Thursday, November 21, 2013

Preston, Co West Virginia's Newest Power Plant

This old farmstead never had utility power extended out to it.  It's still off-grid, but now it has power thanks to a Bergey wind turbine and solar PV modules mounted on a beautiful custom stainless steel tower that the homeowner built themselves.  The batteries and electronics are in the workshop to the right of the photo and they feed power down to the home (out of view). 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reading Your Net Meter from FirstEnergy (MonPower and Potomac Edison Customer Generators)

The bi-directional meter that I see most often used by FirstEnergy in West Virginia and Maryland is pictured below.  These meters were issued beginning in 2011 ("New Net Meters for First Energy Customers").  The meter rotates through three screens coded 04, 40, 01.  The meter also has a dial emulator which is a series of digital blocks and an arrow which march to the right or left to indicate whether power is being pushed out to the utility or pulled in to the residence.

This photo series is from June 26, 2013 @ 5:30PM.  The dial emulator is pointing to the left which means that our solar modules are pushing power back to FirstEnergy. 

Code 01 = The "Net" kWh that I am billed for

 Code 04 = The kWh pulled from the utility

Code 40 = The kWh that has pushed back to the utility

This style meter makes it easy for meter technician and customer alike to see the exchange of kWh.

Code 04 - Code 40 = Code 01
or, in our example here....
4786 kWh - 2006 kWh = 2779 kWh

Code 01 is really the only  number used for determining how much you owe.  If the value is greater than the prior month then you owe money.  Likewise, if the number is smaller than the previous month you have gained credits and you only owe for the base charge.

It's important to note that the kWh pushed back to the utility (Code 40) is not synonymous with the total power produced by our solar PV system.  Some of the power that we produce is gobbled up immediately in our house - as soon as it is generated, before it even gets to the utility meter..  The leftover solar generation (the excess) is what gets pushed back to the utility.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I was invited to take a look at an off-grid home in Pendelton Co., West Virginia this past weekend.  Imagine running across this in the midst of fields and forests.................!

Our friend Jason recently turned us onto a great website that features special off the grid places like this one from across the globe.  Free Cabin Porn is well worth a look if you like to daydream about being somewhere that is pretty much just awesome.  There are lots of off-grid homes pictured and the site really does feature eye candy that spans our corner of the Appalachians all the way to Austrailia, Norway and beyond. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

History of Off-grid Inverter Companies

Posted at MidNite Solar is the story of off-grid inverter manufacturers in the Northwest U.S.  The story is short, interesting and if you live in a home that is off-grid or has battery backup then you likely have a piece of inverter equipment (Outback, Trace, Xantrex, Schneider) that had its start thanks to these folks.
A Xantrex SW series inverter (top) with an Outback charge controller (right) and breaker enclosures at an off-grid home in Preston County, West Virginia

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Use Creek Water to Power Our House

Some readers of the Charleston Gazette may have caught an op/ed piece by Mickey Janowski back on January 4, 2013.  His home has now been powered for more than 110 days without interruption and with power to spare. 

We use creek water to power our house

I live up a holler that has a nice little creek in Webster County. I'm not connected to the electric grid and for years have used photovoltaic panels for our electricity. During prolonged times of rain, snow and diminished sunlight, I used to have to fire up the nasty, noisy, stinky, fossil fuel generator to recharge the house's deep-cycle batteries.

Not lately. On Oct. 29, the day that Hurricane Sandy's related snowstorm hit (We got just over three feet), my mini hydro-electric generator, the "Stream Engine," began tapping energy of the water flowing down the mountain. Almost three weeks of snowmelt has provided more electricity than we can use. The excess powers a space heater.

I'd like to thank Matt Sherald of PIMBY Energy in Thomas for the electrical work, Marvin Woodie and Larry Agnew from Conn-Weld Industries in Princeton for the design and fabrication of the intake screen, and Paul Cunningham of Energy Systems and Design LTD, builder of the Stream Engine.

It added another aspect as to how I look at the water in my creek. It's power to be converted to electricity, with virtually zero impact on the environment. A little diversion and it's back in the creek. Let it rain (or snow).

Mickey Janowski
Webster Springs  

Mickey getting his feet wet (nice hat!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia

We were flagged down by a screech owl this past summer.  My wife and I were traveling home from looking at a PIMBY job when we saw him kind of standing mid-lane (there was of course only one lane) and waving.

We were astounded and a bit befuddled about what to do.  He was hurt and it was obvious that he wasn't going to fair well if left by the side of the road so we bundled him up and headed toward home.

This was a Friday evening and I remember thinking that we were probably going to have this little fellow until Monday or until he checked out.  But we lucked out and found a fantastic resource in Jo Santiago (Flying Higher LLC) and the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia.  Jo met us at 10PM in a Walmart parking lot and she was immediately able to begin re-hydrating the owl.  The next day, Saturday, she shuttled him to the ACCA in Morgantown where he underwent surgery for two broken legs.

I had no idea that surgery for a wounded bird was even a possibility. Amazing!  Not only that, but there is this really impressive network of dedicated volunteers in West Virginia who can help injured birds.  I brought home a copy of our county paper last week and was pleased to see a photo of Jo helping to release a red-shouldered hawk that she and the ACCA had been able to help.

Our little screech owl died.  The trauma to his head etc just proved to be too much.  They really are such wonderful delicate creatures.  Despite the sad end we were really heartened to have found such a great group of people in our state.  If you find an injured bird call the hotline (304) 906-5438.  Last year the ACCA treated 40 different species (about 120 birds total).