The second major undertaking for our Gabriola retreat is to install a reasonably sized solar array to charge a battery bank of sufficient size to power our fridge and other small appliances. For the past number of years we have run a diesel or gas generator for a few hours a day to charge up the batteries in the trailer. We looked at the possibility of having electricity brought in from the closest power pole but at $5000 per pole times five poles that was not going to happen. For the cost of one power pole we bought all of the equipment necessary to build a suitable solar array. The setup includes four 260 watt solar panels attached to a rail system mounted on the trailer shack roof, a combiner box to connect the panels together, a multi point tracking device that monitors the solar input to maximize efficiency, an 1800 watt inverter/charger, electric service panel with appropriately sized breakers and four Trojan 6 volt, 220 amp-hour batteries connected in parallel and series to give us 440 amp-hours of 12 volt storage capacity. This setup is very similar to what we have on Curare, except of course we only have two 70 watt solar panels and a much less complex system.
After reading each of the manuals that came with the devices back to front several times, and lots of trial and error with out getting electrocuted, G got the system up and running. There are some weird quirks that need to be worked out such as the MPPT controller clicking all night long when there is no sunlight and the inverter having a fit when the fridge turns on with other loads already running. Probably the biggest issue is that even though there is a lot of potential solar energy, we are not capturing as much as we need because there are too many big , leafy tree branches in the way. We might need to either relocate the panels or cut some trees down but for now it's nice to have ice cubes for an afternoon drink. That's something we don't get on board Curare!