Pssst! Hey! What’s the difference between a volt and a watt? Or let me ask you this: If you build a solar panel out of 36 individual solar cells, and each cell produces ½ volt of electricity, what would be the total wattage capacity of that solar panel? What would be the total voltage output of this solar panel? How many watts! How many volts!!
I’ll answer those “simple” questions in a minute, but I bring it up because these are the details of just how electricity works, and writer DAVID S. BLACK thinks you should have a good understanding of the basics of electronics if you are ever going to “Go Green” and get off the carbon-belching grid.
In his book, LIVING OFF THE GRID, Black takes great pains to cover many of the minute details of how energy and electricity works, from fundamental theory, up to how today’s basic household electrical systems function.
If you are one of those people who has a burning interest in generating your own electricity with solar panels, wind turbines or both, this is an excellent book for getting a broad overview. David Black shows us that getting off the grid is definitely not easy, but far from impossible. He provides case studies of people who have done it. It takes time, some money, accepting a certain learning curve, and just having the grit and determination to start chipping away at your goal – maybe one solar panel at a time.
If you are looking for a detailed instruction manual that shows you step-by-step how to fit your home with solar panels, wire it, and free yourself from the grid – this book is not that. It’s more general, paints the overall picture of what you need, and the many different options available to you. But as I said, there are a lot of basic details about the fundamentals of generating power, which is stuff that's worth knowing.
My view is that this is an excellent books for those need a baseline of understanding about the broad spectrum of options available for getting off the grid. When and if you decide to do the actual work, you’ll need to find more specific, detailed information.
Now: A watt and a volt are basically two different animals. Wattage speaks to the total electrical capacity a particular implement can hold, such as a battery or a solar panel. A 36-cell solar panel in which each cell generates ½ volt, it will obviously have an 18-volt generating capacity. But what is the wattage of that panel?
Well, most sellers of such panels will say a 36-cell, 18-bolt panel has a 60-watt capacity – but they probably would be wrong, according to my research into this. It seems that 60 watts is only the theoretical capacity. In reality, most 36-cell solar panels will hold 30 to 40 watts, for a variety of technical reasons. But it will still easily be able to charge a 12-volt battery.
And so this tells us something about the difference between a volt and a watt. A lot of people think that a volt is basically a sub-unit of a watt, as in: "How many volts in a watt?" but that's the wrong question. A volt is not a sub-unit of a watt. In general, the wattage of an implement is the total amount of energy it can hold. The voltage is the amount that can be drained away from it, so to speak. Look at it this way:
Say you have a tank that can hold 1,000 gallons of water. Now say you attach a pipe to it that can drain the water out at a rate of 5 gallons per minute. Well the 1,000 gallons is like the wattage and the capacity of the drain pipe is like the voltage. See? I’d explain further, but I’m only a journalist and I don’t want to get into too much trouble.
But I’m thankful to David S. Black because reading his book made me discover that the details of electricity are fun and interesting, and he also makes the idea of freeing oneself from our slave-master, bloated utility companies seem a real possibility -- even for mechanically challenged dorks like me.
Need a government grant for solar panels? Learn more about getting free government cash in Ken Korczak's: SECRETS OF A GRANT WRITER