Off-grid in Xcalak: Espresso Machines and Cool Fans Thanks to the Power of the Sun

Xcalak’s beach road accommodations are all off-grid, which means that each property generates its own power. AND it has to be enough to keep guests comfortable. Why is solar power a popular choice for generating electricity in Xcalak? Here’s why.

solar panels on a roof in Xcalak

How Solar Power Works

In Xcalak, a shiny glint from a rooftop means solar panels are hard at work. Yup, without any moving parts, electricity still magically flows. How does a solar panel take Mexican sunlight and use it to power the blender for your margaritas? The secret is in the cells that make up the solar panels themselves.

Solar panels are made of photovoltaic (or “PV”) cells grouped together. (if you’ve ever owned a solar powered calculator, you’ll seen a PV cell)

Solar panels don’t look like they’re doing much because the exciting stuff happens way deep down at the molecular level (where normal human vision can’t see it). PV cells use sunlight to knock electrons off of atoms. They can do this because of the way the cells are made, and the material they’re made of.

A PV cell is like a super-thin double-stuffed Oreo with four layers – in the middle are two layers of silicon – one on top with extra electrons (which makes it negatively charged) and one on the bottom with fewer electrons (which makes it positively charged). These opposite charges make a tiny electric field squashed between the middle layers.

When sunlight hits a PV cell it knocks electrons off the silicon and into the tiny electric field. The electric field doesn’t need any electrons, so it kicks them out into one of the cell’s metal, outer layers (the cookie part of the solar panel Oreo).

The outer layers love scooping up free electrons and quickly conduct them into wires. Ta-dah! The flow of electrons is electricity. Feel free to turn your fan on.

Solar panels in the sun on an Xcalak rooftop

Tips for Using Solar Power Wisely

Solar power doesn’t mean “unlimited power as long as the sun is shining”. In Xcalak it’s important to use energy responsibly and conserve it for when you need it most (like for your morning espresso or turning on your light to find geckos).

Here’s how to not be a wasteful electricity jerk:

  1. turn lights off when you aren’t in your room (duh)
  2. turn fans off when you aren’t in your room (duh)
  3. don’t leave your device plugged in when it’s 100% charged (it literally can’t charge more than 100%, but still draws a tiny bit of power when plugged in)
  4. don’t use a power-sucking appliance like a hairdryer (just don’t bring energy vampires to Xcalak AT ALL – see the Xcalak packing list in our travel guide)
  5. prioritize your energy use by charging devices separately (do you really need to charge your cell phone, ipod, e-reader, and laptop all at the same time?)

In Xcalak, the Mexican sun provides reliable, efficient, environmentally-friendly energy for fans, lights, and anything else you plug in. And now you know how those ingenious solar panels turn ordinary sunlight into electricity.

The sun may seem eternal, but solar power isn’t – when you visit Xcalak, decrease your “normal” energy use and avoid draining the power everyone needs. It won’t be hard – it doesn’t take any electricity to enjoy relaxing by the Caribbean Sea in Xcalak.

Learn more about Xcalak Beach Hotels: What to Expect

Learn more about solar at Live Science and How Stuff Works