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Anyone use solar energy at your barn?

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  • Anyone use solar energy at your barn?

    Help please! The barn I board at has no electricity, at all. Due to barn politics and a ton of other issues, getting electricity is not in the picture any time soon, if ever. So... I'm looking for some alternatives and thought a solar powered generator would be great.

    Unfortunately I don't have a clue where to begin. All I really want to power are a couple box fans, maybe a mini fridge if possible, and occasionally a power cord for clippers. But I can't for the life of me figure out how much energy that would require. Would 16 volts be sufficient? I really don't need a ton of energy so I would love to find something for under $300. Is that reasonable?

    It's just seems all so complicated to me right now so any info or advice, or even just some help getting started with this would be awesome. My poor sweaty gelding thanks you

  • #2
    I don't have any answers for you, but I was wondering the same thing. Just enough power to maybe use clippers or at least a tank de-icer for winter.
    "It's about the journey, not the destination"

    Comment


    • #3
      You need to really start by making a list of all the things you want to use, and their power requirements (they should all say somewhere or another what wattage they are, and what voltage they need) and then figure out what you want to run all the time, what you're going to be able to need to use at the same time, etc.

      For example - are you willing to turn off or unplug the fridge while you're using the clippers, so that the fridge doesn't kick on while you're clipping and cause a big jump in the power requirement? Or do you want to be able to just plug the fridge in and forget it, in which case you'll need to figure on the max power requirements of the fridge PLUS the clippers. (Fridges are a big problem because they don't always run - so you can have things plugged in and think you're doing just fine and then suddenly the fridge kicks in and the system goes 'ieeeeeee!' and can't cope.) (A tip, btw, if you do want to turn off the fridge is to put something in it that you need to have before you walk away from the area. On a film set - where the fridge is also turned off for sound reasons a lot of the time - often someone will put their car keys in the fridge before they unplug it. That way you go to leave, realize you don't have your keys, go to get them, and remember to fix the fridge. )

      Anyway, once you have your list, then you can go from there figuring out what kind of set up you need.

      Comment


      • #4
        lol, I'll be keeping an eye on this thread too, but having been boarding sans electricity for the last 2 years, I can tell you that I was looking at a minimum investment of $600 to power two box fans 12 hours a day, or one small bucket heater. You need a battery, a converter, a regulator thingie that keeps you from over-cooking, and enough solar panels to refresh the battery charge within 12 hours or less.... thats a LOT of panels (tip: don't listen to the advertising hype, its hype).

        And solar power is all well and good in the summer when the sun is strong, but the short cloudy days of winter is another story.

        suffice it to say, I live w/o electricity just fine.

        if you find a way to solar power a *fridge* under $300 please do share!
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

        Comment


        • #5
          Also, if you want to run a fridge 24/7, you're probably going to have to have some kind of storage device as there would be no power generated during the hours the sun isn't out. That is very likely to cost more than $300. AND, are you going to donate this or do you plan to take it with you when you leave. If you board, and you're paying for this, make sure you get whatever agreement you want about what happens when you leave in writing!
          Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
          Now apparently completely invisible!

          Comment


          • #6
            Look back at the old posts on http://javasbarn.blogspot.com/ -- it is solar powered with batteries and an inverter.
            --
            Wendy
            ... and Patrick

            Comment


            • #7
              here found this! really good article covering the basics... I snipped the cost factor below.

              http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=6410

              Sounds Good--Now How Much?

              The initial cost of a solar electrical installation is significant when compared to bringing in grid power in most cases, even though it will pay out at some point. The cost also will vary greatly with the design and function of the solar system you choose.

              Some solar energy websites quote an average cost of $15 per watt for a solar energy system. Now think of that price applied to a single 60-watt bulb, let alone the rest of them. But most of those cost estimates are for homes, and a barn system could be cheaper to install as barns might be less problematic to work in than houses. Also, the quality of equipment varies, which likewise affects price.

              Another consideration is that each installation is so unique that average costs might be nowhere near a quote for your needs. Price per watt increases as the size of the system decreases, so a small system for a handful of lights might even be $30/watt. For example, a small DC system to run four lights for four hours in each 24-hour period would be around $2,000 for panels, batteries, charge controller, labor, etc., says Bryan Walsh, owner of Solar Connexion in Blacksburg, Va. He cites another example of a barn system he installed to generate 1 KW of power (as large as some small house systems) to run a barn's lights, clippers, fans, a small refrigerator, computer, etc. that cost $15,000.

              The up side, of course, is that you decrease or completely remove your monthly electric bill from the power company. It could even pay for itself, depending on your initial outlay and monthly savings.
              Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

              Comment


              • #8
                Somewhere out there in google land there was a solar energy calculator where you put in your appliances (with the manufacturers wattage usage) and you put in where you live and it tells you how much energy you need to generate.
                I'll see if I can find it again.

                Couldnt find it, but here is one site I like
                http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects...ng.htm#Animals
                and its home base http://www.builditsolar.com
                and this pdf is specific to barns, see page 3
                http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3784-14.pdf
                Last edited by Chall; Jul. 19, 2010, 10:09 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My husband has a Solar/Wind Renewable Energy Company...we just powered this farm...http://www.freshmeadows.net/index.html...

                  Anyway, yes, a battery and inverters can work (batteries are not cheap)... if you do have existing electric with a meter, you can use solar panels and convert the energy that way.

                  Keep in mind the tax benefits, credits and federal/state grants when thinking renewable energy!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My barn did not have electricity when we bought it. In order to have the minimum amount of light necessary to feed and groom at night (one outside light, one light in the hay loft, one light in the tackroom, two lights in my aisle) as well as one outlet for plugging things in I believe the cost was around $1,000 not including the installation by the electrician. I can not plug anything more then 200 watts into the outlet and I use super efficient bulbs (45 output using 4 watts and 65 output using 7 watts).

                    I am really happy with my system. I don't think you'd be able to get what you want for less then $300...
                    www.rockhillfarm.net

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      To start with you will not be able to get a set up for $300 that will do what you want. But now that solar is all the rage you may be able to get a set up that will do what you want for $1- 1,500. You will need to figure out you exact power requirements as was pointed out. Light are no problem these days now that compact florescent are widely available and cheap. The fans will be problematic if they will be running 24/7. A Google search for something like "low power fans" should give you some ideas and power requirements. Forget any type of electric heaters. When you get the amount of wattage you will need go on the net and find suppliers of solar equipment and these days everybody and their uncle sell the stuff. But most don't know what they are talking about. Jade Mountain solar in Boulder Co has been around for years I assume they are still around. I did my first "off grid" cabin 25 years ago and used them. Any way once you have the numbers and a good supplier they will put a system together that will be "plug and play" A small electric Frig is out of the question for the kind of money you have to spend. But you could get a used RV propane Frig for a couple of hundred. I bought one more then 15 years ago for my cabin and it still works like a champ. You might even be able to find some 12 volt or low power fans on a RV supply web site that maybe big enough to keep your guy happy and cool. The biggest expense are the batteries which store the power that the panels make during the day. And the batteries are sized to fit your over night power requirements. The last installation I did was in 2001 I would like to think all of this stuff has come down in price since. I built a 16 x 24 cabin for around $600 using recycled, found, given materials. I powered it with 2, 6 volt (=12 volts) deep cycling marine batteries at a cost of around $120 each. A cheap 600 watt inverter, $50. It powered my lights, music and satellite TV. I had a 200 gallon used plastic storage tank with a 12 volt RV pump that put out plenty of pressure. I did not have the money for solar panels so I recharged the batteries every 3-5 of days running a cheap generator for a hour or two. Bottom line either figure out you power needs or just call a supplier tell them you needs and they will do the math and tell you what you will need, solar panels, inverter, which are really cheap these days, maybe a voltage controller and how many batteries. Write every thing down and tell them you will call back and then go shopping around. I could go into greater detail but just do a web search and you will find plenty of information that will explain everything and its not that complicated and easy to install.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Actually instead of an actual fridge, maybe look at the chilling coolers that you plug in that use a different cooling mechanism. They're normally limited in that the internal temperature is relative to the temperature of the air they're taking in (i.e. they drop the temperature 10 degrees or 20 or whatever, rather than being set for a specific temperature) but if you're not trying to keep medications a certain temperature or something along those lines, but rather just want a place for drinks and that sort of thing, it might work out. I know we have a small one that we can run off an inverter in the car, and the inverter maxes out at, if I remember correctly, something like 75 watts.

                        I'd check them out, anyway, see what the specs are for ones that would be a useful size. (Our small one really is tiny - like fit in a six pack of soda only tiny. My dad got it for traveling with when he was on a medication that was temperature sensitive so he didn't have to worry if there was a fridge in the hotel room or if it was getting too warm in the car on a long trip.)

                        Another thing to look into might be solar water heating - it's not actually electricity, of course, but I knew several people in England who had a set up of pipes on their roof to heat water, and while the water wasn't necessarily hot enough, it did reduce their gas bills for hot water and central heating because the water was pre-warmed. I'm not sure how MUCH it warms the water, but I'd probably look into that also as an option if it might be useful.

                        (Agree, btw, that batteries are likely to be the most expensive part of the whole system, plus you should look into the set ups available for battery management. I know some types of batteries really don't last long if they're run down fully all the time, for example, so you'd want to take battery type into consideration when figuring out how everything is wired together and controlled.)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I recently installed an attic fan kit from Costco for my horses. It was very simple to do and the only additional item I needed was to put a hardwire screen over one side of the fan. The fan was about $210 and has a thermostat so the fan at starts operating at 85% (I think). You could even take it with you, if you leave the barn. Just a suggestion, if you need fans at a reasonable price.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I forgot to ask; is there a stream with good water flow near by? If so there are some really good small and inexpensive hydro power units that work great in small streams. You still need to know your power requirements, from what you are saying is not much, and then go look for one that will do the job. This will be by far the cheapest way to get it done.

                            As was pointed out batteries could be the most expensive part but certainly the second. Look at it this way. The batteries are the gas tank, the sun is the oil well that fills the gas tank. The power you need are the miles driven. Batteries come in different tank sizes and can hold "X" amount of gas (power, volts/watts). So if you barn needs 2 gallons of power an hour during the night and there is 12 hours of night you will need a 24 gallon battery tank. So now you know the size of the tank to get you through the night but during the day you will need refill the tank. You have the free oil well, sun, but you need to pump the power out of the sun well into the tank. This is done with the solar panels which come in different sizes or rather outputs. Like a water pump some will pump 1 gallon an hour and another will pump 10 gallons an hour. The largest panels will pump X amount max per panel per hour under ideal sun conditions. Less in the morning pumping more as the sun gets stronger and less again as the day draws down. Before the sun goes down you need to put 24 gallons back in the tank. So you have to have enough panels to fill the tank before the sun goes down along with putting out what ever power you need during the day. The tricky part is taking into account very cloudy days and how many there might be in a row, and the shorter day light hours of winter along with the poor quality of the winter sun in your part of the country. So in the summer you can get away with less panels and batteries because the sun is that much stronger, longer day light and will fill the batteries much faster even on a cloudy day then winter. The winter especially in the east will be problematic, less hours of quality sun and many cloudy days in a row. But seeing that your biggest power drain will be the fans and they won't be needed in the winter this will keep the cost down.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thanks for all the info and articles everyone. Looks like I've still got a ton of research to do, but at least now I have some more ideas and a directions to head in.

                              To answer some questions, the fans are really the only thing I want. The fridge would be great so that I can keep bute and banamine on hand but maybe one of those chilling coolers like kdow suggested would be a better alternative. So really having electricity in the summer is the only thing that is necessary.

                              I have upped the price for what I'm willing to pay but definitely not by that much. The barn has the money to get the electricity back but they refuse to spend any of it. Maybe it's time to really make an issue out of this. I don't think I can stand another summer without fans.

                              Cloud Walk, I'll definitely look into the attic fan. I'm curious if it would work in our situation.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Here is the link to the fan (I mean "solar power all purpose ventilator) I have from Costco. It was $60 cheaper last week in the warehouse. You will need to add a screening on the front, but it was very easy to install. My horses love it.

                                http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product...rodid=11499419

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