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May 122014
 
Let our spreadsheet save you the need to employ a team of clerks to calculate your solar energy situation.

Let our spreadsheet save you the need to employ a team of clerks to calculate your solar energy situation.

One of the most important things for you to get right is balancing your retreat’s energy requirements with its energy production and storage.

These three variables – how much energy you use, how much you produce, and how much you store – are all dependent on each other, in a complex series of interlinked relationships, and all you really know for sure is that you never want to run out!

But trying to match together the theoretical output of your solar panels, adjusting for changing weather and sunshine during the year, and adding in some energy storage capacity (batteries or whatever) to tide you over the times when your solar power isn’t producing (every night and much of every day during the winter, too) is a confusing and difficult process, and it just becomes harder still when you try to answer such questions as ‘should I add more panels or more batteries’.  Oh yes, and you’ll also want to know the costs of each different way of designing your system too.

In truth, it is hard to avoid getting out a big piece of paper, a pencil or two, some erasers, and a calculator, then devoting hours to running through the specifics of this.  But we can help you to get very close to knowing the answers to these questions without having to spend too much time or hassle doing so.

We’ve programmed up an Excel spreadsheet that allows you to simply enter in the information related to your retreat and your planned power generating, storage, and consumption numbers.  Then it will instantly do literally thousands of calculations and tell you if your scenario will work or not, and show you where the energy shortfalls will be, and allow you to then try ‘what if’ scenarios such as ‘what if I add another panel’ and ‘what if I add another battery’ to get as close as possible to the point where you can confidently predict you’ll never run out of power, no matter how bad the weather.

Of course, once you’ve worked through the spreadsheet, we suggest you then do the ‘real thing’ and calculate the exact specifics for yourself, but at least the spreadsheet will zero you in on the critical parameters and so you only need to confirm the spreadsheet, rather than start from scratch.

We have a link to the spreadsheet for you to download (and we’ve even filled it with some typical values for Coeur d’Alene so you’ve got a reference point to start from) and some pages of explanatory notes to help you know what to fill in and how to interpret the results, all starting from this page here.

This is the first time we’ve created a spreadsheet for you to work forward from.  Do you like it?  Is it helpful?  Would you like more (and, if so, please give us suggestions).

Note – while we are proud of the spreadsheet and consider it very helpful indeed, it is not perfect.  Please be sure to understand its limitations, which we list also on the linked page.  If the spreadsheet proves popular, we’ll improve the sophistication of the model in the future.

Oh yes, if it all gets too much like rocket science, we can help, over and above the large book sized amount of information we’ve already published on the site!  We are happy to consult with you and do most of this on your behalf, and to walk you through the personal preference/lifestyle choices that we can’t make for you.  Rates for our energy consulting services are reasonable and start at $250.  Let us know if we can assist.

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David Spero[suffusion-the-author display='description']

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