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1 Site Search - Quick Index | 2 The Realities of Purchasing On-Line | 3 Why Do Business With Us? | 4 Distributor of IOTA Engineering, Quick Cable and Thin-Lite products | 5 Photovoltaics,Batteries, Cable and Wire | 6 Lumen Outputs of Compact Fluorescent and Incandescent Lights | 7 48 volt D.C. fluorescent lights | 8 Low Voltage DC Lights | 9 Low Voltage DC Lighting | 10 Thin-Lite Emergency Survival Disaster LED lights | 11 DC Compact Fluorescent Screw-in Ballasts & Tubes | 12 DC Compact Fluorescent Screw-in One Piece Lights | 13 Balanced Battery Charging and Dis-Charging by IOTA | 14 Portable & Emergency Fluorescent Light by Flexcharge | 15 DC Fluorescent Inverter Ballasts by IOTA Engineering and Montana Light | 16 Charge Controller Musings | 17 Bogart Engineering SC-2030 Solar Charge Controller | 18 PV Solar charge controllers with night lighting load by Flexcharge | 19 Thinlite Indoor Fluorescent Lights | 19 A - LED Lighting by Thin-Lite | 20 Thinlite Outdoor Lights | 21 Thinlite Replacement Ballasts | 22 Thinlite Replacement Lens - Diffusers | 23 Thinlite DC Lighting Products | 24 DC Lighting | Glossary of Alternative Energy Terms | 25 Parallel and Series Battery Bank Information | 26 What we sell and why. | 27 Amps Volts and Watts | CHARGE CONTROLLERS | 28 Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Notes | 29 Photovoltaic Module & System Wiring - Setting Up A PV System | 30 Wind - Hydro - Solar Charge Controllers by Flexcharge | 31 Water and Air Heating Diversion Loads for Charge Controllers | 32 Maximum Power Point Tracking Solar Charge Controllers by Solar Converters | 33 Solar Converters, Inc. Charge & Lighting Controllers | 34 SES Flexcharge Solar Single or Dual Battery Charge Controllers | 35 Thin-Lite ballast replacement installation guide | 36 Solar Converters Special Solar and Battery Charging Equipment | 37 TriMetric Battery System Monitors and Deltec Co. shunts | 38 Timers,Linear Current Boosters,Photoswitch,Voltage Controlled Switches | 39 Battery Desulphator by Solar Converters, Inc. | 40 Solar Converters, Inc. Products | 41 SES Flexcharge Products | 42 QuickCable links to instock products | 43 Thin-Lite products we stock | 44 DC Fuse & Circuit Breaker Types & Installation | 45 Switches - DC rated wall switches | 46 IOTA Engineering IQ4 Smart Charge Controller Owners Manual | 47 Our own alternative energy systems | 48 DC Fuses, Holders & Fuse Blocks | 49 Class T- DC Fuses & Fuse Blocks | 50 ANN - ANL - CNL DC Fuses & Fuse Blocks | 51 Inverter Cable and Overcurrent Protection Guide | 52 Installation and trouble shooting low voltage d.c. lighting | 53 Diodes - Blocking & Bypass, What do they do? | 54 Low Voltage D.C. Lighting Tips | 55 Your On-Line Privacy | 56 Electric Vehicle and Alternative Energy Battery Disconnects | 57 Thin-Lite Special Order replacement ballasts | 58 Cable and Butt Splices & Connectors | BATTERY POST & TERMINAL CONNECTIONS, ADAPTERS AND BATTERY ACCESSORIES | 59 Battery Post Marine Conversions & Terminal Extensions | 60 Battery Post Connectors Conversions Adapters Repair | 61 Battery Terminal & Post - Cable Lug Covers & Protectors | 62 Heat Shrink Tubing & Cable Lugs by QuickCable | 63 Cable Lugs - Compression Connectors - No Crimping & No Soldering | 64 Heavy Duty Cast Copper Connectors - Lugs | 65 Cable Lugs - Copper Connectors - by Quick Cable - MAX | 66 Cable Lugs - Magna Lug Heavy Duty & Fusion by QuickCable | 67 Anderson SB Connectors | 68 Anderson SB Connector Accessories | 69 Anderson SB Connector Parts | 70 Thin-Lite LED and Fluorescent Comparisons | 71 Overview of Our Photovoltaic Systems | 72 Iota Engineering Battery Chargers / Converters | 73 SAE Connectors, Plugs, Sockets & Cords | 74 Electric Vehicle Power Supplies Converters by IOTA Engineering | 75 DC to DC Voltage Converters & Dimmers by Solar Converters | 76 Universal Generator Starter switch by Solar Converters | 77 Stranded vs Solid Wire in low voltage systems | 78 IOTA Engineering Power and Lighting products | 79 Thin-Lite Ballast Wiring Layouts | 80 Wire & Cable Gauges and Information | 81 TriMetric 2030 and SC-2030 Wiring Layout | 82 DC to DC Voltage Converters | 83 TriMetric 2030 Battery Monitor Features | 84 IOTA Engineering DLS Battery Charger Features | 85 Lighting Systems | 86 Practical Alternative Energy Applications | 87 Portable and Emergency Power Systems | 88 Custom Cables | 89 Thin-Lite Special Order Fluorescent Models & Pricing | 90 Resources for Disaster & Emergency Preparedness | 91 Thin-Lite Special Order LED Light Models & Pricing | 93 My solar / photovoltaic history | 94 Battery Wiring Diagrams | 95 Battery Condition and State of Charge Charts | 96 Order Form | 97 Backup Power? | 98 Energy Expectations | 99 Power Needs Worksheet | 100 Efficiency | 101 Wire Loss Chart | 102 Solar Insolation Map / Chart | 103 Utility Inter-tie | 104 About Us | 105 Statement of Policy & Warranty/Returns | Contact Us | MPPT Charge Controllers - FAQ | Battery Equalizer/DC Autotransformers - FAQ | Constant Voltage Pump Drivers - FAQ | Linear Current Boosters - FAQ | Information | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | NEWS-info links | Home Power Articles | R | P | A | B | C | D
93 My solar / photovoltaic history
I became interested in alternative energy, really solar electricity, around 1963 when I
saw the science fiction movie titled "The Flame Barrier" one Saturday evening on the
local science fiction / horror television show.
My mom let us stay up late on non-school nights.
In the movie "solar batteries" (which looked like spray painted plywood) helped
Arthur Franz save the world from an alien life form that hitched a ride to earth on a satellite.
In 1964 I had saved up enough "cleaning up the truck shop" money to go to a hobby store near
where my dad worked in Long Beach, California.
On a display rack was an International Rectifier experimenters booklet "Selenium Cell and Sun Battery".
It had instructions on different solar electric experiments and in a bubble on the front
cover was an "SM2" selenium cell.
I walked out of the hobbie with empty pockets.
I still have the booklet - the selenium cell was lost a few decades ago (I found an original one
a few years ago to replace it).
Not long after that I was at my Uncle Ben's house in Huntington Beach.
He showed me a Hoffman Solar portable radio - that really got my attention.
Put it in the sun and you get music, shade the top with your hand and the music
stops - pretty cool for an eleven year old.
In the late sixties and early seventies I picked up up a few solar cells and small panels from
Edmond Scientific and a couple of other outfits.
The biggest panel was around five watts.
My interest ebbed and flowed until around 1978 when I bought some "real" solar panels, nowadays
referred to as photovoltaic modules.
They were Solec 12 volt modules (made in Torrance, California) with a rating of about 33 watts each.
The upside was that I finally had some panels that put out some serious power.
The downside was that they cost about a months rent on my apartment for each one.
Christine and I moved in to our house in Long Beach, CA in 1984 and I did not waste any time.
One of the first things we did was mount photovoltaic modules on the roof and hook up some 12 volt d.c.
lights and fans.
If you can believe it, I mounted the batteries in the attic so I did not have to run cables down the walls.
Not much fun when it came time to water the batteries.
Fortunately we did not have any serious earthquakes until after I moved them.
In 2001 I decided to put in a small utility grid-intertie system for giggles.
The system consisted of a 24 volt / 400 watt array which used Evergreen string ribbon modules and
Trace Micro-Sine inter-tie inverters.
Once up on the roof I decided it was time for a re-roof before putting any large modules up in racks.
Off came the panels, and old roofing, and once the new roofing was installed I put together a
400 watt grid-intertie system.
Back then the State of California paid for half of the equipment cost.
The city building inspector and I had to have a sit down so I could explain how the system worked -
he had never inspected a solar electric setup.
As you can see in the picture of the system on page 47, I made up the racks out of stainless steel
square tube to keep a good air space under the panels for cooling - it was handy to have
heli-arc (TIG) equipment on hand.
Shortly thereafter we put up 12 volt panels for new battery based systems.
When we moved out of California we had about 2,500 watts of generating capacity in
one inter-tie system and eight battery based systems.
The battery systems consisted of:
One 48 volt system which used two Morningstar pulse width modulated controllers and
powered up two Exeltech true sine wave inverters.
It also operated a 48 volt d.c. inverter/ballast in an ultra-violet algae control system in our
cobbled up fish pond.
One 24 volt system which used a Solar Converters (PT 48-7) maximum power point tracking
charge controller which powered up a Samlex true sine wave inverter (to run some office equipment),
some 24 volt d.c. lighting and a 24 volt d.c. fan in our office.
A 12 volt system which used two Morningstar pwm (Tri-Star 60) charge controllers, with remote
display monitors, which operated two Exeltech sine wave inverters, storage and stock room lighting
and outside lighting.
Because of the different size and shape of the panels (I had been scrounging them up over the years) I
had to cobble up the racks out of stainless steel cut-offs.
A 12 volt system which used a Flexcharge PV7D controller to light up one stock room and charge a
portable emergency battery pack.
A 12 volt system which used a Flexcharge NCL30L12 charge controller with the dusk to dawn night time
This powered and controlled all of our outdoor security lighting as well as provided lighting for our
packing room and garage.
A 12 volt system which used a Morningstar ProStar 12 (yup, the original U.S. made controller) for
lighting in our office.
A 12 volt system which used a Morningstar SunSaver 20 which powered up attic ventilation in our
house and operated two water pumps which used our laundry water for the landscape in our
front and back yards.
A 12 volt system which used a Flexcharge PV7D controller which ran some outside lighting which
started out as fluorescent and was changed over to LED when the fluorescents (after over twenty
years) finally gave up the ghost, and powered up a waterfall pump.
If you wonder why we had so many different sytems, the question has two answers.
The first is that I put them together based on how much money and time was available.
The second is that it gave me experience with completely different kinds of solar panels, charging/controller
systems, system voltages and battery types.
This is one of the many reasons why I have no time for the "armchair" / "weekend warrior" types
spouting nonsense about solar electricity.
I have spent lots of time and money, as well a picking up a few scars along the way, learning about
solar electric system components, systems design and installations.
It has given me an insight into what works, and just as important - what does not work.
If you would like to see some of our systems before we made the move out of California, please
click onto the following link: