Solar Power

joeirwinFebruary 11, 2006

Hi All!

I am still gathering info about property in North America. It was my understanding that even on cloudy days, solar energy is pretty good. Last night a friend of mine said his friend in Idaho was lucky to get one day in seven of power from his solar set up. I was told it was a very expensive set up. I questioned if it was photoelectric cells and my friend thought they were. One piece of property I was looking at in Nova Scotia, the owner indicated the opposite, in that they recieved an abundance of solar energy. ????????????. Does anyone have anyfirst hand experience with solar and would you please share your experiences?



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Pooh Bear

I don't have an answer for you,
but I noticed you are from Tennessee.
I live in Dunlap TN.
There are two sites near here that are totally off the grid.
One is the Sequatchie Valley Institute. They have an open house every year.
The other site is a friend of mine's house.

Also you mite want to try the Renewable Energy forum.

Pooh Bear

Here is a link that might be useful: Renewable Energy forum

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 11:30PM
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Thanks Pooh Bear,

I live in Ooltewah ( you likely know it is a Chattanooga suburb up I75). Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 12:21AM
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Pooh Bear

Oh yeah, I know where that is.
There is a guy up that way I buy computer monitors from.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 7:53PM
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I live in Ky on in an all solar home and am off the grid. I can go for about three days without sun. Even on an overcast day, if it is fairly bright, I will get some energy inflow. I run everything in my home, with the exception of large heating items, on solar..iron, microwave, lighting,tv, computer, answering machine, power tools, etc. One of the big drawbacks to solar is that you cannot run an ac compressor unless you want to spend a sheer fortune on panels and such. It gets hot and humid here in KY in July and August, and in those months I sometimes wish I was not off the grid entirely. Normally, however, the overhead and aux fans take care of the problem. As soon as I get the time, am installing a hydrothermic air cooling system, using circulation from my spring-fed pond. We have thoroughly enjoyed our home, which we built ourselves, and unless you saw our solar panels, or we told would not know we are strictly solar.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 9:26PM
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sycamore farm, i've heard that if you create more electricity than you use then the electric company has to buy it off of you, do you know if this is true or not? also i live if Michegan and would love to live totally self sufficent some day, roughly how much money would it cost me to go solar, i know that its going to depend on how much energy i would use but a ball park figure would be great.

another question i have is why is it that solar pannels are so expensive? with how much global warming is an issue now days it seems that the government would do something to make solar, wind or water power more affordable. are there tax breaks or grants that are out there??

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 9:00PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

You can get an energy credit on your fed taxes for alternative energy, but I think that's only at the time of investment and it's a limited amount.

I'm very much a capitalist and pretty fiscally conservative, but if the government is going to pay a lot of lip service to the idea that reliance on foreign oil is dangerous, then they could solve some of their problem by finding ways to make it cheaper (by subsidy etc?). It will never be common or mainstream until the common person knows about and can afford it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 8:14AM
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Pooh Bear

Yes, your local power company has to buy excess power from you.
But, they only have to pay you wholesale rates for it.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 3:30PM
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With solar, YMMV, your milage may vary.

There are two differnt systems, ongrid and off grid.

On grid systems put the surplus power they produce back into the grid, if the Utility allows it, (some do, some dont, YMMV) and pay varying rates for that electricity.

Off grid systems put the power into a battery bank, from which it is consumed.

In the summer, with a solar system, you usually have an excess of energy, in winter, a deficit made up for by hybrid systems, ( micro hydro and wind) and generators.

The most key, critical component of alternate energy programs is Conservation. The ugly reality is that solar, wind and microhydro cannot really run the requirments of the average 4000 sq ft home, the way the average family uses power and heat.

Putting in a solar array, with out first embracing conservation is about as smart a move as installing an 80gpm multiheaded shower system in a house whos well goes dry in the summer.

Solar is not really expensive. It costs money, but we tend not to balance initial start up costs, operating costs and maintenance costs as a whole when making decisions.

My 1200 watt solar array cost me 8K, will run for over 25 years with no operating costs and little maintenece costs, ( sweeping snow off, seasonal changes to the panel angles).

True, thats only the panel costs but for simplicitys sake, I will limit my comparison, YMMV.

My 6000 watt generator cost me 4K. Cheap right, nope. Over the next 25 years, just running it to agument shortfalls in winter power production, it costs me $850 a year in fuel, (10K over 25 years) and will cost me 4K in maintenance.

My 1000 watt wind generator cost me 2K.

The key components to a working alternative energy system are first and formost, conservation, second, utilising the best systems for the site, and third, variety.

So far, including invereters, panels, racks, diversion controllers, e-meters, wind generator, batteries I have invested 20K into a system that with conservation, allows us to appear to live in a normal suburban home, off grid.

On the other hand, it would have cost me 30K to run powerlines to connect to the grid and $257 a month to pay for the power.

In my situation, in less than a years running, I have saved more than 12K and as time goes on, I save more and more.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 5:07PM
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Pooh Bear

Your numbers don't add up for me.
I do agree that conservation is an extremely important first step.

Now back to your numbers.
So you say you would have had a $257 per month electric bill.
Times 12 months that is $3084. So to save $12k per year
you not only would have had to generate that $3084 worth of
electricy for yourself, but another almost $8000 worth of
surplus electricity.

So lets compare apples to apples, or in this case Joules to Joules.
I'll use my electric bill as an example.
Last month we used 837 KiloWatt-Hours and our bill was $74.39
A watt-hour is 3600 Joules. A KWH is 1000 times that.
So we used 837 times 1000 times 3600 Joules, or 3013200000 Joules.
.0000024688 cents per Joule. If your electric cost the same as
mine you would have to use 10409899180 Joules to have a
$257 electric bill. 3.455 times as much as me.

What I would like to know is:
What was the total cost of your system.
How much energy in Joules does it produce in an average month.
Only then can you figure out what the real costs are.

A watt hour for me cost 0.00888768 cents.
If you could produce full power for 12 hours per day,
You would have to generate over 96 KWH per day,
or in other words, you would need an 8+ KW system.
With the generator you have an 8.2 KW system.
But running the generator costs you more than you make,
so it should be included in the calculations.
Therefore you have a 2.2 KW system.

There is no way you are saving $12k per year.

I did a cost-benefit study for my home energy needs.
It would take 30 years just to pay for the system.
And that is with no maintenance costs.
Your using almost 3.5 times as much power as I am.
I say again, there is no way you are saving $12k per year.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 1:58AM
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Pooh Bear

That should have said the generator "shouldn't be included".
Wish we had an edit function.

Also, flame away, my fur is fireproof (and I could use the warmth.)

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 2:01AM
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Pooh Bear,

the reason the numbers arnt adding up for you, is that you forgot the difference between the $30K running a powerline to the property would have cost me to get on the grid, against the $20K my hybrid system cost me.

Like I said at the beginning of my post, YMMV, your mileage may vary.

For example, in many of the US States, you can get grants and rebates to add alternate energy. I dont, so the $20K is straight up costs and includes everything including the generator.

In some States and Provinces, Government subsidies are available to run powerlines to places where they arnt.

If I had qualified for the Economic Development Infrastructure Program, it would have only cost me $6K to run the powerlines, but I dont qualify.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 1:47PM
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Pooh Bear

We don't have grants available in our state either.
If we did, I would have solar, wind, and microhydro setups all over.
I'm in a great location for solar and sometimes wind.

The only way I can figure it all up
is to take what it would cost me in electric bills,
and what a suitable system would cost to generate what I need
and then from there calculate how long it would take for
the system to pay for itself.
If the system costs $10000 and I use $100 worth of electric
per month then it would take me 100 months to break even.
That's over ten years. A system to take care of my needs
would cost about $40000 and take 30 years to pay off.
My electric bills are low now but in the summer they go way up.
There would be no profit or savings until the system pays for itself.
That is why it doesn't add up for me.

If you know of any grants or incentives for the State of TN
I sure would like to hear about them.


Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 9:54PM
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Pooh Bear,

I found this:

basically a $500 grant and a $0.15 KW premium payment, which bites compared to most states, Oregon pays up to $10K and $2.25 a KW.

this link leads to the federal programs.

as you are already on the grid, you would be setting up a grid tie system, and you can start small, with say 4 panels in a 48V system.

Most of your power production will be during the day and will go to the grid, other than on weekends.

You can add onto the system as time goes by, and have the benifit of not having to burn off surplus power production, the grid will gladly take it.

In the summer, I burn off my surplus power by running a sawmill, woodshop, and heating 2 40 gallon hot water tanks,.... even then, I still some days have to dump power to a light array that just wastes the electricity.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 11:05PM
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Pooh Bear

Hey, thanks for the links. Maybe it will lead to something.
$500 would not even buy the grid tie inverter.

Still thinking of just using a generator
and running it off of moonshine.

I'll check out the links this evening when I have more time.


Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 9:25AM
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Pooh Bear,

IMHO, there are only a few reasons to explore alternate power,....

first off Conservation. The steps one has to engage in to become self sufficient with a moderate sized system are things we all can engage in to lower out footprint. One can start by switching to compact fluorescents, turning stuff off, and go so far as to change the blower motor on the furnace from a 120V or 240V 1000W motor to a DC 80W motor.

The second, is as a cost saving measure, calulated in the long run. By site, region and country, YMMV, so cost it out in an excell spreadsheet that allows you to work various scenarios, unique to your area, simultaniously, to let you know what the best return for your dollar is.

BTW, there is no such thing as free power. Even the best of the Grant and Rebate programs will require that you pay most of the costs. In some areas, this will be slightly more than half, and the rebates and premiums will cut the amortisation period in half. But you still have to pay upfront.

The third, is energy independance. Usually, about twice a winter, my Wife shows up at home, ( she is the Farmhand with the second job) to find 20 guests or more, showing up for dinner and a sleep over, because we are the only ones with power. For grid tie systems, this can be done by sizing and charging a battery bank, independantly wired to keep key items, like the furnace, lights, fridge and freezer running in a black out. For the well pump, unless you have already plumbed with solar in mind, you are SOL. The Grid is old, overwhelmed and undermaintained. It was built a long time ago with tax monies to create infrastructure, a political philosophy that is now for all intents and purposes, dead. As time goes by, it is just going to get worse.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 5:11PM
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foolyap(z5 MA)

For the well pump, unless you have already plumbed with solar in mind, you are SOL.

Could you expand on that?

The DC pumps I've browsed are not able to develop much pressure direct from the well-head, so the recommendation seems to be to let the slow well-pump pump into a cistern, and from there to use another pump on a smaller tank to pressurize it to useable levels.

So did you mean that you'd have to replace an existing AC well pump with that kind of setup? You didn't mean that your house plumbing would be unuseable, did you?


    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 12:38PM
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most homes with an existing well or watersource use one of two pump types to create pressure water. If pumping from a stream, cistern, lake pond or shallow well, they use a AC jet pump. If pumping from a drilled well, they use an AC submersible inline pump.

Both of these pumps types, hard start, that is the pump uses full power to try to push the full head of water.

This causes a major initial draw of power, which in most cases, is either too much draw off the inverter, and a major drain of power.

To add alternative energy to a on grid home, as back up power for the grid being down, requires a separate breaker panel, wired to specific circuits on the main panel. This is done because the alternative power array, and the battery bank are too small to run the whole house.

Unless the well pumps are replaced, there is not enough power to run the well pumps, and as in most applications the well pumps are also the pressure pumps, there will not be running water, other than the initial amount in the pressure tanks, while the grid is down.

They make however, soft start AC submersible inline pumps. These pumps have a built in valving system that allows bypass to the pump vanes, so the initial draw by the pump is easily handled by the inverter. These pumps are not cheap.

I have not been able to find any soft start AC jet pumps.

So, with an existing on grid house, to run the well pump during a blackout, will resuire in the minimum, replacing the submersible or jet pump, with a very expensive soft start submersible pump.

Off grid homes are another matter, and I would suggest that the system be built around a 24VDC or 48VDC soft start submersible inline pumps, as these pumps are capable of providing both lift and pressure, (or if the well is close to the house, 120VDC soft start submersible inline pumps).

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 3:31PM
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The technology and marketing for solar pump has changed quite a lot along with the time passing by. The cost for solar panels has dropped significantly since the year of 2012.
Chinese solar panel manufacturers are accused of dumping their products, so that USA has imposed higher tariff on Chinese solar panel import, while the punishment does not affect the solar pump import since solar pump is more of a pump than a solar panel.
The good side of this matter is that the solar pump manufacturer in China can purchase much cheaper solar panel due to the over productivity of Chinese solar panels, therefore the Chinese solar pump manufacturer can sell their solar pump at a much favorable price.

We are a manufacturer in China specializing in solar pond/fountain pump kits for water feature, waterfall, fountain and drip irrigation, solar pond air pump kits for pond oxygenation, filters for pond water filtration and associated battery backups.
Compared with mains power, solar power is environmentally friendly, easier to install and has no operating cost, but perhaps even more importantly, it is much safer for kids.
We have exported our products world wide for more than nine years, mostly to Europe, USA and Australia etc. and established a good reputation. Moreover, all of our products are CE and RoHS certified.
If you are interested in our products, we could be your trustworthy supplier.
To know more about our company and our products, please come to our web site at
If you need any help, Please contact Mr. Larry Li at
Thank you very much for your time.

Best Regards,
Larry Li,
Hangzhou Gene Solar Industries Co., Ltd.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hangzhou Gene Solar

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 3:48AM
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