Just wanted to post a quick update on how our solar installation is doing. 2016 was a fantastic year for solar with lots of sun. Due to the way our statements are generated, the billing year actually runs from mid-January, so this report is for the period of 1/18/2016 – 1/17/2017.
For the year, our panels generated just over 10,000 Kwh (10231), which is amazing. Our best generation period was unexpectedly mid-August to mid-September, although it only beat mid-June to mid-July by 4 Kwh. Still, you wouldn’t expect that behavior since even in September the days are already getting significantly shorter than June.
We look to be on track to make it through the winter without using up our credits again, which basically is the goal. No electric bills with a net balance to pay at all is what you want. We are running the heat pump a lot to supplement the heat in the winter, so even with that factored in we are doing okay.
I would still love to see us get our usage down a bit, but given our large house and most of us being home all day it gets tough to pare that down much. We have pretty much entirely switched over to LED lights, which has helped. Now I just have to run interference to keep them turned off when not in use. We’re also switching more stuff to electric as well, such as trying to use rechargeable batteries whenever possible. I bought an electric string trimmer made by Ego Power that I really like. It’s super powerful, a joy to work with compared with the traditional engine varieties and gives me about a half hour of good trimming. By then my arms and shoulders are usually tired anyway. A neighbor who also has solar bought an electric chainsaw that he raves about.
The electric tools have really made huge strides and will continue to benefit from all the other innovation that is improving batteries and pushing costs down. I’m hoping my lawn mower lasts long enough that my next one of those can be fully electric, but we aren’t quite there yet. There are some coming along (like Mean Green for instance), but they are still very much first wave technology and very expensive. The electric push mowers on the other hand have been around for awhile now and seem to work fairly well. I think Ego makes one that uses the same battery as my trimmer, although it may use two batteries.
We are going to continue to look for ways to move over to electric from fossil fuels where we can. For instance, I still have a propane heater in my office since the heat doesn’t make it back here. We also have a propane clothes dryer. So we still have some areas to keep in mind. I’m also keeping a close eye on battery storage, such as the Tesla PowerWall so we could eventually go completely off-grid if we wanted. I think the prices are going to drop precipitously over the next five years though, so holding out a bit.
Bit late getting this figured out this year, but I guess it’s still January. Similar to last year, here’s a quick bullet point list of stuff we managed to accomplish this year.
- Built a “chicken tractor” big enough for about 10-15 broilers.
- Raised and slaughtered 15 Freedom Ranger broilers. Overall it went okay, but still debating if we want to do this every year. Not including labor and equipment (2 big expenses), our cost per pound was in the low $4 range.
- Lost two more of our original hens. We still have “Faith” the barred rock remaining from the original Bristol 4.
- Got 6 day old Ancona ducklings and successfully raised them to adults. Three were male and three were female, so two of the boys were redundant and went to the freezer.
- Put automatic doors on both the chicken and duck coops. This has simplified care significantly as well as made it easier for us to leave the property in someone else’s hands for a few days.
- This was the first full growing season with the greenhouse and it made a significant difference in the size and quality of my starts. We bought very few starts from outside the property this year.
- For the most part, an amazing gardening year. Super warm and sunny, which made for an abundance of tomatoes.
- We added more fruit trees, 6 more raspberry plants, 25 everbearing strawberry plants and another purple asparagus bed.
- The original raspberry plants from 2015 really came into their own this year for the most part. We got a great yield of berries.
- Had some luck for the first time with the following this year
- Bush Limas
- Sweet Potatoes
- Flint corn
- Sweet corn
- Standouts included
- the aforementioned tomatoes
- Peppers did fairly well, including sweet peppers
- Brussel sprouts finally worked. Turned out we had been planting too late for New England.
- Dynamite popcorn
- Bush beans of various types (green, yellow, dry)
- Still having trouble getting melons to work with any consistency
- Landscape and other property work
- Cleared an overgrown patch of original landscaping from the front yard and re-contoured the whole front yard, including the drainage ditch.
- Rebuilt the main culvert near our house, put in a small duck pond and widened the drive over the culvert.
- Expanded the beginnings of our windbreak
- Reshaped the driveway and added new stone/gravel.
- Put up a Gorilla playset for the kids.
- Goals for 2017 include
- Attempt to convert to a mostly no-till approach in our gardens
- Expand the existing rear garden footprint around the greenhouse
- More fruit trees
- Start working on the “drift” landscaping ideas in the front yard. These are wide swaths of perennial plants and grasses in mostly organic shapes following the contour of the land.
- Expand the windbreak and begin preparing for a more extensive hedgerow or permaculture mixed species planting on the north edge of the property. We are working with a permaculture specialist on a plan for this.
- At least begin the planning stages for fencing in the front pasture.
- Tear down our existing rear deck and rebuild a new one.
Soon it will be time to buy and start seeds. By the way, if you are thinking about seeds, don’t forget about my site PickAPacket.com and tell your friends. It allows you to compare prices and see varieties carried by my favorite non-GMO seed companies, including lots of heirloom, organic and open-pollinated varieties.