Archive for October, 2007

Houston, this is tracker base 3, do you copy?

Posted in Solar Power on October 31, 2007 by wizbandit

Tracker base 3 this is Houston, we have you Lima-Charlie…

 Houston, tracker base 3, on final…


 Houston, tracker base 3, request SRC separation…


Tracker base three, you are clear for Sling-Rope-Chain separation…


Roger, Houston, SRC separation in 3-2-1…

Houston, we are clear, tracker base 3 is in position…

(What was that???    I need more sleep…)


Tracker Base Construction

Posted in Solar Power on October 30, 2007 by wizbandit

  I’m a bit late on this weeks update, been making Pasta Sauce for the past few days at the Jam Factory I work at part time down the street.  Their water heater sprung a leak last night and of course my acetylene tank ran out so home around 10pm I was.

  I spent the weekend cutting up some pieces of 3/4″ plywood I rescued from the dumpster across the street during addition construction at my neighbor’s place.  Plywood is so expensive I just could’t let it go to the dump, along with a crap-load of assorted pieces of rebar.  Yes, I’m a construction dumpster-diver.

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650lbs of concrete, 20 feet of rebar and 24 hours later:


  Now I must figure out how to move the 700lb base out to it’s new home on the northeast pasture.

Tinkering Weekend

Posted in Solar Power, Tips-N-Tricks on October 21, 2007 by wizbandit

  Well, the weekend was spent tinkering with the Solar Trackers.  I moved the grid-tie inverter from Tracker #1 to Tracker #2 because #1 has a big hefty mount and with a bit of work I think I can get four more KC-130’s on it.  My new charge controller setup in the garage will use six panel arrays and the trackers are setup to hold just eight now.  The GC-1000 grid-tie inverter takes four panel arrays so eight KC-120’s should run it just right on Tracker #2.

  I re-worked the 12 volt system, actually I overhauled it completely.  I used #16 AWG landscape “zip-cord” this time instead of Mighty Mule electric fence opener wire (49 cents/ft) that I got from Home Depot priced at $18/100ft pack. It’s rated sunlight resistant, direct burial, waterproof and comes in #16 AWG through #12 AWG.  Now PVC j-box prices have skyrocketed in the past few years.  Like over $20 for a 8x8x6, unreal so I spend a lot of time cruising through Home Depot looking for substitutes. What I found is 60amp Square-D pull-out disconnects for $7.50 each, quite a bargain for a weatherproof swing door j-box.  Just pull the (pun) pull-out guts out and you have a nice small weatherproof box, perfect for solar tracker use.

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  I use a 7Ah  Lead Acid gel cell to power the actuators and LEDX controllers.  This battery can be bought for around $20 online but S&H is a killer.  I found Tractor Supply sells it in the Mighty Mule Gate opener section for $18.  The very same battery in the Mighty Mule section of Home Depot sells for over $28. One must shop around to get the best deals.

  You will notice on the middle picture above where the pull-out used to be I bolted in a piece of aluminum and used it to mount two toggle switches.  The one on the left switches the motor from the automatic control to a manual control which is the hole on the right waiting for a ON-OFF-ON toggle switch I have on order.  Once switched over to manual I will be able to move the tracker to the east or west for maintenance.

  The switches at Homedepot were over $5 each.  I found a new place that I buy electronic components from now:  The switches are just 85 cents each.

Here are the switches I have on order:

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Robert Marvin Cleveland… My mentor, My Old Silent Friend.

Posted in My Past on October 16, 2007 by wizbandit

   I received an email from my old time friend and former co-worker Laura Mickler last evening.  Bob Cleveland passed away over the past weekend.

   Bob was my boss when I worked for Waterman Broadcasting in Fort Myers, FL from 1983-1996.  He was my mentor, my teacher, my friend.  No one had a stronger influence on my life than Bob. He set me on my path, he gave me my start in Broadcast Engineering, he taught me the value of doing things right the first time.  The year was 1983, I was young, just 26 years old, foolish, funny, just married and starting a family.  I was working as a Journeyman Electrician on Waterman’s new transmitter building when I met Bob.  Bob was a good talker, in a calm, quiet kind of way.  Very technical, very straight forward with an attempt at humor at times.  We started chatting one day and he seemed really impressed with my knowledge of electronics, mechanics and “the way things work” in general.  A week later Bob approached me and told me he just had an opening in his Engineering Department, would I like a job?   At the time I was working for $10 an hour, not bad for 1983 I guess, he said it would be a “lateral job advancement” which meant he was offering me $10 to move to his staff.  Well, after working for for 6 years as an electrician, in the hot Florida summers, digging trenches for conduits, working in 99 degree ceiling spaces in shopping malls, I decided this might be a better thing for me.

  Over the years, some of the best years of my life, I learned from Bob, just as I did from my own father, I had fun and I divorced my first wife.  The two of us made a great team, working on the Transmitter overnights, boy was that tiring work.  We kept WBBH TV on the air, along with the rest of the great TV-20 Engineering staff which included , Thaddeus Ozenkowski “Oz”, Rich Foley and Dave Kosh.  Later additions to the staff included Mark Statzer, Tom McKleroy and Mike Hildiego. I worked as Transmitter Supervisor for many years and then accepted the position as Engineering Supervisor.

  I left WBBH in the early spring of 1996 when my present wife Linda, an Air Traffic Controller at Page Field in Fort Myers was transferred to Clearwater-Saint Pete Airport.  I spent most of my remaining working career in or near broadcasting, with a brief stint with SONY in 1996.  I worked for Time Warner from 1997-2000 when I decided, at age 43, I needed to retire to stay home and raise our three young children.  Michael, now 17 is on his way to becoming a Professional Electrical & Mechanical Engineer.  Alex now 16, is going to finish high school, get some college in and then come help with the family Solar Electrical Business I now have.  Natalie, my youngest will sadly be “always our little girl”, she is our lovable Downs Syndrome Child, now 14.

   Bob “retired” from WBBH before I left, the year I can’t remember, along with many other things from the past, that’s what I get for accepting my 50th birthday this year.  I tryed a few times to get in touch with Bob but he was a private, removed person in his retirement.

  I will miss him.

Booo Berries…

Posted in Gardening on October 14, 2007 by wizbandit

The blueberries are being readied for their new homes as a hedge inline with the streetlights on the north side of our property.  It was a fairly nice fall day here in Florida, mid 60’s at sunup and a high of 83 during mid-afternoon.

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The concrete slab on the south side of the front porch got off to a good start this morning but stalled as I helped out with the planting of the blueberries and north yard cleanup.

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Grid-tie Inverters on extension cords – NOT

Posted in Solar Power on October 7, 2007 by wizbandit

My Advanced Energy GC-1000 grid tie inverter was not happy on the yellow extension cord I used to get it on-line.  It kept going off on an over current error.  I figure the resistance in the worn out plugs on the cord were to blame.  I ran a piece of #12-2 Romex over to the outlet on the pole I have in my yard and installed a new plug on it.  The inverter is happy now with this temporary arrangement.  I installed a standard power meter so I can monitor the output from the inverter.  I disconnected tracker #2 from the inverter and ran a pair or #8 thhn copper wires 120 feet to the main system in the garage.  My T-80 charge controller is showing 70-80 amps at solar noon now.


Here is the GC-1000 grid-tie inverter.  Advanced Energy is now out of business.


Here is the meter.  The new springs were installed today also. 

Solar Tracker blown over

Posted in Solar Power on October 6, 2007 by wizbandit

Well, it seems the 500lb concrete bases I made for the Solar Trackers were not sufficient for Saturday September 29th, 2007’s high winds.  We had gusts around 40-50mph and they tipped tracker #2 over.  The west most Kyocera KC120 was drove about 12″ into the ground but the whole array survived. I immediatly set out to extend the legs with 75lbs more concrete per leg.

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