When does grid parity happen in the south of Spain?

A view of grid parity from someone who has been living off grid for 10 years.
The date of writing this post is 8th July 2017.

What is Grid Parity?

Grid parity  occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at the same  price as buying power from the electricity grid. Or to put it another way: After installing an alternative energy system how long will it take the before the cost of installation will be the same as if the house had been connected to an electric company. This is called pay back time.

The Quick Answer

In case you just want a quick answer in my opinion it would take 8 and a half years.
Below I will explain how I calculated this figure.

Calculations

Our annual electricty usage is 2005 kWh per year.
This is in our  house which is not connected to the grid.
The average occupation is about 4 people.
We do not use electrity for heating, cooking or AC.
The biggest electricty use we have is the swimming pool pump.
We live a fairy normal life and we have a freezer and  fridges.
We very occasionally have to use a generator when there is a prolonged cloudy spell but the cost is minimal. Maybe 20 euros per year.

We calculate the costs of the electric company by looking at the electricty bill we have for another house. The name of the company is Iberdrola.

We use the figure of 3000 watts as the maximum amount of power that can be used at any one time. (la potencia) The figure we use for the price of electrity is 0.16 euros per  kWh. There are other expenses such as electricty tax (impuesto), equipment hire (alquiler) and VAT (IVA).

The price per year of electricity from the GRID.

The cost if we bought the electricty from the grid would be 598 euros per year.
224 for additional costs and 374 euros for the electricity.

How much our solar electrical installation would cost.
To replicate our system you would need
1250 watts of panels – 840 euros 
50 amp combined inverter charge controller 750 euros
12 x 2v Lead Acid batteries 800 amp hours. 3500 euros.

Total cost 5090 euros

Total installation cost divided by GRID cost is 8.5

So time to parity is 8.5 years

Conclusion:
There are lots of other variables such as battery life and efficiency of the batterys which we have not considered here but 8.5 years  is a good basic figure and it feels about right..  

If I lived in a city would I cut off from the grid?
No probably not. If you have solar power  you always have to be a bit conscious of the time of day and if there is sun or not. The battery technology is the most important factor.  Batterys like the TESLA powerwall sound very promising and could provide about the bare minimum which would satisfy most people. I imagine that within 10-15 years in the future we will see a green energy revolution with excellent power storage and the  demise of the internal combustion engine.

The best thing about this situation for me is that we have been here for 10 years so our electricty is now effectively free. I just hope that our existing batterys can hold out long enough so that there are very good possibilities are available when the time comes to replace them.  

Aparently  450g  of carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere per Kwh for electricty bought from the grid.

According to these figures we have not caused 9 metric tons of C02 to be released into the atmosphere.

 

 

 

Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs

HARD BOILING YOUNG HEN EGGS

Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.

 

For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.

RESULTS:

I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.

 

How to cork a wine bottle using a hand corker.

This is my first ever instructional video explaining  How to cork a wine bottle.

bottle corker

The bottle corker

Why do we bottle  wine

Putting wine into a  bottle with a cork is an excellent way of keeping the wine until you want to drink it. When wine is stored it should only have a very small amount of oxygen available. Uncorking  a bottle of wine is a pleasant ritual which many prefer to using a screwtop bottle. The corks seen in the video are number 9 corks and are they are the most common. They should last 10 years with no problem.

When to bottle wine
The simple anwser is when no more gasses will be created which could cause the bottle to explode. Wine made from Grapes is picked in the Autumn. The initial very vigourous primary fermentation when most of the sugar is converted into alcohol, lasts about 10 days. The fertmentation then slows down and then many people say that the wine should be kept in a cool place for the  first winter.  The cold temperature seems to help the wine clear. The wine is just about drinkable by March of the following year and by May it should taste good. However, wine is not generally bottled until at least one year after it was first  picked because  sometimes  more subtle types of fermentation can occur such as maleoactic fermentation. This could create carbon dioxide which may cause the bottle to explode. Other types of wine such as champagne and fizzy wine can be bottled when fermentation is still active but they need high pressure bottles and a special cork. It is possible to stop a wine fermenting when it is still sweet by adding Potassium Sorbate which stop the yeast reproducing. However we never put chemicals of any kind into our wine.

 
Cork crusher

Where the cork is crushed.

The video below explains how we put cork into the bottles. For a very small producer like ourselves, a small floor mounted hand corker is enough for our needs. In reality we store a lot of our wine in recycled 5 litre plastic containers. However, a bottle of wine with a cork and a label is a pleasant object so we always bottle some to give away as gifts and to add a sense of occasion when sitting around the table etc. By the way the sphincter like crusher in the centre is called an iris. It dilates and reatracts a bit like the iris in an eye.

Facts about our Vineyard

This is just an information sheet to contain the information about our vineyard for internal use.

grape_picking

2013
We start by planting 75 petit verdot on the Era field. There are also a few plants made from cuttings which are white grapes.

2014
Planted 250 new vines on the new field. Half of them Cabernet Sauvignan the other half Bobal.
We did make some wine but it was a mix of our own and some grapes from over the hill.

2015
We made about 40 litres of wine.
The plants were pruned correctly for the first time in October.

2016
We planted 125 Tempranillo and 125 Cabernet Sauvignon

An audit in June by Daniel the Dressing Gown Man states:
There are 660 growing vines.
About 50 did not make it to October.

Harvest:

The harvest happened on the 21st September.
4 crates from new field
3 crates from the Era field
3 crates from down below.
It took about 2 hours with 6 people to do the harvest.

Made about 100 litres of grape must.
About 12% alcohol potential on the light meter.

Pressing:
The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Jordan, Pierre, Jane and Caroline the Belgian girl. The wine was quite dry. I estimate that there were about 65 litres.

Notes: Many of the new vines planted were ripped out by foxes searching for insects.
Maybe the goatshit, leaf mold and earth mix should be aged longer before use.

2017
100 bobal ordered. Arrival date 1st April.
There will be 1 new line and the rest will be used to replace dead vines

 

Salade niçoise – or rather just a nice salad

salade nicoise

SALADE NIÇOISE

Everyone has their own idea of what should or should not go into a salade niçoise. I wanted to prepare it with things we have to hand at the moment so this is my take on this classic dish – not so much niçoise but definitely nice.

Tuna is sometimes added but as I didn’t have any I used tinned sardines instead.

We’ve recently harvested the potatoes and so have lots of small, red-skinned ones. I cut them into bite-sized pieces and boiled them until tender.

We also have abundant green beans so I cut them into 5cm pieces and then steamed them for 5 minutes.

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
large lettuce leaves
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs per person, quartered
tomatoes, cut into sixths or eighths depending on their size
green beans, cut into 5cm lengths and steamed for 5 minutes

DRESSING:
2 cloves garlic
2 anchovies
handful of basil leaves
4 tablespooons olive oil
½ tablespoon vinegar
black pepper
chives, finely chopped

METHOD:
On a large plate, arrange the lettuce leaves and season with a little salt.
Arrange the potatoes on the lettuce, then the beans, tomatoes and tuna. Finally arrange the eggs on the top.

Put all the ingredients for the dressing into a small container and blend well. Spoon over the salad and sprinkle over the chives.

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Carrot and olive oil cake

Carrot and olive oil cake

carrot and olive oil cake

By using extra virgin olive oil, this carrot cake had a great taste, was seriously moist and one of the nicest carrot cakes I’ve ever eaten. I’m a bit concerned about the amount of sugar in the cake itself as 500g seems a lot and so next time I might try using less sugar – possibly 350g.

I’ve just realised that I never say anything about heating the oven to 180ºC. When I bake cakes, I use the wood-fired oven after making pizzas for lunch so it’s more a case of waiting for the temperature to drop from over 350ºC to around 200ºC. Normally this takes about four hours or so and then the temperature will remain constant.

INGREDIENTS (CAKE):
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
500g brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
4 large eggs or 5 medium eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
125g walnuts, coarsely chopped
500g carrots, coarsely grated

INGREDIENTS (ICING):
125g salted butter
250g light cream cheese
250g icing sugar
grated zest of 2 large oranges

METHOD:
Line a deep-sided roasting tin with baking parchment. The size of the tin I used was 32cm x 22cm.

In a large bowl beat together the olive oil, sugar and eggs. Slowly add in the flour, salt and cinnamon and mix well. Add the grated carrot and walnuts and give the mixture a good stir.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Meanwhile make the icing. Cream the butter in a bowl and then add all the other ingredients. Mix well and then keep in the fridge until needed.

Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before removing from the tin. Leave to cool completely and then spread over the icing.

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Chicken Run 2

2016-07-12 20.14.25

This year I have put three of the hens in a pen in the bottom field. The idea was that this would be their final resting area but I’ve since changed my mind. Two of the hens are from the eggs that I incubated by crossing our hens with the neighbour’s rooster and I’ve become attached to them so they’ve been granted a wildcard to old age.

The white posts mark the borders of the pen and you can see two of the black hens together. The lines of vegetables to the right of the tractor are potatoes.

In their summer residence, they are protected by an electric fence surrounding a walnut tree and have free range of the first hen house that John built for them. Although they were reluctant to venture in at first, they are now happy to lay their eggs in one of the partitions. They tend to sleep, however, on some of the branches of the tree above it. This is good news and makes me happy. The other day on our morning walk to Marchalejo, we saw a pack of three foxes and then a single fox so it is good that we have the three types of fox-protection: electrocution, canine and flight.

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Tuesday 12th July 2016

lavender summer cortijoblog
Today was a balmy hot day at the Cortijo and temperatures are abnormally hot for this time of year. The lavender is in full bloom and there are loads of different butterflies and bees collecting pollen from it. One of these days we will have our own colony of bees so that we can reap the benefits of this hive of activity.

There are also some beautiful flowers on the way to the swimming pool:

2016-07-12 12.50.29

2016-07-12 12.51.27

Aromatic cabbage salad – hvidkålssalat

Aromatic cabbage salad

Apparently cabbage is very popular in Denmark and this dish is similar to coleslaw but without the mayonnaise. This recipe for aromatic cabbage salad combines the cabbage and dried fruit with a simple olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice dressing.

aromatic cabbage salad

INGREDIENTS:
Thinly chopped cabbage
Vinegar
Olive oil
Star anise, ground
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper
Dried fruit (e.g. plums, figs or prunes), chopped

METHOD:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

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Danish potato & radish salad – kartoffelsalat

Danish potato & radish salad

Every country has a different recipe for potato salad and each household makes it their own. In this Danish potato & radish salad, the potatoes and radishes are combined with onions, chives and garlic and dressed with a mixture of sour cream or Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise.

Danish potato & radish salad - kartoffelsalatINGREDIENTS
1 kg of new potatoes, cut into chunks and cooked
Radishes (as many as you like), thinly sliced
3 spring onions or 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 handful of chives, chopped
2 tablespoons home-made mayonnaise
4 tablespoons Greek yoghurt/sour cream
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
salt
pepper

METHOD:
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

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