The Sunny Side of Life

Is solar power right for you?

Most Florida residents will agree our sunshine state has much to offer, from sandy white beaches to tropical winter temps and a laid back lifestyle. However there are downsides to tropical living, one of which is “hurricane season”.

Starting in June and ending in November, hurricane season is something no one looks forward to.  Thanks to technological advances it is somewhat more predictable, but still leaves a lot to the imagination.  Meteorologists can predict a busy (or not so busy) hurricane season, but what path a storm takes, the intensity, and the end results can be a surprise no one wants.

Many long-time residents have personal stories of destruction or just plain inconvenience whether due to lack of power, fuel, or food.  Unfortunately, some residents are still reeling from the repercussions of last year’s hurricane Michael which struck Florida’s northern gulf coast.  Lives were forever changed and even lives lost.  Recovery is always slow and problematic. 

Owning horses presents its own problems during inclement weather, and often we are just not prepared for what takes place. 

While some owners opt to trailer their charges to points unknown, it takes advance planning and sometimes is just not feasible.  Also, not knowing the exact track a storm will take can put you directly in the path of extreme weather with crowded escape routes and short supplies.  No one wants to endure being stranded on the side of an interstate with no fuel and a trailer load of horses in deadly weather and/or soaring temperatures after the storm passes.

Making the decision to go or ride it out is not easy, with both requiring advance preparation.  If you are lucky, loss of power will be your worst case scenario – but loss of power can still be devastating.

Water is a huge issue with horse owners and it would be hard to store enough bottled water to make your equine friend happy.  Rain barrels have their place but extended periods of hot weather after a storm can deplete those supplies in a hurry.  Huge canisters are available to store water, but we aren’t always prepared even if we have them.

It was after the historically active 2004 hurricane season that Archer, Florida residents Connie Nicklin and Brian Cleaver found themselves in undesirable circumstances.  After gut wrenching, weather pounding Hurricane Frances blew through, they were without power for 7 days.  Less than three weeks later Hurricane Jeanne added insult to injury with another loss of power for 3 days.

They were lucky that limited damage to their property was received, but no electricity brought its own set of problems. Like most rural properties, their water source is a well which of course was powered by the grid.  No power, no water. 

They were also lucky that friends within a couple of miles from their residence had managed to maintain power, and gladly gave access to their own water source.  But hauling water in quantity is a difficult task and one chore most would rather not have on their list.

That year was a game changer for them, and they were determined to be prepared for future weather disasters.  They decided to invest in solar power.

Power from the sun is abundant in Florida but still comes with a price tag.  Depending on who you talk to, solar can save you money. However with most systems commanding tens of thousands, it can take a long time to recoup money spent, even with tax breaks.  And depending on the political climate, the cost can go up or down; tax incentives can disappear. 

With Connie and Brian, the decision was simple.  The need to ensure survival for themselves and their four-legged friends was the catalyst, along with a reduced carbon footprint.   With predictions of future weather conditions becoming even more complex and violent, it just seemed a no-brainer.

The decision made, a call to Pure Energy Solar in Gainesville Fla resulted in a 5.7 KW system installed on their barn’s rooftop.  Initially the system was installed tied to the grid and used with a back-up generator. A failed starter on the generator encouraged them to go ahead with a battery bank along with an additional solar panel increasing the power.

Since installation of their solar system they have yet to experience another storm or storms such as they endured in 2004. Unfortunately, with increasingly active hurricane seasons predicted for the future they will most likely have the opportunity to put their system to the test.

Either way, they are prepared – and minimizing their monthly contribution to the power company is sure to put a smile on their faces as well.

For more information regarding installing a solar system for your barn or home, visit or check them out on Facebook.

Barb currently resides in Central Florida with her three horses; when she’s not writing or riding for HRL, she loves to read and travel.

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