This part of my preps started about three years ago. SOLAR POWER for the retreat. I was going to just keep all the components at the ready to install them when SHTF. But I decided this last summer to install a portion of my Solar Sys to power my radio room I was building. I had everything at my site, so I thought 'Why Not?'. Lets put them to the test!
Solar Systems basically are composed of 4 components (well sort of as you'll see there are some cool bells and whistles - like our radios!).
First you have the Panels that collect the energy. They come in a variety of sizes, voltages, watts, and so on. I stuck with a 12 v system because for my needs, 12v will work good. I'll address that in a little bit. I purchased my panels from Sun Electronics (http://www.sunelec.com/
)- an outfit out of Phoenix (I believe). They took the time to educate me on solar systems in general and it was through them I picked up all the solar components I would need (except the batteries which I bought locally). Shop around and compare prices with these guys.
So I purchased about a doz on these 12v 125w panels. Since my shop had an exposed south facing wall, this was where I choose to mount 4 of the panels. (I can add more if need be) That would be a starting point of 500 watts (on a good day) of power supply. I designed my own brackets and mounting system that was not difficult using some aluminum angle iron I picked up at Home DeeePot. I hinged the corners of the panels to the wall using 2" cut pieces of angle iron and bolts. The support arms are 1" angle. Drill holes where you'd like in the frame of the panels to try and get a perpendicular trajectory to the sun. You'll have to adjust them at certain points of the year based on the season - No big deal.
Anyways - I was working on them this weekend to see what would be the optimum angle for the next several months. The sun angle in N. Idaho is pretty dramatic between summer and winter. Having them nearly horizontal is great for April - Sept (as you can see the others that were mounted there).
Notice I drilled holes in the wall to pass each individual wire through to the inside of the shop. There I wired all the panels together in parallel using AWG 8 wires sending the 12v pwr supply down to the charge controler.
What I wound up doing is leaving them like this. I'll get about 5' of standing snow this winter and these panels would not likely handle the load. The sun angle is amazingly low on the horizon this time of year so we'll see how efficient they work this winter like this .....