Mike Davis

Less is More

Someone very close to me spent over a year trying to convince me to quit my job, sell off most of my belongings and set sail on a lifetime of boating with him. I resisted

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National Grid scams consumers

“Red flag” expenses include $35,700 tuition bill for an executive’s children, $1,200 for shipping a wine collection from the UK, and $1,200 for cat transportation.

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New Canadian eco-village

Canadian village boosts its population by offering free lots to those willing to live off the grid

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Off-grid real estate, Phoenix

On March 13, 2010, bidders will have a rare chance to acquire Vulture Ranch, a sprawling 80 acre compound, and “an absolute jewel among Arizona real estate” locals claim. Opening bid is only $250,000.

Just 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, Vulture Ranch is a self-contained, off the grid Arizona real estate complex on the Sonoron Desert. It’s highlight is a nearly 5,000 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom main house and features four guest suites and two cottages. Vulture Ranch has a large reception hall, opening onto a perfectly landscaped courtyard. It’s a rare find on the real estate auction market.

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How I built a solar panel for $100 – You can too

In this article I am going to describe how to build a photo voltaic solar panel for a fraction of the price you would pay a manufacturer. I’ll show you how inexpensive materials and common tools can be used to make panels that rival commercial products in power production, but blow them away on price.

Several years ago I bought a remote property in Arizona. I am an astronomer and wanted a place to practice my hobby far away from the sky-wrecking light pollution found near cities of any real size. I found a great piece of land, but it’s so remote that there is no electricity. That’s definitely a good thing- no electricity equals no light pollution. But it would be nice to have at least a little power, since so much of life in the 21st century is dependent on it.

Initially I built a wind turbine. And it works great… when the wind blows. It was soon clear however that I needed not only more power but more dependable power.

I do get well over 300 sunny days a year on the property though, so solar power seemed like the obvious choice to supplement the turbine. My problem was cost –as I say, I’m an astronomer and the price of solar panels is astronomical. So I decided to try my hand at building my own.

Really a solar panel is just a box that holds an array of solar cells. Solar cells are the things that do the actual work of turning sunlight into electricity. Sorry to any one who thought I was going to tell them how to make their own cells. As far as I know it is impossible without complex production facilities.

Seconds from e bay
However it takes a lot of cells to make a useful amount of power, and being largely glass, they are very fragile. That’s why individual cells are assembled into protective panels. It doesn’t sound too complicated. I was convinced I could do it myself.  It was clear however that the main stumbling block to building solar panels is acquiring solar cells at a reasonable price. But once I realised that I could use blemished and factory-second solar cells to build my panels and that they were available on e bay , I got down to work.

I started by buying a couple of bricks of 3 X 6 mono-crystalline solar cells on Ebay   It takes a total of 36 of these type solar cells wired in series to make a panel. Each cell produces about 1/2 Volt. 36 in series would give about 18 volts  which would be B good for charging 12 volt batteries. (Yes, you really need that high a voltage to effectively charge 12 Volt batteries).

This type of solar cell is as thin as paper and as brittle and fragile as glass. They are …

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