By Dave Knapp, as sent to EarthShips and Self-Sufficient Architecture
I am very sure that you get more sun than you realize. You are definitely not in the sun belt like the folks in Taos, NM, but you are very close to the general region of my dear friends at Home Power Magazine (a journal of very friendly people who live off of Renewable energy). They live in the very southern tip of Oregon about eight miles from the nearest power lines or real roads. They publish their magazine via mostly solar power and some backup wind power and manage to power two large computers, laser printers, a copier, along with all of the normal household appliances. They aren't rich by any means, but live very close to nature and God which makes them feel like the richest people on Earth.
They started out using candles and borrowing the battery from their truck to play their 12 volt 8 track tape player. They slowly started adding one or two solar panels every couple of years until they have built their system up to what they have today. They cook most of their food from homemade solar ovens (about $8 to make) and they manage to do very well with less than half of the Sun that the folks in Taos have. Northern Illinois is very similar in sun (especially in winter) and we do just fine. There are folks in New England who get less than two hours per day of clear peak sun in the winter and they get along fine (having a backup charging system of grid power or a generator is many times a lot more cost effective than extra PV panels that aren't needed in the Summer time when there is more sun).