate of $4,000 - us paying $12,500 total (including installation). There is only the two of us and we both work away from home full-time and therefore don't use excessive amounts of power, but we do like our luxuries which include, t.v, video, stereo, xbox, blender/food processor, computer, washing machine, hairdryer, vaccum cleaner and lights of course! We steer clear of items such as electric kettle (we use gas stove instead), electric toaster (we use the gas griller), electric alarm clocks and any other item which stays on all the time such as answering machine, etc. We turn off our t.v, video at the power point every time we're finished with it (especially in winter!) to conserve power. We also bought a 'solar fridge' last January and have found it to be wonderful. For the first 3 years we were trying to run a small 'normal' 60 litre bar fridge to keep things cold, but it was draining the poor batteries quite fast - and we had to turn it off over the winter months. Now we have a 220 litre fridge/freezer 'converted Kelvinator', which is fine for our needs, and it runs all year round perfectly! (We purchased this through ACME Appliances in Launceston, Tasmania for $1,500 - expensive really when you think of what fridge you could buy at Harvey Norman for that amount of money!).
We are happy so far with our solar system - i'm just cringing the day when the 4 huge batteries die and need replacing! Hopefully they will last the 15-20 years that the installer said we may get from them!!!
Personally, i would look long and hard at your power usage, how much sun you get, if you have a large family, and if you can afford a dual system like sun/wind, etc. I would've loved to install a water 'pelton wheel' instead of solar, but alas, we didn't have the water volume needed to drive it. So, if any of you who are interested in alternative power sources and have good water supply and fall - look into a pelton wheel system, which costs far less and gives constant power as long as your creek/river runs! The downfalls i find of solar is the paying-up-front cost, the constant checking every electrical item you purchase (i'd love a George Foreman grill!!!) and buying de-ionised water and topping up the batteries every couple months. The benefits are, no more power bills (the obvious), and having electricity when everyone one else says - 'wow, what a storm last night, we lost power for hours!'.
Well, have a great day - the sun is shining and the batteries are soaking up the rays here in Tassie . . .
Richard on Maui
23-01-2006, 02:21 PM
Lyn's comment about buying deionised water rang a bell with me. But then, recently, our Solar guy, who recently sold us some $1500 worth of batteries to replace the old dead ones, told us that rainwater through a reverse osmosis filter is fine for topping off the batteries. He also let me in on a little tip, that it is much easier using one of those spray bottles like they use for spraying roundup but with the sprayer nozzle snipped off, than it is trying to pour water through a funnel into each cell. I tried it this morning for the first time and it made the chore so much less tiresome...
29-01-2006, 01:37 PM
What kind of batteries do you have?
We have 4 L16s that are failing after two years (shi-t!)... It'll be close to USD1000 to replace them!
30-01-2006, 07:30 AM
Christopher, do you use Desulphators on your batteries? they are supposed to improve battery life by reversing sulphation.
31-01-2006, 07:17 AM
The batteries we have are called 'Exide Energystore 2 - 6RP 1080'. They cost about AUS$1000 each - and we have 4 of them.
I haven't heard of the L16's? And if they are failing after only 2 years, i don't think i wanna know about them!!! That's one of the real downfalls of solar systems i believe. I hate having to replace items - especially when they are so costly. I'm hoping by the time my batteries totally die, someone out there will have created a 'perfect' battery/system at a fraction of the cost! Oh well, i can keep dreaming!
Desulphators???? I've not heard of this? Can you give me some more info please? What is it, and what do i have to do?
31-01-2006, 11:35 AM
No, don't own desulfsaters... yet, bbut my next order of stuff is going to include one/some. I have read about them.
L16s are the medium size batteries that generally last 5-10 years, with care. I have owned them before with good results (7 years), but for some reason. Min have not lasted, and I'm not sure why. of course, now that they are toast, we don't baby them anymore (ha, ha), but I think the set after this next replacement is going to be nickel iron, whicch last, well, seemingly forever...
The replacement set will be L16s as they are available...
Lyn, tell us more about your system, what is th voltage, 12, 24, 48 etc, what sort of controller, how many watts of solr, etc. I am very interested.
31-01-2006, 12:49 PM
The pink house at Rosneath Farm has now been using solar power for over nine years. We have not used a backup generator for four years - we switch off the deep freeze for three months in winter to achieve this.
No icecream is not too hard a sacrifice!
We have normal appliances, and a fully fitted home office, with satellite broadband.. Our system is 1.25kw of panels, a 3kw inverter (so we can run serious power tools), and now 1330 amphours of 24v battery storage. Our first set of hoppeke batteries was 900 amphours. One cell went on us, which was disappointing - we expected much more than 8 years from them. Replacement cost was $2600. Add $50 for distilled water. $330 per year!!!
The crucial thing in any system is having the controller/digital readout where you see it every day. Ours has a set of LEDS of different colours showing the voltage in the batteries. I can tell the state of the batteries from our bedroom at the other end of the house.
We defer washing clothes until midday, or even for a day if it is cloudy.
Consumption goes deep freeze, last spin cycle of washing machine, washing machine, fridge, and the multidraws of laptop, printer, satellite modem, and Zip drive. After that you can forget it, other than a sensible attitude to the use of lights. Beware modern QI lamps. Some have the inverter upline from the on/off switch, so you have a 24hr a day draw.
Rosneath Farm is still unique as far as I know; our houses are totally unreticulated. There are no wires, pipes, cables going to or from any one house. This means the houses can be placed where they should be in the landscape.
Richard on Maui
01-02-2006, 03:03 AM
Interesting that you defer doing the laundry until midday Warwick. We tend to put our clothes on earlier in the day, in the notion that then we will have the rest of the day to top the batteries back up again...
01-02-2006, 07:00 AM
Richard you have "hit the nail on the head". The key issue of management is that battery longevity is inversely correlated with the depth of discharge: If you use lots, and nearly flatten your batteries, they won't last as long. If you work to minimize the discharge, then your batteries will last a lot longer.
This can operate on a daily basis, as well as long term, over winter say.
We wash near to mid-day, when input is maximum, to minimise draw. We are blessed with clear skies and bright sunshine, even four days out of seven in winter (mostly). This means that we have around three hours of maximum input after midday, to ensure the recharge needed is achieved.. It is a balancing act that can only be achieved if you can see the state of your batteries.. hence the earlier comments.
In winter, we will think about using the backup generator when we have the washing machine on.. Depends on the cloud conditions on the day, and the state of the batteries.
Richard on Maui
01-02-2006, 06:45 PM
Yeah, I guess it is a bit of the old "you can't have your cake and eat it to", or at least not forever, when it comes to batteries.
03-02-2006, 08:13 AM
Sorry it's taken me a while, but here's a little bit more about my solar system:
It's a 24 volt set-up, with 800 watts of panels (80w x 10 panels). We purchased a Plasmatronics PL 40 Solar controller, a Latronics 2500 watt sine wave inverter (24 volt) and a Stanbury battery charger, along with the 4 x Exide Energystore batteries.
After we had this entire unit in operation for a year, we also purchased a small 'advanced solar charge controller' which is situated in the kitchen above the sink and tells us how the system is going. At a push of the button i can tell if i'm using too much power for what's going in, etc - very handy item!
We are happy enough with our system, although in hindsight, i would have bought another 2-4 solar panels (especially since there was a good discount on panels!) - thank goodness we already decided to get 2 more than the installer recommended!! And i would have treated my batteries much better in the first couple years as well! We used to run them almost flat (due to having a 'normal fridge', and with our long winters in Tassie didn't help!). We treat them much nicer now - just hoping they are good quality and will repay us with a long life!
Any other info you are interested in, let me know and i'll try and help!
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