Off-grid Power

Winter Trompe L’oeil

As someone who has struggled with diminishing eye functions for over 50 years, I continually grow in appreciation of the irreducible complexity of the eyeball and its operating system.  That has been driven home in the grimness of winter in the mountains as my power system for the barn is dependent on solar panels with the hydro system mothballed for the season.  Some days now are brilliantly sunny, but many more are overcast.  While I notice the difference between sunny days and cloudy days, my eye fools me into thinking that all the overcast days are basically the same.

The controls for the power system is under no such illusion.  On some overcast days the output of the solar panels might be close to 200 watts.  Other days of heavier overcast are more like 50 watts.  Yet my eye and brain working together fool me into not even noticing the difference in utilitarian functionality.  The solar panels capture a measurable number of photons, turning them into countable electrons to feed the system.

I still check the system performance faithfully as it affects my power use during the days in the barn.  If the output is near 200 watts I can proceed in the shop with few restrictions.  If it is 50, I have to be very mindful and almost count every watt.  In addition, I shut the system down completely every evening as keeping it powered up uses watts I do not need to consume.

The days are getting longer, and even though we are expecting near-zero temps later this week I look forward to the time in 10-12 weeks when I can reactivate the hydro system and not be so mindful of the numbers of watts coming from the sun.

All of this reminds me of the research into diminishing visual acuity as we age, as our eye membranes as fluids become increasingly oxidized and less functional (transparent), our brains work to fill in the gaps such that other than on trips to the ophthalmologist we hardly even notice.

Amazing things, these meat machines we reside in.