Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The stupidest question about solar energy

"What's your ROI on that?"
Solar panels are not about Return On Investment, they are an insurance and freedom policy. 
What's the ROI on your car insurance policy? Of course you have no idea, that's not what its about.
People like to say there are no stupid questions, it might not be a stupid question but it is nonsensical. It's a lot like The Homeschooling Question, "What about their socialization?" As if socialization is the most important part of school. 

Our power tends to go out a couple of times a year. What about yours? The electric grid is probably the least robust utility we rely on. What's you return on investment if the power goes out for 3 days? By that time the food in your frig is spoiling. What about if it is a really big disaster and power is out for 2+weeks? What's your ROI now? 

What do your really need to power? Your refrigerator, furnace, some lights, a computer, what's most important to your and your family for survival?

Buying  generator is not seen as crazy, it is prudent, power tends to go out and it is a good to have a back up, as long as it is run outside with the exhaust pointed away from the house. Your generator will run as long as you have fuel. How much fuel can you store? A few days maybe. What about your cities regulations about home fuel storage. In my city we are only allowed to store a few gallons at home. If there is a major snowstorm or, even worse, an ice storm how will you get more if the gas station can't get refilled, because the roads are impassible?

You can dramatically extend your fuel supplies by hooking your generator to some deep cycle batteries. You'll need a charge controller that will turn off the generator once the batteries are full, and turn it on again when the batteries run low. Since your appliances run 120Vac and the batteries are 12VDC you'll need an inverter for the conversion. 

By now you might we wondering how you can extend your run time. The sun is an obvious choice since it is always there. The generator will still be good for when the sun isn't shining. You can even add wind or microhydro, if you have enough wind or a stream on your property.

Is this the only or best way to do it? Of course not. This is just one way, and just a quick overview. 

Being able to generate even some of your own power is a big step toward self-reliance. Pres. Obama has said, "That under my plan electricity prices will necessarily skyrocket."
I think that would be a bad thing, though that would do great things for your ROI, now wouldn't it.