Oasis Montana Inc.
Renewable Energy Supply and Design
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Having sold these alternate energy goods for 10 years, I finally installed my system in January!  Nine years ago I'd purchased eight MSX60s (Solarex 60W modules) and had slowly been acquiring the other basic components.  They sure looked fine in a pile in the garage….  And while I didn't think the world was going to come to an end because of Y2K, I planned to have my back-up system in place by Jan. 1, 2000, "just in case"; however, a very bad bout of the flu put the actual installation off until late January.  Let me tell you--the sun (here in January on the western side of the divide) sure didn't put much power in my battery bank--some days my 480W array put a total of 150 watts into my sixteen 6V batteries.  UGH!  I'd gotten the batteries in mid-December, and wanted  to bring them up to a full state of charge as soon as possible.

     It took 2 1/2 weeks until the LED on my Trace C40 regulator was "solid green" (indicating full charge status).  But now, at this writing (in May), the system is running my ConServ 'fridge, a compact fluorescent light, and computer (with printer, scanner) three to six days a week.  Funny thing about this solar stuff, it seems to require relatively sunny conditions….
SYSTEM COMPONENTS:  Eight MSX 60 watt modules, two 4X mount structures, 70A breaker box with breaker and SOV (surge protector), ground rod, class R Fuses and holder, Trace C40 Regulator with digital volt meter, 16 Surrette (Rolls) 6V, 438 amphour batteries, custom cables (including inverter cables, all made by yours truly), safety disconnect, 110A class T fuse, Trace DR1524 inverter, and of course, wire runs, wire nuts and basic miscellaneous stuff..  I bought a QO breaker box for my AC distribution center, with a line to my refrigerator, computers, and upstairs to the stereo/TV "entertainment center"; I still need to add a line in my garage so I have a solar-powered outlet there.  We also have a line on our back deck for the boom box.
     I built a battery box out of plywood, sealed and stained it (figuring if I have to look at it for 8 to 10 years, it may as well look nice), with a long stack that very successfully vents any battery gas.  The top of the stack is painted black and is in full sun, so if it's charging, it's also venting.  I mounted (to the wall of my shop) the inverter, fuses, disconnects and AC distribution center on a stained 3/4" piece of plywood.
    Module mounting:  the staff and I bolted four modules to the 4X mount structures, and we hung them off the front of the office.  But I must digress!  First, we bolted two rows of 2"x 8"s where the top and bottom feet of the mounts rested--we knew they weren't going to be able to land on any studs or joists, and we have high winds here on the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains--usually in excess of 80 mph every year--so we took special care to lag them in very securely (see above right photo).  You can hang off the mount structures and you can't even wiggle them, so we feel we did a good job.  I had the "feet" for the mount structures custom made at a local metal fabricators; the rest of the mounts were anodized aluminum that had been pre-drilled for these modules.  The basic wiring went easy--though I am still intimidated by the battery bank.  Whew!  One dropped wrench and it could give you a whole new perspective!  With sixteen of the Surrette CH375 batteries, at the 100 hour rate I have about 1700 amphours of battery capacity--or, in more simple terms, about 4000 watt-hours per day of usage for five days, to 50% depth of discharge.  So if my batteries are fat and the power goes out, I can run my efficient refrigerator for maybe 10 days--plus a couple of small lights and my computer (or stereo, or TV) for a few hours a day.  As an engineer friend of mine put it--"a big UPS system!".
     WHY DO THIS WHEN I'M ON THE GRID?   I oppose the promotion of nuclear and coal-based utility power as a fix for meeting future projected energy demands.  I believe there are other alternatives that will be cost-effective if and when many people (and industries and politicians) "buy" into it; we still worship the great god of oil interests in this country.  We are not paying for the real cost of utility power at this time.  Who's paying for acid rain?  Nuclear waste disposal (a very bad game of hot potato)?  Ruined salmon runs?  Strip mining?  Lifestyle choices DO make a difference--simple things like using compact fluorescent lights instead of incandescents, recycling, utilizing low flow shower heads, energy efficient refrigerators and freezers, better mileage or alternative vehicles….so, to wrap this up, making part of my power requirements for my home and office is at least a contribution to the cause.  How can I sell alternative energy to someone if I can't sell it to myself?
     There's a great future of solar, wind and fuel cell technology fast approaching.  I am glad to be a part of it, and will do my best to promote the cause.  And I encourage YOU, the "end user" to see what options exist in your part of the world, whether it be financing options, efficient electrical devices, or by purchasing green power.  One thing I've learned about life in general is "there are ALWAYS more options than you think"--you just need to explore the possibilities!   Okay, I'm rambling--but thanks for listening, I'll get off the soapbox now.  --Chris Daum of Oasis Montana

"We Had To Have A Seminar On How To Use A Screwdriver…."
The Guatemalan Project By YONOSE Foundation  (pronounced YOH-NOH-SAY)
--says Bob Watters, director and co-founder of the YONOSE Foundation.  The project:  to install a solar-powered system to support lights and a refrigerator for the health clinic in the remote village of El Tesoro, located in the mountains of Guatemala. 
     The project began in a 1989 Nissan 4 wheel drive pickup, with the project's solar modules (three Kyocera 120W modules) mounted to the roof, and the batteries (four 6V Surrette CH375s) and other gear crammed into the camper.  They drove six days, through New Mexico, to McAllen, Texas, and through Mexico, along the Caribbean coast.  On the fifth day, the travelers crossed into Guatemala.  They went to the city of Coban, and from there took a small Cessna plane to the remote village.  El Tesoro is 20 miles from the nearest road, and thus is accessible only by foot, horseback or airplane.
     El Tesoro is home to about 450 Quiche' speaking Mayan families.  They're now rebuilding their lives, recovering from the "scorched-earth" campaigns of the Guatemalan military in the early 1980s.  These massacres left half of their population murdered or victim to disease and hunger.
     These people have no amenities that we are familiar with--no electricity, no indoor plambing; they raise what they eat, mostly maize, black beans, and occasionally eggs.  Despite being shy, the people are extremely friendly.  "They are the most cheerful people I have ever met", says Watters.  "I am convinced that it is because they don't know what they don't have.  And what they do have now is the best they ever had."
     The villagers were very willing to help and eager to learn--though they had never seen a screwdriver, wrench or even a screw!  The YONOSE team stayed two nights and a day at the village to complete the project; the installation went well and according to schedule.  The modules and four batteries were wired to provide constant DC power for lights and a small refrigerator.  The team educated one lone electrician for any troubleshooting that might be needed.
     Bob Watters said the project was such a success that the founders of the project are considering another for the same village.  But Watters commented that he'd be bringing his own food and water next time; "They barely have enough for themselves; I don't want to take from them."

The YONOSE Foundation was formed as a non-profit organization to conduct research on the practical application of existing technologies to the solution of problems faced by geographically isolated or technologically challenged communities. These would include ecology, energy, health and education concerns. It is our wish to be instrumental in the expanded use of renewable resources and inexpensive technologies to foster independence and raise the quality of life of disadvantaged persons.  For more information about the YONOSE Foundation, see their web site at   www.yonose.org

Setting the modules on a pole mount in El Tesoro.     Modules, batteries and regulator supplied by Oasis Montana Inc.

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