I’ve finally got solar power! Every year for the last few years I have wasted everyone’s time at the solar stalls at festivals getting advice, and then chickened out at the last minute and survived without it. This is partly because of the expense and partly because I could never settle on what I actually wanted. They all told me I had to ‘work out what I needed’, but this was effectively a circular argument because the reason for seeking advice in the first place was that I didn’t know what to buy. So I always leave site amid some embarrassing dead battery scenario and all the attendant irritations that involves, like waiting around a lot, being called ‘love’ by breakdown men, and being informed my jump leads ‘aren’t very good’ even though they have always worked absolutely fine, and if they work fine for jump starting the vehicle I want them to jump start, it seems to me that this, de facto, counts as ‘good’. It’s just a power thing. They have to place themselves slightly above me: assisting someone on an equal basis just doesn’t work for them. Amusingly in this particular case they then proceeded to not be able to find their own battery, and had to resort to the vehicle’s user manual. Really I prefer to have two batteries so under adverse circumstances I can give myself a jump start. That seems like the ultimate in self-sufficiency.
Anyway, the whole solar thing was finally sorted nearer to home and away from the pressures of a festival, when I happened to mention to the Beco guys at the Energy Fair that I was after a DC system. The eminently helpful Dan Bayley got the measure of me quite quickly because he told me they had an ‘end of line’ PV module, shortly followed by an offer of one with “funny discoloured bits”, which I duly purchased. It works absolutely fine – when tested it was running at 99% efficiency – and I splashed out on a really good Morningstar SunSaver regulator, which allows for adding another three 80W modules. It’s now all connected up, with an almost-knackered leisure battery and powering some perky little LED lights which bathe the big shed in light superior to that produced by the 240v energy saving bulbs indoors. It will also power a charging station for mobile phones and batteries, and when I go away in the van, the whole thing can up and go with me .