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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Affordable Solar Power for Your Homestead-Yes, You Can!

Poor Man Survival

Self Reliance tools for independent minded people…


ISSN 2161-5543

A Digest of Urban Survival Resources


"Laissez-nous faire, laissez-nous passer. Le monde va de lui meme."
"(Let us do, leave us alone. The world runs by itself.)"
-- French Saying


More Affordable Solar Power

 by Dan Chiras


If you’ve ever considered installing a home solar electric system and generating your electricity with free, renewable energy, now’s a great time to look at your options. In recent years, prices for solar systems have plummeted thanks to increased demand, mass production and intense competition among manufacturers. Generous government financial incentives for solar power have reduced the cost for homeowners even further, making a home solar electric system more affordable than it’s ever been.


Because the source of energy — sunlight — is free, the cost of solar power equates to the cost of your solar electric system spread over the lifetime of the system you buy — easily 30 years or more. As a rule, solar incentives for homeowners reduce the system cost by 30 to 50 percent. Incentives for businesses can lower the cost by 50 to 75 percent!


However, even without incentives, the lifetime cost of solar electricity is now frequently cost-competitive with the cost of electricity from your local utility. In some places with relatively high costs for utility electricity unsubsidized solar is already cheaper than utility rates.


When purchasing a solar electric system, most people choose to contact a solar installer, who can help them decide which type of system they need. To find a solar installer, check local listings or use to search for local options within a national directory.


There are three basic types of solar electric systems. Here are pros and cons of each.


Grid-Connected Systems. The most common PV system is known as a grid-connected (or utility-tied) system. In these systems, the utility grid becomes a means of “storing” your excess electricity and acts as a backup, supplying electricity any time your demand exceeds the output of your system.


Here’s how it works: Your solar system provides electricity to your home anytime the sun is shining. If the system produces more electricity than you’re using, the surplus flows onto the utility lines that supply your home. When you need electricity, but aren’t producing any (at night, for example) you can draw from the grid. The utility meter on your home keeps track of any electricity you feed back onto the grid, as well as what you use. How exactly this is calculated depends on net metering regulations where you live. These vary by state, but currently all states have some form of net metering except for Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee.


Theoretically, it’s possible to produce enough electricity that you get a credit from your utility company instead of a bill. More often, homeowners choose to install a smaller, less expensive solar array that only meets a portion of their electricity needs, and then buy the rest of their electricity from the utility. This is one reason it can be much cheaper to buy a grid-connected system: You don’t have to buy a system large enough to produce the maximum amount of electricity you need. Instead, you can choose how much of your power you want to generate.


The downside of grid-tied systems is that when the grid goes down, your system shuts off. So, if a utility line goes down during an ice storm, your solar electric system shuts down, too. Even if the sun is shining, the system won’t operate. This is a built-in safety precaution that prevents your system from back-feeding electricity onto a dead grid, which could be dangerous to line workers or anyone who comes into contact with a downed electrical line.


Off-Grid Systems. These are self-contained energy systems powered by the sun that operate independent of the electrical grid. These systems must be equipped with a large battery bank to store the electricity needed to power your home at night or during long cloudy periods. Most people use a gasoline or diesel generator — or even a wind power system — for backup power, should the batteries run low. An off-grid system gives you the opportunity to experience true energy independence — you are completely responsible for producing your own power. Plus, you’ll never see another electric bill!


Although this is the most expensive type of solar electric system, off-grid systems often are the single most economical way to get electricity in remote locations. If your home is a mile away from an electric line, you could pay from $10,000 to as much as $50,000 for the utility company to install electric poles and run an electric line to your residence. (The cost of line extension varies greatly depending on how rough the terrain is.) Bear in mind that the cost of line extension doesn’t buy you a single kilowatt-hour of electricity — it only gives you the privilege of buying electricity from the utility company. In contrast, an off-grid system for an energy-efficient home could be installed for $20,000 to $50,000 — and that supplies a lifetime of low-cost electricity.


Grid-Connected With Backup. This is a third option that can make sense if you want reliability during a power outage but don’t care about being fully off the grid. The idea is to purchase only a small battery bank so that during a grid outage you can continue to operate your most critical electric devices — such as your refrigerator and heater fan — while line workers repair the damage. During such times, these systems automatically switch to battery operation. You could also choose to purchase a generator rather than a battery bank. These types of systems can make sense if you experience frequent power outages or want to be prepared for an emergency, but they require more maintenance and are more expensive than grid-connected systems.




Solar Energy Breakthroughs: How New Solar Power Alternatives+CDs


Excerpted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, the Original Guide to Living Wisely. To read more articles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, please visit or call (800) 234-3368 to subscribe. Copyright 2012 by Ogden Publications Inc.


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Grandma used cast iron cookware and her food certainly tasted delicious. Yes, she was a fine cook, but there was something about that cast skillet that added to the flavor. Indeed, iron skillets have remained popular for generations for many good reasons. You should seriously consider adding iron skillets and pots to your kitchen

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Yours in freedom,

Bruce ‘the Poor Man’


A Shallow Planet Production

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