My World Geography class was discussing Africa last week, and the subject of electricity seemed to interest them. There are parts of Africa that are not connected to an electrical grid, so alternate forms of power are a must. A student found an article explaining that 80% of Kenyans do not have electrical service and that they primarily light their homes with kerosene lamps. Long story short, a start up company is now offering solar setups that can run a small house with a pay-as-you-go model to be affordable to the rural residents. Read the article here.
My students were impressed that a clean, renewable energy source was now available allowing Kenyans to light their homes and charge their mobile devices. Their big question was, “why do we not have affordable options like this?” I am interested in solar systems for many reasons, but I was unable to answer their question.
There are many reasons to be interested in solar energy. The popularity of prepping for the collapse of the government, zombie apocalypse, or other horrible events has brought many new “off the grid” products and technologies into the mainstream. For some, the desire to halt global warming and clean up the environment using cleaner energy sources serves as the main impetus. I suppose that I fall somewhere in the middle.
Living on the Gulf Coastal Plains of Texas brings the annual threat of tropical weather and the possibility of being a few days (or weeks) without power. While I do own a generator, having a way to power some items as well as charge our phones without gasoline or a loud motor would be best. I also wish to move my camper to our family land during hunting season, so I’d have a place to sleep and could avoid driving back and forth. There is no power source on the land, so solar would be a way to have lights and maybe some air conditioning.
While there are plenty of great reasons to adopt solar as a viable energy source, the cost of converting has slowed me from making the switch. It can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000 to be able to power a home from the sun; powering my camper would cost around $1,000 for a basic system. While the change to solar would save money in the long run, the initial cost is just too much for me at this time, but it has interested me in more dedicated options. For example, last hunting season I installed a solar panel to my deer feeder, and I had 100% charge from August to January. I now plan on building a solar charging system for my trail camera so I never miss another photo due to dead batteries. If I am able to put together a system to run my camper, my farm will literally be a self running, clean burning source of energy.
With solar technology ever improving, I think the costs will likely get lower and lower. But in the meantime, I will be searching for smaller, more dedicated solar systems to stay charged and powered in the outdoors. My goal is to have a charged phone and sleep comfortably without connection to the power grid or a need for gasoline. Anyone with experience in solar options, please let us know about your setup in the comments.