Engineering I

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Micro Sine Module

Micro Sine Module

Trace Engineering is leading the way once again with our new miniature utility interactive inverter—the Micro Sine Module. Designed to fit on the back of an individual PV solar module. This totally weather proof inverter produces utilitygrade power suitable for supply to a power distribution grid. Meets NEC requirements - ETL listing pending. List $345.

SW Series II

SW 4024 - List $3,410

New Series II Design

Don't settle for less! Used with utility interactive systems worldwide. Features include an easy to use programming system with separate "User" and "Setup" menus. Battery Charger with high efficiency, low current distortion design enables higher charger output from small generators. Output of these inverters is so clean that they are approved for utility interconnect. Meets NEC requirements. Approved by the California Energy Commission.

SW models are available in utility interactive and stand alone configurations. Auto generator start, battery voltage transfer mode, and PV power point tracking are all available. 54 microchip options. DR, UX, SW & MPS Series are ETL listed - standard UL 1741. List $2,585 to $3,970

Above: One of thousands of power poles that went down, leaving millions without power.

anuary 8, 1998—It Was a Dark and Stormy Night... Actually, it was rather peaceful that evening in the town of Theresa in upstate New York. But when I woke up the next morning and turned on my TV, I knew something was wrong. I was picking up Syracuse, New York (95 miles southwest of here), Ottawa, Ontario, and other distant stations, but no local stations. I looked outside towards my neighbor's house about a quarter of a mile away. Usually I can see a living room light, but not this time. And there seemed to be a nice glassy coating on my car. "Cool—an ice storm!" was my first thought.

I picked up the telephone and called my neighbor. "Hey Chuck, you got power down there?" That elicited a response that no one would print. So being the nice guy that I am, I asked him if he wanted to buy a cup of coffee, for say, fifty bucks (this guy drinks a lot of coffee). The response was more unprintable noise followed by a growl that sounded like he might be coming over. A short while later he came in asking if the coffee was done yet. That should have told me how bad things were, as no one would want me making coffee because I don't even drink the stuff.

Power System

My power system is a diesel-wind hybrid. Solar is not very useful here for much of the year, because we are just twenty miles from Lake Ontario. We get a lot of solar shading from clouds that the lake generates due to "lake effect" storms. A 10 KW Chinese diesel generator charges eight Trojan L-16 batteries, running three to four hours on a gallon of fuel. A Whisper 1500 wind generator on a tilt-up tower rounds out the system. With no wind, the generator runs three hours per day, but when it's windy I have gone for up to nine days without running it. One Heart Interface Freedom 2500

inverter gives us AC power, and a second one runs as a charger to cut generator run time. An E-Meter monitors the system and helps me make intelligent decisions about when I need to charge the pack.

Chuck has often discussed installing a power system at his home, but the expense is more than he can handle all at once. We decided to increase efficiency first— always a smart move anyway. But the thought of replacing all of his power-sucking appliances at once was too much to bear. I mean, we're talking about damn near everything in his old house that he had just spent ten years remodeling and insulating. He did it right too—no cheap short cuts. Now, sitting down with his cup of coffee, we began to talk again about the wonders of inverters, battery packs, and wind generators.

Hard Traveling

Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing. It was my girlfriend Chris saying that she was heading this way. Chris likes her hot showers daily, and she also likes her coffee. She ended up calling four more times on her way over. Every time she ran into a roadblock and the police turned her back, she called and I gave her directions around it. The normal twenty minute trip took over an hour and three quarters. When she arrived, we started to get an idea of how bad things really were.

The northern New York area was devastated—hardly a power pole was standing and many that were had the lines ripped off by the weight of the ice or toppled trees. It was becoming clear that we had a real problem— including this area, parts of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, as well as large parts of Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Early estimates were three days to a week to repair the damage. But I could see that just getting power back on my road would take at least a week.

The storm started during the night with heavy ice accumulating rapidly on power transmission lines and anything else that wasn't a heat source. It was a gentle steady rain that turned to ice on everything it touched. When I woke, there was almost an inch on the front deck of my house and on my car. The freezing rain continued for three days under a weird silence that was broken only by the sound of power poles and trees snapping like match sticks.

Reconnaissance

Chuck and I went for a ride to scope out the damage. This was one mother of an ice storm and it hadn't stopped yet. We had a digital camera and a 35 mm camera with eight rolls of film, and we took a lot of photos. We took shots of road signs with twelve inch beards of ice, wire fences that were solid with ice, and power poles that were snapped like match sticks. At one point, I counted 39 broken poles in a row before I lost count. Clearly, it was going to be a while before things got near normal again.

My Whisper 1500 was a solid sculpture—the blade tips were twelve inches wide with ice before it was over. We actually had to use a hammer to break an inch and a half of ice off my car doors to open them. Then we had to hammer Chuck's sixteen foot insulated wood garage door to open it. Electric garage door openers don't work when the power is out, and that beast was really heavy, but we finally got his truck out. After that first reconnaissance, we returned home to find that the phones were down. After what we had seen, that was no surprise. At least my cell phone still worked. But it turned out that emergency crews, fire departments, and other heavy hitters had tied up the lines—sometimes it took over two hours to get an open line, only to find the other end was busy.

Provisions

At 2 PM, a New York State Police car appeared in my driveway—good news, it was a friendly visit. Adam's a state trooper and he and his wife also own a convenience store with gas, kerosene, videos, and other needed items. His wife Shauna went to Sam's Club and bought the last generator they had. It was a medium quality 8 hp 3,500 watt gas rig, not enough for the whole store, but it would run a register and the gas and kerosene pumps. Chuck and I grabbed some tools, testers, and assorted goodies and left in about five minutes. On arrival, we found no cable to use for wire,

Below: Ah, the luxury...Chris makes coffee.

Above: Bob's Whisper 1500 frozen solid. so we ended up using a couple of extension cords, the only thing available. When we left it was dark but the store was open, running and lit.

The next day Adam and some friends took three trucks to Syracuse, New York to buy supplies for the store. They picked up water, propane bottles, batteries, and most of the things you need if you're not prepared (probably 95% of the people were not). At my place, the only things we almost ran out of were coffee—we used six pounds of the stuff in two days—and creamer. We had several members of the local fire department taking hot showers and doing laundry at our place. Needless to say, the battery bank took a beating. But, according to the E-Meter, we still didn't take it below 50%. My hat's off to Heart Interface and Trojan Battery for building such dependable and durable equipment.

Getting Worse, Not Better

Two days after the storm, Arsenal St. in Watertown— the nearest place that can even pretend to be a "city"— had power, after some false starts. The hotels and motels on Arsenal St. were housing power crews from as far away as Michigan and Georgia. Niagara Mohawk (NIMO), the local power company, had over 3,000

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