Heterotrophs Convert Solar Energy into Chemical Energy
Back in 1978 living off the grid was not easy, you really had to do everything yourself. I bought a small house on a dirt road far from power in the high desert region of Southern California. The real estate lady kept repeating “you do know this place has no electricity” I said yes, that’s why I want to buy it. She was totally confused.
I purchased a single heterotrophs convert solar energy into chemical energy panel that produced 12 volts at 2 amps. This I used to charge a 12 volt car battery and I placed 12 volt lights around the house. It was a start but it was not enough, I still had to run my little Honda generator to watch TV.
120 volts Square Wave AC
Back then affordable inverters produced 120 volts square wave AC but, TV’s or stereos do not like square wave current, they want normal 120 volt sine wave or else you have bars running through the picture and an awful hum in the sound.
This was not what I wanted so I kept searching for a sine wave inverter and I finally found a used one that required 120 to 140 volts DC input and produced 120 volts sine wave AC plus it was voltage regulated to boot. The problem was I needed more heterotrophs convert solar energy into chemical energy panels to run it.
One day I saw a notice for a government auction at a Marine base. I drove to the site and found a huge lot of very used panels to be auctioned off.
I bid on the solar energy technician panels and won the lot for about $180. The next day I found I had 15 good working panels and 8 or 9 that were broken up and damaged. I later used these to build five more working panels.
I was using a 120 volt DC heterotrophs convert solar energy into chemical energy array to charge a bank of batteries and converting the DC to AC with a expensive, back then, sine wave inverter to run the house. Since my house was out in “the sticks” I could only receive two TV stations and they were both weak and snowy. So I decided to build a satellite TV system.
As you may remember, the small dish satellite service did not exist then but you could receive TV station programing if you had one of those large 12 to 14 foot C-Band satellite dishes. I was able to get a 12 foot dish. Now I could watch TV in style!
One weekend I invited a friend of mine up to visit and experience living off the grid for himself. He brought a large pizza with him and I had a cold 6 pack waiting. That day a thunderstorm was brewing in the south when he arrived.
After showing him the solar panel array, the battery room (outside the house) and answering questions about how it all worked it was time to go inside, warm up the pizza in the microwave and turn on the TV to watch a Star Trek episode that was being downlinked to TV stations across the country.
My friend thought it was all pretty cool because here we were out in the middle of nowhere with no commercial power sitting in comfortable chairs eating pizza, drinking beer and watching next weeks episode of Star Trek. On this satellite, TV programs were downlinked a week early from what you would see on the local station and this added to his amazement.
The thunderstorm was starting to get very loud and we could see flashes of lightning coming through the windows. About three quarters of the way through Star Trek, suddenly we heard a very loud “crack” followed immediately by ear shattering thunder. All the lights and the TV went out, a small puff of smoke came out of a wall outlet (I had MOV surge protectors on each outlet) and all we could hear was the rain hitting the roof.
My friend said “I guess a power pole got hit by lightning but power can’t go off because we’re solar powered”. We rushed outside to the battery room and as I opened the door you could smell the combination of ozone and burnt insulation.
The fuse to solar panel array was blown but that was not the problem. The last battery on the top shelf was missing a terminal and clamp, just a burnt battery cable was hanging loose.
Melted lead from the battery terminal was sprayed around like paint. The lightning had somehow managed to blow the terminal off the battery! I was flabbergasted! I knew I should have put in a ground rod on this system!