Alternative Technology at Home in Suffolk
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Electric Solar Power
I have five photovoltaic panels mounted at roof level providing electricity to charge two large carbon fibre batteries in my workshop. The smallest panel came from an amateur radio rally several years ago and is rated at about 5 watts. It is around 40 x 40 cms and is mounted vertically on the south face of the chimney stack. It is clear of all obstructions on the chimney stack and performs reliably summer and winter.
The four larger panels are Uni-Solar US64's and are rated at about 64 watts each. Each is approximately 1.37 x 0.74 m and they are mounted at 26 degrees on a ESE facing roof. The Unisolar panels perform particularly well in cloudy conditions and have no glass in their construction, so are very tough. The sun is obstructed after about 4pm in the summer because of their direction, but they are not visible from the road. I was assured by the local Building Control Inspector that no permission was required, providing the panels kept to the roofline and were not proud by more than 100mm.
I did have a great special offer if you bought two of the Unisolar 64 panels together. The price was £499.98 delivered to the UK mainland. That was only £249.99 each! Unfortunately these panels are no longer being imported into the UK
I use giffgaff on the O2 mobile network, for the cheapest PAYG calls and texts with free data until December 2010.
The battery bank provides emergency 12v DC lighting and also 230 volt AC lighting via a 450 watt sine wave invertor. The invertor has a 13 A mains socket outlet which normally feeds part of the downstairs AC lighting circuit via a changeover relay.
I have also bought a more sophisticated Morningstar charge controller, which has a digital display and higher capacity. Look for a solar charge controller on eBay.
I have been experimenting with a small grid-tie inverter as an alternative to the battery storage of the power we generate and this has been quite encouraging without spending a fortune. One day I may invest in a much larger solar system generating 2 or 3 kilowatts, but maybe I will wait until the prices come down?