65. A solar milestone

Our solar panels went live today

23rd March 2015

Today Alan from ICB turned up and switched our roof on. It was a long-awaited and happy moment, for we are now a solar-powered building site. We even had a sunny day for it, though by the time I took this photo the sun had gone behind some clouds and the power output from the solar panels had dropped from 2000W to 530W. Not bad though - easily enough for Lauren Laverne on the radio and a battery charger, though not enough for a cup of tea. Kettles suck power like nobody's business.

Although we put the panels up there last September, we needed mains power inside the house and a place to put the inverter before all the dots could be joined. The inverter turns the DC output of the panels into 240V AC, which feeds our lights and appliances and, when there's a surplus, the Grid. But we need Grid electric to maintain a steady power supply to the inverter so, if the Grid goes down, so do we. Don't come knocking on the door hoping for roast chicken when the balloon goes up and the triffids are taking over.

Coincidentally, we've passed this milestone just as our panels have completely cleared the shadow of the roof of neighbouring Tree House. In the photo below you can just see this shadow lurking below the lower panels. The photo was taken on the 18th, two days before the spring equinox. This means that the panels will be completely unshaded for half the year. Which doesn't sound too great until you allow for the fact that the sun barely rises in the December and January, so we ain't missing much.

We should get almost everything we need from these panels. Not quite though - we would have had to build an extra storey, to raise the roof, to achieve this. Been there, done that (in Tree House) so this time I just want an ultra-low energy house which is self-sufficient in fruit rather than energy. More fun in the long run.


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