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The Bank Is Back!

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

It took more than a month to replace the battery bank for my little solar power system due to snow storms slowing shipping lanes and Thanksgiving holiday, but the experience was worth it. It led to discovery of a local business with a cool backstory of success from the 1970s. Having established and operated my own little company in a remote, off-grid location powered by abundant New Mexico sunshine, I could relate. I have only been in business 12 years at the time of this blogpost. Micah's company was coming up on its 40th year in the solar power industry.

So I bought this new set of batteries from his company in Taos which has been in the solar power business since 1979. In 1978, its founder, Micah Weinman, somehow latched onto some of Jimmy Carter's solar panels to power his cabin after Ronald Regan yanked them off the White House roof in a symbolic demonstration against alternative energy industries development. In his grand wisdom, he also gutted research and dev budgets for renewable energy at the brand spanking new U.S. Department of Energy and eliminated tax breaks for deployment of wind and solar technologies. Boy was he a fully owned subsidiary of the petroleum companies, but none of that deterred Micah. Instead, he apparently found opportunity in it as acquaintances began asking him for assistance setting up their own off grid power systems. A couple of years later, he started doing it as a business.

I remember reading about all of Regan's political theater rigamarole over the panels while attending engineering school and wondered what would happen to them after the narrow-minded old coot did his petty bit for oil industry moguls and international news media. I hoped they wouldn't be hauled to some land fill or dumped from a garbage barge into the Atlantic ocean. Finally finding out they were actually put to good use is satisfying. Finding it led to establishment of a local solar power company was encouraging.

I decided I wanted to do business with the intrepid electrical engineer's late-seventies alternative energy startup company just 50 miles over the mountains (35 as the crow flies). It's a beautiful drive to and from Taos (still wish I could fly like a crow instead, though) always worth the time and fuel for any reason. This battery bank would be the first purchase from PPC Solar of Taos, New Mexico with more to come.

I also learned a lot of things I still didn't know about preparing and managing a deep cycle lead acid battery bank properly. I had pretty much just winged it on the first set, connecting them to PVA charge controller and inverter/charger and putting them to use sort of willy nilly, without much thought to their care and feeding beyond an occasional equalization charge and adding water as needed. I didn't even understand that 50% depth of discharge (the minimum voltage a battery bank like this should ever be discharged to) is 12.2 volts. I regularly discharged the first bank to 12.0v and a few times as low as 11.4v not knowing what damage it was causing to the batteries over the 14 years they were in use.

This new bank has been properly bulk and absorb phase charged and equalized before connecting any load to them. Equalization charges will be performed at least once a month and possibly twice a month if I start running the batteries through frequent charge/discharge cycles. I meant to ask Andy at PPC Solar about using a desulfator on them or if just doing regular equalization charges is enough.

Have to remember to do that next time I go buy more stuff from them.

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