Assuming the microwave was as slow as mine and needed about ten to fifteen minutes per plate and assuming 3 microwaved meals per day then about 750wh of power would be used daily. Now a 100w solar panel could produce 100w in ultra fantastic conditions - no cloud, bright sun, the sun at the right angle and no dust or dirt on the panels. Basically, cloud cuckoo land. In the real world, expect 10% of the rated output. So in cloud cuckoo land with sun 12 hours a day, a 100w panel would produce enough power for those 45 minutes in about 7.5 hours. At about $1 per watt and with maybe 4 hours of usable sunlight per day, you'd need between 2 and 20 solar panels. Assuming 6 were used, that would be $600 and would take 1.25 hours of cloud cuckoo land weather to power the microwave for a cost of $600. Under normal conditions of 4 hours usable sunlight, the power budget would be in deficit.
Basically, you'd have paid $1400 for a half assed solar system that didn't do the job instead of $400 on this rather nifty generator. The solar bandits will happily tell you about all the gas you'd save but that's a total red herring. That generator uses a gallon every 3 hours on full load. At $2 per gallon, each microwave day would cost 50 cents. If the half assed solar system actually worked, the maths works out like this. $1200 less the generator is $800. At 50c per day that's 1600 days of usage or around 5 years. Incidentally 5 years is all that those deep cycle batteries are good for.
Certainly I'll probably be using some solar but I'm not wasting my time trying to get it to produce enough power to cook. I have two panels used for ventilation only. Today I added a pair of diodes to the setup. This will help to ensure that in my planned expansion of the system to include batteries that current does not flow backward into the solar panels, damaging them. In order to do that, a few days ago I bought a small pile of stuff from Radio Shack in their closing sale. I'd got some NiMh batteries to use, thinking they would be ideal. Then I realized that I could use my existing lead acid charge controller and bought a very small lead acid gel battery to try with them. Initially though, I'll use the NiMh batteries with the solar power running straight to the batteries and power going straight to the fans. This means excess power will go to the batteries and the fans will run for a little after the sun has retired for the day. It will be interesting to see how this affects operation of the fans.
As a dual purpose, I'll put a switch or two into the system. One to switch the fans off and one to switch the batteries off. That would allow me to switch the fans off in winter and use the panels to charge batteries or to run the fans straight off batteries if need be. Basically, it increases my options.
Plans for this weekend which happens to be a 3 day weekend have not been formulated. Currently there's a hurricane lashing the coastline and sending winds and heavy rain in my direction. Until all that is gone, I can't plan anything. Meanwhile life has thrown another spanner in the works. My phone is acting up. It looks to be the charger. Having seen the way the screen is beginning to detach itself, I have doubts about how long my phone will last. Given that I use my phone to document progress on the bus, this is somewhat of an issue. In terms of actual phone usage, I doubt I engage in more than ten minutes of calls a month. That might be an indication that I should go over to an iPhone!
Meanwhile, I'm considering obtaining a class E driver's license. That would allow me to drive my bus more legitimately. The makers plate does say 27,500lbs, after all. I have to tidy inside first though in order to make it movable without things falling everywhere. At the moment, the inside resembles a construction site.
At work, after each trip, the busses have to be swept clean after every trip. I showed my colleagues my front steps and they were horrified.