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Passive Solar is Energy Too

Harold Sexson details his owner-built addition: a beautiful passive solar room. It creates a comfortable space that saves energy.

Cover: Ali Cotterell at the helm of Gebroeders, her live-aboard sailboat with PV and wind power. Story on page 12.

24 Solar on Wheels

Rob Magleby runs tools and toys with the photovoltaic system mounted on the roof of his '70 schoolbus. All the comforts of home...on the road.


30 A DC Nightlight |p

William Raynes gives the details needed to build this efficient DC-powered nightlight.

32 An AC Nightlight

This LED nightlight design by Robert Morris, Jr. runs off of 120 vac power. Build it yourself for cheap.

34 DC Battery Charger

Dick Linn has worked out the details for charging NiCd batteries from a 24 VDC system.


68 Independent Power Providers

Net metering policies are changing for the better, and worse. Get the update.

72 Code Corner

John Wiles discusses disconnects—what they are, where to use them, and how to properly use them.

76 Power Politics

Lest we forget the real costs of our energy options... Michael Welch lays out the straight scoop on the 10 year effect of the Chernobyl accident.

78 Home & Heart

The performance reports are in on Kathleen's new "non-extravagant timesaving kitchen tool".

86 the Wizard speaks...

Grab Bag


4 From Us to You

80 HP's Subscription form

81 Home Power's Biz Page 83 Happenings — RE events 88 Letters to Home Power

96 Q&A 98 Micro Ads

101 Index to Back Issues 112 Index to Advertisers

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Access Data

Home Power Magazine PO Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520 USA Editorial and Advertising:

916-475-3179 voice and FAX

Subscriptions and Back Issues:

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Cover paper is 50% recycled (10% postconsumer and 40% preconsumer) Recovery Gloss from S.D. Warren Paper Company.

Interior paper is recycled (30% postconsumer) Pentair pC-30 Gloss Chlorine Free from Niagara of Wisconsin Paper Corp.

Printed using low VOC vegetable based inks.

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St. Croix Press, Inc., New Richmond, Wisconsin


Home Power (ISSN 1050-2416) is published bi-monthly for $22.50 per year at PO Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520. International surface subscription for $30 U.S. Second class postage paid at Ashland, OR, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER send address corrections to Home Power, PO Box 520, Ashland, OR 97520.

Copyright ©1996 Home Power, Inc. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reprinted or otherwise reproduced without written permission.

While Home Power Magazine strives for clarity and accuracy, we assume no responsibility or liability for the usage of this information.

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From Us to You

What's it worth?

What is electrical energy produced by renewable resources worth? I guess it depends on who you are. For us (the Home Power Crew on Agate Flat) renewable energy is worth quite a bit. RE gives us the freedom to live and work where we want—beyond the power lines. It means we don't have to operate a smelly, noisy, and expensive generator all the time. RE gives us the satisfaction of knowing where our power comes from. For us, these freedoms are worth far more than we paid for the RE hardware.

America's utilities, however, place a far lower value on renewable energy. For example, see the article about Dan and Lori Whitehead which begins on page 6 of this issue. Dan and Lori have a utility intertied wind electric system. They can buy power from the utility at a rate of 10.5 cents per kiloWatt-hour. The utility pays Dan and Lori 1.7 cents per kiloWatt-hour for their surplus wind electricity. This means that for every kiloWatt-hour of energy that Dan and Lori buy from the utility they must generate 6 kiloWatt-hours in order to break even. Basically the utility is telling Don and Lori, "Our energy is six times more valuable than your wind-generated electricity."

Is utility-supplied energy really worth six times more than renewable energy? I think not. RE is produced using clean, nonpolluting sources such as sunshine, wind, and falling water. Utility-supplied energy comes from combustion (coal and natural gas), from nuclear reactors, and to a limited extent, hydroelectric on dammed rivers. To be sure, utilities have their operating costs—about half their money goes into power transmission. But, with the exception of hydro, the utilities' energy comes from non-renewable resources and pollutes our environment with everything from acid rain to radioactive waste (and how much is this pollution worth?). And yet utilitysupplied energy is, at least in the eyes of the utility, worth six times more than renewable energy. Why?

Well, I'd hazard a guess that greed may have something to do with the utilities' inflated evaluation of their energy. After a hundred year monopoly on electric power production, utilities don't want any competition. They are happy with the status quo—they make the power and you rent it. Solar, wind and hydro are forms of energy which are democratically delivered everywhere—a gift of nature. These natural energy resources don't fit into the utilities' monopolistic mode of operation. How can they rent you power which is freely and naturally delivered to you each day? Well, they can talk you into a grid intertied system where they pay you a pittance for your power. Then the utility can turn around and sell your RE to someone else or even back to you—thus ensuring their monopoly and their profits.

The time has come for us to demand a fair price for our power. If we don't get it, then pull the plug on utility power. We are not required to buy their polluting energy. We are not required to sell our renewable energy to utilities for less than it is worth. We are not required to fatten the utilities' coffers by allowing them to profit from our renewable energy.

While universal cooperation and sharing of RE is obviously the way of the future, utilities cling to the way of the past—they make the power and you rent it. We know a better way

Times they are a changin'

Richard Perez for the Home Power Crew ^


Sam Coleman

Martin Cotterell

Mark Green

Michael Hackleman

Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze

Bruce Johnson

Stan Krute

Dick Linn

Don Loweburg

Rob Magleby

Robert Morris, Jr.

Karen Perez

Richard Perez

Shari Prange

William Raynes

Benjamin Root

Mick Sagrillo

Bob-O Schultze

Harold Sexson

Tina Sorenson

Jaroslav Vanek

Steven Vanek

Michael Welch

Daniel Whitehead

John Wiles

Myna Wilson

"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain"

Dolly Parton

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Qualified Dealer Inquiries Welcome. Hands on Training Seminars for New Dealers

Alternative Ener ...or Just Plain

Daniel Whitehead

©1996 Daniel Whitehead

Daniel Whitehead

©1996 Daniel Whitehead

I started experimenting with alternative energy back in the late 1970s. I built hot air solar panels from 2 by 4s and empty beer cans cut in half. They worked well but had quite an odor until the smell burned out of them. I installed my first wind generator in 1984. This was a 450 Watt Winco charging a 12 Volt battery bank. After this I was hooked. The next year I installed a 12.5 kiloWatt Jacobs on a 100 foot tower in the middle of the city. Public acceptance was not favorable, to say the least. The machine did not produce well because of the surrounding terrain. I let my enthusiasm overrule better judgement. Never put up a wind generator within the city limits. Between the fight with neighbors and the city fathers it is not worth it.

Solution: Move to the Country

In 1992 we bought 32 acres in the quiet countryside of Morrison, Illinois. We spent the first year building a 1600 sq foot log home that we designed. The home has a large south facing side that is mostly glass. I installed two 450 Watt Winco wind generators out at my shop building to run some lights and to check out the wind potential of our site. The wind at our site proved to be very good. I was pleased with the results so the next year we started looking for a used 17.5 kW Jacobs for the first part of our renewable energy venture. After talking with the local utility (Common Wealth Edison) and checking on local codes and variances, the project was a go. We pay 10.5 0/KWH for the power we buy and get paid 1.7 0/KWH for power we sell to our utility.

We located a rebuilt machine with a 120 foot angle-iron tower. My creative wife, Lori, put together an impressive presentation for a local bank and they agreed to finance the project. When the machine and tower arrived my yard looked like a giant erector set. We dug three holes for the footings 8 foot square by 8 foot deep. The 20 foot bottom section was assembled complete with anchors and stood up in the holes. We used a transit to level the base then assembled the rebar cage around the legs. The cement was poured in two phases. The first was the 8 by 8 by 2 foot thick pads. After these had set we built 2 foot square piers that came up level with the top of the holes. The cement trucks came back and poured these piers around the legs and the cement


Left: Dan Whitehead shows off the inside of the Jacobs intertie inverter which converts 3-phase wild ac into single-phase 240vac.

Below: Lori Whitehead monitors wind system data on her personal computer.

work was done. We backfilled the holes and let it set up for a couple of days.

Left: Dan Whitehead shows off the inside of the Jacobs intertie inverter which converts 3-phase wild ac into single-phase 240vac.

work was done. We backfilled the holes and let it set up for a couple of days.

The tower is hinged at the base so we simply lowered the 20 foot base section using a pickup truck and a cable. Next we assembled the rest of the tower on the ground and finally mounted the generator on the top section. The governor, blades, and tail were all installed with the tower still on the ground. We dug a trench to the house and connected the wiring from the tower to the basement where the inverter would be housed.

We hired a local crane operator to lift the tower into position. This was his first job with a wind generator and he was very excited. We went over the details of the raising. He would lift the tower and generator together to about a 50-60° angle then a large winch truck would pull it the rest of the way. When we were both satisfied with the details it was time to go to work. Lori video taped the lift and all the neighbors within a couple of miles were there to watch.

I was a nervous wreck during the lift but all went very smooth, just as planned, with no problems. What a relief it was when the tower was standing upright and I put that first bolt in to secure the leg to the base.

Make Some Electricity

This makes the fifth wind generator that I have installed and there is no other feeling like the moment you first take the brake off and let your machine start running. This time was no exception. My heart raced as I cranked the brake off and waited for the wind to take over. Within moments the blades started to spin and we

Below: Lori Whitehead monitors wind system data on her personal computer.

were on line producing about 5 kW in the light breeze. We just stood and watched it for awhile. It has a hypnotic effect like watching a campfire in the night. It was a beautiful sight indeed.

Time for an Upgrade.

The machine ran well for the first two years. This year we installed a set of carbon fiber blades made by Advanced Aero Technologies. These blades will increase the annual output by about 30%. They are remarkable blades that resist icing in the winter and will last for many years without needing to be refinished. Since we installed these blades in September we have been making record production every month. It looks like the expected annual increase will easily be made.

What's Next? Solar, of Course.

After attending the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Amherst, Wisconsin in 1994, I was ready to try solar again. The wind machine produces three times more electricity than we use but you can never have too


The Whitehead's Jacobs Grid Intertie System

Utility Power 120 / 240 vac

Utility Energy Bought

Wind Energy Sold

To All Household 120/240 VAC Loads

Utility Power 120 / 240 vac

Utility Energy Bought

Wind Energy Sold

To All Household 120/240 VAC Loads

Converts 3 phase wild AC into 240 VAC single phase much power. I have a 40 by 80 foot shop that I wanted to use for the solar installation. I found a set of 840 Ah used telephone company batteries that would work for this project. After moving 48 batteries at over 300 lbs each, I was tired at the end of the day.

I designed the system and then faxed it to Bob-O Schultze of Electron Connection for his input. After he made a few changes and suggestions, I ordered the parts. We went with the Trace DR2424 inverter and four Siemens 75 W PC4 modules, to be expanded to eight modules this year. I went with a fixed mount system and

the Heliotrope CC60E controller. I also used the Cruising E-Meter to monitor system performance.

The panels are wired in series-parallel for 24 Volts and 18 Amps. #10 wire connects them all together with plastic weatherproof conduit and #4 wire from the combiner box to the controller in the shop. I constructed a 10 by 10 foot room to house the batteries and controls. I use a hydrogen collection system that I saw in HP#6 in an article by Gerald Ames. I used cups covering the battery vents and plastic tubing to connect them all to the main PVC pipe to vent the hydrogen outside the battery room. The room is insulated and I run a small heater in the winter to keep things at 60°F.

After mounting and wiring the system we were ready to test it out. It is always a tense moment when you first power up electrical equipment. All went well and I started wiring my shop equipment into the breaker box from the Trace. I am currently running nine fluorescent shop lights, a drill press, a band saw, two lathes, a grinder, a 1 hp door opener, and anything else that gets plugged into the wall outlets. I still have a 220 volt air compressor and welder that runs from the grid or the Jacobs when the wind blows. I have a 1000 W Whisper wind generator that I am installing into this system to help with the load demands of the shop. This will give me four wind generators and a PV system.

Above: Dan & Lori on the porch of their renewable energy-powered home in Morrison, Illinois. A17.5 kW Jacobs on a 120 foot tower provides power.


Left: Twenty-four Gould lead-acid cells make up the 24 Volt, 1680 Amp-hour battery bank. Each cell weighs over 300 lbs.

Below: The control board for the photovoltaic system. Notice the rack that keeps documentation for the components organized and handy.

I am very happy with the outcome of the project. Thanks to Bob-O Schultze for the technical support and Lori for maintaining her sense of humor through these projects.

What's in the Works After All This? An Electric Vehicle, of Course.

Like I asked earlier, "Alternative energy, or just plain crazy?" I think all of us that are involved with renewables are a little crazy. It takes a little more effort on your part to have one of these systems, but the rewards are well worth the effort. If it was easy,

Left: Twenty-four Gould lead-acid cells make up the 24 Volt, 1680 Amp-hour battery bank. Each cell weighs over 300 lbs.

Below: The control board for the photovoltaic system. Notice the rack that keeps documentation for the components organized and handy.

The Whitehead's Photovoltaic System

J-Box (outside)

Utility Power 120 / 240 vac

Utility Mains Panel 120 / 240 vac

To Utility-Powered ac Loads


Charge Controller Heliotrope CC-60E

Power Center (homemade)

J-Box (outside)

Utility Power 120 / 240 vac

Utility Mains Panel 120 / 240 vac

To Utility-Powered ac Loads

Charge Controller Heliotrope CC-60E


Trace DR2424

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