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These are not the times to fool around on a day like April 1st. The only fools of the day are those people that do not take the current epidemic seriously.

When it comes to sunshine, having to report a very average month of March in terms of solar electricity production is not funny either. If it weren’t for those last 10 days of mostly clear blue skies and lots of sun, March would have been just as dark as the previous months. Here’s the graph to illustrate that:

Our solar electricty production numbers for March 2020

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Yes, that is how one of the comments on TechSpot describes the machine built by Daniel de Bruin. Mashable calls it the Googol Visualizer Machine, and that is what it is:

… the first gear needs to make one googol rotations just to turn the last gear one complete rotation.

Click the picture to see it running on YouTube

A googol is a 1 followed by a hundred zeroes in the decimal system – go read the Wikipedia for a explanation. That will also explain where Larry and Sergei got the name for the most famous search engine on the Internet ;-)

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The Weatherman of the Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute announced today on TV that this winter (defined as the past months December, January and February) is one of the warmest and darkest ever measured. The electricity production numbers from our solar panels can testify to the gloominess of February: we never had a February delivering so few electrons! 78% of the mean doesn’t seem that bad, but knowing that the number was never lower is not good.

The snow we saw a few days ago was, at least here in the Antwerp region, not meant to stay long: temperatures barely descended below zero Celcius, and that only during the day. I did not (yet?) have to don my winter jacket in the past few months – again, that is something that hasn’t happened often in the past!

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Today is a special day for calendar geeks: it’s a rare “global palindrome day”. In the words of the Solihull School Maths Department:

But I’m here to report that January 2020 was quite dark: sunshine was sparse, as reflected in our solar electricity numbers. Looking at the numbers, it’s clear that the months of January in the last three years gave us a lot less sunshine than before. Let’s hope that this is “just” statistical variability, no?

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December 2019 delivered slightly more solar energy to our photovoltaic panels than the December average of the previous years. In the end, that means that the production rose above 2MWh for the whole year, delivering less than in 2018 but more than in 2016 and 2017.

Photovoltaic panels lose a bit of efficiency every year, although it seems that the degradation is less than I thought a few years ago. That is what the article “What Is the Lifespan of a Solar Panel?” (from 2014) tells me, and similar numbers can be found in more recent postings on several forums about the subject.

That means that all in all, we’re happy with a yield of over 2MWh for a single year. Our installation is now running for a full decade, so I was expecting worse numbers.

Could it be that climate change has an impact on the weather here in Belgium? I don’t think our solar energy numbers can be used to measure such an impact, if only because they are way too local to indicate more than local fluctuations.

Looking at the situation in Australia, however, makes it clear that the effects of global climate change are becoming visible: extreme draught combined with extreme temperatures over a longer period result in horrifying fires. That, in my eyes, is a chilling illustration of the prevision  of scientists that “extremes” (such as high – or low – temperatures, heavy rainfall, etc.) will become more “extreme” and last longer as the planet warms up…

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Contrary to what happened in the previous months, our solar panels delivered 112% of the average photovoltaic electricity in November months for our system. November 2019 will thus help us reach yet another year with over 2MWh – even a dark December should deliver enough to make that possible (at least, that’s what I hope).

 

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Exactly 10 years ago it took just a few hours to install 16 photo-voltaic panels on our (flat) roof. We chose Solyndra panels, because of the ease of installation (that part was certainly true). We knew those solar tubes would be a bit less efficient than traditional flat panels, but less weight on the roof counted for something too, in our eyes. Given the available surface on the roof, we hoped to cover somewhere between 40% and 50% of our annual electricity consumption.

Unfortunately the end of 2019 was also the period when Solyndra started having problems delivering on their promises. I suspect that the panels we finally received are not as productive as promised. In numbers: we’re only now (calendar year 2018) seeing the (almost) 40% coverage of our yearly electricity consumption that we aimed for, and that’s because one of children isn’t living here anymore, not because the panels are so powerful ;-) Oh, and we also tried to reduce our consumption, if only by a fraction of the total.

solarpanels.jpg

The reflective foil below thee panels isn’t white anymore…

Even so: according to the pvoutput.org website where I keep track of the numbers, we have already saved more than 22 tons of CO₂. That’s not earth-shattering, but it’s a start. In theory, we’re only halfway through the lifetime of the installation. We’ll see how that turns out a decade from now ;-)

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