Sunday, January 30, 2011

Solar Power, Part I

We use a 13.5 kW diesel generator for our electricity needs at Camp.  It's loud, fairly dirty, and sometimes inconvenient, but it gets the job done.  I've always wanted, however, to reduce our dependence on it (without resorting to washing the sheets against a rock in the pond or making 10 loaves of bread dough by hand).

Last summer, we applied for two grants, one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the other from Efficiency Maine, to install a solar power and battery system. We didn't get the USDA grant ($5,000), but we did win an Efficiency Maine grant to the tune of $15,000, and we're currently designing the system that we'll install in May.

We're working with Green Earth Energy up in Fort Kent to do the design and installation.  The system will consist of 12 solar photovoltaic panels (the standard blue ones), a good-size inverter/charger, and 16 batteries that we'll keep down in the back room in the lodge.  When Camp is operating full-tilt (which means doing lots of laundry, pumping lots of water, etc), we'll still need to run the generator for an hour, maybe two, per day.  When we're not at full capacity, we expect to go a few days without needing the generator.  That's all based on calculations, some engineering judgment, and some flat-out guesses, though, so we'll see how it all ends up working. 

Once we get closer to putting in the order for the components, I'll post more about the project.  When May rolls around and we start installing everything, I'll definitely post more about the project.

Until then, here's a picture of our fancy new generator:


  1. Congratulations on the grant. Its great that the State of Maine supports these initiatives. How did you learn about these programs and how involved was the grant process?

  2. I learned about the USDA grant first through my winter job. I'm also an environmental engineer down in Virginia, and we heard about it through the local USDA office down there. It was almost impossible to find any information on it in Maine, even after learning about it. (I'll update the post with links to the Maine info for both grants.)

    A friend downstate mentioned the Efficiency Maine grant to us after he heard we were going after the USDA grant.

    Both grant applications were pretty involved; we had to show what components we would use, an energy audit, a budget and payback analysis, contractor qualifications, etc. Both ended up being in the 50-page range with all of the required attachments.

    As a side note, the USDA grant was a 25% matching grant, while the Efficiency Maine grant is a 50% match, so we also had to show that we had access to our portion of the funding.