Monday, December 8, 2014

Solar Panels: What About Hail.........?

I just worked on a solar PV install with a group of students in GreenWorks!, a club at Davis & Elkins College.  As with other jobs I was asked about the durability of the solar PV modules.  The modules somewhat  resemble big windows so I think people are curious about how well they will hold up to wind, snow and my favorite, "What about hail....?"
SolarWorld created a fun video that highlights the stresses that their modules can withstand.

Monday, November 24, 2014

JP Auclair - My Mother-in-Law's Favorite Post

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.
My mother-in-law visited recently.  She's the best.
With her arrival came some of the first flakes of the season and she shared that not only did she love the JP Auclair "Street Segment" video that I linked to years ago, but she also had found a great video that focused on the making of the "Street Segment".  My mother-in-law doesn't even ski!

The Creative Seggy: Behind the Scenes of the "JP Auclair Street Segment" from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

RIP JP.  Thanks!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Energiewende - The Energy Transition

"Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset."

New York Times - September 13, 2014

My parents sent me this article.  It is very good.  If you are interested in reading the whole piece you can click here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Triple Tracker Turns in 70K

Richard wrote on Halloween to note the 5-year anniversary of his solar PV power plant.  This was a fun project, and worth revisiting here on the blog.  The system is connected to Dominion Power's transmission system in Goochland Co. VA and has now generated more than 70,000 kWh.

The full post on the project which uses three dual-axis trackers from Array Technologies, SolarWorld PV modules, and SMA SunnyBoy inverter equipment was posted in September of 2011.  You can check it out by clicking here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Solar Saturday (morning) in Frostburg, MD!

The City of Frostburg is hosting Solar Saturday in Frostburg on
Saturday, October 18, 2014, from 9 AM until Noon at City Place, 14
South Water Street. The event is designed to promote the growing
use of Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels in the Frostburg area with a
primary focus on residential use and additional perspectives from
commercial and other users. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LED Lighting Retrofit with D&E College GreenWorks!

I was asked to help the GreenWorks! club at D&E College replace a metal halide lamp at the entrance to the Eshleman Science Center.  GreenWorks! wanted to use an LED fixture that would consume less energy and they also wanted to add a light under the causeway to make it easier for pedestrians to see the stairs that wrap down and around the corner of the building.

Members from D&E's GreenWorks! club are shown here installing the two new LED fixtures and the conduit that connects them.  The club members installed a photo sensor on the light above the door to control the operation of both lights.

Here is the final product.  The replacement LED fixture is low-profile and blends in with the exterior of the building.  The club members did a really nice job of running conduit along the exterior to the second  light under the causeway.

Rob Orr, who is a club member, took these photos at night to illustrate the quantity and quality of the light produced by the new LED fixtures.  This light color is more white than the original metal halide fixture.  The metal halide fixture only illuminated the area in front of the entrance doors.  It was rated as a 130-watt bulb.  The LED that took its place consumes 10 watts and the new LED fixture under the causeway uses 30 watts.
Pretty cool!  Something else that is cool is that the Eshleman Science Center has grade-level entrances for each of its four floors.  That's impressive!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vacation Off-the-grid in Pendleton Co., West Virginia

Cowger Guest House 

& Rustic Camping Area

The Cowger Guesthouse (near Ft. Seybert, WV) is a beautiful log cabin dating from the early 1800's.  It sits amongst 1,000 acres of woods and is just a stones throw from the South Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac.  For whitewater enthusiasts, this is the last dwelling before you enter the Milam gorge (see whitewater boating pics here).

The owners, Larry and Sandra, remodeled the cabin in 2007.  It is comfortable and remote - almost a mile from a paved road with no cell phone reception or internet.  Electricity is supplied by a solar PV system installed by PIMBY.  The solar powers lights, the refrigerator, well pump, and other small appliances.  You can read more about the cabin and its rental terms at or by clicking the link here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Welcoming Spring with a Bergey XL.1 Install in Highland County, VA

Really this project should have wrapped up in late October of 2013, but delays on the part of the tower manufacturer had us wearing neoprene boots and brrrrr suits as we finished the install just in time for the 2014 Highland Maple Festival

This Bergey wind turbine replaces an ARE110 that was damaged several summers ago in the Derecho wind and rain events that moved through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.  Keith (who took this photo) and his wife Polly live off the grid in Highland County, VA.  The Bergey XL.1 is smaller than the ARE110, but it seems to be doing a good job of maintaining battery voltage through the night time when the solar sleeps and the radiant heat runs.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Water is life. Keep it clean."
You can get a bumper sticker like the above from the West Virginia Sierra Club.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2014: Resolving to Be Better to My Batteries

With the advent of the new year it's a good time to give your flooded lead acid batteries a little love; maybe not the kind of love one seeks beneath the mistletoe, but something akin to opening the battery box and casting a glance down each cell.


I started the new year by topping off all of the cells in our battery bank.  I couldn't remember when I last checked them but it must have been a while because they were certainly thirsty.  Some of my customers with off-grid or battery backup systems have inspired me to do better in 2014.  Many keep a notepad or tablet by their battery box for the sake of recording each watering and equalize session.

Batteries are a little like plants on your windowsill.  They will treat you well if you give them a little care from time to time.  We have some beautiful orchids that my wife waters and feeds.  She takes good care of them and they keep returning blooms (even now in the dead of winter!).  Determining the condition of batteries in a box isn't as simple as a glance at the windowsill, but a diary of care that's easy to pickup and look through can be a good start toward that regular maintenance.

Ron is one of the people who I always think of when my mind wanders to examples of battery care excellence.  He lives way off the grid in West Virginia.