15 July 2021
One of our aims in our Hebridean lifestyle is to detach from the central power grid and produce our own electricity from renewable sources such as sun and wind. In this post, we report on how far we’ve got with harnessing solar power.
Earlier this year we purchased 6 solar panels from a company called ECO-WORTHY and fixed them to the roof of our garden shed. Each 120W panel has a corrosion-resistant aluminium frame designed to withstand high winds. Depending on the availability of sunlight, the six panels can generate up to 3 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.
At this time of year we have over 20 hours of daylight each day. The sun rises at around 4am and doesn’t set until after 10pm, and on a clear evening it’s often light at midnight. In midwinter, on the other hand, the sun rises at around 9am and sets around 3pm, and the sunlight we get for those 6 hours is often so weak that the panels are unable to harness any power at all (we know this from the two smaller solar panels we’ve had in the greenhouse for the past 12 months).
With our current solar power set-up, for most of the year we’re managing to charge our mobile phones and all our power tools and electrical garden equipment, which all run on rechargeable batteries. To do this we purchased 4 storage batteries and an inverter for the shed as well as a portable home battery for indoor use.
The cost of the panels and batteries so far has amounted to around £3000. Since our daily energy usage in summer is around 5 kWh and in winter around 12 kWh, we are unable to power our kitchen appliances or central heating system from the equipment we have right now. We will have to invest more to become fully self-sufficient in the production of our own electricity.
This, coupled with the fact that sunlight is in scarce supply at this latitude in winter, means that, for us, solar panels are by no means a low-cost and reliable alternative to being on grid. Nevertheless, as cost is not the only factor to consider when moving off-grid, we intend to continue to pursue our ultimate goal.