The acquisition of solar energy can take many forms. There is everything from modestly priced solar panels to charge small electronics, to full-blown roof-panel systems that can power an entire home. Most of us aspire to something in-between that will see us through a major power outage or grid-down situation.
The concept of solar energy can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. How much sun do you need? What are charge controllers, inverters, and inverter generators. What does PV stand for? Hint: Photovoltaic power systems.
The biggest question of all is what do you need to do to design a usable system that meets your needs and your budget. In his book, Power from the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity, Dan Chiras answers these questions and more.
Being somewhat of an electronics dunce, I find learning technical concepts relating to power and electricity tedious and difficult. I eventually get there but not without a good deal of concentration and frustration as I attempt to master the most basic of concepts. Lucky for me, I found Power from the Sun, to be highly readable, understandable, and even interesting. Dan has done a fantastic job of explaining the different types of solar systems with pros, cons, and abundant advice for setting up your own PV system, large or small.
Today I share an interview with Dan plus I have three copies of his book up for grabs in a giveaway. Enjoy the interview then be sure to check in below to learn about the giveaway.
An Interview with Dan Chiras, Author of Power From the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity
Tell me about your book. What is it about?
Power from the Sun is an extremely well-written, up-to-date, accurate, and easily understandable guide for individuals and businesses interested in generating their own electricity from solar energy.
This book provides a basic understanding of electricity, wiring, and solar energy. It teaches readers how to assess their solar resources and determine the type of system they need. It provides a solid understanding of grid-tied and off-grid systems and provides important guidelines on installation. This book is written for the layperson — you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to understand it.
What type of research did you have to do while writing your book?
I have been studying solar energy since the 1970s. I’ve attended numerous lectures, read numerous books and articles, and attended numerous workshops over the years, including several installation workshops.
I installed a solar electric system on my off-grid home in Evergreen, Colorado in 1996 and have lived on solar energy since that time. I currently live in Missouri and power my entire home, farm, and businesses on solar and wind energy. I have installed over two dozen solar electric systems. I now teach a variety of workshops on solar electricity, including installation workshops and workshops on the National Electric Code for PV systems.
How long did it take to write?
The writing took a year; the research had been going on for 25 – 30 years.
Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message. What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading your book?
Solar electricity is highly affordable and a terrific way to produce your own electricity. But you need to know a lot to get it right, especially if you are planning on going off grid!
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I am Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building where I teach workshops solar electricity, wind energy, passive solar design, Chinese greenhouses, natural building, and green building.
I am also president of Sustainable Systems Design, Inc., a company that consults on residential green building and renewable energy and also installs residential solar electric and wind energy systems and consults on passive solar design, residential renewable energy, and green building throughout North America.
I am an internationally acclaimed author and have published 35 books, including several popular college and high school textbooks and numerous trade books. My textbooks include Environmental Science, Natural Resource Conservation, Human Biology, and Human Body Systems.
My trade books include: Living Comfortably Off Grid, The Solar House, Chinese Greenhouses, Power from the Wind, Power from the Sun, Solar Electricity Basics, Green Home Improvement, The Natural House, The Homeowner’s Guide to Renewable Energy, and many more.
Over the years, I have taught at numerous universities: the University of Colorado at Denver, The University of Washington, The University of Denver, and Colorado College. I am currently a Visiting Professor in the Sustainable Living Department at Maharishi University where I teach a course on applied ecology – basically a course on ecological design.
On our 60-acre farm in east-central Missouri, we raise vegetables, chickens, ducks, and cattle. We have a pond full of fish. My wife and I freeze and can a ton of food each year and are currently building a Chinese Greenhouse so we can grow and harvest fresh vegetables year round. We collect rainwater off the roof, compost and recycle nearly all of our waste, and generally strive to be totally self-sufficient. We are also pioneering duckaponics, which means we’ll be using water from our duck pool to grow food for the ducks and chickens and ourselves in our year-round Chinese Greenhouse.
I have lived on solar electricity since 1996. My free time is spent canoeing, kayaking, writing and playing music, raising chickens, ducks, and grass-fed Belted Galloways, and gardening.
As an author in the survival, prepping, self-sufficiency or homesteading niche, what are you personally preparing for?
My wife and I have been working toward total self-sufficiency for many years in all aspects: transportation, food, energy, water, waste, health, and money. I converted a Chevy S10 to electricity and drive an electric car that is powered 100% by solar and wind.
My biggest concern is a massive failure of US economy and the tightly linked global economy. I fear the global economy could implode as a result of reckless monetary policy like the subprime mortgage fiasco or the endless avarice of the super wealthy that greedily and tirelessly work to subvert democracy and concentrate the wealth.
Declining oil supplies could also wreak havoc on the global economy. With the rising economic prosperity of India and China and continuing unbridled consumption in the United States and other nations, humankind is rapidly depleting the world’s limited oil supplies. When supply cannot meet demand, economic hard times are sure to follow. What is more, these and other factors could synergize to create an irreversible slide into disaster.
What would be your first prep-step if you were just getting started?
I don’t want to sound like a salesman, but I’d read my book, Living Comfortably Off-Grid. It outlines a year and a half program to become totally self-sufficient. It’s a compilation of the best information and ideas I’ve come up with in the past 30 years.
The first step is to implement energy-saving strategies to lower your demand for energy, so you can easily meet your needs with solar and wind and other renewables.
Do you have plans for another book?
Not sure. Thinking about writing a book on how to start an organic garden, entitled Pesticides are for Dummies.
Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
If you’re not working toward self-sufficiency now, get going. Start small, but be relentless. Good luck, and be sure to subject new ideas to critical thinking. Not all ideas you find on the Internet are good ones.
Dan has reserved three copies of his book in this newest Book Festival Giveaway.
A special word about the giveaway question/comment: Please read the question and respond accordingly, even it the answer is “I don’t know”. This week’s question is:
What prep-task do you hope to get done between now and the end of 2016?
The deadline is 6:00 PM MST Tuesday with the winners notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article. Please note that the winners must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.
Note: Due to customs requirements, this giveaway is only open to individuals with a mailing address in the United States.
The Final Word
Harnessing the power of the sun to achieve a modicum of energy independence no longer has to be a lofty goal. As I have learned, you can take baby steps to get there, starting with some portable panels and moving on to larger systems to power appliances or even your home.
I am lucky enough to live in a home with a modest array of roof top panels and although they are tied to the grid, they do save me a significant amount money, especially when the AC is running. After reading Dan’s book, I now more fully understand what I need to do to add a battery backup to this system as well as the hurdles I might face from the local utility company. Still, knowledge is power, and what I have learned gives me the motivation to move forward.
If you have any interest at all in solar power, you will want this book.
For more information about the books in this latest book festival, visit Prepper Book Festival #13: Books to Help You Prepare.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Spotlight: Power from the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity
Written for the layman, this is the fully revised and updated guide for individuals and businesses interested in generating their own electricity using the Sun. Practical and accessible, it provides a basic understanding of electricity, wiring, and solar energy, and guides the reader through site assessment and determining the type of system needed, providing a solid understanding of grid-tied and off-grid systems, along with important guidelines on installation.
Power from the Sun – 2nd Edition discusses types of PVs and PV systems, and includes comprehensive information on recent changes and improvements in PV modules, charge controllers, inverters, batteries, generators, and net metering policies. It offers an excellent overview of the many options available, allowing the reader to make the best choices for their individual situation during the design, installation, and operation of a solar electric system.
The definitive guide for homeowners, business owners, installers, architects, and just about anyone interested in lowering energy bills while achieving greater energy independence.
A frequent question I get on Backdoor Survival has to do with healthcare matters when there is no doctor around. This is the definite source of survival medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible for survival medicine.