SOLAR ENERGY : The Sun Shines in Merida

Engineers Larry and David of Boltzman Solar on our roof.

We’ve recently become a solar home, and I’ll now share this very positive experience with you. ¬†With abundant sunshine, and the ability to export power to the utility grid, thus bypassing the storage problem of batteries which presently do not recover the cost of investment, it now makes moral and economic sense to reduce participation in the carbon economy. ¬†The return-on-investment is probably about four to five years, as long as a hurricane doesn’t smash the panels.

We are generating about 20 kwh per day, which is more than we use. ¬†As we’ve never run the air conditioners in the past, we can now do so without breaking into the high-rate bracket ‚ÄĒ while enjoying some cooler air in the bedroom at night, if we wish. ¬†(We’ve only done this once so far, but had to sleep with a quilt to fend off the chill.)

Production chart kept by the inverter’s communication package. The blank day is ¬† ¬† ¬† when we were shut down, awaiting our new bi-directional meter from CFE. ¬†The lowest days where very cloudy ‚ÄĒ one being tropical storm Franklin.

The inverter we selected is a German device made by Siemens (SMA). ¬†Many folks are going with micro-inverters which are built into each panel, and reside on the roof. ¬†I decided against this approach, as inverting (modifying the current from DC to AC, prior to delivery to the utility) is a substantial portion of the investment. ¬†I’m not comfortable with having the entire investment outdoors. ¬†And an additional benefit of our chosen ¬†inverter is that it is the first of its class to allow homeowners to draw some power for the home, if the grid is down ‚ÄĒ like after a storm. ¬†(Micro-inverters can’t do this, to my knowledge.) Of course, this is only possible during daylight hours. (It can’t run a fridge overnight, of course.) And the amount of power available would depend upon the amount of sunshine ‚ÄĒ enough to run some fans, charge phones and laptops; but probably not enough to start pumps.

Here’s what a bright shiny day looks like. Our system is roughly 4000w. And here are some additional details saved by the monitor:


I can access the communications package from anywhere by phone to monitor the system. ¬†Our chosen brand and size of solar panels, Trina 320w, were on hand here in Merida at Excel Solar, which is a supplier to the trade, not to residential customers. (I’m grateful to Alejandro Cauich of Excel for his explanations, and kind assistance.)¬†¬† These are tier one panels, meaning they are rated for commercial installation by a utility. ¬†(There are plenty of less efficient panels on the market.) ¬†Ratings for various panels can be compared and¬†studied online.

I interviewed three solar firms before selecting Juan Pablo Lopez’ team at Boltzmann Solar. ¬†I really enjoyed working with them. ¬†I already speak the dialect known as¬†alternative energy,¬†having installed a wind generator at our farm up north, as well as speaking some Spanish. ¬†And their team speaks English. ¬†It was a good fit. ¬†And I’m very confident that the panels are well-anchored and will not blow off the roof. ¬†(The big concern is flying trash during high wind ‚ÄĒ not sure what to do yet on this topic.)

Juan Pablo Lopez and David at work.


Querétaro City, and points north

Recently a good friend Marc, who blogs at An Alaskan in Yucatan, helped facilitate my presentation for ¬†doing some volunteer work in Mexico’s altiplano (highlands). ¬†It was a refreshing change from the heat and humidity of Merida. The visit opened my eyes to other charms of this dynamic country. ¬†I hope to return with my wife during the hottest part of Yucatan’s season, next year. ¬†This blogpost will share some of the sights I encountered.

The city is a walker’s paradise, which is deeply appreciated, when compared to Merida. ¬† ¬†Driver’s here have a deep respect for pedestrians, and patience; ¬†sidewalks are level and wide; ¬†overhanging meters, air conditioners, and awnings are at an elevation that does not endanger tall people’s heads. ¬†Shade trees abound. ¬†The historic center is wisely and fairly restricted to traffic so that pedestrians also have accommodation. (Merida, I do still love your many fine qualities!) ¬† ¬∂ ¬† I flew to Mexico City and took a three-hour bus ride to get here.

Being a country boy, it was fun to get a close-up look at Mexico’s dairyland. ¬†Corn and cows were ¬†everywhere. And the landscape was dramatic, with deep ravines, volcanoes and waterfalls amply distributed. ¬†Below, basalt oozed from upwelling hot lava to cool, forming a natural dam and waterfall.

We took a hike into a deep ravine behind the house, and visited an ancient-but-still-functioning pottery facility carved into the cliff face.  The studio specializes in producing comals which are large griddles for toasting tortillas.  Nobody was working the day we dropped by.  I wish I could have watched these thin, flat ceramic pans being formed.  We saw them for sale in the village, but I doubted that a 24-inch pan would have survived the journey back to Merida.

Below we see the staging area for drying the clay pan, before baking it in the kiln, foot for scale:

“Me, all thumbs:” of Marc, peering into the kiln, which is fired with scrub oak harvested from the ravine.

Interior of a kiln, showing shards of broken comal pottery.

The ravine reveals much about the underlying stratigraphy of the rocks, which are an important construction-materials resource in the region.

Here we see rock blocks (instead of concrete blocks) being sawed from a quarry.

Rock blocks for sale, roadside.

And more quarry stone from which they were cut.







Foto by Andrew Butko, Wikimedia

It’s up to me. ¬†It’s up to you. ¬†It’s not up to Donald Trump! ¬†We can save the planet without help from government. ¬†Who knew resistance could be so easy? ¬†We don’t even need to get arrested! And you don’t have to become a vegetarian!

Simply stop eating beef. Yes, this is a radical approach, but not so harsh that it is a major lifestyle change. ¬†This story from The Atlantic is compelling. ¬†You and I can do it! ¬†(Actually, I’ve got a headstart on you, as I’ve been avoiding beef for about forty years, as I don’t like the industry’s feedlot practices; but I still eat other meats.) ¬†So let’s do this. ¬†When the followers lead, the leaders will follow!


NurPhoto/via Getty Images from story in The Guardian (“fair use”)