Monday, August 21, 2017

Partial solar eclipse and solar output

Maine photographer Mike Leonard drove to Illinois to capture the image above of the total eclipse today (August 21, 2017).  Here along the Maine coast we saw a partial (50-60%) eclipse.  It definitely got noticeably darker and cooler and impacted my solar power output.

The chart above came from my Weather Underground personal web page, there's a clear dip in solar Watts.

Looking at the past 5 days of the power output of my solar power system, you clearly see the correlation as the eclipse occurred today.

Zooming in it becomes even clearer.  Utilities that rely on large solar farms need to plan ahead for an eclipse by having their peaking generators on standby.  These are typically natural gas or hydro generators that are nimble enough to be able to ramp up their output rapidly.

I have a single 245W solar panel on the south wall of my house that also shows the power drop.

It was also interesting to feel the temperature drop.  The change was palpable when I was outside.

So that's how a solar energy geek experiences a solar eclipse!  The next full eclipse in the US will be on April 8, 2024 and we should get a nearly full eclipse in Maine.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Maine blueberries and making jam

August in Maine is the time when my fruit trees and bushes produce a bounty.  I have 4 high bush blueberry bushes that are nearly 20 years old and well cared for.  I actively prune them in the spring and feed them coffee grounds and plenty of water in the summer.  This year I have been picking over a half gallon of berries almost daily.  Total crop will be well over 6 gallons I think.  They ripen so fast that I recruit friends and neighbors to come and help themselves.
I store them in the fridge and make small batches of 4-6 jars of jam every few nights.  So far I have made over 35 jars.  I am selling the jam to my airbnb guests and giving it to friends and neighbors.  It is really good!

My cherry tree produced a bumper crop this year, but I could only reach the proverbial "low hanging fruit" which was enough to give batches to 2 of my neighbors with baking skills.  They each made a great cherry pie!

The next crop will be from my large crabapple tree.  Last year I harvested over 7 gallons and made over 30 jars of crabapple butter and jelly.  This whole process is much more labor intensive and I'll have a friend help me.  First I spread a large tarp under the tree and then I shake the tree one branch at at a time using a long hooked stick.  We then sit on the tarp and sort the good fruit into 5 gallon buckets.  In the heat of the summer this can be really tiring.