Archive

Electricity from PV panels

Last Saturday was a miserable day of snow, subzero temperatures and gray light so dark you needed illumination all day. Sunday morning when the storm was over we had more than a foot of picture-perfect, spotless dry powder. The snow was so fluffy that my snow shoes couldn’t keep me on the surface, but it was impossible to stay indoors. I plodded around the meadow sinking knee deep with each step despite the snow shoes.

A winter sun, strong as it can be in January, tinged the shadows, lengthened by its low arc, blue. That sun’s photons also promptly cleared both solar arrays of their snowy blankets, and popped the electrons in silicon cells of the PV panels into action. My energy factory was fully operational by noon.

If you have to have winter, it should be like the day after the storm. By mid week, warm rain, falling at night, washed the snow away. I’m old enough to know that winter isn’t over in January. But I’m not too old to wish that a warm day with a strong breeze could hasten spring’s return.

Maybe it did. The ground is workable. Despite temperatures under 40, the sun was out. In an hour and a half, I cleared a 15 foot by 15 foot section of meadow of both Chinese wisteria and honeysuckle (Lonicera I presume japonica, i.e., no good!) roots. I’ve let the Lonicera vine get too firm a foothold in that north western area close to the house and under the Maple. It thrives as well  in the section of the meadow behind the western evergreen hedgerow and out to the road, but this is to be the year of trying to control the more open part of the meadow to prevent its escape into the boarder field.

I like to think I slowed the vine’s spread down. Slowing down a weed by pulling it up by its roots is a cherished concept of mine. I know eradication doesn’t work according to this metaphor, but I’ve held the notion so long I can’t remember when I did not use it as a mantra while weeding. Did I inherit this from my father? He preached trying to get all the root out when pulling weeds. But his battlefield was a lawn and his target mostly dandelions. You can slow down a dandelion by removing most of its tap root. Did I invent it myself? Whatever its origins, eradicating an invasive takes lots more muscle than pulling some of its roots.

Let the record show, however, that I found less than 3 feet of Bittersweet root and only one grub. When I’d finished the ground looked not dissimilar to terrain I’d seen in the Hill Country of Texas where wild boars are a nuisance.

Wildlife is reappearing as the days lengthen. Three robust squirrels with fulsome, twitchy tails have been prowling under the bird feeders. I can’t figure out their familial relationships: one seemed perturbed by another; these two ignored the third. A red squirrel has come out of hiding. Though I have not seen two together, its a good bet we have two red squirrels. I scared one down the driveway — that is in a different part of my yard from where I’d seen a red squirrel before; he darted across the road and through a hole in the neighbor’s stone wall suggesting he might live over there. One red squirrel is plenty.

I tried to snap a photo of the FIVE male Northern cardinals who are in residence. By the time I had my camera out (photo of three attached), two males had flown into the Douglas firs. Five couples increases the carry capacity of past years by one pair.

Three of five male Northern cardinals

Remains of a Blue jayThe Blue jays have not done as well. Carrying capacity has been two pairs. Earlier this year a Sharp-shined hawk had a jay for lunch. The pile of feathers was the tip. I had a rare sighting of the hawk recently. It perched atop the bird feeder with its back to the kitchen window allowing me to decide it was Sharp-shined not Cooper’s by the shortness of its tail. Needless to say, the entire meadow was silent of all bird calls while he visited. Had I not been on the phone, I just might have caught the hawk on camera; he sat for longer than I anticipated.

Looking forward to the breeding season, I emptied inactive nests from the four bird houses. One nest had been built by a Carolina wren, two were made by Tree swallows and one was an incomplete effort by House sparrow. I did not remove a sparrow’s nest from a Prairie rose bush. I also just admired the many insect galls attached to the stronger stems still standing in the meadow.

My book dealing neighbor gave me a book on moss gardening. I don’t need another project, but it’s encouraged me to be more accepting of what moss I already have. On my circuit around the meadow today, I photographed the club mosses in the path in the lower field and the moss that has taken hold where I’m allowing sedges to propagate under the three Amelanchier trees.

Advertisements

The beach has been almost exclusively mine since the fall. When the three other people who can make that statement have been on the beach with me, we acknowledge each other with a wave or a greeting. Today each ganglia of beach users was isolated in its own  nervous system.

The Piping plovers’ nesting area has been cordoned off in a shrinking space where a hedgerow of Rosa ragusas and poison ivy used to wall off the deep edge of the pond behind until Sandy wiped it out. The only birds I saw were Great black-backed gulls at various stages of development, but I know we’re into mating season. I can see that at my feeders.

The beach is shrunken too. High tide now comes nearly to the boundary of the Plover’s space on the western end of the beach. Moon high tides now creep under the houses on the eastern end. The last moon tide washed great plumes of good sand 40 feet into the parking lot at each of the passageways through the dunes. Of course nothing is fixed, except the trend.

A warm northern wind could not move the blades on the wind mill fast enough to obliterate their shape. But the silicon in the photo voltaic panels on the pavilion roof must have been excitedly hopping around in the presence of the sun’s  photons.  The sky was cloudless.

I read in the newspaper that those pavilion panels create $5,000 worth of power a year. Even the lesser number of panels on my folly have been creating about 30 kWs of power daily. (I hate examples that mix measurements, but I don’t know how many kilowatts are in $5,000 worth of power and I don’t know how many dollars are in 30 kWs a day of electricity. I do know that the 40 or so pV panels on the pavilion roof generates a great deal more electricity than do the 15 on my folly!)

One other parenthetical comment that I trust is apocryphal but frighteningly entertaining: I heard on the radio, I think, that an energy advisor to Trump said we should be cautious about using up the sun if we plan to develop alternative sources of energy! There’s a worry I don’t have to assume.

I’ll stick with my concern about whether the power production at the pavilion will reduce the carbon foot print of the beach and its users fast and fully enough so that we can all find some habitat we like there when summer rolls around.

 

Come to think of it, the folly I am wanting to appreciate in this post is the second folly I’ve made on this property.

Let’s dispense with the first. It was a practice effort really, at spending money on a project few others could seen any value in. The first folly was built by the other Susan’s then boyfriend, now ex, Michael. For the record, he never returned to the Kennel House after that assignment. It still stands, however. This first folly consists of pressure treated 4 x 4s that form a low retaining wall signifying the edge of the meadow under the wild cherry tree. When Michael built this folly, the tree was a sapling; today it’s 50 feet tall. The wall runs along where a segment of the old split rail fence line used to divide the grass from the meadow but, after years of service, was in a state of dilapidation. Every summer, I took more segments of the fence out of commission as the meadow delineator, re-adapting whatever pieces were salvageable as vegetable garden fence or, for a while, a backdrop to Winkie’s Rose of Sharon from the Great House.

The second folly is the one I want to commemorate here. Today was to be its first public engagement. A book discussion for the RI Wild Plant Society was to convene on its platform at 3:00 pm. Predictions of dire weather and a small number of registrants figured into the decision to cancel the event.

But the folly has proved its mettle with the family this summer. Silently, almost imperceptibly, it furnishes the electricity for the main house all summer. I paid a small bill in April but no payment has been due since then. (The bills will return as the sun moves closer to the horizon for a shorter day and the household demands for electricity to run the geothermal heating system return.) My economist friends point out the folly of boasting about this since the initial cost of the construction of the structure and installation of the PV system will not soon be offset by the null electrical bills. But my practice is not to let such nay saying diminish my happiness with what is much ore than some utility infrastructure, although it is that too.

IMG_6427 IMG_6376

How many pupae fortified themselves in those hammocks (there is a hint below)?

DSCF2096

How many berries to do you need to pick to take a snack to the folly?

DSC00447

How many babies got rocked to sleep?

Rockabye baby

How many naps were taken in the folly?

21949601481_15919ebcbd_z

How many afternoons passed while reading a book in a hammock surrounded but not enclosed?

DSC00565

How many flora and fauna could be observed from the “blind” of the folly?

IMG_6369

IMG_6364

Neither of my follies fit within the tradition of French, English or even American follies, although I discussed that here before. The newer one comes closer to fitting into the tradition of garden temples, despite its utilitarian, exposed structure design, because of the way it is used as a haven, a retreat, a place of quiet (unless you happen to be joined by pupae and berry pickers).

I’m drying the hammocks out in preparation for bringing them inside for the winter, in case the folly hammock season is over. It has been a glorious summer, made more so by the latest folly.

IMG_2447