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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Boulder Belt Goes Solar (Sort of)

It's been a while since I wrote about the farm here. I seem to be into 420 character Face Book Status Updates these days more than blogging. If you are a face Book denizen and are not a Boulder Belt Farm Fan you can join the group by using clicking here.

Something new on the farm. Eugene bought a solar collector back in January from Harbor Freight and made an wheeled cart for it, bought a deep cell marine battery and last week hooked up 3 of our florescent ballasts in the seed room.

The solar panels gives us up to 8 watts of power. Not a lot but enough to run some grow lights. So now 6 our of 20+ lights are now off the grid on sunny days. It's a small step and yet a big step. We are seriously considering switching to LEDs as they can be run on a 12 volt system easily. And they use a lot less energy than any other kind of light so it would likely be possible to run 100% of our grow light needs 50% of the time off the grid. But a small LED grow light system that will light up a 5 square foot area costs around $200 and the bigger you go the costlier they get. We can buy and power hundreds of fluorescent tubes for the same money. BUT LEDs do not have mercury in them and all fluorescent lights do which means they serious issues and are not nearly as green as they are touted to be. LED's have a steady light, florescent lights have constant flicker that some believe to be detrimental to the health of living things. LED's have other advantages but they are new, expensive and will mean redesigning our seedling room. So we have have not made the leap to LED's quite yet but likely will before the seed germination seasons is over for us.

Eugene is also tinkering around with tractor and auto lights as they are all 12 volt. So far he has had zero success as the one light he bought was defective and the Eaton, TSC did not have any in stock yesterday when he took the bad light back. Oh well, we have lots of time to tinker with this new system and figure out just how it will be best used on the farm. We plan for this to lead to more solar arrays and wind generators as well. We do realize that, like learning to sustainably farm for a living, there will be a fairly steep learning curve. But hey, it will keep us out of trouble and eventually with enough power when the grid goes down

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