Last year we spent some time both investigating as well as experimenting with small scale solar panels as well as rechargeable batteries. Although I do not have any pictures currently the two panels shown here keep a rotation of 3 separate 12V 105 amp hour deep cycles (from TSC) topped off and ready for use. A small inverter with two 110V plugs gets attached to the deep cycle and is ready when we need it. In the last few years, with the advent of CFL Compact-Fluorescent-Lights, you can now maintain a very good backup lighting system without the need for oil, propane lanterns and its 100% renewable for longer term use. Running these lights is not quite as efficient as running 12V lighting however having an inverter that will power up your more common household items has its advantages as well. Each of these is listed as a 15 Watt panel and under ideal conditions should be able to put 1 AMP of power back into a battery for each panel for each hour in the sun. Another example would be for every hour of Sun these panels have, we get 2 hours of light from a 40W equivalent bulb... The 105 amp hour battery can be used for approximately 27 hours or 20% draw down for optimal lifespan. During bad weather, car battery chargers do the work of keeping the 12Volts topped off.
Here is a tiny charge controller that can accommodate up to seven 15W panels and attaches to your 12V deep cycle.
Another side project was to start maintaining a supply of rechargeable batteries for flashlights, radios and other small devices. In case you have been out of the rechargeable battery world for a while (I know I was) you may find it interesting that they only come in the AAA an AA sizes, shown here. In the event you want to use the battery in a device that takes C or even D sized cells, most of the kits come with the plastic blanks that are the same size as normal C or D cells which keep the AA in the center as shown in the bottom left. A plastic Ammo carrier for large rifle cartridges keeps them nice and organized. + up means the battery is full and - side up means that it needs to sit on a charge next time its convenient. These are readily available from Amazon and you can add a few at a time every once in a while... In theory they should be capable of recharge up to 1000 times. If you end up getting a couple kits you can recharge 8 or even 12 at a time.
Being a 100% renewable option was important here as well for any kind of long term need. Run time on these rechargeables has been about equal with any of the standard throw aways, so I'm very happy with their performance.