“It’s really kind of cool to have solar panels on your roof.” Bill Gates
It’s easy for him to say!! Having made the rather big decision to boost our electricity supply with four more solar panels, we got rather excited about how this would change our life here. Not only would it give us extra capacity so we could do things like run the small electrical appliances without blinking an eye, but we could finally dispense with the recalcitrant Robin generator to pump up water from the 150m deep well. An onerous task complicated by the fact that I can’t start the damned thing and it’s only a matter of time before it dies (I’m aware I keep saying that).
However, the whole system seems to have gone quietly haywire and it’s become even more of a test of ingenuity and endurance trying to pump water up with said Robin. The internet goes on and off, things beep, and it stops pumping after only a short while. The land has been suffering from a particularly dry winter but we’ve been unable to do any decent watering because of our inability to fill the big deposito with enough water.
The ‘R’ team (as I like to fondly call them), came along last Friday week with the panels and a small charge converter – total cost 2,060 euro. The temperature was around 32 deg C, but copious cups of tea kept them working well! The rest of our weekend was a bit less triumphal than we thought it would be. Not only did we have the forest fire raging not so many km from our door (see last post), but the new system plainly wasn’t performing. Granted, plenty of electricity came in through the panels, but as soon as we turned on even a small electrical appliance, the power disappeared like the proverbial Scotch mist!
Even worse, last Monday when Joe flicked the switch to pump up water – the prime aim of having more panels – there was an acrid smell of burning electrics. The main cable hadn’t been replaced to accommodate double the power and was starting to burn. More delays until they could come out and we certainly couldn’t use any heavy-load appliance, let alone pump water. Once that was sorted, the chaps were still perplexed as the system still didn’t hold the charge. Upon further investigation, they noticed we had a rogue battery whose terminal was “red hot” and needed replacing before we could properly use the system. Price around 350 euro and God knows when delivery could be.
Luckily Robert found us a second hand battery for 100 euro from a contact in Ronda and so it was that last Saturday morning we set off for what turned out to be a 270 mile round trip. It’s safe to say that, wimp as I am, following on the heels of the forest fire just a few short days ago, I was a little nervous about having two incidences of potential fire risk – being that we live in a wooden house. The idea of a hot terminal scared me, so before we set out I packed up passports and driving licences, English cards and money and the odd bit of jewellery – just in case.
It was a good journey. Eduardo was a nice guy, and very knowledgeable about alternative power. While Joe and he chatted, I couldn’t help noticing a man amble past with a young heifer on a lead (you do not normally see anything bovine around these parts). Also, I have never come across a Porsche tractor before, have you? This one proclaimed itself to be a Porsche Diesel Super. Both worthy of a photo, I reckon.
Even more worthy of a photo were the three huge fields of sunflowers we passed. We had noticed about a hundred beehives in the adjacent field but it wasn’t until Joe and I began running through the field doing our best “Heathcliffe and Cathy” impersonations that he realised one of those bees had got him on the arm. Unfortunately, he is allergic to stings and his arm started swelling during the rest of the journey home.
Curiously, the battery terminal was quite cold when we got back; I was relieved but wondered whether we’d gone on a wild goose chase and there wasn’t a problem with the battery after all. Worse than that, would we then need to replace all 12 of them? It was great that the ‘R Team’ were prepared to come out on a Sunday, so yesterday they spent a couple of hours fitting the battery and giving the other 11 what they called “a damned good service”. Hey presto, the system sprang into life and we realised just how one dicky terminal connection on one battery could make all the difference as to how the rest of the batteries performed. They tested it with, firstly, the iron then the biggie, pumping water from the well which it did with no problem – result! The system still needs some tweaking but that can be done over time and when we can afford to throw more money at it.
Competa was certainly rather ravaged by the fire. Here’s a photo that our friend and neighbour Horst took and it was amazing that there was no loss of life, except to the wildlife of course. Also, I feel very lucky that our solar system has been upgraded and sorted, and is now functioning well and above all, safely.
It’s always good to end a post on a positive note, and apart from the last paragraph, we were delighted to see that when we returned home from our long trek to Ronda, the men had returned to the ‘dual carriageway’ below us and had reinstated the shuttering ready for the cement lorries to finish laying the rest of the road. Someone, somewhere must have paid them!