A solution that balances resources (both financially and ecologically) came to Bill as he was stringing wire through the framing of the house. Why not buy as much solar as we can afford now and take advantage of the generous offer of our landlord to tie into her grid electric for additional power. Hopefully, down the road, we'll move off the grid and go 100% renewable.
Then we moved on to agonizing over what solar panels, batteries, charge controller and inverter to buy and where to buy them. We don't want the panels on our roof; the house isn't in an ideal spot for sun, and we want a system we can easily expand in the future. A ground-mounted system works for us. We researched and read about battery life and storage capabilities, about sun requirements, about pure sine wave inversion and...the learning curve was steep. So when we heard about an integrated, portable system that comes ready to plug in and power up, it seemed the right fit. It's more expensive than cobbling together our solar setup ourselves, but it meets all our needs for a reasonable markup.
And the winner is: the Solman Classic by SolSolutions. The all-in-one unit comes on wheels, so we will be able to orient it for maximum sun as often as we want. (Evidently, adjusting position to track the sun a couple times a day can bump up power production by as much as 30%.) We can also situate the unit in a field some distance from our shady tiny house site. The 3000 "usable" watts of battery storage (batteries store more watts than can be drawn from them effectively) should have no trouble handling our all-LED lights, outlets (largely for charging devices) and ceiling fans.
For things that draw a lot of power, we have a hybrid approach. Cooking will be on our alcohol-burning stove/oven by Origo. We'll heat the house with our super-efficient wood-burning stove, the Kimberly by Unforgettable Fire. Our hot water heater and water pump (both still TBD!), Energy Star refrigerator and, should we decide we can't live without one, our microwave all get tied to the grid. The local electric cooperative has a less-than-stellar portfolio of energy: lots of coal power, no renewable. But it's available on site we can always "un-tie" ourselves down the road. In the short term, we can move more over to solar if we see we're producing enough power.
To make this magic happen, Bill installed two breaker boxes. One will be powered by our battery bank, which in turn will be powered by our three solar panels. The second breaker box draws from the local electric grid. Once the two grounding rods get stuck in the ground and connected to the ground wires, we'll be all powered up. Now, if we only had walls and flooring and...