Solar panels

July 2021

One of our aims in our Hebridean lifestyle is to detach from the central power grid and produce our own electricity from sources such as sun and wind. In this post, we report on how far we’ve got with harnessing solar power.

Earlier this year we purchased 6 solar panels from a company called ECO-WORTHY and fixed them to the roof of our garden shed. Each 120W panel has a corrosion-resistant aluminium frame designed to withstand high winds. Depending on the availability of sunlight, the six panels can generate up to 3 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.

At this time of year we have over 20 hours of daylight each day. The sun rises at around 4am and doesn’t set until after 10pm, and on a clear evening it’s often light at midnight. In midwinter, on the other hand, the sun rises at around 9am and sets around 3pm, and the sunlight we get for those 6 hours is often so weak that the panels are unable to harness any power at all.

With our current solar power set-up, for most of the year we’re managing to charge our mobile phones and all our power tools and electrical garden equipment, which all run on rechargeable batteries. To do this we purchased 4 storage batteries and an inverter for the shed as well as a portable home battery for indoor use.

Charging the rechargeable batteries for our power tools and garden equipment

The cost of the panels and batteries so far has amounted to around £3000. Since our daily energy usage in summer is around 5 kWh and in winter around 12 kWh, we are unable to power our kitchen appliances or central heating system from the equipment we have right now. We will have to invest more to become fully self-sufficient in the production of our own electricity.

This, coupled with the fact that sunlight is in scarce supply at this latitude in winter, means that, for us, solar panels are by no means a low-cost and reliable alternative to being on grid. Nevertheless, as cost is not the only factor to consider when moving off-grid, we intend to continue to pursue our ultimate goal.

6 thoughts on “Solar panels”

  1. Presumably wind power would be more productive – especially in winter. Storage is always the problem. We have 65 panels here on the annex roof and export most to the grid. Although we do get FIT, we would do much better to get in some batteries. But there is cost and also the environmental and labour considerations regarding lithium mining. We did look at ground source and air source which just wouldn’t work here – but maybe it could for you.

    1. That’s right, Duncan. We do get plenty of sunshine in the summer but unfortunately we haven’t had much success with wind power for the rest of the year. Finding a sturdy wind generator to withstand the Hebridean winter storms has been difficult and our first purchase didn’t make the grade. We’ll keep working on that one.

      And yes, the whole thing does raise environmental and human rights questions regarding the sourcing of their components, and then their disposal afterwards. It appears industrialised countries are far from having the ideal solution to producing the energy we need to power all those electrical appliances we want to use.

    1. Thanks Duncan. Yes, hemp is such an amazing and versatile plant. It has so many uses. Cannabis too. It’s a joke that growing a natural product in your garden has been declared illegal.

  2. How about an exercise bike hooked up to some kind kind of power capture battery to help you make up the shortfall in winter? I know it’s not exactly self-sustaining as it’ll need input/exercise, but you’ll be indoors more then anyway and it could help keep fit at the same time.

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