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.
PAIRING UP PARTS GETS COMPLICATED
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!