Solar Update

It’s been exactly three months since we had our solar panels installed. We’re quite pleased with their performance. The funny thing is  . . before we got the solar panels, I would have sworn that every single day here was hot and sunny and now that I’m watching our power being generated on top of our roof, I’m surprised at how many cloudy or partly cloudy days we have. Even a mildly overcast day results in a decrease in power production. Thankfully, we relied on various calculators that took into account the number of “sun hours” we have here so our system is producing exactly what we had hoped.

At the same time our solar panels were installed, our area became deregulated which meant the provided we had been using no longer could be used as our “REP” (retail electric provider). You may remember the problems we had because there were only three REPS who would do net metering (buy our excess power). The first two, who had better deals, said they would do it but in the end, said “Oh, you’re in the newly deregulated area. We can’t do this there yet.” So, we ended up with our third and final REP, TXU, and actually, I think we’re better off with them. For some crazy reason, they pay us more per kWh than we’re paying them for the kWh we buy from them. Weird but I’m not questioning it. Here, we pay about .0625 per kWh only or the power. By the time the line charges and other fees are added in, we’re paying close to .30 per kWh, which is outrageous. TXU pays us .075 per kWh for what we send back and there are no line charges (so far) on what goes back.

Then . . there’s our “TED” which stands or something about transmission and distribution. They’re who I refer to as the “line carrier” because they own the lines and we pay them so we can use their lines but we have no choice in our TED.  You may remember that they came out and approved our system, told us to turn it on, then when the meter reader came out and saw the meter spinning backwards, he summoned someone to come pull our meter because they thought we were pirating electricity. Somehow, the fact that our system had been approved for solar had not been “transmitted” to the folks who read the meter. We got that all straightened out. Thank goodness I was home and stopped them from pulling our meter!

And, here we are three months into our solar production and the TED called yesterday and said “We think we’ve figured out how to report your usage!” YAY!  Three months! I guess it could have been four or more!

Apparently it isn’t as simple as picking up the phone, calling the REP and saying “The Laquidaras used “X”  kWh and sent back “Y” kWh.  It has to go through ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and it has to be in a certain format or . . I don’t even know but I do hope it’s all figured out. I will say that the folks at our TED have been extremely nice, and very sorry for the hassle, including the electric meter incident.

Usage

Usage

In three months, we’ve purchased 2624 kWh. Last year, during this same period, we used a bit over 5,000 kWh, which means we used about 56 kWh per day last year. We’ve added a third freezer and other than that, I don’t know that we should be using any more power than we did last year.

Sent Back

Sent Back

During this same period, we’ve sent back 2413 kWh. We’ve used about 200 kWh more than we’ve produced and I knew that would happen in July through September because we run two central air conditioners and 1 stand alone a/c. I think if we were running just one central a/c or mini splits, one at a time, we would be able to stay within the power we produce. Also, if we had been “banking” kWh since January, we would have built up enough that we wouldn’t run over, but since the system was only started in May, we didn’t get enough credits to stay within our production range. Our contract with TXU says we have to be a “net user”, meaning that we have to use more than we send back, on an annual basis. I don’t think that’s going to happen and I’m not real sure what will happen with that but we’ll see. 

A lot of words, a lot of calculations in my head but in the end, on an annual basis, we’re going to be sending back more kWh than we’re using and I can’t wait til battery technology, or some storage technology, exists so that we can go completely off grid. For now, we can’t but if we could figure out how to cut back our usage at night (air conditioner), we’d be pretty much operating off our own power.

 

I’m Back!

Whew . . that was a rough ride. I truly have two speeds . . full speed ahead and one foot in the grave and I think I’d had one foot in the grave for about a week. On Sunday, I had to call the doctor twice and I had not called him at all before Sunday, so he wanted me to come in to the office yesterday morning. Poor guy . . he’s the only urologist in this area and apparently our sweltering summers are real good for creating kidney stones. He’s been one busy guy.

I was feeling so bad that Vince didn’t even think I should drive myself to the doctor so he took off and drove me there. We got there and I immediately fell asleep in the chair! Good thing because we had to wait almost two hours for the doctor. Yep, emergency kidney stone surgeries.

He said my pain was caused from bladder spasm from the stent so he went ahead and removed the stent. There was no infection . . everything was fine. Almost the minute he took the stent out, I was good. By the time we left the doctor’s office, we had been there over three hours. Vince was ready to scream but he understood  . . one urologist  . .  lots of kidney stones. I’m sure someone was waiting longer last week because of my surgery.

I told Vince . . I want to eat! I’m starving. I had hardly eaten anything for about 4 days . . ice cream,  yogurt, watermelon. We ran out of homemade yogurt, then we ran out of watermelon and I was kinda getting tired of ice cream. I can’t believe I said that! During the week since surgery, I lost all the weight I had gained back since we went off our diets.

I asked the doctor . . do I have any restrictions? He said no . . do everything you feel like doing. I said “Can I work in the garden?” I think he thinks I’m nuts but he said “If you want to!” 

Stewed Tomatoes

Stewed Tomatoes

I came home, stewed tomatoes and canned them, pulled weeds in the garden, cooked dinner and cleaned the toilets!  Yep, my energy level is back!

Thank you all for your prayers and your notes and your offers of help. I go back the middle of August so we can decide what to do about the left side. I do not want to do the same thing we did this time but . . I may not have a lot of options.

Glass Gem Corn Update

Yesterday evening I noticed a few ears of the glass gem corn was dry enough to pull.  The grasshoppers are moving in by the droves and I’m not sure what they’ll do with the corn so I’m pulling at least enough to get seeds for next year. The corn begins losing it’s really pretty colors . . they get duller as they dry. It still isn’t dry enough but we had a chance of rain last night (didn’t happen) and I wanted to pull it so I could look at it . . so I did.

Glass Gem Corn

Glass Gem Corn

Isn’t it amazing? And gorgeous? I keep saying to Vince “Can you believe we grew this?” I don’t think he’s as impressed a I am. Plant a little bitty corn seed and get 4 or 5 ears from each corn stalk. This year I mostly grew it just to see if I could and I can. The worms really did a number on it but I read that if, as soon as you see tassels forming, you drop a few drops of mineral oil “down the shaft”, that will stop the worms so I’ll try that next year. I’m happy to get as much as I got without using pesticides or harsh chemicals so if the mineral oil does the trick, I’ll be happy. If not, that’s fine too.  I think I planted 20 seeds and probably 16 of those stalks produced 4 ears, one or two produced 3 ears and a couple produced 2 years. I’ll end up with 55 to 60 ears and each kernel is a seed for next year so I’ll have more than enough corn to plant next year.

One cup of dried corn kernels will equal about 1-1/2 cups of ground cornmeal.  I’m thinking that once the corn is dry, it would probably take two of the cobs (average) to make 1 cup of dried kernels. The 20 stalks I planted took up about 1/4 of one of my rows so I think I’ll plan to grow 2 or 3 rows of it next year and see if I can get enough for all our cornmeal for a year.

Some people are happy to grow pretty flowers . . I’m happy to grow pretty edibles!  :)