Solar Production in January in Thunder Bay

Welp, here we are in January – the month I was always holding out for during the long, dark days of November and December (and even a little bit in October already).

This is the first year with nine panels feeding into our system.  In spite of that, when there isn’t much sun, there isn’t much energy production here on the homestead.  Nine times a very small number is still a very small number.

One offsetting feature of our November and December was the temperature – El Nino made things here unseasonably warm, even if no more sunlight appeared.  This made running the generator much easier and less burdensome.

Another help is that Donna has recently begun a new job that pays well enough that the concept of buying a quality generator is no longer a fear – if our current 1kW Champion dies, we will simply purchase a good replacement.  I’m very tired of cheap generators.

In any case, we made it through to New Year’s without too much trouble.  I was a bit miffed that unlike in years past, the New Year didn’t represent a real change in the amount of sunlight we received.  For a week or two afterwards it still was overcast six out of seven days.

At least our water continued to flow.  We had a bit of a trouble getting it going when we returned from Southern Ontario after Christmas, but now that I understand what happened, I don’t anticipate that occurring again.  Since then it did freeze up only one more time – when we didn’t have much solar production and before I had made my clothes airing rack, so we didn’t pump water for about two days.  Since then, we try to “churn” the tanks a little bit every morning and night.  Even if we don’t pump water, we just turn on the pump until we can hear water sloshing around – theoretically, that should break up or prevent ice in the pipe.

The past week and a half though – they’ve been excellent!  Strangely, we’ve not been able to get to float – but that’s been offset in my mind by the fact that we’ve just been in extra long absorptions.  I think this is because during absorption, things like the fridge or me doing laundry or pumping water drag the voltage down enough that the charge controller decides to cancel float the next day.

One other thing I should mention is that we have been shutting all the power off when we go to bed.  This seems to help ensure that in the morning we don’t really have to worry about whether or not the sun will rise in time to carry us through the day.

In any case, I have already found that on the clear, sunny days, by midafternoon we have such an abundance of energy that I have already:

  • boiled water in the electric kettle
  • steamed hard boiled eggs in our rice cooker
  • made slow cooked scalloped potatoes for the afternoon
Oh yeah!  Super cheesy scalloped potatoes a la Daddy!

This last one was especially rewarding – an entire meal!  A slow cooker is something I would suggest anyone consider purchasing – doubly so if you have a decent amount of solar power.  You are probably over generating power for your batteries at exactly the right time (afternoon) for cooking up your evening meals.

The person who invents a better battery for solar (I’m looking at you Elon!), will surely be my hero.

Criminey, Pmax = 1750W, but all I need is 360W to keep the batteries fully charged.  I’m losing sleep imagining what I could do in life if I could find a way to save up those other 1400W for future needs!

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