Foggy weather and solar power

This one goes out to all those who think that Spain is all about sunny beaches. And sunny mountains, and olive trees turning their leaves towards the sun. And barbecues in the sun, and eating fig pancakes in the sun. Sun-dried tomatoes, and suntans. Hold on to your hats: winter has come.

The almond field in the mist

The almond field in the mist

We’re having a few foggy days here in Matarranya – cold and misty on Monday, it got somewhat better on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then everything turned white again on Thursday. It’s Saturday night now, and we’re hoping for a few hours of clear sky (= sun) tomorrow, but looking at the weather forecast we shouldn’t really expect too much out of it.

Of course most areas in the world have fog from time to time – the experience is slightly different over here.
First of all, as fog doesn’t occur too much here (it’s usually too windy for the clouds to stay in one spot), people put stuff on hold until after it’s gone: harvesting olives (they’re all wet anyway), hiking and biking, even going out (we went to the bar yesterday, on Friday night, and hardly saw anybody; mostly other expats).
We also notice internet is a bit slower than usual; we’ve gotten so used to good and reliable internet, that we forget that it’s all satellite and radio waves, instead of glass fiber like in the north.
Olives in the mist

Olives in the mist

What it does affect the most though, is electricity. We get our energy from solar panels, and fog = hardly any solar energy. Hardly, but some: to our surprise, the batteries charged 2kW yesterday (a full day of fog) and 1,8kW so far today (not a ray of sun), just from daylight. Those numbers might mean nothing to most people, but we’re quite happy with them 🙂

We’ve been amazed at our solar energy system so far. Technically not “ours”, as we’re renting the house, but we’re planning on having a similar system with the same amount of solar panels and battery so this is kind of a general rehearsal. On Thursday, there was a tiny bit of sun for an hour or two and in that small amount of time, I managed to do the laundry, have the dishwasher on and the batteries got fully charged.
We have a backup generator in case the batteries are out of juice, so we haven’t been too careful with electricity – we still charge our laptops, put on lights when we’re in a room, and the fridge has been on non-stop (and it’s not even an A+++ energy-saving fridge :-)). The fireplace has been on for heath (it’s not that cold yet, and the house is very well insulated), and we’re cooking on gas.
However, the batteries are still going strong… we’re expecting to be ok until at least tomorrow. Two of our Workaway volunteers are leaving us then, so I’d like to do some laundry and vacuum cleaning. In case of no sun this means we’ll put on the generator – which will also fill up the batteries, so we’d be good for another 3 days of mist.
Before coming here, I would have thought of “waiting for the sun” as an inconvenience. However on the one hand it’s not really necessary to wait (we could just as well turn on the generator), and on the other hand it’s quite relaxing: I could start vacuuming the house, but since unfortunately there’s not much power left in the batteries, so I’ll put cleaning off until tomorrow and write something on my blog without feeling lazy or remorseful. I think I’m starting to get used to the Spanish way of life; “mañana” is a word you could use when it’s just too hot to do hard work, but can be applied when sitting in front of the fireplace with a laptop and a cat as well.
When we tell people we’re going off the grid (with solar power, water from a borehole and veggies from the garden), many look at us like we’ve said we’re going “into the wild” with just a tent and a bottle of water to go dancing with the grizzlies; however we’re happy to report that so far, we haven’t felt like we would lose need to compromise when it comes to comfort. Not ever, not once. Not even after 6 days of fog, with more on their way 🙂
Mist at "Mas del Caballero"

Mist at “Mas del Caballero”


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