An issue with solar power

I was at my place in Idaho last month to do some general maintenance on things and this was one of the things I had to take care of:


In the center is a solar panel. The batteries, in the box on the right, were still holding up but were low. I brushed off the snow and charged up the batteries with an alternate power source. They probably will hold out until I visit again. But this is an issue with solar power. You might think of solar panels as near zero maintenance, but they are not. They get dirty as well has get covered in snow and ice. The batteries also need to be replaced every few years.

For some applications they are the best choice available. For general purpose electricity, not so much.


10 thoughts on “An issue with solar power

  1. Repeater sites usually mount them completely vertical to reduce winter maintenance. Some will also mount them back to back facing east and west instead of south to make the most of morning and evening. Efficiency trade-offs.

    • I have two sets mounted vertical.

      The solar setup you see here will be permanently retired later this year. I might convert the other angled set to vertical because it goes dead nearly every winter even though my power calculations say it should survive. But it has other issues too. The temperature is cold for long periods of time.

  2. How would LiFePO batteries compare to lead-acid as far as needing to be replaced periodically? I think I saw that Li batteries tend to have a much longer life.

    • You are correct. About 10 times as many cycles for less than twice the price.

      I’ll keep that type in mind the next time I replace the batteries.


  3. Semi-related. Town where I used to live went to all LED traffic lights and then discovered that the lack of “waste heat” caused them to get blocked by snow. So they had to go back and add heaters.

  4. If the wax doesn’t do it, the surface may be too course. Consider polishing it to as near an optical finish as you can. Use a buffer or drill motor to do it fast. It needs to be as smooth as window glass, at least. Consider using a headlite polishing kit to finish it, but I suspect it will not be smooth enough to start with that.

Comments are closed.