He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

The Generation Game

In May of last year, I mentioned the possibility of getting a small solar power project going. After several months of faffing around, I've finally got it started. I nearly put a picture here, but I'm sure you know what a solar-cell looks like.

The system is pretty basic, with two panels on a rack that produce up to 28 watts of power. The rack is mounted on the side of the house ( the best place to catch the sun - it faces south) and the wiring goes inside the porch, through a charge regulator to a leisure battery which stores it all. The charge regulator stops the battery from getting cooked. When I want to use the power, I've got an inverter that transforms the 12v supply from the battery into 240v AC - and it even works!

Inside the porch, everything is somewhat crudely wired. However, the wiring will be going to a dedicated plug socket into the lounge, from which I can run devices. Last night as a test, I ran my lounge lamp from it, although some slightly more power-hungry devices could be powered. The inverter has a limit of 300 watts - meaning that my laptop (at 55 watts) could be operated. Sure, it won't let me run a hoover or a kettle, but there's lots of smaller devices (stereo, phone charger, lighting) that could be operated.

Why did I do it? Well, I guess there's two reasons. One is that energy prices are not getting any cheaper - and they will continue to rise. If I can save myself some money in the long term, I will. Secondly, though, it's a useful thing to have in the event of power-cuts - a slightly more hi-tech version of getting the candles out. There may be some environmental considerations too, but considering the size of the project, I don't think I'll be making a huge impact.

The whole thing has been set up as a proof of concept, really. Whilst I've paid out for the components (with the exception of the panels - they're on long-term loan), if it's shown to work, I'll part with the cash and get a newer, higher output cell (maybe around 65w). Obviously this system will never totally replace my requirements for electricity from the national grid, but it'll reduce it. Compared to most households, my energy requirements are fairly low. I have low-energy bulbs throughout the house, I don't have a TV, I use a laptop that consumes relatively little energy and I'm barely at home. The peak of my electricity usage is in boiling 1 cup of water for my cuppa in the morning. I guess I have an easier job implementing a solution than the average family does.

The cost of the components to implement this project was about £70. I guess I'm lucky in that I can borrow these cells, but should I fully invest in one of my own, I believe that I'll be able to recoup the value of the investment, although it may take a few years, but I'll keep you updated so that if you're considering a similar project, you'll know whether it's worthwhile or not.
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