The expensive gifts that keep on giving

We have 2100 watts of solar panels facing south (as you would expect) and they are doing a really good job.  Better than I ever anticipated.  I have not had to start the generator in three or more months.  It is amazing!

My ‘guy’ who supplies panels and stops by for lunch now and then is urging me to take three more panels adding another 780 watts.  I am going to do so.  “Why?”  Because the last 3 or four months have been summertime and relatively sunny.  The winter is not as generous in power generation.  The extra three panels may make the seasonal difference.

“But you have had 2100 watts for almost two years now.  What is the difference?”

Batteries.  I guess I was producing more power than I could store and so, when the new bank came on line ($5,000) five months back, the storage capacity simply got bigger and the panels filled it up.  Technical specs number crunching did not do the job for me on that score, but experience has.  Everything works so much better with the new batteries.

But here’s the good news: panels are a dollar-a-watt.  3000 watts of panels is a mere $3000.  Admittedly, with all the bits, pieces, controllers, inverters and cable, you can add almost double the price.  And a bit of expertise-labour added and you are looking at $10,000 easily.  Add batteries and you are looking at $15,000 or more.  But you city folks do not have to have an expensive battery bank.  Most utility companies offer a buy back arrangement that allows you to generate power (which they buy) and then give back to you later in the day.

But, for me (and not counting the batteries) in four months, I have paid nothing. Annualized, that would equate to $2000 a year in hydro savings (give or take).  That’s a five year payback.  Eight years or so if I factor in the batteries (which I should).

The math works in that case.

And now, over to the new, lower funicular…………..OMG what a treat!  We have used it a dozen or so times and it works like Juan Valdez’ mule, Conchita.  Slow and steady.  Two minutes of the metal cart hill climbing up from the sea.  No more barnacles.  No more sweating and lifting, falling and cursing.  It works beautifully.  Worth every penny.

“Dave, are you posting just to gloat?” 



9 thoughts on “The expensive gifts that keep on giving

  1. No crawling over slime to reach your deck! Priceless!. With more power what will you add? A pirate radio transmission tower, heat lamps, a heated boat house, a hot tub or…now that you are juiced up?


    • There’s a deal on a 2nd hand tanning bed, I am looking at….

      Sal’s talking ‘lectric fridge but that is mostly because she hates defrosting the propane one. I will likely ignore that request. Actually, there is nothing we really need. But the panels and the batteries will let us go longer in the winter – that is the real goal.


      • How big is your propane storage tank? Do you just use it for the fridge or the stove also? How long would your tank typically last?

        questions questions questions.


        • Judiciously used, the tank is good for one year. But we fill it when it is half empty just to stay on top. It is fridge, stove, freezer and hot water. The little supplemental summer-time freezer is electric by way of solar. You can see for yourself….


          • Lol.
            We have a small break in the work schedule. Im heading back east for a few weeks. The land of hurricanes and unemployment. Have to see the folks while they still remember me…. 🙂


  2. We just doubled our solar panel wattage for the same reason – winter is coming, and although our panels have kept us off the genset during the summer, we know we won’t get the same bang for our buck this winter. However, we will only be at 2400 W total, with 4 golf cart batteries. Our needs are still quite small – no refergeration, no major appliances, and we still run the genset for heavy power consumption tools. We are also looking at microhydro to supplement or solar panels in the winter.

    Love your funicular set up. Wish we could get something like that here, but with a shallower beach and bigger boats, we’d be building a boat ways with rails!


    • True. It is like a mini marine ways. But only 60 feet. The upper section is 80. But it does the job and, as I get older, I am not wanting to do it any other way. The batteries we bought – DISCOVER – are great. But the real test will be in length-of-life. And there is only one way to find that out…….


  3. I know what you mean about new batteries. Ours were new last summer and winter was so much better. Only used the generator twice, but it was a milder winter with a bit more sun between clouds. We don’t have anything near your solar panel capacity, but our smaller ones keep our two battery banks in good shape. The oldest one may need replacing soon, it went up in 2002 and is older technology. – Margy


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