Sun Power: Renewable Energy

Dream living in the Mojave Desert includes off-grid, solar powered electricity.  As part of the Space Program quest How do we Live” – learning about and experimenting with this form of eco-technology, was top of the list for both Hutch and I.  Initial forays into solar application tried things like a solar suitcase (super secret spy mission style), solar iPhone chargers (all the way from Tokyo) and a tiny 1500W battery bank system installed at the cabin in 2010 (it worked, just barely).

Fast forward 8 years: innovations in solar technology had exploded, system element prices had gone down and it was time to modernize the cabin’s electro power experience.

In the westernized world our dependence on electrical energy, where it comes from, who ‘owns’ and profits from it, how it’s distributed and how it is stored continues to be of paramount concern.  This human invention, the harnessing of electricity from the ether, should not feel out of reach, out of bounds or be harmful or destructive to any living being in any way.  Yet it is.

I wanted to feel empowered in my choice to consume electricity and even though this cabin project (375 sq ft of living space) was a baby step toward impactful change, I enjoyed and felt challenged in ALL of the 6 months I took to educate myself with research, by asking questions of experts, revisiting (and conquering horror story, high school math class scars – ‘girls can’t do math’) algebra, reading manuals, and exploring the innovators of the field’s products.

As a result, the system I designed supports a heating and cooling mini-split unit, a mini fridge with freezer, a 5 gallon hot water heater all lighting and building code appropriate outlets, including the ability to use a hair dryer in the bathroom.  It works and is AMAZING.

Listed below are the system components:

  • 8 Q Cells 380W MonoDuo Cell : solar array
  • 1 Outback FlexMax 100 MPPT : charge controller
  • 1 Outback FXR3048A 3000W 48VDC : inverter
  • 1 Outback Power MATE3s : system display and controller
  • 1 Outback HUB-4 : CAT HUB to MATE
  • 3 SimpliPhi 3.8 kWh 48V : lithium ion batteries
  • 1 Champion Duel Fuel Inverter Generator 3400W / 3100W

I am so grateful to the technicians at Outback Power and SimpliFi Power for their patience, expertise and enthusiasm toward this project.

Going Solar is all the rage, as it should be.  However, grid-tied application vs off-grid application presents a conversation worth being interested in.  The 2018 Camp Fire in northern California blasted a gigantic spotlight on the issues associated with grid tied electrical storage.  The question discussed with many of the field experts I met and downloaded with expressed this very serious concern:  it’s great we can harness the sun and help offset the carbon footprint related to non solar consumption, but where does the excess go?  In a grid-tied application, perfect world scenario would include efficient, up-to date and modern storage and distribution.  At present, this scenario does not exist.

Choose solar & invest in a battery bank.  Check out what the good folks at SimpliFi are up to.  These batteries are incredible and the company is worth supporting.  And of course, without Outback, we’d be in the dark.