Power Shift: Increasing Our Energy Independence

By , March 13, 2015

As I mentioned in the previous post, Power Shift: A New/Old Battery Bank, we will soon receive a nickel-iron “Edison” battery to replace our weakening lead-acid battery bank.

Ironically, about the only thing I don’t like about this change is how much we will owe to Thomas Edison. Widely revered as a paragon of American ingenuity and genius, I happen to be an admirer of Nikola Tesla, which means I have a somewhat different view of Edison. I won’t explore this further; the excellent online comic strip, The Oatmeal, explains more clearly and entertainingly than I could why some of us do not hold Edison in such high regard.

At any rate, we do use many of his innovations, and are excited to learn how to use these new batteries.

As we wait for the battery to arrive, we have run into trouble with the wind generator again, as described in the recent post, Tilting Windmills. Through that whole ordeal, I remembered, as i often do, that through it all, our photovoltaic array continued to quietly, competently provide power to the “homestead.”

A change is gonna come to the "homestead's" Power Point (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

A change is gonna come to the “homestead’s” Power Point (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

As I repaired the wind generator, I decided that I had had about enough of dealing with this particular brand of turbine. Looking back, I realized that, despite all the power provided, despite all the many months the two generators we’ve owned provided power, we have spent too much money, time, and heartache keeping them operating.

If you search the blog, you’ll find many stories about the generators and their controllers. This doesn’t tell the whole story, as there’s a lot more that goes on here than I describe online. Essentially, we bought one generator with the property, and bought a newer model as a “back up.” We had to install that back up far sooner than intended, when the company’s new, “better” charge controller malfunctioned and damaged our original generator. The new generator broke down repeatedly. Because the company that built it left the U.S., it didn’t even outlast its 5-year warranty!

This is not a good track record. Meanwhile, the solar panels never needed anything more than a sweeping or shoveling now and then (see Solar “Extraction”).

It seems that we could increase our energy independence even further if we phase out the wind generator, or reduce it to winter back up, and invest in more solar power.

Because of the nickel iron battery’s tolerance for 80% draw down, and their tolerance for sitting in a discharged state, we will likely have more power flexibility to risk limiting the bulk of our power production to the hours of daylight.

I’d never really thought much about this possibility until I had an epiphany! I’ll talk about that in the next post.

2 Responses to “Power Shift: Increasing Our Energy Independence”

  1. Survival Skvez says:

    Much as I love solar, solar panels produce very little power in daylight, they need *sunlight* to really do their thing. As a result you should be wary of relying solely on solar during the cloudy winter days. More battery capacity won’t carry you months between decent sunny days.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Skvez, thanks for the warning. We’re very aware of the limits of solar power, and are not making this new move lightly. We’ve been working with both solar and wind for the last 9 or so years, and have many neighbors to consult who have been at it far longer. We’ve experienced the spikes of direct sunlight on solar as opposed to daylight radiation, and feel confident that our limited power needs can be met through more reliance on solar and less reliance on wind.

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