Learn how to become more self-sufficient using solar energy

n Beginning Solar Electric Class set for Sept. 20 in Oregon

The Illinois Renewable Energy Association will present a Beginning Solar Electric Class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at 1230 E. Honey Creek Rd., Oregon. The class is for individuals interested in knowing more about photovoltaics and possibly installing a system for home use. Topics include the following:

n What is pv?

n How does it work?

n What are its advantages?

n What are the components of a standard pv system?

n What does it cost?

n How do I get started?

A highlight of the day will be tours of the property where the class is held. It includes both solar electric installations and ecological restorations.

In 2001, the owners decided to install a few solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to demonstrate to visitors that the technology worked. The idea of being more self-sufficient, especially in the country, also appealed to them. But the house not only had a new roof, it was shaded most of the day. So, in the spring of 1991, they installed 768 watts of Unisolar amorphous panels on an old corn crib. Complete with battery backup—the owners selected eight golf cart batteries, which only need an occasional cleaning, water level check and overcharge to drive sulfur off the plates—and an inverter designed for an installation five times larger. The system worked so well that the following fall they installed another 768 watts. Visitors usually don’t notice the panels, which blend with the building, until they’re pointed out.

This past spring, another 1.6 kilowatts of power were added to another farm outbuilding. Since space was limited, the owners decided to use smaller, more efficient Sharp polycrystalline panels for the third installation.

Before entering the inverter, electricity from the two separate sets of panels passes through their own solar boost, which increases the output 10 to 20 percent. The solar boost numerically displays panel outputs allowing a visual comparison of the two systems.

Still another outbuilding has a stand-alone, D.C. system that could be used for a remote cabin. It consists of two older 30-watt Unisolar panels wired to yield 60 watts, a controller to prevent overcharging or undercharging the battery, and a 12-volt, 100-amp sealed battery. It powers two d.c. compact fluorescent lights and has capacity for running a d.c. radio or TV.

The property also has a 9-acre hillside planted in tallgrass prairie, a 10-acre wet prairie along a small stream, two small dry prairie remnants, 13 acres of recently planted bottomland forest, and 20 acres of woodland which is being restored. Just north of the property lies a 250-acre bottomland forest, one of the last remaining in the region, which was recently purchased by the Natural Land Institute.

While this is targeted as an introductory class, people with more experience are welcome to attend.

Contribution: $30 (includes IREA membership). For more information, contact: * Jeff Green at (815) 469-5334 or email jeffgreen11@attbi.com * Bob & Sonia Vogl at (815) 732-7332 or e-mail sonia@essex1.com.

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