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This is Peter and Maureen Scargill's Spanish website. We live in Galera in Andalusia (for clarity, that is the English spelling - Mid-Spain they spell it Andalucia and pronounce it "And-a-loo-thee-a").

We've had a home in Spain for more than 14 years and it is now our permanent base though we retain a small home in the UK.

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Archive for the ‘solar power’ Category

Interesting Times

Pizza Cave

This has been an event-filled week or so…. Friday night (1st June) we went with friends to the “Pizza Cave” in Huescar and on that Saturday, Maureen and I achieved several goals: the upstairs bedroom is now back in working order with a new ceiling, the hot tub is back in action though currently the heater is disconnected as it was tripping the 30ma mains breaker.

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A few short days with friends

We have just enjoyed two days in the north of Spain in the province of Aragon in the village of Valderrobres and just now arrived home back home to the sun.

Valderrobres and surrounding areasValderrobres is a charming and quaint mediaeval village that sits in an unspoilt area in the mountains of Aragon. The village comes complete with cobblestone streets, knobbly old oak doors and a considerable amount of EU funded resurrection.

We were visiting the area to see our friends Aidan and Helen who are buying a sizeable portion of land in order to resurrect an old ruined building and build a new home there for the summer months.

The area is totally off-grid and so we expect to see some impressive solar power there in the near future as Aidan, like myself, is particularly fond of the idea. Having managed to source the panel importers he has secured good pricing on the 250w units so I expect lots of it. A side effect of this means that next year I will be able to almost quadruple the solar power at our cave which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll test one of the 250w units in the UK but in the Northeast of England I’ll be lucky to get enough to light one bulb most of the time.

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End of another Summer

Velez RubioThe summer is well and truly over here in Galera with temperatures plummeting to maybe 8c at night and rarely getting over 20c or so during the day. Still a million times better than back in the UK but I’m sitting here with the heating on in my office.

I’ve been looking back over the summer – which started with my trip to Boston in July – a great adventure marred only slightly by incompetent Iberia Airlines who managed to misplace my baggage, finding it only at the very end of my trip. That started a communications saga via their Facebook page – and only now in November have they finally agreed to cough up for the clothes I had to buy. I’ve not yet figured out a way to punish them for the state of my feet (I took light sandals on the plane and so after walking several miles to restaurants etc. my feet suffered somewhat. They couldn’t have given two hoots of course.


Other than that the summer went very well, it’s amazing how many places, friends we’ve visited and the good times we’ve had. With temperatures as high as 40c and a comfortable 25c in the evening, reasonable general prices and dirt cheap fuel, there is absolutely no comparing life here and in the Northeast of England. Sure, it has it’s downsides, I’ve fought with couriers who should not be delivering crisps never mind packages and as in previous years I’ve struggled to get parts I would easily find in the UK.

CountryBut this year more than others we’ve found ways around issues and discovered that materials are indeed widely available here as in Britain – you just have to look harder. Outside of the towns there are a myriad of industrial buildings that look like you really should not be there. In fact many of them are open to the public and are jam-packed with goodies – who knew !!

Meanwhile my home control projects are starting to come together thanks to taking the summer out and away from the FSB – something I’ve never done. Before the FSB it was business keeping me occupied all the time and so I’ve never really stopped and spent the time needed to really get as heavily into interesting projects as I’d like. As they say – there IS more to life.

I’ve finally started to make a break with Skype – I’ve had a Skype telephone number for many years – indeed since Skype first introduced “Skype In” – I started with a London number and migrated (when they screwed things up) to a Newcastle number. Last week they made a major gaff, sending out an email to their subscribers to announce an unfeasible price hike. By the time they announced they’d gotten it wrong, many of us had already told them to shove it. I’ve been researching other operators and those offering standard SIP IP phone lines. I’ve chosen one and now have both English and Spanish incoming numbers – both for less than I was paying Skype for one. I spent the afternoon making sure everyone knows the new numbers.

And there it is – my new modem has just arrived, we’ll be spending a little time in the winter in the UK with a break in the USA in the middle of it…  and when we return, the cottage in the UK will once again be holiday rented – I want to ensure that guests have a totally isolated WIFI setup while leaving me with full access to everything – the new TP-Link router should do that job for me.


As the weather cools off I’m missing the sun already as are my solar panels which now struggle to handle the (bright) outside lighting for more than a couple of hours or so. When we come back I’m bringing batteries as the electricity here is prone to un-announced failure.

I think I should probably have been born in a hot country… Time yet however, according to the ever-inaccurate forecasts we could be looking at clear skies and 23c toward the weekend. Fingers crossed.

A little Experimenting in the Sun


Solar experiment

Just doing a spot of experimenting with the currently reliable weather here in Galera. What you see here is a cheap 10 amp solar regulator which has 3 pairs of wires – one goes to the solar panel, another goes to the battery – the third pair go to the “load”.

The “load” in this case is a little 12v-5v convertor sitting on top of the battery – I plan to hook that to my Raspberry Pi at some point…   but then over on the right is a standard 8-battery charger. I realised when looking at the instruction that it’s power supply was a 12v job – and that the unit could handle anywhere from 11v to 14v input – in other words absolutely ideal for powering from a lead-acid battery such as a car battery or alarm battery (the latter is what you see here).

Solar panel

The solar panel shown on the left here is way too small to be a great deal of use – it is able to put out about 400ma which means it will take maybe 16 hours to fully charge that 7aH alarm battery – I have a MUCH bigger panel but that will have to wait for our July trip in the car as I could not fit it into the case. That has a 3 amp output which will charge the little battery in under 3 hours and is better suited to charging a car battery.

The regulator is great, I now have two of these – cheap as chips from Ebay – will allow a maximum 10 amps load and protects the battery from overcharging and over-discharge (simple lead acid batteries do NOT like being fully discharged and rarely recover from this unless they are what are called “deep discharge” types. 

soilSo with the setup above I’m happily charging my little AA and AAA batteries FOC from the sun – soon I’ll find a more practical application for this. I’ve a larger setup on the Pergola and that’s powering a bright hanging lamp without any issue.

While that is going on I have my soil moisture sensor under test.. that’s producing an analog out put which I’m hoping to use to provide sensible watering for Maureen’s plants shortly. The sensor will indirectly control an (already fitted and tested over a year) cheap washing machine valve which controls the cold water feed to the plants.

Just as well as she picked up a boatload of new plants from the garden centre yesterday.

All good fun.

Garden Centre

The Spanish Summer Adventure

toastStarting in Galera, then off via Granada , Seville (on the way back), Rio Tinto and Portugal – what an adventure – the general idea at the start was to leave Galera (right on the map – we’re looking at the south end of Spain here) on Monday, pop into Baza for an early morning sandwich and then head off down to Gibraltar to spend a little time with Gemma Vasquez and her husband (Gemma heads up the GFSB – the Gibraltar Small Business organisation over there – and as a Brit who has been there more than once and listened to the traders and local government complaining, I have considerable sympathy for the hassle the people of Gibraltar from time to time get from the Spanish authorities) and then head off to Huelva in Spain for some history.

Well, as it happens,  all of that mutated into something completely different and we scrapped the Gibraltar trip PARTLY due to fears of horrendous queues at the border and partly due the inevitable restrictions caused by Maureen’s (at the time) bust foot. As it turns out, I emailed Gemma to apologise for our change of plans – and it would seem that was a smart move as that the queues at the border were as bad as ever – with a change for the worse which apparently allowed Spanish traders into Gibraltar without issue while making everyone else wait!!! I wonder if our press ever picked up on that.


So – the revised plan took us to Rio Tinto and Huelva. Let me explain – Rio Tinto is a small town and also a mining area in South West Spain not far off Portugal, famous for a river that runs blood-red due to the iron oxide and other chemicals in it. Turns out this mining has been going on since Roman times until very early in the 21st century and one of the mines is as deep as the Empire State Building is high!!! Worth a look, surely, we thought.

2 sunsSo, we set off on Monday and, as you do, we stopped off along the way, discovering Spanish towns we’ve never even thought of before – and one area we passed late in the day seemed to have two suns (see above) resembling the fictitious Star Wars planet Tatooine (a beige-colored, desolate world orbiting a pair of binary stars) – we figured we’d check that out on the return trip. We’re glad we visited Huelva – very nice – see ships lower down.

Moving on, we had arranged bed and breakfast in a little place called Rio-Tinto – straight off the Internet as you do – and what a winner. Ok, I’ll grant you we had a little issue that neither the owner nor his wife spoke much English but we Townmanaged – between Google translate, enthusiasm and arm gestures… we managed – what a REALLY nice couple – she has her own paintings all over the house – he was into gadgets and he’d taken the time to study my blog with the aid of Google…. the house was pristine, neighbourhood pleasant and they had a pool – a NICE pool.

The reason we travelled to Rio-Tinto was to see the river, which runs red due to iron oxides. We were not expecting the history we found – turns out they’ve been mining there for the last 5,000 years!!! More photos at the end of this blog entry.

All done with Rio Tinto we headed off to the Algarve in Portugal – to Vila Real to be precise – just for a quick visit before heading off home. It’s a long time since we’ve been to Portugal and I have to say after settling down for dinner at the sea front, I’m not in any mad rush to go back.

Portugal… well, the bit we were in…


So then we headed off back home – and again the strange “suns”  below, resembling Tatooine in the movie Star Wars – We had to investigate – the result – STUNNING – the twin solar collectors of Seville – 2000 mirrors, designed to produce 30MW of electricity, a world’s first. 20Km west of Seville this plant generates power from steam – receiving up to 15 hours of sunlight in summer per day… I really can’t explain how bright the tops of those towers are except to say you can see them from a long, long way away. 624 moving mirrors ensure the towers are hit with concentrated sunlight all day. Check out this link for more information.

solar collectors

And so here are more pictures of our trip…

The mines at Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto

Yes, the water really IS a strange colour…


The main roundabout at Rio Tinto… yes that’s a full size steam engine – more pics coming…

Rio Tinto[7]

Christopher Columbus history at Huelva


And inside the ships complete with sound effects..

Columbus etc

We finished our visit at the museum where we learned all about the mining operations and the fantastic range of materials they got out of them – Galena, Yeso, Quartz, Galena and much more.


The scale of the mining is (was) incredible. and  if you want to see some great pictures of the Rio Tinto area check here

Marvellous trip!

Here comes the summer

Work is coming along on the cave, the builders have just completed a storage partition for Maureen (and it would seem knocked out my watering system at the same time) and upstairs has had a refit (wall re-done from scratch with insulation). On top of that we have a new wood-burning stove (not that we’ll need it for now).  The plan is to put the TV on a mounting bracket along with some new control kit so it works with our tablets, put some shelving up in the new partition and my office in the next week or so…  and get lots of household and garden stuff “filed” away. I’m also bringing some new lighting kit. Cameras are working a treat.

Maureen has made some new mirrors for the place – she’s bought the basic mirrors, a ton of small gems and other items and has given them the personal touch with glue and grout – my job is to bury them in the walls. They’re looking pretty good. Bringing our new best friend – a large tube of Gorilla glue.

I’m pleased to see the solar powered main Pergola light I built from scratch is lighting the place up every night (there’s enough power to keep it running 24 hours hours a day so right now it’s never turned  off). A little worrying that the hallway is getting as high as 26c – might need to work on that.

We’ll be there by lunchtime tomorrow, I’ve had a couple of short business trips this week (Brussels then Blackpool) and now that’s all out of the way, it’s time to start the holidays!