The Simple System

The land I live on is bordered by National Forest.  The original road into these eighty acres was cut by hand with chain saws and cleared without the use of any heavy equipment.  Initially, we thought electricity might be brought in to the Southeast corner of the property which was closest to the highway, less than a mile away.  However, as we watched electric line lanes in our area being cleared yearly, and saw the huge swath of trees cut, it pained us to think of cutting so many trees in order to have electricity.  Part of our purpose here was to keep a small parcel of land as pristine as possible, where wildlife might find refuge.  The privacy afforded by the dense forest was also something we considered.  Our final decision to not have electricity brought in to this property was easy.

For two years I lived here using kerosene lamps for light at night.  When my mother transitioned out of this life in 1996, she left me an inheritance that allowed me to build.  I purchased a generator in order to use power tools and began to build.  After at least six months, the cabin was close to completion.  I contacted the only person I knew of in the area who sets up off-grid systems and asked him to come put in a small system for me.  I did not require much.  I wanted to be able to have lighting in the cabin with which to read at night, as well as enough energy to handle the use of a radio and possibly a television.  Jimis Damet, the owner of the Rocky Grove Sun Company, ordered all the solar panels, four of them, an inverter, and all the materials required for the system.  He put in the entire system alone.  He even pulled all the wire in the cabin, saying that this was a job he ordinarily did not do.  When it was all finished, it was huge relief to know that I would never have to pay an electricity bill, and that I would still have privacy.

As Jimis predicted, after ten years I had to replace the battery bank.  This time I bought new deep-cell batteries of high quality, based on input from Jimis.  The original batteries were used telephone batteries, which held up amazingly well, but since I replaced these, I have had no problems.

I have had a couple of other major expenses since the original set-up of my system.  During a storm several years back, lightening hit and surged through the system and damaged the inverter.  I used kerosene lamps during that winter while I waited for the inverter to be repaired.  I also paid an electrician to place a nine-foot lightening rod into the ground so that hopefully, I would not have to deal with a lightening strike taking out my system again.  When everything was back in place, I felt truly blessed to have a man like Jimis helping me.

I know Jimis gave me all the information about the size of my system.  For sure, I know it is a 24-volt system, with an inverter.  Also in place is a digital read-out monitor which gives me information concerning the battery bank.  I use a 7500 watt generator as back-up for recharging the battery bank, particularly when it is overcast and we have had no sun for a few days.  As gasoline prices soar, I am more conservative about using the generator.  I watch the weather, give thanks whenever it rains, and read during the day or work outdoors.  Once the sun comes out, the solar panels do their job and I am free to get on this computer or listen to NPR.

Each winter, as a snow or ice storm comes in and inevitably takes out the county electricity, I am gratified to not have to worry about losing any power in my little home.  Also, I am forever grateful to my mother whose generosity afforded my getting set up to live as I do.  Here in the backwoods of Arkansas, life is simple and peaceful.  As the sun shines brightly outside, the sounds of the breezes in the tall forest trees soothe my soul.

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8 Responses to The Simple System

  1. Cynthia Price says:

    Hi Tina,

    I am so glad that you are sharing your history, life and superb writing with us all. I hope that you enjoy this activity and will keep doing it for a long time. I know that many people are hungry for the information and will be pleasantly surprised to find how beautifully you present it.

    Take care,
    Cynthia

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your message, Cynthia. I so appreciate your interest and encouraging words.
      This is probably the most exciting thing I have attempted in a very long time, and it would not be happening if it weren’t for you and David, your generosity.
      Thank you!

    • Sounds like the system “Tina” described is kind of cobbled together; you want to install a “listed” solar photovoltaic system, and have it installed in a “Code compliant” manner. Depending on who or where you purchase your system, they will probably offer to install it for you. This is also a good idea, which will include a warranty on the product and the installation. You want the installation to be done correctly; remember, there is no way to turn off a solar collector. Unless covered with a special black-out blanket, the only way to “turn off” a collector panel is to turn it over; a difficult task on a sloping roof. You will want to know what additional dead load this will place on your roof structure and be sure that the roof system will support it. You will need to check with your local building department to see what Code requirements you will have to comply with. If your home has a truss roof, you will probably need to have a structural engineer verify that it will support the added weight, or design modifications to the roof framing that will allow the installation of the SP System. You may also have to contend with Zoning requirements. Although a variance is always possible, it can be a very expensive proposition. Good luck.

      • admin says:

        My system was not “cobbled” together. I simply do not have the vocabulary readily available with which to describe what I have, despite the fact that the fellow who did the work tried, over and over, to explain it all to me. I heard the information he gave me, I just did not write it down. And this person has been in the business the last 20-30 years and has helped so many in this area set up their photovoltaic systems; he knows what he is doing~! No luck needed, thanks. I am in good hands~!

    • Bolaa says:

      It’s a similar process to that of paralleling generators onto an electric buss (grid). The incoming generator (solar system in this case) needs to initially have a slightly higher voltage and frequency than that of the buss (grid). The AC sine waves need to be synchronized and in the same phase rotation before closing the circuit breaker between the generator and buss. A synchro scope and light bulbs are used for detecting when the AC is synced. Light bulbs are connected between the buss and incoming gen on the same phase. When the light dims and goes out the two AC sine wave are synced as there is zero voltage difference between them. The circuit break is closed just before the power becomes synced so as to account for the time it takes to close the breaker. The voltage on the incoming generator is adjusted to control the amperage and power to balance the load so that the incoming generator doesn’t take more power than it can handle. The circuit breaker is also fitted with a reverse power relay to open the breaker if the generator should draw power from the grid rather than power the grid. For inverters there are special grid tie inverters which have the necessary controls to allow them to be synchronized onto a buss.

  2. Missi says:

    You make things so clear. Thanks for taking the time!

  3. Carmen says:

    If you have lots of extra money in this recession to spend I would suggest going with solar power; solar panels are known to be very expensive, and I think that is what is keeping most people from upgrading their homes. But what if you could get all the benefits of solar energy without even using light, and a fraction of the cost? Before you waste money on solar panels I highly recommend you give Magnetic Power Generators a trial. You can see people on various video websites like YouTube building them from common easy-to-find parts, all available at RadioShack. The diagrams below will save you over 50% on your next electric bill, you can always build a bigger one that can power your entire home, once you are comfortable with your first generator. Check the source link below for the blueprints

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