Friday, February 15, 2013

Green power

Regular readers may remember this incident from the winter of 2009-10.  I had pretty well non-stop grief from that miserable POKC (piece of Kubota crap).  From day one it was trouble – some days more so than others.  In retrospect we had an omen – when we picked up the coach Clarence (the previous owner) had trouble getting the miserable bitch to start on a warm Kelowna afternoon.  That winter of 09/10 I had just paid the SuperUke a bunch of money to rebuild the engine and I had built a solid compartment for it to live in.  My dream was that eventually I would soundproof the compartment.  My other electrical dream for that winter was that I would buy some additional cheap solar panels for the bus while we were in Arizona. All of that went for shit when I ended up dumping in excess of $2000 into the miserable POKC again. 

At that time if I shopped carefully I could have bought solar panels for close to $3 per watt.  My intent was to add at least 200 watts to the bus and ideally I would have added 500 watts.  $3 per watt still didn’t make economic sense (although that price was probably economical compared to ridiculous costs of operating the POKC).  Using a generator that doesn’t blow up on a weekly basis I can generate power for roughly $10 per day.  That’s not cheap but it would take at least 3 kilowatts of panels to completely replace that generator power so at $10,000 capital cost we couldn’t use the bus long enough to pay it back.  At the time though we weren’t driven by economics.  We just wanted to reduce our generator run time and a couple hundred additional watts would have made a big difference. 

Generators are notoriously poor solutions for battery charging.  We have the same genset on the bus and the boat – they are both 6.5 kw Onans.  We only need roughly 4 kw to run the electrical systems when we are actually consuming power but the 6.5 Onans are what we’ve got and they’re a pretty rugged machine.  We’ve got electric hot water tanks on both the bus and the boat.  On the bus we cook with propane which makes a huge reduction in our power consumption but on the boat we need electricity every time we want to make dinner or even when we want a cup of tea. 

Once we’re done using the stove or after the water heater cuts out though we drop back to using maybe 1000 watts at the most, usually much less.  We still have to let the little Onans rumble away though and it can take 5 or more hours to fully top the batteries off.  Battery chemistry dictates that they will take a heavy charge initially but very quickly they reduce the amount of power that they will accept.  That reduction in charge rate happens long before they are anywhere near “full”.  So to put a full charge on our batteries using the generator means a lot of wasted fuel, not to mention a lot of listening to the noise of the gennie.   Less run time isn’t an option if we want to look after our batteries.  Deliberately undercharging them is a good way to ruin them.

Finishing off that battery charge is where an appropriately sized solar array comes in.  Three years ago it probably still made economic sense to just run the genset – assuming we could keep it from poking holes in its block or swallowing its brushes or any of the myriad other ways it found to commit mechanical suicide.  Those operational economics have rapidly changed over the last few years and particularly so in the last year.  Today my solar supplier delivered 720 watts of solar panels and I gave him $747.50.  That’s as close to $1 per watt as makes no difference.  And more importantly that’s one third of what it would have cost me just three years ago.

I’ve got a pretty good plan worked out for the installation – I’ll post lots of pictures.  When I started my davit project I thought I would mount the panels over the top of the davits but I have come to the conclusion that would look too goofy.  It also would be a challenge to run the wiring from the extreme aft end of the boat forward to the engine room.  So I have a revised plan which involves replacing the canvas bimini with solar panels.

That new plan requires a large number of SS u-bolts so I can’t really get started for probably another week because I’m too cheap to buy u-bolts locally.  Last week I ordered some online.  They’re coming out of the US so it shouldn’t take too long for them to arrive.  I’m also waiting for my wire (also bought online) to arrive and my supplier out here is waiting for a shipment of controllers. 

And now for Something

Completely Different

And Disgusting.


That’s otter crap on the deck of the sailboat next to us.  The miserable little swimming rats slither out of the water onto the dock and then up onto whatever boat they can find.  Then they crap profusely. 

Earlier this week I was lying in bed when I heard some kind of commotion in the water outside.  It sounded like somebody was swimming near the boat so I got up to have a look.  There was a parade of swimmer rats slithering off the boat next to me.  It was like a line of grade school kids crossing a road in single file.  They must have started while I was over in Vancouver at the boat show because I hadn’t had any trouble with crap on the dock before I left but since I got back it has been a daily cleanup. 


Chris, who owns the sailboat, is in Mexico this week so today Richard & I strung snowfence along the side of the boat.  The mess on the aft deck (the first picture) is minor compared to what they have accumulated under the tarp on the foredeck.  Chris washed the boat just a few weeks ago but he’ll be doing it over again as soon as he gets home.  Its still nothing compared to Malcolm’s Grand Banks across the dock from us.  He had one of those big canvas covers on the boat for the winter but had to remove it last week.   Then he had to clean up the 18 inches of otter shit that was piled up on his deck.  Apparently the little bastards really like getting in under cover to do their business.  Strychnine would solve the problem real quick but its so hard to get these days and I expect it would create some other issues in the community.

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