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DayCreek Journal

June 9 , 2005

Happy Birthday Solar PV System!

It's been one year now since we started producing solar power and I am happy to report that for the year ending May 31, 2005 we were able to finish the year with a surplus. In other words we produced more power than we consumed. Granted, the house is not fully lived-in yet. Once the house is completed our energy usage will be higher than it is now, but I do believe our consumption will be very close if not lower that our production numbers.

Here's a few stats:

Electric Meter Reading:
kWhrs Used: 2,093
kWhrs Produced: 3,686

Total Annual Electric Bill Including $28 monthly fees (connectivity + dual-fuel meter) and tax:

This is not the full picture however because while power was produced during daylight hours, some of that power was being consumed. (This means that some of the electric power was never read by the utility's meter.)

The actual production from the solar electric panels for the year was: 4,605 kWhrs. (This number was recorded by the inverters) This was really close to the estimated power production based on PVWatts: 4,816 kWhrs. Considering we had a cloudier-than-normal year, PVWatts seems quite accurate based on local climate statistics.

So there you have it. A 4.2kW PV array here in SE Minnesota is capable of producing 4,600 kWhrs on an annual basis. This includes all inefficiencies due to line loss, connections and inverter throughput. I wouldn't be surprised that if we have a sunnier summer this year, the annual total for next year could be close to 5,000 kWhrs. Last summer was exceptionally cloudy.

Here's to sunny skies!

Raccoon Update
After arriving here at the house on Monday and discovering that the cat food dish had been ripped from its moorings, plus both water containers were flung around the yard, plus more coon poop on the deck...I decided it was time for action.

I have my own animal/nature rules around here: As long as they are doing no harm to me or property, I leave them alone. On the other hand, when wild animals do damage it's time to intervene. My first attempt at keeping them off the deck was to stretch a fence across the bridge to the deck. This didn't work—not too surprising.

Then the old, smelly moth-ball trick. That didn't work either.

Then I considered an electric fence, but since the deck/bridge is off the ground, I'd have to lay down metal sheeting in order for them to get a shock. (Decided against that.)

Then I set up a field of loose fencing material and other nonsense that wouldn't feel too good on their feet. That didn't work either.

So now it became apparent that a more drastic course of action would have to be taken. Reading through the Minnesota DNR's website, it states the following:

Taking a nuisance animal
Nuisance animals are wildlife (not domesticated animals like dogs or cats) that cause property damage. Some animals which are normally protected by Minnesota Statute can be taken without a license or permit if they are doing damage. The animals included under this provision of Minnesota law include: mink, squirrels, rabbit, hare, raccoon, lynx, bobcat, fox, muskrat, opossum and beaver. Other unprotected birds include the English sparrow, starling, and common pigeon. All of these animals may be taken by the landowner, manager or occupant if the animal is causing property damage...

Taking means capturing, relocating or killing a nuisance animal. This can be done in any manner except by the use of poison, artificial lights or with a motor vehicle.

Hmmm...artificial lights? Okay. Whatever.

Well, my idea of "taking" an animal does not include killing the animal. That's just not for me. Trapping and relocating, that's another story. I went to Farm & Fleet and bought the Mother-of-All traps. It's made by Havahart® and it says "Caring Control for Pets and Wildlife". It's beyond me why you would put your pet into a trap, but that's what it says on the box.

It's the model #1081 trap. It's big enough to capture LARGE raccoons (Critterus Paininthebuttus), cats (Maximus Purrus), small dogs (Minimus Woofus), Bobcats (A skid loader? Doubt it.), Armadillos (Minnesotamus Doubtmus), and other similar-size nuisance animals.

It also says to attract raccoons to try cat food or bacon. Being a mostly-vegetarian non-carcass eater, I did not have any bacon in the house other than some soy bacon. So...I improvised and cooked up some tasty soy bacon and added some cat food to the mix.

The trap was set on the deck at 8:35 PM on Tuesday. I was on the phone with Jo at around 9:45 PM when I heard the trap door shut! With flashlight in hand, I ran around to in back of the house to see what I caught. There it was. A Critterus Paininthebuttus.

At about 11PM the raccoon and I went for a bit of a drive. I didn't want him/her finding their way back to the house, so went about 10 miles. The spot where the raccoon was let go was on DNR state land. He/she was quite docile through the whole event and when the trap door was opened, the raccoon took off for the woods.

I made it back home around midnight, cooked up a bit more soy bacon and set the trap back on the deck.

About 2AM, the trap door slammed shut for a second time. There it was. Another Critterus Paininthebuttus. Off we went for another joy ride. I let this one go in the same spot as the previous raccoon.

Since then, no more raccoons on the deck. There are plenty of other raccoons in the area, but they pretty much keep to themselves and stay away from the house. Why these two decided to mark their territory on our deck is anyone's guess. They physically had to walk down a 20' long bridge and then walk half-way around the deck to leave their poop.

Hopefully this will have taken care of the situation. As I stated earlier, I try my best to not interfere with nature, but when nature interfered with me, I had to do something about it and this seemed to be the best approach.

Don't forget the Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair is coming up shortly and I will be giving a presentation on our house again this year on Friday, June 17th at 5PM. For more information on the fair, click here. Hope to see you there!


Mom has been relocating the kittens on occasion and during one of her moves, I was able to capture this shot.