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miles. The hours I have spent because of these machines is probably easily double what is listed here, but these are the hours my hands were "touching the machine," so to speak.

The complete service record is available from me directly (SASE appreciated) or online (at http://csf.colorado.edu /perma/energy/jan98/msg02354.html) in the American Wind Energy Association's archive. Sincerely, Michael Klemen, PO Box 86, Tuttle, ND 58488 • [email protected]

World Power Technologies Responds

Dear Richard, Thank you and your wonderful magazine for the opportunity to comment on our wind generator model Whisper H4500.

Since introduction in 1996, over 100 units of this model have been shipped, and we have had consistent reports of power output well in excess of the published power curve coupled with higher than expected electrical and mechanical problems. During the past summer we engineered and retrofitted all machines with a second "de-tuning" or governor adjustment to have the machine furl out of the wind sooner and more completely. Initial reports were favorable but during a November windstorm, at least four Whisper H4500 machines were damaged. We were alarmed and very disappointed, and World Power has stopped production and is no longer taking orders for the Whisper H4500.

Existing owners have been ordered to shut their machines down in advance of expecting winds over 50 mph until we can engineer a solution. Any owner of a Whisper H4500 who has not received Service Bulletin SB98-4 should contact World Power immediately. Those with a Whisper H4500 on order are being offered the opportunity to cancel, switch to the Whisper 3000, a two bladed machine using the same propeller blade, or wait until we have a solution to the governing problem. Anyone with a Whisper H4500 on order who hasn't received a notice from the factory should contact World Power immediately.

Our primary concern is to engineer and test those modifications which will provide current owners with the performance, safety, and longevity of service customers have come to expect from our products. To this end we have set up three new test sites in challenging wind conditions in eastern Oregon, the Colorado Rockies, and Southwestern Minnesota. This is in addition to our test site in Duluth, Minnesota where we must admit the winds are not as challenging as we would wish. An additional test site at the National Renewable Energy Labs in Boulder, Colorado is pending. All three new sites will be on line by Christmas [of '98]. For those with an interest in this testing and development program, send your e-mail address to [email protected] and we will send summary reports as they are available from the field. We'll also welcome your feedback and ideas.

The World Power Technologies wind generator model Whisper H4500, along with other members of our product family sharing the same design philosophy, has attracted world attention. It has consistently demonstrated one of the highest efficiencies (power output per square foot of swept area at any windspeed) of any small wind generator made in the world. Our unique, patented "Angle Governor" has set a new standard in its ability to provide both passive protection and maintained power output in high winds. A complete electronics package which integrates PV arrays with no additional components is included with all our wind generators at the lowest cost per wind capture (propeller) area in the industry. We pride ourselves on being dedicated to developing the most advanced technology available in a small wind generator.

It should be clear therefore, that World Power has been greatly humiliated by the failure of its flagship machine, the Whisper H4500, to meet the goals we have set for all our machines: 20 plus years service, 120 mph survival wind, whisper quiet in all winds, best output per swept area and no scheduled maintenance. We apologize from the depth of our corporate soul to our customers whom we have inconvenienced, disappointed and impacted financially. We acknowledge and gratefully thank virtually all our customers of this model who have expressed understanding, patience, graciousness and the confidence in us that we will solve these problems and ultimately provide them with the value and performance they expected. It brings tears to my eyes to especially acknowledge those three wonderful customers who have volunteered, at no cost to World Power, their sites and their labor to help us develop and test solutions to our misbehaving governor.

We are confident that with this kind of loyal support we will not only very quickly be implementing the required design changes, but that World Power will equally soon recover from the financial setback we have deservedly caused ourselves. We have been in business since 1974, longer than any company in the world manufacturing wind generators large or small. I assure you, and our current and future customers, that we plan to be around for many more generations to maintain the value of our current products in the field. We want to continue to offer the readers of Home Power the quality hardware they seek to make electricity from the wind and the sun a living reality.

Again, Richard, thank you from all of us for your kindness to World Power. Please accept our wishes that the countdown to Y2K be your best year yet. Sincerely, Elliott Bayly, President, World Power Technologies, Inc., Duluth, MN, USA [email protected]

Home Power Responds to the H4500 Problems

Hello Michael and Elliott. We at Home Power are indeed sad to hear that the Whisper H4500 is having problems. Hey— World Power Technologies (WPT) is currently holding over $7,500 of our money for the Whisper 4500 we had on order. I discussed this with Elliott Bayly on the phone and we've decided to let our money ride with WPT until they either get the bugs out of the 4500, or redesign this genny into a more robust model.

Building wind generators is a tough job, but we have faith in WPT We know that they will fix the problems with their largest generator and support their customers. WPT has delivered good customer service while producing affordable wind generators. We look forward to having one of WPT's large models up on a tower here soon. Richard Perez

Cadmium Toxicity

Dear Michael, On page 116 in HP68, you make a note that "NiCd batteries also have a toxic and hard to reclaim component—Cadmium."

This, I have to confess, reflects modern thinking, but it is not necessarily fact. As product manager of BP Solar's new cadmium telluride based Apollo® modules, I have done a considerable amount of additional reading on the subject, supplementing previous work our company has done. I am enclosing some documents which I hope will add to your knowledge and make you consider whether your statement remains valid.

First, toxicity. Everything is toxic, it is a question of how much of it makes it toxic. There are indeed instances of people dying from drinking too much Coca-Cola, which contains caffeine, though few would expect it to be labelled a toxic product.

Second, cadmium is well researched and as nickel is valuable, many nickel cadmium batteries, particularly industrial size, are recycled. They present no different problem than lead acid when it comes to this. Recovery is simply more economically valuable.

Third, nickel and iron both can be considered as toxic. Dying from excess iron in the body even has its own name: Hemochromatosis.

While I understand and agree that most readers will not choose nickel cadmium batteries, the issue is cost, not toxicity. Yours sincerely, Mark Hammonds, BP Solar, Inc., 2300 N. Watney Way, Fairfield, California 94533

Hi, Mark. I appreciate the letter and materials you sent. You are right about cost being the issue rather than toxicity.But, if NiCd batteries did cost as little as lead-acid, then they might be the battery of choice for nearly all applications including starting cars. Think of the massive problem there once was with the disposal of lead and electrolyte (and even cases) from lead-acid batteries. This problem existed for years and caused environmental and health problems that are still being dealt with. The problem is pretty much fixed in the major industrialized nations, but still exists in many others. Now imagine wet-cell NiCd batteries being out there in the same ratio, which would likely happen if they were as cheap.

As your literature stated, the technology is out there to reclaim cadmium for reuse.But I failed to find a legitimate recycler for reuse of large nickel cadmium battery components. Small batteries for electronics and flashlights are being recycled, but boy is it hard to find places that will take them. I buy my rechargable flashlight batteries from Solutions in Arcata, California. As of last summer they could not tell me exactly what happens to the batteries that they collect for recycling. Although I can't say so with full certainty I'd bet a dime against a dollar that the cadmium in those cells is not being collected for reuse.Of course, the more NiCd batteries of all types that are sold, the more likely a legitimate reclaim and reuse program will become available.

How about it readers, what have your experiences been with recycling used alkaline batteries of all types? Michael Welch

"No" to Restructuring

Restructuring the electric utility industry is supposed to allow consumers of electricity to enjoy the benefits of free market forces. I believe that restructuring is instead an effort by utilities to maintain control of a rapidly changing industry—an industry they cannot effectively control in the presently regulated environment. Consider the following:

The utilities have us busy restructuring our electric generation business while new distributed generation technologies are rapidly making existing generation obsolete. (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!) Distributed generation (including renewables, fuel cells, and micro-turbines) is so superior in cost, efficiency, and reliability that the value of existing central generation coal and nuclear facilities has already been greatly reduced. What to do in the face of declining asset values? Simple: ask for your money back. On the brink of the distributed generation revolution, utilities are being reimbursed for investments-gone-bad in a scheme called "stranded costs."

What will they do with the trillion or so dollars they'll get back? Well, they've already purchased the rights to nearly all of the most threatening technology: the gas micro-turbine. Now they're lobbying to overturn net metering interconnection laws in an all out effort to suppress the self-generation revolution made possible by new technologies. The key is in preventing access to "their" grid—an asset that we, the ratepayers, have purchased in full.

The powerful monster we call the electric utility was created under an umbrella of regulation, and now deregulation will set this monster free. The utilities desperately want restructuring in order to recover their investments and finance their efforts to control distributed generation. But until our rights to interconnect, self-generate, and net meter are secure, let's just say "no" to utility restructuring. Mark Sardella, Southwest Energy Institute, Santa Fe, NM • [email protected]

Hi Mark. Boy doesn't restructuring just tick you off? I agree with a lot of what you say I would like to clarify a couple of misconceptions that I see regularly First, "dereg" is not something that was instigated by the utilities. Rather, it was begun by the manufacturing industries and other large users that got tired of high rates foisted upon them. Mostly these high rates resulted from utilities' decisions to build the expensive power plants which are now becoming the stranded assets. Utilities used to be paid based on their investments: the more costly the power plant, the more money they made. PUCs should be faulted for allowing this to happen.

Utilities were against deregulation initially because they thought they might lose their cash cows.It was only after they found out they could find an even faster return on their investments by getting paid up front for their stranded assets that they have embraced what was renamed"restructuring."

The question brought to mind by your letter is, "Should we outright oppose electric utility restructuring?" I've been thinking about that. I would like to say yes, but I think that outright opposition is an exercise in futility It would be like trying to stop a speeding train at this point.

The best we can do is to shape restructuring in those states that are working on it Restructuring is also being debated on the national level. Federal laws may eventually supersede some state regulations. The time is now to put the public weight behind campaigns to protect ratepayers and the environment. One such effort is called RAGE (see HP67, page 88). For more info: Public Citizen Critical Mass Energy Project, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003 202-546-4996 • [email protected]www.citizen.org/cmep /rage/ Michael Welch

Steam Power

Dear Home Power, This whole subject may be a bit off the wall, but it has long intrigued me: Do any readers have experience with the use of steam power for off-grid power supply? I have given the subject quite a bit of (casual) analysis, and it seems to me that, at least in certain situations, steam could provide an effective alternative to solar, wind, or hydro.

Before 1900, the use of small, portable steam plants was standard for the uses which we now routinely use internal combustion engine sets. While heavy and cumbersome, they did effectively meet the needs of the time, in several different configurations of horizontal and/or vertical engines and boilers. Even though the fuel to output efficiency of a simple steam power setup is only about 2 percent, I can still see applications where fuel is abundant, in the form of byproducts or waste.

I can visualize a steam powered unit of 2 to 10 hp, say, connected to a suitable DC generator to charge the system batteries for an hour or so a day, removing the onerous task of continual boiler firing. The fire could be either banked, with steam maintained for the rest of the time, or the cold boiler brought up once a day or so (perhaps shared with heating plant duties?).

Certainly equipment sources in this day and age are very scarce. What steam power equipment that is manufactured is either of the light hobby variety, or of the big industrial type. I occasionally see this type of thing show up at industrial auctions, but the equipment is a long way from being operational and probably very unsafe. It seems likely that there are manufacturers with files of old prints and shops that are somewhat obsolete that could fabricate the necessary units. An outstanding example of this is the steam-powered railroad subculture—all the working museums have developed infrastructure and sources of supply to keep their old steam engines functional and safe!

Just some casual thoughts to see if there are any others out there with similar inclination. W. Van Aller, Westminster, MD [email protected]

Hello W., Steam power is not an unfamiliar subject in the pages of Home Power. A quick search of our back issues turned up quite a few mentions of the word "steam." Check out Skip Goebel's article in HP62 for a recent treatment of the subject.Ian Woofenden

Unbiased Information

Dear Richard and the HP crew, I've been with you folks since I found the first issue of HP at the Yreka public library. After reading some of the criticisms in HP68, please allow me to say that nobody puts out a magazine better than you.

Journalism used to be one of the last bastions of unbiased information, an attempt to keep the readership fully informed, so informed choices could be made. Who does this anymore besides you folks? You allow Mr. Wiles the opportunity to present his side of the equation, then Mr. Schultze and the other Wrenches get to state how they perceive the situation. When did open debate become unfair? When did expressing discomfort or disagreement with the decisions made by bureaucrats become improper?

Again, you incredible people do it all: the Wizard exists for those non-linear thinkers who like to push the envelope of conventional thought. Who can say whether there is any "real world" validity or not? We just recently discovered that the world may be round, and that Earth is not the center of the universe.

Kathleen ties it all into "Home and Heart," Ms. Prange, Paul Gipe, and others talk about vehicles, wind, heat, ad infinitum. Please, please, do not be the least deterred by those small souls who must carp about the things that don't appeal to them, hence should not exist. There are always articles in HP that I have little interest in for my own personal needs, but they frequently teach me something nonetheless. Your vision, your willingness to share, and your courage to fight the good fight, place you all head and shoulders above a (it sometimes seems to me) disappointing mass of humanity concerned with only our own desires.

Ian Woofenden and I have talked (on the AWEA list) about using TVs for planters or target practice (although I do watch the odd video from time to time), and the time I would have wasted watching TV is spent reading voraciously. That being said, HP is the only magazine I subscribe to. All the best, and Happy Holidays, Reg Thibodeau, somewhere near Roseburg, OR • [email protected]

Hello Reg, thanks for the praise. We try hard and letters such as yours keep us doing it! Richard Perez

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers

I just bought an inverter and some batteries to connect to some PVs. Yes, this is a backup system, I'm one of those still connected to the grid. But I am very interested in renewable energy and I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV).

Are any of you Home Power people RPCVs, or do you know any RPCVs who are interested in energy? The Energy Committee of the RPCVs for Environment and Development subgroup is interested in contact with you. What are your energy experiences? Can you connect your Peace Corps experience to energy issues?

Interested people can contact David Borton at: 7 Hilltop Road, Troy, NY 12180 • [email protected]

Solar2 Lover

I just got my copy of Solar2. Oh wow! This is the greatest! I have long been a follower of RE and had heard about your magazine in a book called Solo. But through procrastination and everything else...then one day I was surfing the Web for who knows what and I found your site, and you were giving away an E-copy of your magazine. I thought this was too good to be true! but after reading it, I thought, I need to get more of these.

I live in Canada which has a lot of good things going for it but the exchange rate to US$ is not one of them. I'm not sure if you've heard but Canada has a $2 coin but many people joke that we still have a $2 bill and it's called $1US (the exchange rate today was 64.77 cents). Because of this, I chose to spend the money on the CD-ROM instead of a subscription and I have not been sorry.

I hope to build a straw bale house this summer and I will be putting some of the good ideas that I have read to use. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is the best thing that has happened to my computer! John A. Funk

John, thanks for the compliment and you are most welcome!

We worked hard on Solar2. We issued Solar1 but it was just straight text and gif files—no photos and no working electronic index. When Adobe Acrobat came around, we redid the whole CD from the original page layouts. Be sure to check out the working electronic index, it's the way to find specific info.

I hear you on the Can/US exchange rate—we just had to raise the Canadian price on our cover for HP69; otherwise Canadian newsstands would stop carrying us.

Keep me advised on the straw bale building. We just finished a 28 by 20 foot straw bale building and it's performing well (See HP63 and HP64). During a recent cold snap, we had outside temperatures of -4° F at night, and 14° F during the day The straw bale bathhouse had no freeze-ups, and we still had running water Richard Perez

Solar Partners for Pakistan

Dear Mr.Perez! I read HP mag and was quite impressed with the service this mag is providing to mankind. It is extremely awesome. I am sure this great service of providing solutions to energy related problems will save this planet from the disasters of pollution. We living in Pakistan are suffering terribly with the pollution problems as there is no awareness and lack of modern solar technology.

We are the main solar organization here to help promote the power of sun. We would welcome anyone who would help us in solarizing our water pumping system for irrigation, providing some basic lighting system as there is load shedding every day and medical clinic students are suffering badly. We could be able to consider some kind of joint ventures if some entrepreneurs are willing to participate in this help. Sincerely, M Siddiqi, #489- St 2-G11/1, Islamabad, Pakistan [email protected]

Out of the Closet and Onto the Roof Tell the HP gang that it's been a kick watching the "suits" look at the magazine. Their eyes light up like kids looking into a toy store window. Like kids, some just fantasize, some are saving their allowance, some are waiting for their parents to get it for them, some are waiting until they grow up, etc. There are a lot of armchair and closet PVers out there. Joel Davidson, Culver City, CA • [email protected]

Nevada Solar Bozo

I live near Reno, Nevada in the hill country to the north at about 6,000 feet, on 40 acres. A school teacher, I have built a 1000 square foot cabin and use twelve 45 watt ARCOs, twenty-four 2 volt, 8 amp-hour batteries, and a Trace 2024 inverter. I have a home-built wind genny of about 300 watts full tilt, and have built a 24 volt direct charge alternator using a 5 hp Honda. My water comes from a spring in the canyon below using four 45 watt ARCOs and a 12 volt Solar Star pump. It pushes up 400 feet to a storage tank of 3,500 gallons at about 1 gpm.

The cabin has the usual south facing glass, all fluorescent lighting, gravity water pressure, and uses a propane refrigerator, furnace, and water heater. The systems work very well. I use the Honda alternator when using the washer to avoid needless discharge.

By using two Trojan T105s and a C30 Trace controller at the spring with the four ARCOs, I am able to overcome the startup momentum associated with 400 feet of pipe height. When the batteries get low, they are disconnected until the sun recharges them, making water flow again.

I have determined that there is an inverse relationship between the voltage input and the AC voltage output with the Trace inverter. Thinking of the PV panels as current devices steered me to lower my storage voltage to 22 volts. This increased my array efficiency as my current increased. So, I have a perfect marriage of this stuff, so far.

I am using a permanent magnet motor on my wind machine, which is designed to be built easily using hardware store parts. The blade is two pieces of poplar, resin-glued together. I am using a belt drive system with an overdrive ratio of 3:1. One machine has a 6 foot diameter rotor, the other is eight, and both are mounted on 30 foot poles.

I could go on. I really loved the wind machine article in the last issue and also the "do it regardless of who says no" attitude you have. Will Peterson, Sparks, NV • [email protected]

Needs a Load to Start a Load

Dear Editor, We had an interesting few months after our purchase of an Asko washer. We are off-grid and couldn't figure out why this $1,000 machine would not perform consistently. It took months of repairs, phone calls, and replacements before Trace technicians finally admitted that perhaps the solid state electronics in the Asko required a "load equalizer" (like a hair dryer or toaster) to get the washer going.

It's a simple fix, but we'd already rid ourselves of things that draw heavy loads in preparation for our solar home and simple living scheme.

I thought I'd pass along this tip in case other Trace users were thinking of buying an Asko. That washer is, by far, the best an independent home can ask for. It uses less water, power, and detergent than any other washer on the market. Thanks, Susan Carlyle, Barnardsville, North Carolina

Hello, Susan. I suspect that your Trace was going to sleep during low power consumption periods in the Asko's cycle. You have the solution—turn on a small load of at least 16 watts (the lowest wake-up setting available on the Trace) and it will keep the inverter awake while the washer runs. A 25 watt incandescent light bulb, or some similar resistive load should do the trick.You can also program the Trace to stay on with a just couple of button pushes in the "start" menu. Richard Perez

Good Tech Support

Howdy, Great mag! Gotta' deal for ya'—you keep pounding out a great information source, and I'll keep buying it. The ad to article ratio is perfect. Ads are required since they: 1) enable you to keep publishing (this is a good thing), 2) let me make informed decisions on where to buy the really cool products you review, and 3) inform me of products that youse guys haven't got to fondle yet.

Now to the point, I am designing an RE electrical system for my new home. Our current grid usage is about 65 to 75 kWh per day (gas heat, hot water, and stove so this is nearly a pure electrical loading). So, I'm designing to that standard. I've pretty much decided on two Trace 4024s linked together.

After hitting all the information sources I could think of I still had some fairly important unanswered questions. Like, if I link two of these units together, do I get 120 or 240 amps of charging current? Are the outputs of the two inverters in phase or out of phase, and by how much? Will my APC computer UPSs like modified sine waves? Do I need a backup generator that puts out 220 VAC or 120 VAC? Do I split the lines to each unit, or run the same 120 into each? Is there IBM PC (Windows NT preferably) based monitoring and control software? What kind of data link is needed between the PC and the inverter(s)—this tells me how close the PC has to be to the inverter(s), etc.

After reading the latest issue I noticed some less than complimentary comments on Trace's technical support. Bad tech support is not what I want to have to live with for the rest of my time on the planet. So with some (unfounded I might add) trepidation I hit Trace's Web site and got the tech support phone number and dialed it. Within 30 seconds I was connected to a technically competent individual who answered all of my questions and offered some rather innovative alternative solutions to some of my dilemmas. I'm incorporating these solutions into the design. I offered to buy a manual (Trace is currently refurbishing it and as such is not available as an Acrobat file on their Web site) and pay for shipping so I wouldn't keep bugging them on the phone. The tech's comment was, "I'll just drop ya' one in the mail, it'll go out today and it will probably answer most of your questions."

The whole encounter might have lasted 7 to 8 minutes. The tech was polite, competent, unhurried, and expressed a genuine desire to help and educate. All tech support should be this bad (said with all due sarcasm). Now maybe I hit the right guy on the right day but I doubt it—I'm not that lucky. I wish I'd written down the tech's name as he deserves kudos and I would certainly ask for him by name. Suffice to say Trace will at least supply the inverters and control units in my design. Jeff Schlenker, Dover, DE • [email protected]

Hello, Jeff. If you stack two Trace SW series inverters, then you get charging current from both of their battery chargers. In the case of the SW4024 (24 VDC), you get 120 amperes of charging current per inverter, or 240 amperes for two stacked inverters. The output of stacked Trace SW Series inverters will be 180° out of phase, producing 240 VAC across the two inverters. This yields 4 KW per 120 VAC phase, or 8 KW across the 240 VAC output of both inverters. These Trace inverters produce a reasonable facsimile of a sine wave (about 5% THD) and your UPS will easily digest their power. The battery chargers in the Trace SW series will only consume 120 VAC, so get a generator with two big 120 VAC legs (such as our Honda ES6500 with 28 amps per 120 VAC leg). Trace has IBM software for, and a serial port built into, the SW series inverter. Ask for it when you order your inverters. Consult Trace for the details—we are a Mac office and can't use this software. Richard Perez

Trace Tech Support

Dear Home Power staff, I am writing in response to a letter from Tom Elliot in HP68 that was bashing the technical support at Trace Engineering. If your car is not running correctly, you contact the Chevrolet dealer, not General Motors. Trace Engineering is the manufacturer. If a customer has questions on Trace equipment, then the dealers should handle most of the questions and contact Trace on the tough questions. This will force the seller of the equipment (even the mail order houses) to be more knowledgeable on the parts that they sell, and leave Trace to continue to develop new products for us to use. If your dealer is unable or unwilling to give you technical help, find another solar dealer. Trace should not be expected to answer thousands of phone calls from the general public. David Love, Lacey, WA [email protected]

Hi David. I agree and disagree. Folks should be able to rely on their dealers for information, but most of the best installing dealers are small and cannot afford to manage tech support departments, specially for those customers that just bought the equipment, and not the installation/setup. Trace probably agrees with you that, ideally, users should go back to the dealer. But that is not the reality of the situation. Users need to get support from Trace when dealers can't or won't help them. And in this case, even dealers were having troubles getting support from Trace. Happily, Trace has stated they are revamping their tech support. This gives me a good opportunity to correct a spelling error that appeared in the last issue. If folks have troubles getting support from Trace, contact the person in charge of that revamping, Ray Barbee. Michael Welch

Cooling with Soil

I have heard of a method of cooling a home in the summer with large tubes buried in the ground and am seeking information on this alternative. I have had little success. Do you have any suggestions on where to look for information? Thanks, Chris Snyder • [email protected]

Hi Chris. We are primarily electrical geeks, so your question is a little out of our field. Here is what I do know.

Large diameter (six inches or more) aluminum or steel tubes are buried at least six feet deep on the north (or shaded) side of a building. Between three and a dozen tubes are used depending on building size and local climate. Tubes are a minimum of 25 feet long, but much longer is much better Air is very slowly drawn through these tubes by natural convection. Hot air rises and is exhausted from the building's attic vents (which must be oversized for common roof construction). Ambient air enters the pipes and is slowly cooled by the cool earth (about 55° F). The air is filtered and allowed to rise into the building as the hot air flows out of the attic vents. It is a simple setup and uses no electricity, although you could slap a blower on it for faster results.

I know of systems that are using this sort of system in the Southwest USA, and even the folks at Gaviotas in Colombia have one.

Now, you'll need someone with hands-on experience to say exactly how many, how deep, and how long the tubes would need to be for your site and home. Sorry but I don't have a specific person or organization to send you to for more info. How about it, readers, can you help Chris further? Richard Perez

Guerrilla Solar Concerns

Home Power has always promoted safe and legal alternative power systems. So when I saw the articles of Guerrilla Solar I was very concerned.

1. these systems are illegal. 2. These illegal systems are going to kill someone because the power companies are unaware of these systems and cannot take the proper precautions. 3. Equipment fails! All it is going to take is one incident of this stupidity to do major damage to the cause of independent power. Just because progress (for a cause) is slow, does not give any one the right to endanger others.

We have been on solar ten years and have been with HP from the beginning. Why this change away from safety? Claude Morris, McArthur, California

More Guerrilla Solar Concerns

I am really surprised you would promote such an article. I work for a utility but do share many of your beliefs. I don't work on the line equipment but work with the people who do. I have learned enough to know that your 100 watts at 120 volts can easily become 12,000 volts once it is passed through the transformer at your house. That is exactly how your power can be used by others when you have a surplus.

Since I do work on solid state equipment like the AC converter on this module, I do know that they can and will fail. Since this device is connected to the utility, it has a good chance of someday indirectly getting a lightning hit or AC surge that will partially disable it. When an unsuspecting lineman thinks the line is dead and goes to work on it, they will most likely be killed.

For a magazine of your kind that is fighting utilities to get easier access to the grid, this story gives them exactly what they need as an excuse to deny connections to their system. J Stobaugh • [email protected]

Hello Claude and J., If the utility power gets even slightly out of spec, then the grid-intertied inverter jumps off-grid. PG&E was doubtful about "islanding," but after eight months of testing, the Trace inverters were approved for utility intertie. A guerrilla solar system has all the necessary safety gear that is also present in a non-guerrilla system. The only thing missing is utility approval, which hardly affects safety. You are mistaken on the subject of safety here—guerrilla solar systems are safe.

Utilities are already denying small-scale solar producers access to the grid. The whole idea behind guerrilla solar is that if these systems are denied access, then they can go ahead and intertie anyway Richard Perez

Genny DeeCee

How appropriate that you should run this article just as we are on the verge of purchasing a new motor generator. My idea was a Honda 5,000 watt, electric start, propane fueled generator to interface with our Trace SW2512 to charge our 1800 amp hour NiFe at 12 volts.

I have seen the Genny DeeCee in HP, but knew nothing else about its performance and track record. A few questions if you would be so kind to respond:

1. How will the Genny DeeCee do on the NiFe batteries as compared to using the Trace? My Edison manual asks for up to 18.5 VDC, though I've never seen them that high in the 5 years we've had them.

2. Could the Genny DeeCee, with the electric start option, be auto started by the Trace?

3. Could the Trace shut the Genny DeeCee off?

4. Which motor generator system will you continue to use?

We've got snow and six weeks of cloudy weather. I'm running the Genny DeeCee right now! Julie and Mickey Wurl-Koth • [email protected]

Hello Mickey and Julie. The Genny DeeCee (GDC) will go to well over 18.5 VDC with no problem. The GDC is also far better suited to recharging alkaline cells than the Honda/SW2512 combo. I advise against auto starting/stopping any generator, but I imagine that the Trace could do this. The GDC has a timer that will shut the unit off. I continue to use both the GDC and our big Honda ES6500 through the inverter/charger. I use GDC for equalization and when I need less than 100 amps at 12 VDC. When the batteries are way down and I have big loads on, then I move to the larger 120 VAC Honda/charger routine. Richard Perez

Guilt-Free Electronic Edition

Hello Richard, One of the problems we have is that magazines are very expensive to subscribe to here in New Zealand. Although I did subscribe to HP, I have let it lapse because of my current financial position. Downloading each issue is now my HP 'fix.' I must admit to feeling quite guilty though, and have wondered how HP could charge for this service. Please have a look at how other online magazines have done it.

I think this is very fair given the size of the files to download and the ease of use, though there still is nothing quite like picking up some paper. For your information, I can subscribe to another E-zine for US$23.95 and to subscribe to the parent English magazine is US$82 for one year! I do feel you should be charging for the privilege of downloading. Guy Robinson • [email protected]

Hello Guy I'm glad to hear that our electronic edition is working for you. We are going to keep this download free. Don't feel guilty—our mission is to spread the word about RE, not to make money Richard Perez

Safety Equipment Placement

Dear Home Power staff, I have so enjoyed the Home Power articles which have helped many to benefit from renewable energy.

My Solar2 and 3 just came and I am catching up on issues I had not been able to read. In looking at HP58, page 7, I could not help but notice a serious and potentially dangerous problem. The reference to the photo at the bottom of the page says, "...Note the 'safety equipment' on the floor." To the quick observer, this is laudable and a great example to others who wish to protect themselves, their homes and their equipment. On the other hand, when one reads and thinks carefully, this is a very dangerous situation.

In my youth, I thought myself wise for storing a coat hanger in the trunk of my car "in case I lock myself out and need a tool to get in!" I think proper advice to your readers on the choice and location of "safety equipment" would be in order. I just do not see that this would be easy to get at a) because one has to stoop to reach it, and b) because no one should have to run through a fire or hazard to reach the "safety equipment!" Keep up the good work. Doug Warkentin [email protected]

Hello Doug. The safety gear was temporarily placed where it was so that it could appear in the photo. Actually all that stuff is located many feet away, at the entrance to the room. Richard Perez

Letters

Trace C40 Charge Controllers & SW Inverters

Now out of the PV business after twelve years in it, I depend on HP for the latest info on products, players, and trends. Part of that information comes in the form of ads, which present a picture of the growth, change, and "standards" in the various parts of the PV universe.

Your attention to utility-intertied PV is both responsible and shrewd. Not only are you not shunning the philosophically unclean, you realize there are one thousand potential intertied PV users for each potential off-grid user.

Regarding questions about PV's chemical evils and true energy balance, I think 1% of the questioners are concerned and 99% are looking for a reason not to be supportive. Another popular refrain compares the high price of PV electricity to the "low" price of grid electricity. The implication is that anyone choosing to pay for PV electricity is foolish, while anyone choosing to pay for a Lexus is discerning.

My question concerns the use of Trace C40 charge controllers with SW series inverters. Doesn't the SW series include a built-in charger? If so, is the C40 necessary? At least three systems in recent issues have incorporated both a C40 and and a Trace SW series inverter. Got time for a quick explanation? Still subscribed and satisfied after ten years, Dave Lehmicke, Hermosa Beach, California

Hello Dave. I love your comment on PVs and the Lexus! It's all a matter of perspective. To answer your question, the C40 regulates PV modules while the charger in the Trace inverter regulates the 117 VAC output of either your generator or the grid. They are different regulators for different power sources. Richard Perez

CoSEIA Responds

Home Power, Tom Elliot's letter in HP68 severely criticizes the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA) for its solar rebate program for solar domestic hot water systems and grid-intertied PV systems. I feel I must reply to clear up his numerous misleading statements. Rebates of up to $1,000 for the solar domestic hot water systems and up to $2,500 for the grid-intertied systems are available for newly installed systems in Colorado until June of 1999. This rebate isn't available for stand-alone systems, because although still expensive, the stand-alone systems are considered to be cost effective when compared to extending utility power lines. Even with the rebate, the grid-tied systems are still not economical to install. Some people like the technology and want to use it to help clean up the environment. They are willing to pay the price of a grid-intertied system and the CoSEIA rebate helps them a little. This and helping to spur the industry along a bit are the prime purposes of the rebate program.

Tom states "The only thing CoSEIA has to gain is the potential for more work for its members." He also expresses concern about CoSEIA promoting its "narrow self interest" and "narrow self-serving attitude." Sure, CoSEIA is promoting its members and solar energy. After all, isn't that one of the objectives of a trade association? Tom, although not a CoSEIA member, was sent information about the rebate program from the CoSEIA office and invited to participate in the rebate program. CoSEIA

has sent out rebate information to all Colorado people known to them who are involved in the renewable industry. A person need not be a CoSEIA member to participate in the program.

The money for the program became available in mid June, 1998, although the program was not widely advertised until late August. This advertising was in conjunction and cooperation with the annual Parade of Homes where several solar systems had been installed. That's why Tom's comments concerning only $6,000 in rebates being applied for by the end of September are misleading. As of early December, the CoSEIA office has received hundreds of inquiries and has sent out over 500 rebate information packets as a result of those inquires. The grid-intertied systems are still very expensive and the people who buy them are not doing so for economic reasons. But people are buying them.

As to Tom's leading question: "I wonder what they plan to do with all the money they will have left over?" All rebate funds are supplied from the Colorado Office of Energy Conservation and are totally flow-through funds. CoSEIA doesn't get one red cent of these funds. Monetary support for administrating the rebate program has come from Heliotrope General, Heliodyne Inc., Altair, and Trace Engineering. As President of CoSEIA, I thank them very much.

P.S. I'm glad to see you will be considering a different direction for the "Wrench Realities" column. Like it or not, John Wiles brings up good points that need to be addressed. The bottom line, as I see it, is that an installer needs to talk with the electrical inspectors before installing a PV system. Find out what the inspectors are looking for and ask about their interpretation of an NEC article or about a potential problem before it occurs. The criticism aimed at John in the past is of little value. Jon Klima, Rick and Karen Hubbart, Kerry Kalarney, Jeff Brady, Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, 2170 South Parker Road, Suite 263, Denver, CO 80231 • 800-633-9764 • 303-750-9764 • Fax: 303-750-0085 [email protected]www.coseia.org

©1999 Richard and Karen Perez

Richard and Karen Perez

©1999 Richard and Karen Perez

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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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