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Jay has been making his own power thanks to a PacWind Delta II vertical-axis wind turbine mounted on the side of the Green Garage's rooftop. But one turbine, albeit a very large one, isn’t nearly enough to keep the lights, air conditioners and numerous shop tools humming along every day, all day. So Jay decided to augment the Delta II with a grid-tied General Electric solar power system.
Solar and wind systems compliment one another nicely. When there’s no sunlight to be captured but the wind is blowing, the turbine will make power. When there’s sunlight but no wind, the solar panels pump out the juice. And when those powerful Santa Ana winds of Southern California kick up on a sunny day, both can really crank out the kilowatts. Jay has found that he can make his own electricity in just about any weather. On one recent day, we learned the last time we were at the garage, Jay had made more power than he consumed—enough to spin his electric meter backwards. But to produce such a significant portion of the energy he uses from sunlight, Jay had to go big. And that’s exactly what he did, thanks to some guidance from GE.
The roof of the garage is covered with 270 solar panels. Each one is a 200-watt GE module—one of the most powerful designs on the market. The whole system produces 54 kilowatts of DC power. That’s enough to serve a good chunk of the energy needs (at least while the sun is shining) of eight to ten average homes. GE says that over the lifetime of the system (about 25 years) Jay will offset close to 3 million pounds of CO2, which, according to GE, would be equivalent to taking 200 cars off the road. GE worked with Premier Power to design and install the system. Like many roof-mounted systems, Jay’s panels are attached to nonpenetrating racks. The panels essentially float on the roof and are less susceptible to high-wind loads than are other mounting systems. A Xantrex inverter converts the DC energy from the solar panels to normal household AC.
One of the coolest features about the system is the Fat Spaniel Technologies Web monitor. Basically, Jay logs onto the company’s Web site, where he tracks just how much energy is being used and how much is being made—daily, weekly or monthly. Everyone at the Green Garage can see, right there on a computer screen, the energy those solar modules are producing. Check back soon for a long-term report on the system.
By Ben Stewart
Photograph by John Lamm
Via: Published on October 26, 2007, Popular Mechanics.