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Editor had a solar-powered ‘house’

July 2, 2017
Chuck Hunt - Register Editor , Faribault County Register

The Blue Earth Light and Water's plan for a Community Solar Garden is an intriguing one.

They are going to start construction on the project, located just south of the Seneca Foods warehouse, in about two weeks time.

While it may not look just exactly like the solar garden pictured on our front page this week, the idea is the same. Citizens buy a subscription to be a member of the solar garden, and participate in its electrical generation via the sun.

The subscription is $42.50 per panel. It is not going to be a money-maker for those who sign up. The estimated electrical generation income per panel is $3 per month, or about $36 per year.

If you are a subscriber, you are going to probably come up a little bit short on your investment.

But making money on it is not the idea. Participating in reducing our reliance on fossil fuel is the idea. And reducing what is called our "carbon footprint."

If you use electrical energy that is generated by solar or wind or hydro power, you reduce what you use that was generated by a gas or coal powered generation plant. Granted, this small solar garden is not going to change the world. But a whole bunch of them just might.

The argument is going on across the country about the benefits and drawbacks of both wind and solar power generation. Some think they are wonderful things while others think they are ugly dots on the countryside.

I have been a proponent of solar power for some time. In fact, you could say I have been using solar energy for over 15 years.

No, I don't power my house with solar-generated electricity. but, I have been using solar panels to generate electricity in my camper trailer for many years.

I have had a solar panel on the roof of the camper for since about 1999. Even a second one on the roof of a shed. They keep my camper's marine batteries fully charged all summer long.

Since we camp in a remote area with no electrical (or water) hookups, this is a great way to go. True, we cannot generate enough energy to run a microwave or TV or air conditioner, but we still have power for lights, refrigerator and even charging up our cell phones when needed.

And besides, I always figured that if you need to have a microwave, TV and air conditioning, you might as well have stayed home. It is called camping, after all. You might need to rough it a bit.

We used to camp on the Whitewater River near Altura, Minnesota. That is when we first started in with solar panels to keep the batteries charged up.

It was also a place where we had an outhouse. Yes, you read that correctly, a regular old outhouse that sat over a deep hole in the ground and was fully functional.

With a spare little solar panel on the outhouse roof, and a marine battery on the floor of the little structure, we had electricity for both lights and a fan in our outhouse.

If you have never had to use an outhouse in the middle of the night after an evening meal of brats and sauerkraut, let me just assure you that both items can be welcomed additions.

I am relatively sure that we probably had the first and maybe only solar powered outhouse.

The Whitewater River valley flooded in late summer of 2007. That is when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency jerked our permit to have an operational outhouse so near a river.

I couldn't argue with them much, as I could see their point.

The outhouse was tipped over, the hole was filled, and the outhouse put back upright. Then a porta-potty tank was put inside it, which had to be periodically pumped.

But, the solar panel remained in place, keeping the lights and bathroom fan still operational.

I do believe solar energy generation has a place in our world with our need for more and more electricity in our lives.

While the new solar garden in Blue Earth will be too small to be called a solar farm, it could lead to something much larger sometime in the future.

In the meantime, I will keep the lights on in the camper and the outhouse with the help of a little sunlight.



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