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Solar Energy International

Renewable Energy Education and Sustainable Development BOX 715, CARBONDALE, COLORADO 81623 (303) 963-8855 • FAX (303) 963-8866

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PV in the City

Burke O'Neal & Ben Fiore

©1993 Burke O'Neal & Ben Fiore

Above: Burke and Ben reaching for the sun.

Our fascination with energy can be traced to our childhood — we have known each other since we were three. Inspired by President Jimmy Carter's sweater-wearing speeches, I was always sneaking over to the thermostat and trying to turn it down. Ben built a solar town for his fourth grade science fair and won a blue ribbon with it. I give yearly presentations to fourth graders on pollution and different forms of energy. Last summer we took our solar message to the Lollapalooza festival where we enticed the progressive rock nation with our solar-powered boom box. In this article, we will describe the operation of our present photovoltaic energy system.

Both of us are undergraduates in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As our interest in alternative energy grew, we began amassing the equipment for the photovoltaic power system we presently use. When we moved out of our old neighborhood and into a downtown apartment, we decided we would get most of our electricity from the sun. It wasn't an easy task. First of all we encountered a lot of resistance from our landlady. After placing an ARCO QuadLam module outside our front south facing window, we got a message on our answering machine. "I want you to remove those solar panels instantaneously. I don't like them one bit. My building looks like student housing." But later she agreed that we could put them on the roof as long as we promised not to create any permanent damage.

We did a lot of research and reading about the electric code and realized it would be impossible to meet all electrical code requirements unless we altered the apartment significantly. We installed UL listed circuit breakers and clad the DC run into the apartment and the wires connecting the controls in conduit. We also installed a grounding rod to reduce damage in case lightning strikes near the panels.

The PV panels

Our photovoltaic (PV) system consists of two sets of 90 Watt ARCO QuadLams, 18 Watt and 30 Watt unbreakable Solarex panels, and a 40 Watt Solarex MSX-40 surplus module. With the exception of the unbreakable modules, the modules are mounted on the

268 Watts peak electric power from the sun

Bicycle powered Thermax generator (300 Watt, 12 Volt)

Two sets of 90 Watt Carrizo quadlam j photovoltaic modules

30 Watt

18 Watt

40 Watt Solarex MSX-40 PV module

Bicycle powered Thermax generator (300 Watt, 12 Volt)

Two sets of 90 Watt Carrizo quadlam j photovoltaic modules

30 Watt

18 Watt

40 Watt Solarex MSX-40 PV module

250 W Statpower inverter

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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