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The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of ground mounting solar panels.

The two major benefits of ground mounting are optimal tilt / adjustable tilt and ease of maintenance. The only drawbacks I can see are space and cost.

Personally, ground installation wins hands down becuase I could do most of the work. (This negates the cost issue.) Here is a great link to someone who did just that. His total cost was $6500 for a 2150 Watt array, Installed! I too would go the route of wooden frame. I think a solar pergola would be great!


I have planned for a long time to reuse my old gas water heater and make a solar batch heater with it. Now, I am not going to use this for house hold water. No, much simpler then that. I am going to use it to heat my kids small swimming pool. So far I have spent $10 in fittings. I plan on spending maybe $5 more on black paint. Then I am done.

Here is a picture of the bare tank sitting on the back patio. I still have to sand off the foam bits and paint it.

I guess if I was crazy enough I could set it on some bricks and light a fire under it. It was a gas-fired water heater.

I have been thinking about the solar option some more. For one thing pump is very inexpensive. I figure after shipping it may cost $50. Then I would need a well pressure tank. Funny thing is, I could buy the same AC pump I have now on eBay and just use the tank. I did not buy the first one that way because the eBay pumps are all returns. (replace return with, does not work.) Cost, less than $30. The total would be about the same.

About that wasted solar energy issue. A thought had occurred to me, I waste summer solar production right now with my solar lights! The pump draws almost 10 amps @ 50 psi. That is about 120 Watts. Better to think in amp hours any way. My battery is a 75 amp hour battery. But, I am sure the capacity is less with a higher current draw. My lights use about 2 amp hours per night, if I remember correctly. On a sunny day in the summer I replace 6 amp hours or more. That leaves me with an extra 4 amp hours.

Gallon calculations: This is a possible deal breaker. Lets say the little DC pump uses 8 amps @ 20 psi and produces 3 GPM. If I want to water 10,000 Sq. Ft. @ 1″, I need almost 6000 Gallons. I question this amount of water since when I do water my bill never shows that high. Let’s use a third of that. Beside if I need to water more than that means the sun is out more. 🙂 2000 Gallons @ 3 GPM = 10 hours! See the problem. 10  hours x 8 amps = 80 amp hours. i.e. Not going to happen.

Now what if I only watered the front yard. It may only be 3000 Sq. Ft. That would work out to be 3 hours using the same fudge factor. That would drain the battery by 3 hours x 8 amps = 24 Amp hours. Not unreasonable. But I could only water once a week.

All in all, I will stay with the AC pump. Sure it uses 700 Watts when running. But it pumps four times as much water.

Here is a link to a new release. Too bad they have not posted it yet on their site.

2013 is a long way off. Many things can change in three years. Just like what happened to Getrag. Not that I don’t think it is great to have them. I would love to drive up and have a plant tour and just throw some panels in the back of my car.

I have some questions.

First, where are they going to get the talent to run this plant? I think they could steal some from the automotive industries in the area. But automotive engineers have a bug that is hard to break. They like working with all things cars. (I used to work in the automotive field.) I still love cars.

Second, there are no interstates that run by the plant. Sure US31 is close but it is not an interstate.

Third, are these panels going to be sold to the public? And at what cost.

I hope everything works out. They are too far for me to work at the plant.

Well, that is the flavor for today. The problem is that you have to rely on someone else for the gas. (NG or LPG) But, if you can have as much on gas as possible you would need less solar panels. I will use my house as an example. On average I use 4 kw hours a day to heat water. (This is good for electric heating) If I were to use Solar Panels for this electric (very bad idea BTW) I would need an extra 100o watts of panels. I also have an electric range. While it is hard to measure actual output, an educated guess would be 2 kW hours a day on average.

Without heat or AC running, I would use less than 10kW hours a day. This would be a more manageable solar array. (about 3kW for me) I could shave a little more off of that 10 kW hour number but it would be more of a hassle then it is worth right now. What I need to find is a heating and cooling system that runs off of solar thermal energy. Then the backup would be a gas-fired boiler. I will keep looking for this system.

I was looking at my electric bill the other day. Man, riders sure are a pain. I have about ten of them on my bill, at least two are credits but still. Why so many. From what I have gathered, it is a may to make more money from the customer. A nickel here, a dime there. But I have a problem with two of the riders. Rider 71 – Clean coal adjustment. Well, clean and coal don’t below in the same sentence but that is another issue all together. Rider 61 – Coal gasification adjustment. Here is the problem. From everything I have heard about “Clean Coal” it almost always points to gasification. So the two riders are the same thing!

On my last bill, rider 71 was $2.93 and rider 61 was $1.40. Not that much but I know this just goes right to the bottom line of Duke Energy. To top it off Duke wants to raise rider 61 because of cost over runs. You can’t win. So I took the “can’t beat them join them approach”. I purchase some Vectren Stock about a month ago. Vectren is my Gas company not my electric company. But they do provide electric to most of the southern half of Indiana. A few months ago they asked the Indiana board for a rate increase. Most of their case was based on falling revenue. But some of it was to cover equipment upgrades. (Just like Duke wants to do.) In the rate case documents they stated they wanted to maintain about a 10% ROI for their stakeholders. Who would not want a 10% ROI. So I purchased some stock. I figure that Vectren was a more stable company then Duke.

I guess everything is going a la cart these days. Just look at your trash bill. Mine has a fuel cost adjustment. I called and they said that anytime the average fuel cost is about $2 a gallon of diesel they charge the adjustment. When is the next time you will see Diesel below $2?

Maybe I should just buy a little piece of all the utilities I have at the house, then I won’t feel so bed when I have to pay more for the same service.

I need to call my friend over at Maybe they can run the numbers for me on a solar panel system??? Prices keep coming down on solar and up on electric bills.

The cost keeps going up. What this means for me is a 19% rate increase down the line. If the next coal plant can be made cheaper then I am kind of okay with this. Why would I be okay with a coal power plant? Because I know renewable energies dirty little secret. For every kilowatt of renewable energy attached to the grid you need a kilowatt to back it up. That backup is going to come, most likely, from a fossil fuel. i.e. Coal. Now, to me, clean coal is an oxymoron. But, a coal gasification process is far superior to others. Here is a quote from the Duke Energy website.

The current 160-megawatt plant at Edwardsport emits approximately 13,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions annually. It operates about 30 percent of the time. Preliminary data indicates a 630-megawatt IGCC plant operating 100 percent of the time will emit about 2,900 tons of those same pollutants (including mercury) annually.

Anyway you slice it, this plant will be far superior to the existing facility. It also use ten less water then the current plant too. Besides solar panels , wind turbines, or any other renewable energy source we need “clean coal”. Even if the new plant get deligated to backup duty in fifty years. We can’t continue to run the oldest plants that have almost no pollution controls on them any longer. The current edwardsport coal facility was built in the 1940’s.

What about conservation! I am all about conservation. I think if Duke gave everyone a smart meter they would not need to build this new plant. Not today anyway. But they would still have to build it someday, because conservation only goes so far.

I would like to see rates go up. Not because I like to pay more but because I want people to use less. Same thing goes for gasoline prices. Energy is too cheap in the USA.

This past December killed the old battery. The system ran almost continuously for almost three years. Not bad, but why did the battery fail? First off, cloudy winters days left the battery very weak. Then you have the cold temperatures. A fully charged battery would go for about five nights. Winter can have cloudy day for ten or more in a row. During the month of December and January the light would be off for days at a time. So basically, I had a drained battery in the cold. Not a good idea. But SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) batteries don’t have a long lifespan anyway.

Now, from data in my area, a sunny winter day will give you about 80% or more power as a sunny summer day. The main reason is temperature. Cold sunny days produce more because heat degrades the solar cell output. This colder temperatures help to offset the fact that the sun is not above the horizon nearly as many hours in the winter. What kills the average solar insolation in Indiana is the clouds. If we did not have the cloud cover, we would have double the average insolation. (Maximum recorded December insolation from ’61 to ’90 was 3.7, almost a 50% increase over average)

My new battery is not a SLA. I can and will perform maintainance.  I purchased a trolling motor battery from Wal-mart. While not a true deep-cycle battery, neither was the price. The old battery was 22aH, now I have an 85aH. I should be able to go almost 20 days before the lights go out. I will need more days of full sun to recharge but I think this is a good trade-off. One sunny day yield two nights with lights. A light overcast would be about one half to one. In the summer I will over produce. But I have an inverter attached to the system so I can find ways to use that. Winter, I think I will turn the night light function down from 4 hours to two total hours. That should help with battery life too.

The nice thing about a solar powered pond is that the pond pump is off during the winter! I only have to design around the spring summer and fall.

First design thought, I will not run the pump at night. I would say I would run it from 9am until 6pm.

Second design thought, AC or DC? An all DC system would be good because of no inverter losses. Even so, inverter losses are only about 5% on average. Because of start-up currents I would have to oversize my inverter to compensate. That means more money for an inverter. I do like the keep it simple approach. One less item to purchase and maintenance. DC system it is.

Third design thought, 12V or 24V. This is a little harder. It really depends on total system wattage. I have been looking at boat bilge pumps. A 2000 gph pump draws 8.4 amps @12Vdc. That is only 100 Watts.  The same size pump at 24Vdc draws 4 amps. That is 96 Watts. This is a small difference of 4 watts but it is worth noting. Now comes the charge controller. I want to use a MPPT type controller. The Sunsaver MPPT controller has a better efficiency @24Vdc. It will do both voltages. So I could start at 12 VDC and upgrade to 24VDC later.

Forth design thought, No controller, No batteries? They sell linear boosters for just this, pumping water. At about $100, this would be cheaper then batteries and a controller. Since the units are sized in amperage instead of voltage, it is better to get the 24VDC pump. All pumps do the same amount of work so the 24V pump has half the Amp rating. P=I x V

What Have I come up with?

  1. Rule 24V bilge pump – $125.
  2. Linear Current Booster PPT 12/24 – 7V – $100
  3. Solar Panel ~120W – $500? (Slightly Over sized) Still looking for a deal. Shipping is what gets you.

So for about $700 I cold have a nice pond setup. For reference, my father in-law has a small pond. He runs his pump 24/7. It adds about $20 to his electric bill each month. Another issue I had not mentioned, I don’t have to or want to run the AC line for the house up to the pond. No trenching or conduit or GFCI outlet or or or… Just a water fall and solar panel.

I read somewhere that these films can damage your windows. But if it means I can delay replacing them for a few more years than it would be worth it. My windows are construction grade windows. My guess is the minimum allowed by law at the time. (Like everything else) So if I can get more usable life from them then I am going to try. I don’t want to spend too much but I also don’t want to buy junk. After reading around on the Internet, I have decided on Gila window film from Lowes.

I will wait a few months, right now I want to sun to warm the house. Hopefully, for about $60, I can reduce the amount of heat gain on the south side of the house. This film will also reduce heat loss. Maybe I will buy a roll now and apply some on the backside windows. As inexpensive as it is, it is worth a try.

According to Gila’s website it is safe for double pane windows.