The weather here is ever so slowly moving towards winter. The days are shorter and cool, and the nights are even colder. As we head closer to the winter solstice, the sun drops lower in the northern sky. At this time of the year my mind turns to the solar power system.
With the sun lower in the sky, the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels don't generate as much electricity as we've become accustomed to using during the heady carefree days of summer. The past few weeks have been very cloudy, and PV panels don't produce much energy at all when the skies are full of thick clouds. On one or two days we have used more electricity than we have generated, and the excess is deducted from the batteries. Fortunately, the skies eventually clear to a cobalt blue, and the sun shines again and the batteries get a solid charge. But in about four weeks time, the sun will be even lower in the sky, and we'll be singing an entirely different tune and then these days will seem very carefree.
Years and years ago (actually it was in the early 1980's) I heard a radio story about a family in the US who were hosting a celebratory dinner for extended family and friends. I always recall the admonition in that radio story for immediate family members to: 'Family hold back!' The concept is simple enough, as the host family asked immediate family members not to eat much of the food so as to maintain appearances for their guests, thus making it appear that they had more food than they could actually put on the table!
Previously we have had to 'hold back', but now we have moved to merely being mindful of electricity usage for the three weeks either side of the winter solstice (June 21st for Melbourne). However, it took about eight years of modifications and additions to the off grid solar power system in order to achieve that 'merely mindful' outcome. We now have 30 solar PV panels (5.8kW) deployed all around the farm feeding their energy into the batteries.
When we first began our off grid solar powered journey, we began with 8 PV panels. In those naive days I ran into the limitations of solar power during winter. It was an unpleasant wake up call. Upon seeing how the wind was blowing - and that we were rapidly running out of electricity during the winter months - I began the process of adding additional solar PV panels to the system. An ongoing project over the past 8 years.
At first I promised the editor that an additional four PV panels would do the trick. In fact I actually said something stupid and arrogant like: "We'll just get these extra panels and then we'll never have to think about the system again". Well, I rapidly lost any and all credibility. After a while I admitted that I had no idea where this journey would end up. The current thirty panels works for us.
You know, I reckon this renewable energy technology is good, it is just not as good or cheap as the electricity supplied from large scale generators. In fact this renewable energy stuff makes no economic sense at all to me. None.
I noticed the other day that we have used more than 10MWh of electricity generated from the sun in this house over the past nine years. That is Ten Million Watt Hours! That is a lot of electricity, but it works out over the nine years to be about 3.1kWh per day, which frankly is not very much compared to the average household which at a guess will use around about 25kWh per day.
|The house has used 10.137MWh of electricity generated from the sun over the past nine years|
I feel that my rule of thumb is a good one, because it works and it is conservative in the old school meaning of that misused word (conservatives these days don't appear to know how to conserve - just sayin...)
Other people feel differently than I about that rule of thumb, and Melbourne added an additional million people to the city in the past decade. During that decade the Hazelwood coal fired power station was closed. That power station could potentially produce 1,600MW of electricity of every hour of every single day - which was an impressive amount of electricity. Anyway, that power station closed in March 2017.
Now, I've noticed that the capital city (Sydney) in the state to the north of here has also added about the same amount of people to the city during the same decade. There was always a bit of friendly rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, and so not to be outdone, they've announced that the Liddell coal fired power station is also to be shut down by 2022 in three stages, one of which has already been completed. They do things bigger up in Sydney, and the Liddell power station at its peak could produce 1,680MWh.
It is a story that makes little to no sense to me. Add more people, check, supply less electrical energy to more people, check. That is where I get stuck at that point in the story. And how are all these 'wave of future' electric vehicles meant to get charged? Of course, I have noted over the years, that failure is always a possible outcome of any plan.
The editor and I are both now feeling well after suffering from the dreaded flu for the past few weeks. We continued excavating the garden terraces up above the courtyard and sheds. We usually excavate using hand tools and an electric (solar powered) jack hammer with a clay spade. It is slow work, but the job eventually gets done and all of the excavated soil gets used to make the next higher terrace. That day we excavated about eight feet of flat land.
|Several hours of excavations produced more flat land on the strawberry (but soon to be corn) terrace|
|We tried to break apart this massive rock, but only explosives will do the job!|
|All fruit trees in the sunny orchard have now been fed individually with a load of mushroom compost|
|Two additional steps were added to the new concrete staircase this week|
|90m / 300ft of irrigation hoses were neatly stored on this steel hose hanger|
|The tomato enclosure (with hoses still in place) prior to being weeded and cleared|
|The tomato enclosure after being cleared and weeded|
|The chickens help break down the vegetation removed from the tomato enclosure|
|How cool are these hooks in the shape of these two gecko's climbing up the wall?|
|We have been eating capsicums (peppers) for weeks, but today the plants all had to be pulled and this is what was harvested|
|The asparagus plants are now self seeding and producing new plants|
|A very cool looking blue salvia|
|Chrysanthemum just in time for mothers day!|
|Beautiful leaf change is seen in this blueberry|
I like to chew it, chew it!Ollie, get off the keyboard! OK use the keyboard, just don't chew it...
It's Ollie the Australian cattle dog (edit: cuddle dog) here! Just wanted to drop past and show you readers all the fun stuff that I've been chewing recently. Chewing is so much fun, and there are so many things to chew.
The other day I got stuck in the strawberry netting:
|Ollie on the wrong side of the old strawberry enclosure|
|A parrot stuck in the old strawberry enclosure with Ollie received an unfortunate and terminal proper biting|
|The leg of this old clothes horse was chewed|
|A an old timber bracket in the hallway was chewed then repaired with wood filler|
|The repairs were even chewed|
|Ollie narrowly avoids accidentally chewing this 30 year lifespan hose|
|Mr Toothy's kennel has received a proper biting|
|This succulent has been receiving Ollie's attention|
|The wallaby's also like to chew things, like all of the onions...|