Ladera Frutal’s south-facing slope is blessed with abundant sunshine (at least outside of May Gray/June Gloom season), so why not take advantage?
No, this does not let us go off-grid. It does not generate any electricity. But it does make the water really hot, without using electricity or gas to do so. These panels are connected to a water-circulation system and hot-water tank, so that any time the sun is shining we have hot water without using any electricity or gas. (The rest of the time it is on electric back-up.) Electric water-heating is expensive, and this area has no gas utility. We preferred not to have any gasoline bombs (a.k.a propane tanks) on the finca, so this was the perfect solution for saving on the bills, avoiding a fire hazard–and conserving resources.
Look closely near the bottom of the photo and you can see the patch in the driveway where our contractor put in the pipes between the house and the panels. (It was done in 2002; by now the new concrete has faded and is much less visible than it was at the time.)
Well beyond the white wooden fence is a neighbor’s Hass grove that had almost no freeze damage. At this elevation on the north-facing slope, groves were badly damaged. Here on the south-facing slope, we fared much better. And we get lots of sun for solar panels.