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DayCreek Journal

October 11, 2004

Singing in the Sunshine

The days are really getting short, but on a clear day the solar panels are still producing over 19kWhrs per day.

It's been four months now since the grid-intertie, solar electric system was installed and I figured it was a good time to discuss some of the results so far. As you are probably already aware, this summer was quite strange: below normal temperatures and plenty of cloudy weather. Of course, the weather is always unpredictable and the month of September was quite different from the summer pattern. Most of the days in September were sunny and above normal temperature wise—go figure!

September had only 1 cloudy day, 5 partly cloudy days and 24 sunny to mostly sunny days. Average daily highs and low temperatures were almost a whopping 5 degrees (F) ABOVE normal. I don't think you will hear too many complaints from anyone regarding September's weather other than the deluge of rain that hit around the middle of the month. This was one of the sunniest month's on record for parts of the midwestern states.

September was also the first month since the panels were installed that the monthly total exceeded the forecasted output of the panels. Here's a summary of forecasted and real production for the months of June through September:

Month Forecasted (kWhrs) * Actual (kWhrs) Difference (kWhrs)
June 462 452 -10
July 506 491 -15
August 454 442 -12
September 384 496 +112
Total 1,806 1,881 +75
* Based on PVWatts forecasted energy production.

One of the more interesting aspects of the solar panels is the increase in production when the temperatures are cool. Last week there was a day in which the high temperature only climbed to 50 (F) degrees, but there was 100% bright sunshine. On that day, the panels generated over 21kWhrs. So far, the maximum power that I have gotten out of the panels on any one given day was back on June 19th when the panels generated just over 22kWhrs. Considering the sun's lower angle and shorter days, I am quite amazed at how much more power can be generated when temperatures are moderately cool. It will be quite interesting to see how much power can be generated on a clear, cold day in January.

Speaking of winter weather, our house is primarily heated using the solar heated sand bed and wood stove for cloudy periods. I'm sure though that we will need to supplement our heating on occasion using the off-peak electric boiler. So far, we've generated over 1,100kWhrs of surplus electricity. In other words, over and above our electrical consumption since June we've generated a lot more electricity than we have used. I'm sure though, that the surplus will dwindle as the winter rolls along. Our goal is to end our first year of solar power (May 2005) with a surplus over what we have consumed.

How are the cordwood walls coming?
Things are moving along...slowly...but moving. As I write this on Columbus Day, I should be able to complete wall #59 by tomorrow. This is the back entrance wall and although the amount of cordwood in the wall is less than other walls, I will be plastering around the door frame. I hope to have a few pictures for the next journal showing the "Cordobe" door entrance.

Oh, and I can't forget to mention that the Asian Beetles are EVERYWHERE! Outside and inside the house, down my shirt and while running the other evening I swallowed one of them. Time to get the vacuum cleaner out.

There aren't too many hard maples in the area, but behind our house is one of the most beautiful trees that I have ever seen. The autumn color is spectacular.