Solar Power Conspiracy?

I remember the first time I was exposed to a conspiracy theorist. I was in high school (I think) and my class was at The Sixth Floor Museum and Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like JFK to get a bunch of conspiracy theory wackos to come out of the woodwork, much like a cockroach harassing an office full of writers—not that I know what that’s like.

Anytime I feel like a fill-in-the-blank conspiracy is being blamed for something—whether it’s a “right-wing” or “hipster” that fills in that blank—I always look for something else. A wise man once said if something appears to be either stupid or evil, check again. So few things are either of those. But jumping into private solar energy production has made me wonder if there is a conspiracy going on to keep it out of private hands. Let me explain:


If you’ve ever picked up the instruction manual for a new gaming console, microwave or even an elaborate toy for your kid, you’ll notice that the instructions come in a variety of languages, typically English, Spanish, French and Chinese, but sometimes others as well. And the English is actually good English (I can only assume the other languages are correct and concise—they never provide instructions in the super useful language I took in college: Latin).

Pick up an instruction manual for solar equipment and you’re lucky if it makes sense. (You know, assuming there are actual instructions in there.) Let me back up, my boyfriend and I are building a solar power system at our second house, so this isn’t just me ranting about stuff I don’t have experience with. These gripes are completely legit. Anyway, we have a charge controller—a cool device that keeps your batteries from overcharging and keeps the batteries from discharging too quickly—but purchased a new one that works for 36 amps worth of power. Right now we’re running about 18 amps of power from two solar panels, but we plan to eventually have four panels total (we were thinking ahead.)

We figured that a charge controller that’s rated for 45 to 60 amps of power—that also said it was adjustable for amperage levels in between—would be perfect. What a laugh! First of all, the warnings to have this installed by professional electricians were longer than the actual installation instructions. Second, the instructions didn’t break the steps down for anyone that works outside of the industry. So there’s my boyfriend bent over the power box that houses our batteries and me with a freakin’ thesaurus looking up every other word to figure out what the hell they’re going on about in the “instruction book.” I don’t know if it was due to a bad translation (which is completely possible) or if the proverbial “they” just don’t want people like me setting stuff up, but we seriously threw the controller back in the box and said, “Forget it.” What we have for now is fine.


Talk to an actual industry expert—because I have—and they’ll tell you that the same companies that produce solar panels rarely produce other parts needed to get things going. As an example, we have two Grape Solar panels and a Morningstar charge controller and inverter. The inverter converts DC power coming in from the panels to AC power for use in the house. Now, both of the companies are great, but it would have been really nice if Grape had said something like, “Hey, we don’t make the charge controller and inverter for these, but if you check with such-and-such company, they can hook you up.” I mean, throw me a bone here, guys!


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  1. Companies that make controllers and inverters have been making electronics for a very long time. Solar panels are relatively new and they built to work with easily available, already on the market, electrical equipment. Most solar panels are installed by electricians, because, if you want to connect to the grid and sell power back to the power company, the connection must be made by a licensed electrician, this keeps the grid from collapsing. If you’re off-grid, you can DIY, since there’s no chance you will black out half of the country, but the electrical components will all have plenty of technical specifications.

    1. Jim, you’re right on that account. If you’re on-grid you definitely want a licensed electrician setting things up, but there’s a middle ground between grid-linked solar and the tiny kits you can pick up here and there. And like I said, I’m not a conspiracy theory crazy person, but it does make you wonder.

      1. Progress can be a funny thing, Lowe’s and Home Depot are accepting the “new” light bulbs for recycling. These are the same expensive bulbs that were supposed to be cost efficient because they were going to last for ten years. As we move into the future, we’re still using much of the basic equipment designed by Edison and Tesla. Someone in Atlanta shouldn’t be able to shut down the power to Detroit, just because they hooked up a solar panel incorrectly, but that’s the way the grid is connected.

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