17 January 2010

Solar Obsession

This project has really taken over. I'm constantly thinking about it, pouring over numbers, and (most recently) taking hourly readings from our meter. The report that came from the contractor was less helpful than I expected, so now I'm gathering data and doing the research to design an optimal system. Don't read that this project has become a burden; I'm enjoying myself.

I've pretty much gotten the "go ahead" from everybody including the board. I just need to figure out what size array makes sense, how much it will cost, what the return is on the investment. That doesn't mean they'll accept anything I come up with, but it seems likely they'll be in favor of something reasonable. I'm starting to realize, however, that this is a longer term project than I initially accepted. I wanted to push things through and get something installed right away. Instead, I think there's going to be a couple month period of data collection where I get handle on our consumption.

What seems to make the most sense for the first stage of the project is to design a system with a peak output equivalent to our average daytime usage. This way we do not need to worry about wasted production, storage, or re-selling power into the grid. The savings that come from this initial investment can then be used to expand the array and install wind turbines to supply night-time power.

Something else I'm going to look into is the first "R" in the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra. Our biggest use of power is certainly refrigeration, and we might be able to reduce consumption significanly simply by replacing our old deep freezers. I found a device that will log power consumption of appliances (see it here). I decided to with the one that logs data on an SD card rather than the more cleverly named "kill-a-watt" unit that does not. With the data I collect from it, I'll be able to figure out how much can be saved with a newer, more efficient replacement. The treasurer of the SFS board is going to purchase one for me to use.

Energy Monitor

I've been so wrapped up in this project I've barely been concerned by the fact that I haven't been able to dive almost at all since getting back here. With all the staff turnover and with the meetings going on, there's been nobody available to go diving with, except for one other person, Pepe (the husband of one of the new faculty). If either of us were allowed access to the boats, we'd probably be averaging two dives per day. At least I'm occupied enough to not feel so down about that.

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