Friday, November 7, 2008

Our new solar system is installed

Our German friend Karl, who lives in Olongapo (Subic Bay) and our Australian friend Paul, who lives in Marikina (metro Manila) are planning to come to Corregidor for a three day visit starting on Friday. On Thursday Karl sent us a text message wondering about the weather. We sent back the message, “Current clouds, breezy, no precip, wed no clouds, wind.” He wanted more information so we sent him and Paul the following text message: “Sun is peeking out. However, forecast is typical for November with rain changing 2 snow espc @ hi elevation. 6 in. snow @ Topside by Sat.” Since the record low temperature on Corregidor is probably somewhere around 55 to 60, snow has never been seen here. If it were ever to snow, we’re sure we’d be blamed.

Our new solar system arrived late Tuesday, and installation began on Wednesday, with, as we said, plenty of sunshine. Thursday was cloudy, but this didn’t slow the installation. It actually made it cooler for the crew. By that night we had limited power, although the engineer in charge wanted us to allow the batteries to charge for three days before we put much stress on the system. It was strange to be able to flip on a light, turn on a fan, or charge cell phone batteries. Ironically on Friday morning, when they were finishing installation, and when Karl and Paul were on their way, we had light but steady rain.

Originally it was decided to put the solar panels across the road in an open field. Later the engineer decided, wisely, we think, to put the panels next to the house. This way the line running from the panels to the house is only 25 feet as opposed to a couple of hundred feet, plus there is no need to run the line under the road. The only problem that this caused was that the big tree in front of the house blocks the panel from the sun for a good part of the afternoon, meaning it will have to either be shortened or removed. We think this is actually a good thing, since there is a chance that the tree might fall on the house during a typhoon. It will mean less shade on the house, however, which is a bad thing.

The solar system is designed in such a way that it will run everything in the house except the air conditioner (aircon). Aircon is by far the biggest draw, so when we need it we will have to use the diesel genset. The good news is that excess power from the genset will go to charging the solar batteries. In the event that the batteries run too low, probably due to too many cloudy days in a row, we can run the genset about two hours every two days to charge the battery system, and then have power to run the house. We purposely bought a very efficient refrigerator, and do not plan to use a microwave or TV. So the engineer says when the batteries are fully charged we should have “five days of autonomous power.”

We have gotten so used to living without lights that it will take some time to remember that we can turn on lights when desired. We always take a flashlight when we’re out in the evening, because there are few “street” lights on the island, and it is dark like no dark you see in the States in most areas.

Dark settles in very quickly here because of how close we are to the equator, so when we walk up the hill (mountain) to watch the sunset, we need light by the time we’re getting back to the house in 20-25 minutes. We have been treated to some very colorful sunset views since our arrival, with some clouds near the horizon to scatter the light without obstructing it. Most days there are high cumulus clouds over the Luzon peninsulas which we can see to the north and south, 3 miles to Bataan, and about 8 to Cavite. Often we also get to watch lightening shows in the distance.

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