Late summer bounty

Garlic is harvested. Onions are harvested. The potatoes are coming in. We have been using herbs and kale all summer. The beekeeper has taken off the supers for the first round. The yellow summer squash are hard to keep up with.

We picked green beans, peppers, and squash today. I dug some of the russet potatoes. The beekeeper dropped off some honey when he took off the supers on Tuesday.

We picked green beans, peppers, and squash today. I dug onions and some of the russet potatoes. The beekeeper dropped off some honey when he took off the supers on Tuesday.

We had too much rain in June, however, and so we were a little lucky to get a decent garden crop.

This photo of my garden from upstairs in the house shows my PV array and the garden beds. The area between the beds is full of water from the excess rain we've had. As of today, August 10, that array has produced 1.44 mWh of power in 2014.

This photo of my garden from upstairs in the house shows my PV array and the garden beds. The area between the beds was full of water from the excess rain we had up to June 30. As of today, August 10, that 6-panel array has produced 1.44 mWh of power in 2014.

 

Weather is probably the biggest uncertainty in agriculture. Farmers everywhere in the world watch the skies daily and listen to the weather forecasts since their livelihoods are dependent on the sun, the wind, and the rain. One way to have some control in this situation where farmers are at the mercy of mother nature, is to increase pollination by bringing in more pollinators. That is the reason for honeybees (and the fact that we get a sweet product from them). On August 5 the beekeeper came by to check the hives and take off the honey in the supers. While honeybees do not benefit all crops, they do benefit from some. I have even seen honeybees on soybean flowers 1/2 mile away from the hives this summer (honeybees regularly work up to 2 miles from their hives and can go further). We started in April with 20 hives, later on two went bad so we were at 18 hives for June and July. Now I see that we are at 16 hives since August 5. The hives have either swarmed and moved away or weakened and died out.

Beekeepers are working my hives on August 5. They took off the honey-laden supers and left the hives to continue making some honey over the next month or so. The beekeeper's main objective, in addition to making honey, is to have strong hives that he can take to California in the winter to pollinate the almond groves.

Beekeepers are working my hives on August 5. They took off the honey-laden supers and left the hives to continue making some honey over the next month or so. The beekeeper’s main objective, in addition to making honey, is to have strong hives that he can take to California in the winter to pollinate the almond groves.

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Photovoltaic array output for 2014 so far

My 1.5 kWh (theoretical maximum output-it actually maxes out at 1.35 kWh) PV array is steadily increasing its production so far in 2014.

Power production from my 1.5 kWh solar array is steadily increasing so far in 2014

We have recently set the PV array angle at 45 degrees since the sun is higher in the sky these days. We plan to re-set the array angle four times at year to accommodate the changing position of the Sun in the sky visavis the Earth.

Does solar energy work in rural Iowa?

With the drop in prices for solar panels, power generation from solar panels in a photovoltaic array, is now within reach of rural Iowans. The winter sun, on a good day, has been strongest from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those are the peak hours for my array so far. On a good day we generate in the range of 7-9 kWh. We have had cloudy days, of course, when we generate less than 1 kWh. Our daily home use, depending on the amount of heating and cooling we are doing, is between 20 and 40 kWh per day, so my goal for the next year is to produce about 20% of my power with this array.

So far, January 23 has seen the highest one-day production, 10.1 kWh. My array started generating power at 7:40 a.m. and shut down at 5:25 p.m. on that day. January so far has been an up and down month with a sunny day followed by a cloudy day typically.

March 2, 2014 update

January usage: 1646 kWh (47 kWh per day)

January PV array production: 149 kWh (9% of usage)

February PV array production: 166 kWh

PV array production so far in 2014: 315 kWh

March 23, 2014 update

Today we manually changed the angle on our array to approximately 45 degrees. This is necessary due to the fact that the sun is higher in the sky as the days get longer. Check out this handy solar angle calculator: http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-angle-calculator.html.

6-panel solar array rated at 1.5 kWh. We installed this array in December 2013.

6-panel solar array rated at 1.5 kWh. We installed this array in December 2013.

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