Tripling Our Power Production

The weather lately has been pretty good.  Of course, within the past week we did get another evening with the temperature dipping down to around zero.  That was pretty hard on our SECOND batch of tomato plants.  It’s a good thing I don’t like tomatoes anyway!

We’re down to just one – but it seems to be doing okay.  My sister gave us an upside down tomato planter and so I gave it a try – it must have the advantage of being slightly more frost tolerant in that position.
But I, I will survive – as long as I know how to hang I know I’ll be alright!  (You can see the less hardy members of this family on the table in the background.  Hint:  They’re brown.)
On one of our sunnier and warmer days, Ryan and Kyle Ranta from Ranta Construction showed up to repeat their previous performance of installing my solar panels.  I purchased six new panels that were rated for 250 watts each.  1500 watts of extra power – exciting to me!  We have been doing well on 690 watts for the past year or two, although in November and December it was challenging and annoying to run the generator every day or two.  I was hoping to be able to reduce this as much as possible.
Tight vertical tolerances!  Note the new panels are actually slightly smaller even though they are more efficient!  Also, you can see that the frames are black, not silver.  Grandpa also pointed out that they are more reflective – perhaps the original glass has faded slightly?

Room for nine more!  (Don’t even think about it!)
The addition of the 1500 watts of power brings us up to a total of 2190 watts.  If I did achieve this possible output it would actually be more than my 60 amp charge controller would permit.  I am not going to be obsessing about this theoretical loss of my peak output.  It will almost certainly only occur at times when the batteries are already nearly fully charged and I start using some sort of heavy load.
Oh yeah!  This is only a short time after I threw breaker.  Almost double the highest production we’ve previously had.  1.2kW coming down :).
Besides, the reason I over supplied the charge controller wasn’t to give me tonnes of power during the theoretical summer glut, but to be able to harvest more during the much darker and shorter days of November and December.  The past two days have been overcast and rainy (although not DARK dark), and both days the batteries have managed to get to float by late afternoon, in spite of me doing laundry and pumping water.  Last night we even ran our panini press to make pizza in hot dog buns (which was awesome, by the way.)
So far I’m extremely pleased.  I have seen maximum production of 54 amps the first day of installation when it was sunny outside, and I ran the microwave oven to heat my leftovers.
The REAL test will come in October, November and December as we attempt to diminish our reliance on the noisy, fussy and carbon producing generator.
Donna made the pizza last night.  It was awesome.  Here is how I saw her do it so that you can try for yourself:
She took parchment paper and put some frozen asparagus spears in it and grilled that first.
Then she used a mix of hot dog buns (whole wheat for her, white for Kenny and myself) with sweet chili sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese as the basic pizza.  Then on mine I also got mushrooms, pickled peppers and the asparagus.  She skipped the pickled peppers – her loss!  Just to be clear, the hot dog buns were CLOSED, so they grilled top and bottom and the messy sauce and cheese wasn’t directly against the grill.
Using parchment paper on your grill is awesome.  You can just take a sheet that fits under and over your sandwich and that makes cleanup a snap.  It’s totally a great idea!  I’ve previously used it for PB and J sandwiches, as well as grilled cheese.  Next up will be perhaps trying it on chicken breasts or something similar.

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