30 October 2012

Riding out Sandy

Hurricane / Post-Tropical Storm Sandy started showing up on 27 OCT 2012 with clouds and some light winds and by 28 OCT the rain had started late in the day.  Where I'm at in NoVA was in the projected forecast of the storm up to late 28 OCT 2012, before Sandy sped up to make landfall south of Atlantic City, NJ on 29 OCT 2012, which puts it to the north of here.

The main effects in the section of NoVA that I'm in has been a steady wind from 28 OCT at around 30 MPH from the NNW which shifted just late yesterday to come from the NW.  Rain from 28 OCT to this morning has been in the o.5"/hr. range which means low-land flooding and a number of underpasses getting flooded out.  I know what that means heading towards the beltway having commuted that way for years, and it isn't pretty just for a normal storm or melt water flooding scenario.  As I'm up closer to a ridge top the only worry was winds, and those winds have to go over a lot of land to get here, which means friction and slowing of them.  There were some gusts last night as Sandy made landfall and just afterwards that got to about 45 MPH locally, but also brought a lessening of the constant rain.  As of this morning the post-Tropical Storm Sandy sits in West Central PA and is giving us very light winds (10-15 MPH) and mist, not real rain.

There has been only one interruption of power for less than a few minutes and that can be attributed to just about anything, and happened just after 10:30PM on 29 OCT.  The severe wind event this past summer may have helped to clear out trees and branches so that mild but sustained winds and rain had little effect on the local power grid.  Other areas are not as lucky, as swaths of NYC, NJ and other regions in New England and the Mid-West can attest to.

Household preparations for food were only for a few goods that we have duplicates of in storage in dehydrated or evaporated form.  Earlier this month two Sunfrost units came in: one full 19 cubic inch freezer and one 19 cubic inch refrigerator, both with drawer stands.  After getting them set-up and operational, a slow process of moving food to them began and is an ongoing process that would require a bit of speeding up if the power went out for days or a week or more.

To power those units two SUNRNR units were purchased (a 110v and 240v system) through one of their resellers (Alternative Energy).  Since there was a special on solar panels, I got 4 of the Kyocera 140 units and that all arrived on the same week as the Sunfrost units, which has meant a lot of work getting everything set up.  A frame mount for the Kyocera panels had to be found and put up, and they currently are bolted into 6x6 exterior lumber that a neighbor had taken out from their old deck during a replacement of it.  Large cinder blocks with unequal hole spacing allows the 6x6 lumber to fit through the cinder blocks, and they serve as an anti-tipping ballast at the end of the timber.  Three other pieces brace the forward (and lowest part of the panel mount) with two doing that and a third going across them with cinder blocks sitting on the intersection of the bracing pieces.

Together this array with the 2 SUNRNR units should power both the Sunfrost units just enough each day to let the Sunfrost units chill down to storage temps and then sit there utilizing their insulation to keep things cold.

The major drawbacks to this system are two-fold:

1)  First a pass-through for the Anderson cables from the solar panels needs to be installed in the house so that they don't have to go through a partially open screen door.

2)  Lack of much direct sunlight impedes the amount of power that can be collected greatly.  These panels sitting on my deck have much in the way of trees that block out collection space which means not much power is gathered at all during overcast and rainy conditions.  Which isn't to say that none is gathered, just an amount less than what is necessary to run the Sunfrost units.

Part of the reason to get the SUNRNR units was portability and the reseller I went through is getting portable frame mounts fabricated for sale in the near future.  Breaking up the array into two sub-arrays will allow for optimal placement of the panels to get at least 2 optimal panels of collection during daylight hours.  Mounting them on the roof (and having to go through building codes) means that they aren't portable, and that goes for a pole mount as well.  There isn't enough roof space to take the townhome I'm in off-grid in a built-up area and wind is erratic, which means that all alternative solutions for powering the place means either consumables or not running very much.  A whole house generator running off of natural gas (and supplemental LNG input if the natural gas pipeline system goes down) would be good if all building codes allow it.  I expect that my simple 4 panel mount will raise some local hackles, but that 2 mounts of 2 panels each will disappear from view and all questioning.

It seems that providence was on my side for ordering the systems, getting them in and up and running just before this encounter with Sandy.  We also had to get the be replaced, which is less fun than it sounds.  I'm exhausted.

Rain has just picked up a notch, but still not much more than light rain/drizzle.  Sandy isn't done, yet and for those in regions of the Mid-West, Northeast and New England who rarely get one of these storms, my thoughts are with you.  As I watched the tide gauges rise for NYC last night I knew that this was not going to be good...when the one at Providence, RI went off the top of its scale, the full size of Sandy got driven home to me as the gauges in NC were just starting to do down at that point.  This is no Cumbre Vieja event, to be sure, but Sandy is reminding us that the works of man, no matter how great they seem to us, aren't very much to Nature and that we must take heed of warning signs when they are clearly delivered to us.

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