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The Sun God, Ra

The Sun – our past, our present, our future.

It was the sun, shining into one of Scotland’s beautiful glens which produced the tallest conifer in Europe – at over 64 metres.  And it was the sun that nurtured the Scottish Douglas Fir we used for the latest ‘build’ project in our Straw Bale house – the stairs. It nurtured the Straw Bales and Frame too – but it’s those stairs I want to say a word or two about…

Douglas Fir with Silver Birch, Scotland

Building an Off-Grid house from Straw Bales at a price we can afford has taken us far from the beaten track – both in terms of learning new skills, and developing our ideas of what is possible. In the words of William Hazlett. The more you do, the more you can do.

The bottom of our stairs…

Those stairs – I’ve never imagined myself capable of building a flight of stairs – but when you think about it the joinery needed to make them is no more complicated than building a bookshelf! So Linda and I – in our time rich, cash poor economy – had the time to give it a go!

Now that we have clean, renewable energy, sufficient to run light industrial workshop tools, I enjoyed watching The Sun power the tools that cut, planed, sanded, and screwed the stairs together. You see – it was really The Sun that built our stairs.

…the bottom of our stairs.

Linda and I lived with a tiny sustainable energy generation installation (wind and solar) for many years when we lived on board our boat. But now that we’ve set up a serious off-grid system on dry land, designed to fully meet our needs, we’re amazed at how easily the power we require is generated. Since the day we turned the system on in January – the dullest of months – we haven’t used our 5kVA back-up generator once.

Part of the reason for that is the way we manage our energy use – and I can’t sing the praises of going ‘all LED’ for lighting highly enough – but mostly the reason is that the technology just works.

Tailoring the software

Phil Smith from Barden – whose office is three hours drive away – offered to guide me through all the settings we need for our installation. He talked me through the menu settings over the phone and when the basic configuration was complete, took control of our system via the Remote Management utility (VRM).

When we got to the settings for remotely starting the generator according to the Battery State of Charge % , I noticed that the menu offers a second field which allows you to make alternative settings during a Quiet Period (e.g. at night). It was then that it struck me how well everything has been thought through. It doesn’t really get much better than that.

When I’ve laid extra cabling to the Hot Water tank, Phil Smith is going to show me how the system can be programmed to shunt surplus PV power into our Hot Water Tank. Oops! – it just got better!

(Image, Sun God Ra:by fi:Käyttäjä:kompak; improving by User:Perhelion)

(Photograph ‘Glencoe Forest’ is by Mathieu Bouchard)

Read earlier Straw Bale blogs: Emerging from the Dark ages. / Winter Solstice. / Our off grid journey. / Introducing Justin and Linda.

Read: Justin and Linda sailing to remote places.

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