(oil) free at last

On April 25, 2018 our long held dream of becoming free from oil finally came true! (https://orcalab.org/2017/04/22/orcalabs-push-to-become-oil-free/).

After a stormy ocean prevented us from arriving on April 20th, we landed our crew and equipment on Hanson Island early in the morning on April 21st.  The next 4 days saw a hive of activity, as plans were reviewed and adjusted, conduit and cables laid, metal cut, framing for solar panels constructed, panels carefully laid in place and wired, connecting to a big new combiner box.  The existing solar array was reconfigured, joining the new array in connecting to a new solar controller as well as an existing one.  By the time the job was done, we had doubled our solar capacity, from 3 kw to 6 kw.  As an added bonus, Mike and Clay figured out how to install a 48 to 12 VDC converter that runs the DC part of our Lab.  Brilliant!  Helena kept the crew happy, producing breakfast lunch and dinner for 13 in her usual impeccable style, much appreciated by all.  The days were sunny, which of course helped a lot, but we haven’t had to run a generator since the installation and don’t expect to over the summer months ahead.  In addition to increasing our solar capacity, we added wind energy in the form of a “Superwind” windmill that takes advantage of the southeast winds that blow during winter months.   The upshot of all the effort was a new look to our Lab, and a demonstration of the potential for using alternate energy sources to power our increasingly complex lives.

We have many people and groups to thank for their roles in our energy upgrade project. Veridian Energy Cooperative based in Duncan BC was incredibly generous in providing us with their time and expertise, as well as sourcing the materials and equipment we needed:  Eric Smiley made a planning site visit in February; Kuan Jian-foo put the plans and equipment together; and electricians Mike Isbrucker and Clay Fischer led the installation team.  ELSE (Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy) found funding and equipment as well as volunteers for the design and installation phases. Toronto’s Bullfrog Power and Vancouver’s Great Climate Race provided funding.  The windmill was donated by Mission Critical Energy in Amherst, New York; the new solar panels were donated by Panasonic Canada, and the existing ones by Canadian Solar Industries.  Mike Durban installed the windmill; David & Barbara Howitt, along with Mark McCallum and Else volunteers Nathan Mosely and Spencer Chaisson aided by ELSE’s Jonathan Game & Jesse Fraser and Bullfrog’s Dave Borins worked on all the nuts and bolts of the installation.  Film maker Farhan Umedaly (Vovo Productions) documented everything. St. Lawrence College’s Steve Lapp was involved in planning from the start, and Paul McKay funded new batteries. It’s a very long list, and we are grateful beyond words to everyone involved!

A word of caution, though not to dampen our enthusiasm for the progress we’ve made.   We still run boats and a car that depend on fossil fuels.  In the next iteration of our quest, we will work on these.

by Paul Spong

April 29, 2018





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