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Solar Power in the Dark – Wind Power During Calm

by Damien Andrews

When misinformation gets momentum and a foothold, it's really difficult to slow it down and replace it with the correct information. It's not so much a matter of information distribution. Today's information relaying systems are sophisticated and ubiquitous. It's that once folks accept something, it's very difficult to get them to change their way of thinking – irrespective of the amount of supporting data that is presented. History is replete with examples of this phenomenon, and new examples demonstrate themselves almost daily.

One bit of misinformation regarding solar power systems and wind power systems that seems to have gained a solid foothold today is that wind power systems and solar power systems only work when there is wind or sun, respectively. The truth is that you can enjoy good, clean, consistent electricity with a solar power system or a wind power system even during the dark, and when the wind is utterly calm. In fact, if you install the proper components, you can have cleaner and more consistent power with a solar power system or a wind power system than those people who are tied to the power grid.

Wind power systems and solar power systems share many components. Among that list of common components is the storage system. Storage of electricity, as we all know, is most commonly accomplished with a battery. Ergo, in, the battery (or batteries) – the storage system – is what determines the amount of power is available at any time to fulfill the demand.

I should note here that in order to maintain a proper level of charge in the storage system, adequate solar or wind power is indeed required. But it is NOT required at the moment that the demand is placed.

Demand on an electrical storage system, which include grid power systems, wind power systems, and solar power systems, occurs when a device which uses electricity is switched on. When you turn on a light, you create a demand. The more wattage required by the electrical device, the greater the demand created when that device is switched on. The larger the storage system is, the more electricity is available between charging sessions. Of course, unlike wind power systems and solar power systems, grid tied systems do NOT get re-charged.

Some renewable energy systems are very small, and have correspondingly diminutive storage systems. Almost everyone today, for example, has a camera or cell phone that uses re-charged batteries for power. While almost all users of such small renewable energy systems use a 110v battery charger that is plugged into a grid-tied power system, there are numerous solar chargers made for C, D, AA, and AAA batteries. But let's jump up to a small, independent power system designed to perform a single task such as pumping water.

Usually, small independent systems are not wind power systems, but rather solar power systems. A 175 watt solar panel atop the roof of a pump house, along with a charge controller, inverter and 12-volt 240 amp hour battery makes a small and formidable system to power a 110v water pump. Add another battery, and this small solar power system will run most pumps quite efficiently for days – even without any sun at all. Water pumps run intermittently, and only run for short periods of time, so powering them is really rather simple.

A couple of very common small solar power systems are exterior landscape and security lighting and electric fence chargers. These items allow for the use of effective electrical devices without the cost of wiring them, which is sometimes prohibitive.

Setting up a solar power system or a wind power system for an entire house is essentially the same as setting one up for a pump house. You'll just need more solar charging power (solar panels) and more storage (batteries) – as well as a charge controller and inverter that are up to the task.

Some basics to remember:

• The greater the storage capacity of your wind power system or solar power system, the more power you'll have to fulfill demands.

• The greater the charging capacity of your solar power system or wind power system is, the faster you will be able to recharge the batteries.

• Once your storage system is fully charged by your wind power system or solar power system, the charge controller no longer uses the power being collected by the system.

The obvious conclusion is that the storage system is a critical element of all renewable power systems. So when you're designing your system, don't buy too many solar panels or a mammoth wind power generator and then a small storage system. Buy enough batteries to power everything you need, whenever you need it. That way you'll have solar power in the dark and wind power during calm.


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