Old Positive Seal Pitless Adapter


Note: All numbers are rated, manufacturers' specifications, or nominal unless otherwise specified.

Earth Ground installation until I showed him the UL listing I had downloaded from the Internet for just this reason.

The inspector was also confused about what constituted a "separately derived system." Separately derived systems are typically generators, transformers, etc. PV systems that have battery backup are also separately derived systems. My grid-tie system is not. It is 240 volts, tied directly to the main panel (no transfer switch), and does not derive its own neutral. I spun my wheels on this issue until I insisted we call the inspector's boss. His boss agreed with me and the inspector signed the permit (though his ego was a bit bruised).

Then all I had to do was throw the switch and start generating, right? Wrong! My utility, PG&E, insisted on inspecting the system, and they wanted to verify that I had a disconnect switch within 10 feet (3 m) of my meter. This disconnect requirement is a sore point with me and others who have to deal with PG&E. Their requirements were written in the 1970s, when the state legislature required them to purchase electricity from small generators. With today's inverter technology, it is virtually impossible to backfeed their distribution system when it is de-energized, making this requirement obsolete for my type of PV installation.

But I installed the required disconnect. It added almost US$500 to the installed cost of the system (though the

Two SMA Sunny Boy 2500 inverters, two DC disconnects, and the AC panel.

Two SMA Sunny Boy 2500 inverters, two DC disconnects, and the AC panel.

Old Pitless Adapter

Equipment & Labor

IBEW members get fantastic deals on group-purchased RE equipment, but most folks could expect to pay more than US$30,000 plus labor for a system like ours. The NPCP fronted the money for the California rebate, and they received the rebate directly from the state.

I supplied all of my own labor for the installation as follows:

• DC wiring from the roof to the inverters: 6 hours

• Mount and wire the inverters: 4 hours

• Install the Unistrut supports: 8 hours

• Mounting and wiring the panels: 6 hours

• PG&E required disconnect, conduit, and wire:

6 hours

• Total: 30 hours disconnect itself was less than US$50). If I had not needed the disconnect required by PG&E, I could have run both inverter outputs into an existing subpanel that was less than 3 feet (0.9 m) away from the inverters and I would have been done. Instead, I had to install another subpanel just for the two inverter outputs and then run a new 50 foot (15 m) raceway from my inverters, under my house, to the new disconnect next to the meter.

PG&E will not schedule an inspection until they receive a copy of the final electrical permit. Once they receive the permit, it takes them ten days to call and schedule an inspection. When they called, the earliest inspection they could do was 30 more days out (our city inspection was 24 hours). When their inspector finally showed up, he told me that he had not had any inspections in the last 6 weeks and he could have inspected my system 30 days ago. It makes me wonder if PG&E is truly committed to renewable energy sources.

At the same time as our utility inspection, I had them upgrade our meter to a time-of-use meter. The price we now pay for electricity is higher from noon to 6 PM weekdays than the rest of the time. During the summer months, it is 32 cents per kilowatt-hour for these times and only 8 cents per kilowatt-hour for the off-peak times. This will benefit us because our system will generate most of its electricity during the peak time. We will be selling to the utility for 32 cents during these time periods. If your goal is zero billing instead of zero usage, your system can be sized smaller if you can get time-of-use metering. The cost of the new meter was US$277.


For the first month (December 12th to January 11th) that our system operated, we generated 298 KWH of electricity. This was about 10 percent lower than I had calculated. Some of the loss was due to very cloudy conditions for the time period. Most of the loss was due to the shade from the trees.

Old Pitless Adapter

One of the homemade combiner boxes with 10 A, DC-rated fuses. The time-of-use meter shows that when Vincent took the photo he was selling at the rate of 3.5 KW to PG&E.

One of the homemade combiner boxes with 10 A, DC-rated fuses. The time-of-use meter shows that when Vincent took the photo he was selling at the rate of 3.5 KW to PG&E.

Our usage averages about 800 KWH a month. We should end up generating as much electricity as we use. With the time-of-use meter, we will have a net dollar credit each year. The law in California changed in the last couple of years, and now any credit goes to the utility, instead of a payment going to the customer. We will start over at $0 each year.

I have only been net metered for a few months and I am already "in the black," having generated more electricity than I have used. I will know more by the end of the year, but I am projecting a 50 percent surplus in my electrical energy use. When I moved into this house, I changed most of the appliances to gas to keep my utility bill down. With all the excess energy I am generating, I will be changing back to electric appliances as they need to be replaced. In the interim, I will be using more electric space heaters this winter.


We hope that our PV installation will:

• Pay for itself in a reasonable period of time (at current rates, we are guessing between 6 and 8 years).

• Be some small help to alleviate California's electricity problems and our country's dependence on oil.

• Encourage others to do the same.

• Be a showcase for selling PV systems.

It should be noted that we had done about all we could to reduce our electrical usage prior to our PV installation. We have either T8 fluorescent lamps with electronic ballast or compact fluorescent lamps for our lighting. Our dryer, water heater, and cooktop are gas. For each dollar spent on electrical reductions, you save three to five dollars on the cost of a PV system. Efficiency combined with solar electricity gives us an economical system that is a good example to others.


Vincent Endter, Clark Electric, 3469 Victor St., Santa Clara, CA 95054 • 408-988-4358 • [email protected]

Sharp Solar Systems of America • 630-378-3357 • www.sharp-usa.com • PVs

SMA America, Inc., 12438 Loma Rica Drive, Unit C, Grass Valley, CA 95945 • 530-273-4895 • Fax: 530-274-7271 • [email protected]www.sma-america.com • Sunny Boy inverters

Multi-Contact USA, 5560 Skylane Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA 95403 • 707-575-7575 • Fax: 707-575-7373 • [email protected]www.multi-contact-usa.com • Multi-Contact connectors

Unistrut Corporation, 35660 Clinton St., Wayne, MI 48184 • 800-521-7730 or 734-721-4040 • Fax: 734-721-4106 • www.unistrut.com

National Photovoltaic Construction Partnership (NPCP; for union electricians), 20 Bursley Pl., White Plains, NY 10605 • 866-983-2819 or 212-581-4030 • Fax: 604-983-2869 • [email protected]www.npcpunited.com

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), 1125 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005 • 202-833-7000 • Fax: 202-467-6316 • [email protected]www.ibew.org

California Energy Commission (CEC), 1516 9th St. (MS 45), Sacramento, CA 95814 • 800-555-7794 or 916-654-5127 • Fax: 916-653-2543 • [email protected]www.consumerenergycenter.org/erprebate/index.html • Buydown information

In conjunction with with the release of our new line of VFX vented Sinewave Inverters/Chargers, we're also introducing the HUB - 4. Offering complete connectivity for your OUTBACK Power System.

Old Pitless Adapter Gaskets

The lutonck

Power Systems


FX Series Sealed Sinewave Inverter/Chargers

FX2024 2.0 kWAC 24 VDC $1795 USD

FX2048 2.5 kWAC 48 VDC $2245 USD

Sealed Construction Features:

• Powder Coated all aluminum die-cast chassis

• Internal electronic components are cooled by heat transfer

• Gaskets on all openings to provide water-resistance

• Sealed design protects internal electronics from salt, dirt, contaminated air, bugs, critters, mold etc.

• Conformal coated circuit boards to resist corrosion

• Designed to allow easy field servicing and repair

Ideal Applications:

• Hot and humid climates where a protected area is not available for installation of the inverter/charger system

• Salt air environments such as Hawaii where you can't get away from the salt air and where there is little difference between indoors and out doors

• Dirty environments where dust or drifting organic matter such as cottonwood could clog an air opening in an unattended system

• Boats and RV's where water might splash on the inverter Greater control of unwanted radio frequency interference

MX60 $649 USD

New Features:

• Amount of time in float, logged Amp hours and kilowatt hours, 140 Voc (three 24v modules in series)

• Adjustable current limit

• Windows based software that works with the OUTBACK FX Series inverters via the Mate Remote Control Available through RightHand Engineering

VFX Series Vented Sinewave Inverter/Charger

VFX2812 2.8 kWAC 12VDC $2345 USD

VFX3524 3.5 kWAC 24VDC $2345 USD

VFX3648 3.6 kWAC 48VDC $2345 USD

Vented Construction Features:

• Powder Coated all aluminum die-cast chassis

• Internal electronic components are cooled by outside air

• Stainless steel screen to protect air intake and Internal fan

• UL94V0 plastic vent grills to protect the air exhaust. All openings are 0.0025 inches square to keep out dirt, bugs, and other critters.

• Air inlet comes with removable washable foam filter insert to trap small particles

• Conformal coated circuit boards to resist corrosion

• Higher output power when inverting or battery charging when compared with the sealed FX inverter versions

• Designed to allow easy field servicing and repair

Ideal Applications:

• Montana or Arizona etc. where salt air is not a problem and climate is dry

• More watts per dollar

• Installations where well protected environments are available

• The HUB-4 system communications manager allows the interconnection of up to 4 OUTBACK power conversion devices with the MATE. The interconnection creates a completely integrated Power System that is coordinated and managed by the MATE.

• The HUB - 4 allows the MATE to control any combination of four FX series inverter/chargers and MX60 MPPT charge controllers


Powh-i- r,y;t.-iii i TEL 360-435-6030 -- FAX 360-435-6019 Visit us at - www.outbackpower.com

Merrill Pitless Adapter Old

A three-day conference at SUNY in Farmingdale, New York, taught by Richard Perez of Home Power, Bob-O Schultze of Electron Connection, and Bob Maynard of Energy Outfitters on how to start and operate a successful renewable energy business.

Topics include:

how to start a small solar business, renewable energy career choices, managing a small business, managing employees, marketing renewable energy, legal and tax issues, and using computers.

Dates: February 20-22, 2004

Place: SUNY Farmingdale Campus, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York

Cost: $425 (includes three lunches and a Saturday night banquet). Conference fee is nonrefundable, but transferable. This conference is sponsored by NESEA, NYSEIA, and SEBANE and members will receive a $25 discount.

PV Technology Workshop:

_ ¡For those wishing to come up to speed quickly on PV technology, a special one-day workshop, taught by NYSEIA, will be held at the same location.

Date: February 19, 2004 Cost: one-day PV workshop: $75 Conference and workshop size is limited, so contact Home Power at 800-707-6585,

541-512-0201, or [email protected] to reserve your place.

Interest is very high in this conference, so reserve early if you wish to be sure of a place. Lodging will be available at discounted rates for conference participants.

We hope to see you there, and look forward to helping your solar business prosper.

Workshop participants assemble the rack for the pumping system's solar array.

Butch and Linda Sagaser have a spectacular homesite in sunny eastern Oregon, overlooking the John Day River. After 15 years in a mobile home, they are finally building their dream house. They have grid electricity, so solar electricity was a distant dream, until it began to make sense for their water supply. With their finances already stretched by their homebuilding project, solar electricity had to be economically viable.

For Butch and Linda, energy efficiency has been a priority for a long time. Before moving to their property, they lived off-grid both on land and on a boat, so they learned how to minimize their energy consumption. Since then, they have followed the basic guidelines of avoiding electric heating and cooling, and buying efficient appliances.

Water pumping was the Sagasers' biggest electrical load, until this project was completed. Although they have a shallow well, their pump accounted for more than one-third of their electrical energy consumption. It was a 230 VAC jet pump, a nonsubmersible pump that is not very energy efficient. When they ran water up to their new homesite, 80 vertical feet (24 m) uphill from their old house, they found that the water came out at a dribbling rate. Installing a more powerful pump did not fit their energy goals. It was time to look for an efficient solution.

Butch and Linda also have frequent grid failures. They are hooked to a long rural utility line, exposed to frequent lightning and ice storms. Utility failures can last for hours and sometimes days. With wood and propane for heating and cooking, and some handy oil lamps, the grid outages would only be an inconvenience if they weren't deprived of their water supply. A solar powered water pump sounded like the ideal solution.

Considering a Solar Powered Pump

The Sagasers had seen solar pumps demonstrated at the SolWest Renewable Energy Fair, and knew that ranchers and off-grid homeowners had been using them since the 1980s. Recently, the pumps have become very reliable, and the costs have dropped. A low-volume solar pump can draw the water slowly, using a small solar-electric array, and pump all day long into a storage tank. The Sagasers have a well that only produces a few gallons per minute, so the slow pumping concept sounded most appropriate. They asked their friend Jennifer Barker for advice.

Jennifer heads the Eastern Oregon Renewable Energy Association, and lives with her husband Lance on a solar powered homestead (See HP83, page 50). Jennifer offered to help survey the Sagasers' homesite, to see how much pumping lift would be required.

Jennifer and Linda set out to measure the elevation gain from the water well up to the proposed storage tank site. Their tool of choice was a laser level (a common construction tool) on a 5 foot (1.5 m) stand. Starting from the well, which is located 30 feet (9 m) below the old house, they pointed the light horizontally in the direction that they would walk up the hill. The spot where the light struck the ground became the next measuring point. They only had to count the number of stages of measurement, and multiply by 5 feet.

The elevation gain proved to be 30 feet (9 m) from the top of the well to the old house, plus 80 feet (25 m) up to the

Old Pitless Adapter
The pump controller wired.

How the Sagasers' Solar Pump Works

The photovoltaic array is built from typical crystalline modules. Four, 75 watt modules are wired in series for 300 rated watts at 48 volts nominal. The DC output from the PV array runs through a safety disconnect switch to a pump controller that is made especially for their pump. The controller gives the motor the form of electricity that it needs to start and run under widely varying conditions. The controller also allows the use of a remote float switch to turn the pump off when the tank is full, and a low-water probe to prevent the pump from running dry if the water source drops too low.

The pump uses a "helical rotor" that seals water into cavities and forces it up as it turns. When it slows down in low-sun conditions, it can still produce the full lift. This forcing action is called "positive displacement." It is much more energy efficient than a conventional submersible pump that uses impellers and centrifugal force.

The controller gets the pump started and running in low-light conditions by reducing the voltage from the solar-electric array, and boosting the current. This is like putting a vehicle into low gear. It then "inverts" the DC output of the array to 3-phase AC. This means that overlapping AC waves deliver energy continuously, unlike ordinary single-phase AC that we have in our homes. The controller varies the frequency of the AC

Cut-away view of the helical rotor mechanism, showing cavities that form between the rotor and the rubber stator.

output to vary the motor speed. At startup, it brings the speed up slowly, so no power surge is required. It limits the frequency to prevent overspeed, and cuts the power when sunlight is insufficient.

Battery Systems

Solar pumps are also available for battery systems. They can run on demand to supply pressure any time. This is how most domestic wells work, and it's economical where an elevated tank isn't feasible. If the Sagasers had a battery-based system within about 250 feet (75 m) of the well, and a faster-flowing well, I would have recommended tying their pump to the battery system and using an 80 gallon (300 l) pressure tank instead of the elevated storage tanks.

new house, plus 90 feet (27 m) up to the tank site. Adding the well depth of 20 feet (6 m), the total vertical lift (pumping height) is 220 vertical feet (67 m). The 90 foot drop from the tank to the house produces 40 psi (2.7 bar), which is excellent pressure for a house that has well-designed (low-friction) plumbing.

Solar Pump Selection & Planning

Jennifer called me to see what kind of solar pump I would suggest. I looked at the sizing chart for our submersible solar ETAPUMP to find a system that would perform the necessary vertical lift at a modest cost. I selected a system with a peak flow rate of 2.5 gallons (9.5 l) per minute, because their well can't produce much more than that.

The chart indicated that the daily output of water from this system would range from about 400 gallons (1,500 l) per day in winter, to about 1,000 gallons (4,000 l) per day in summer. That's about twice the water that the Sagasers were consuming. They said they would be happy to make a pond and expand their garden, lawn, and orchard, if the system wouldn't cost too much and would last for years without trouble.

I explained that the ETAPUMP system was new on the market, but has only one moving part, no batteries, and a four-year warranty. They were getting more interested. What about installation? I was planning a return trip to the SolWest Renewable Energy Fair in July 2002. Jennifer proposed that I do the installation as part of a hands-on educational workshop just before the fair. It sounded like a great idea.

I only needed to find a local dealer to supply the pumping system, and to do some of the groundwork in advance. Jim Slater of Eastern Oregon Solar Electric was

The pump sits below the surface. A pitless adapter fitting allows through the well casing below the frost line, and it seals

Windy Dankoff (far left) advises the crew on lowering the pump—the well is only 20 feet (6 m) deep.

the likely suspect. He had not yet seen the new ETAPUMP, so he was wary of being in the spotlight. I sent him the instruction manual, and it gave him the confidence to accept the job.

the pipe to pass dirt out.

The pump sits below the surface. A pitless adapter fitting allows through the well casing below the frost line, and it seals the pipe to pass dirt out.

Pitless Adapter Wells

Installing the Pump

Jim worked with Butch Sagaser to do the groundwork in advance. They set the support pipe for the solar-electric array, and buried electrical conduit to the well. Butch ran water pipe all the way up to a 1,200 gallon (4,500 l) storage tank, and buried the pipe below the frost line. We planned to have the students install the solar array, controller, and pump in one day.

The workshop was scheduled for two days in late July. Ten eager participants showed up, including some homeowners, a teenager and his mother, and an Americorps volunteer. Two experienced volunteers came from Solar Wind Works in Truckee, California. They helped answer questions and tried not to work too hard.

Technical Specifications

System type: Batteryless PV water pumping system

Pump: ETAPUMP Model HR-04 helical rotor pump with 65 V, 3-phase brushless permanent magnet AC motor; maximum capacity, 0.55 KW

Controller: ETAPUMP PV-Direct Controller, Model EP-600. Controller contains maximum power point tracking and linear current booster circuitry, variable frequency 3-phase inverter, remote float switch, and low-water shutoff functions.

LEDs on the controller indicate: System On, Pump On, Full Tank/Off, and Low Water/Off

PV manufacturer and model: BP Solar 75TU

PV module STC wattage rating: 75 W

Nominal array voltage: 48 V

Array disconnect model and fuse/breaker size: Square D 30 A fused disconnect with 10 amp fuses

We spent the first day in the classroom where I explained the basics of water pumping, solar electricity, solar pumps, and system design. The second day began with a drive out to the Sagasers' homesite. I was happy to see that Jim and Butch had prepared everything "by the book."

The participants got to work bolting up panels, wiring, splicing cable, plumbing, and simply watching and learning. We dropped the pump in by hand because the well is only 20 feet (6 m) deep. The sun was hot, but nobody complained—it would be our fuel source! At about 3:30 PM, we turned the switch on. We heard a gurgling sound in the pipe as water started its way up to the storage tank. The sun was getting low, and clouds were blowing by, but luck was with us. It took a half hour to fill 600 lineal feet (180 m) of 11/4 inch pipe. We took a little break, and then hiked up the hill to watch the water start spilling into the tank 220 vertical feet (67 m) up the hill.

Next, we scrambled down the hill and got out our multimeters to measure voltage and current at the pump

Butch and his daughter Rachel watch the first water enter their 1,200 gallon (4,500 l) storage tank. A second tank has since been added, and both are buried.

Butch and his daughter Rachel watch the first water enter their 1,200 gallon (4,500 l) storage tank. A second tank has since been added, and both are buried.

Letter from the Sagasers

Butch and I are thrilled with our water system. We have two tanks above the house now, piped together, for a total storage of 2,400 gallons. I frequently check their water levels, and am happy to see that they are almost full even when I think I've used a lot of water that day. Butch says the overflow is running daily. We use it to water fruit trees and grass.

We have already seen a decrease in our electricity bill. It would be safe to say that we are saving 3 KWH a day with our new system. At US$0.08 per KWH, we are saving US$7.20 a month, but we are pumping to twice the height, now that we are in our new house, and using more water. This summer, when we used the overflow in the yard, we saved still more because we no longer needed the small electric pump that we used to have for irrigation.

We thank Windy, Jim, and Jennifer for their help, and hope our project will spark other people's interest.


Linda & Butch

Pump System Costs

ETAPUMP Integrated System #ETA-04-300, includes: Pump, HR-04 with motor; Controller, EP-600; 4 BP Solar 75TU PV modules, 75 W; UniRac fixed PV rack; Disconnect; Low-water probe


2 Polyethylene water tanks, 1,200 gal.


Wire, conduit, etc.

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