Kirk and I have undertaken urban homesteading as (more than a) hobby the past few years. When we moved a little over 3 years ago to our current house, we finally had an open and very sunny area to work with. Recent projects the past three years have included water tanks, bee hives, and a greenhouse we built together. Which brought us to the quandary on solar panels. We’d love to cover our steep roof with them, but most likely the payback won’t be great, and it will take forever, especially as we live so far North (we are parallel with Mount Rainier). This is a huge issue in the darker months (for example today we will have less than 10 hours “light” and only half of that is even good enough). (Side note: we did have a couple of companies come out to give bids, and all agreed we didn’t have a great layout for solar up high – and that’d be 15 years to payoff)
But we could play with portable solar panels that actually work. Ones that we can take with us on travels, put the panel on the truck’s roof when in camp, and use it to fill a battery, so we can power things at night. That was feasible, and well within our reach. The entire set-up we have, is entirely portable. During the summer for example, we run our greenhouse on solar, and as well we charge all our devices off solar. We can’t run an entire household, but we can make it work for the rest of our needs. This is important to remember: if you are using solar while traveling and for example, power all mobile phones, laptops and various other hungry items, these are all things you can keep running without being tied to a grid.
Some of the parts we use:
All combined….leads to this:
We have a deck box we repurposed for this, and it holds deep cycle batteries (these are not fancy, nor expensive, but work well) for storing in, along with inverters and various other items. We also keep in it battery charger bases for all our power tools, so it’s easy to snap those in to charge.
At some point we are installing the panels on a setup, but as with all things in life, we haven’t had the time. So for now the panels are on a table (well, here on the hot tub we got rid of), and we shift them as needed to get full sun, as the months change. The big advantage to this is our panels are easily disconnected and taken along on adventures.
Even make a milkshake when you are sick….and it’s winter. And a huge storm knocked the power out for days.
Can you do something similar? Yes! Is it worth it? YES. Being able to get off the grid, even a bit, is huge. You become more aware of how much energy you use, but also ways to reduce it. And you become less fearful of what you would do without electricity on hand.