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From an Editor's Notebook: Positive Feedback Central Goes Solar

08-27-2020 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 111

PF Central…River City and up the Hill…has finally made the investment and switchover to solar power.  (Photograph and image processing by Ye Olde Editor)

High-end audio does draw electricity. In some cases (e.g., Pure Class A electronics in particular), a lot of power. Summertime listening also puts a load on air conditioning, while leaving key components like preamps, players, and DACs online full-time, also ups the power baseline of your household. When you add TVs/video, multimedia/surround systems, and outdoor audio, the load can become pretty substantial.

This has been a concern of mine for years. In a time of significant climate change and the warming ways of the planet over time, it should be a concern of all of us. In fact, Dave and Carol Clark, our PF partners in Long Beach, CA, went to solar a number of years ago. I've been wanting to join them in making the same move for a long time now, being quite convinced of the rightness of this investment.

But what to do about it?

Well, after several years of research, PF Central has now upgraded to a powerful solar system to provide a great majority of its electricity. The new solar structure was designed and installed by Blue Raven Solar (https://blueravensolar.com/), a very large US solar power company.

But there's a story behind this now-completed project. This isn't the first time that I was seriously seeking a solar power solution. Some four years ago, I drilled deeply into a leased package that initially looked promising, but which failed a deeper ROI analysis. They simply weren't providing enough power (only 26% of annual-average monthly usage) for it to be worth the out-of-pocket expenditure.

The Blue Raven Solar package was quite different, these four years later. Instead of a leased package, which was not popular with our Home Owners' Association (HOA), this was a fully-owned system. And instead of offering only 26% of annual-average monthly usage, Blue Raven's more ambitious design with its state-of-the-art micro-inverting and individually computer-monitored panels is projected to provide an annual-average monthly of approximately 90%(!) of our power. The design is a 13.8kWh (kilowatt hours)…pretty potent, and worth the investment. Also included:  a smart thermostat for integrated HVAC control, and high-efficiency light bulbs for the entire house…very helpful touches.

A 25-year no-hassle warranty on the solar panels; a ten-year warranty on the installation. Matte black solar panels (see photograph above) with no aluminum frames showing…slide-in panels, each with its own micro-inverter and monitoring computer…very sharp looking and quite unobtrusive. I was quite pleased with the look and feel of the system.

As it turned out, the monthly payments on the purchased system were a near-wash with our current payments to PGE for the electricity alone. This made the choice very simple…why not make payments to an asset that we would own, instead of to PGE? So, we proceeded with this project.

The research, discussion, planning, HOA/county reviews, and permitting took about three months. The installation of the solar panels themselves was a two-day three-man team project, followed by the final county inspection.

After that came the arrival of PGE to install the new Netflex bi-directional meter, and supervise the official switch-in of the solar power, which was done within 15 minutes.

For times of power over-production, the Netflex meter sends the excess flow to PGE. We receive credits for excess power in PGE's "Virtual Battery" program, which allows us to accumulate power credits that we can use up during the less productive times of the year. We also have the ability to monitor our solar power production continuously if we wish.

Overall, this is a powerful and very intelligent solar power design. It will allow us to do the work of evaluation here at PF Central while actually decreasing our power draw, thus reducing our carbon footprint.

And that's a good thing, one that audiophiles everywhere should be considering. During audio's "Golden Age" (which is certainly what we are in the midst of), it behooves us to give thought to the power that high-end audio requires, and to do everything possible to offset that demand.

"Man with Explosions and Centers of Illumination Within" (Drawing by Dan Zimmerman)

Let our fine music flow in good conscience….

Photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson, except portrait of Ye Olde Editor with pipe, by John Robinson; drawing by Dan Zimmerman.