The Sun is Still Shining

It’s about 6 years since we had our solar panels fitted so to get an overview I’ve used the monthly readings to compile a couple of graphs to see how they’re performing. You can click the graph to view a bigger version.

Firstly generation in kilowatt hours by month shows how the peak summer months generate about 6 times the power of the dullest winter months.

I’m surprised how consistent the monthly output is year to year. Leaving aside the exceptionally wet summer of 2012 which coincided with one of our inverters failing, a halving of output I failed to spot for several months, the degree of consistency gives the impression that sunshine per month, or season, averages out quite well year on year despite it often feeling like a particularly wet, or sunny, time when we are living through it!

Next yearly total against predicted total which seems to show that we met, or exceeded, predictions all years except that best forgotten 2012. Doing the sums it seems that the 2012 shortfall has almost been made good by the several years we have exceeded predictions, we are about 70 kWh short. We can expect efficiency to diminish a little over the years so I guess generating slightly over predictions is to be expected these early years.

Financially we are about where we should be having received back about half the sum we paid for the panels as Feed-in Tariff payments. A similar PV system would cost about half what we paid now which goes to show how well the FiT worked as a way to make solar popular enough for efficiencies in manufacturing and fitting to bring the price down.

Solar and wind are fantastic resources but now we urgently need affordable, efficient and sustainable ways to store the huge amounts of energy generated at peak so we can smooth out the big seasonal and hourly variations rather than be reliant on coal and gas as back-up generation. Fortunately firms like Tesla are ploughing resources into developing viable battery type local storage systems. We also need large scale grid systems though and there is little sign of our government investing meaningful sums in researching new large scale storage or even duplicating existing methods such the pumped water system that has been in use for 30 years at ‘Electric Mountain’.

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Visit to the Lakes

So it’s been a year and a day since I posted anything on here and I’ve got these photos from a most enjoyable visit to Grasmere in the Lake District this week so where better to stick ’em!

Jane being as vegan as I nowadays we wanted to have a short break somewhere offering a choice of eating options and the Lake District, while still not fully recovered from the winter deluge, sounded well worth a visit.

We stayed for 3 nights at Lancrigg Vegetarian Country Hotel which proved to be a lovely place set in it’s own bit of woodland, mostly planted with interesting specimens about 150 years ago and now comfortably damp and mossy.

In Ambleside there seems to be several related meat-free dining places with connections to the cinema Zefferellis – we had a fine vegan pizza in their busy, modern but friendly Pizzeria. The puddings were good too.

We also visited Greens in Grasmere on a couple of occasions, once for lunch and again for tea and cakes. They offered several decent vegan choices including cupcakes!

Somewhere between the eating we managed to squeeze in a few walks, nothing too challenging as Jane has only just got over a long bout of flu. My favourite was the trek up from Lancrigg to Easdale Tarn.

New Bridge (for sheep)

New Bridge (for sheep)

We stayed at Lancrigg Veggie/Vegan Hotel

We stayed at Lancrigg Veggie/Vegan Hotel

Fine view from our window at Lancrigg

Fine view from our window at Lancrigg

Waterfall

Waterfall on the way up to Easedale Tarn

Halfway up

Halfway up to Easedale Tarn

Sour Milk Gill waterfall

Waterfall on Sour Milk Gill

Jane refueling at Easedale Tarn

Selfie with Jane refuelling at Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn 2

Easedale Tarn

Another waterfall

Another waterfall

Grasmere bums

Grasmere Swan Bums

That sign really shouldn't be needed!

That sign really shouldn’t be needed!

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Spring 2015

Well Spring has well and truely arrived and we’ve been planting things and I’ve had my first sweating in a vest run of the year so it’s probably about time I posted something on this blog.

Orienteering wise the Chiltern Challenge at Penn Common late February was fun with me managing 69:47 for the Short Green course coming 30th of 70 starters (64 finishers). Jane and I did a stint marshalling a road crossing before hand and I was pleased to find the veggie chilli from the burger van was suitable for vegans so all in all a good, if tiring, day. Unfortunately I was pretty crap at both March and April’s Saturday Series events at Cutteslowe Park and Shotover. After I’ve started getting knackered my plan seems to leak out of my brain in between controls, that and some pretty basic mistakes with the map reading suggests I better go back to Light Green for the next event. (Well maybe not the next one as it’s University Parks so surely I can’t mess that up!).

Running is very slowly improving though I didn’t manage my hoped for sub 1:50 at the White Horse Half as the conditions were atrocious with a fierce wind and a soaking. I was pleased to persist and run all the way without getting despondent. We had a great Vegan Runners UK meet-up at Tring parkrun a few weeks back, a hilly course for a parkrun! There were 10 of us and we all went for a vegan breakfast and cakes at the Anusia Cafe afterwards.

White Horse Half

White Horse Half (thanks to Barry Cornelius for the photo)

My frozen shoulder does seem to be thawing – very slowly though. I’m still paying £45 a session once or twice a month for James, my osteopath, to try and force a bit more range of movement out of it and to reassure me it is actually improving. Progress seems so slow that it’s easy to think it’s just not moving but I can now reach the picture rail in my room and can remember when it was a good 10 inches out of reach. So I plod on with the daily stretches. It doesn’t hurt much any more even when I give it a bad time so at least I don’t have to protect it all the time.

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Hill End Revisited

I think the previous time I’d visited Hill End it was as a school kid on an educational camp type of thing. Not sure how old I was but I suspect less than 10. I remember the impression of a big sort of wilderness with these wooden building spread out here and there, big enough for a little kid to get lost if he’s not careful. I remember the boys dorm (it wasn’t a proper camp with tents, at least not for us) being away from the main building and I remember something about frogs though not quite sure what. Mostly I remember some sort of tuck shop and my parents having given me a bit more spending money than I really needed so lots of sweets. I think I had a good time despite being stuck with all the other kids!

So over 40 years later Jane and I rolled up for the first on the Oxford parks sequence of TVOC Saturday Series orienteering events. We got there good and early as Ben Green is offering training before the Oxford events and I reckoned I might well benefit from this. We met Ben and, along with about 5 others, jogged up towards the top of the hill on a dry but slightly foggy morning. Fortunately Ben noticed Jane had run out of steam so we walked the last bit.

Ben worked on two techniques with us. Map and compass alignment was particularly useful to me as I’d taught myself with a rather old book and the whole process of turning the compass on it’s baseplate etc seemed to be a right faff – it seems orienteers don’t really do this and just hold the map so the route is the way they are facing, lay the compass straight edge along the route then rotate their body (map, compass and all) till the north arrow aligns with the map vertical grid-lines then hold that position and run. We also did some work on pace counting to estimate distance covered, I already attempt this where there are long paths etc but it was useful to practice more.

I paid a bit too much attention to the map alignment and not enough to my feet and the wonky, muddy, terrain and went flying at one point. I crashed down on my right shoulder – held my breath waiting for the pain – and it never came. In fact no after effects at all, my shoulder may well still be stuck but doesn’t seem to be at all delicate now.

The actual event went pretty well though it took me a few controls to get used to the scale of the map, at 1:3500 instead of the more common 1:10000 I overshot a couple of the earlier legs. I managed 54:02 for the Green course with enough energy for a sprint to the finish but was not far from the back in 37th place of 43 starters (41 finishers). Saw Howard Waller while I was waiting for download and he had fallen foul of the brambles which laid thorny trip wires over many of the paths, he was filthy and looked more like he’d been doing one of those ‘tough mudder’ events than orienteering 🙂

It’s Thames Valley Orienteering Club‘s annual Chiltern Challenge this Sunday so Jane and I have volunteered to do a shift on one of the road crossing before our run. They are expecting 500 participants over 9 different courses so should be fun!

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