A solar photovoltaic (PV) system can be as simple as a single module with the ability to charge the battery of a cell phone, or a huge installation designed to supply the electrical needs of an entire community. My PV system began with one panel and a small battery bank, and continues to grow as my finances will allow.
People often ask “how much money do you save on your electric bill?” They seem surprised when I tell them almost nothing. At that point, I imagine that they’re wondering why I bother with a system of this small size at all, and I feel compelled to explain why I do what I do.
I hope someday that my PV system will be able to supply all of my electrical needs, but I have already benefited in many ways from my modest system.
It’s a learning experience. I can apply what I’ve learned to a full-blown system. As I expand, I’m not overwhelmed by the technology.
I often use my system to supply power to night-lights, and to grow-lights for my plants. I’ve even used it to power the lights on a Christmas tree.
My system served as an emergency power source recently when a tornado caused a power outage. I had plenty of power for lights, cell-phone battery charging, a TV, a radio, and other small appliances. I can use my system to keep a small freezer running to prevent food from spoiling in the event of an extended power failure.
By reducing electrical usage from the grid, I’m reducing the load on a fossil-fueled power plant, and therefore reducing carbon emissions. Carbon emissions, more than anything else, are responsible for global warming.
Considering the ever-increasing cost of fuel, it’s good to have an alternative. It’s hard to predict how much money I’ll save in the future with my system.
As the price of fuel increases, the demand for PV equipment will rise. This is likely to cause supply problems and dramatic price increases. I’m glad that I already have a PV system in place.
Working with a limited power source has taught me to think about energy-efficient lights and appliances. Each time I purchase an energy-efficient device I’m reducing my utility bill and increasing the usefulness of my system.
In an effort to reduce my home heating costs, I’ve recently installed a corn-burning stove. Using this stove, I expect to be able to heat my home for significantly less than it costs to heat it with natural gas. My PV system will provide power for the stove’s fans and auger. However, I’ll need to add PV panels and batteries if I am to have enough electricity to make it through a cold winter night.