Winter Solstice & Otter Slides

Tomorrow is the winter solstice–which is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.  These panels are located at 56.8027° N, 132.9935° W, the sun rises at 8:26 am and sets at 3:14 pm for a 6 hour and 47 minute long day.  Google Earth just put up a very hi-resolution view of Petersburg–take a peek here on this very cool lat/lon calculator.    And today at least the sun is out.

This is all we get although this was taken about 10:30 am; somewhat less than the 9.73 degrees above the horizon we’ll expect at 11:51 am tomorrow.  The Arctic Circle will see the sun on the horizon briefly at noon–Fort Yukon lies right on this line (which moves about 25′ a year due to the wobble of the earth).

This is the backside of our 12 solar panels.  These wires pack about 132 VDC on a nice sunny cold day.   I’ve made adjustable poles to tilt the panels as the earth swings around the sun to the summer solstice in 180 days.  Here, they’re about 33 degrees from vertical–I forgot to shift them more upright to the winter position in October (about 21 degrees from vertical).   I’ve a summer position, a winter position and a midway (equinox) position.  I’m good til February 18 when the sun is back 11.7 degrees up from the winter low at which time I’ll go back to the middle position and await the summer solstice on June 21.  An equal time thereafter, August 22 when the sun is 11.7 degrees down from it’s solstice, it’s back to the middle again.  Man I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it.  Many plants and flowers automatically track the sun daily–boy is this a crude system but we’re off the grid and must do it manually.  If you want to calculate the angle of the sun from anywhere on earth and any time of day click here.

Not much current flowing today even though it’s clear.  Sixty-two volts putting out 233 watts at this time–telling me one panel is off line (I’ve divided the 12 panels). Turns out it’s snow and ice on the first panel seen in the first photo here.  I should be getting about 132VDC.    Ohm’s Law is Amps X Volts = Watts but there is some resistance here.   The total power generated is 100 watts/hour (since midnight) or enough to run a 100w light bulb for an hour–well, this is our slowest solar time.  In peak summer sun, we’ll get 8.1kwh; more than enough to run everything.   All this is stored in eight L-16 lead-acid batteries which are slowly dying off after 6 years of constant use.  They ran dry once–not good but we’ve ordered 40 (yes, forty) new nickel-iron “Edison” batteries which are now produced in China.  These NiFe batteries essentially last forever & can’t freeze; but they’re spendy…..

This big fuel barge happened by this morning–our lifelink to the rest of the world and the reason we’re going solar (and hydro).  All the mountains are proudly displayed here in our front yard.

Here is the moonrise the same afternoon.  Yesterday, I went out and got a shore pine xmas tree–they grow very slowly and have a nice full shape.  I slurried it down the hill with much rigor working up quite a sweat–good exercise.  Then I stumbled upon these tracks:

This slide went on for 20-30′ at a time with little push mark footprints….a river otter simply out having fun.  Olaus Murie, in his book Animal Tracks says these animals will tuck their front paws to the side and skid on their stomachs with an occasional kick/glide much like a cross country skier.  This guy covered a lot of ground!  My snowshoe tracks lower left for scale.  Tonight a solstice fire on the beach with eggnog & friends–stay tuned and Happy Holidays all!

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