Rebekah Carpenter: Store your solar energy in the event of a power outage | Community Connections
ITHACA, NY — Twenty years ago, Rebekah Carpenter was offered a contract: to travel through Mali and West Africa, while learning how to install off-grid solar systems.
She took the deal and “20 years later, solar power is an integral part of who I am,” Rebekah said.
Along the way, Rebekah tells us she’s climbed the “solar mountains” through grant changes,
tax incentives, ups and downs, advances in technology and “everyday hard work”.
Her lifestyle, she says, follows her business plan on her off-the-grid, somewhat unconventional farm with creatures, experiences, and travel.
“Some of the major benefits of staying with ownership and contracting have included opportunities to travel, volunteer and teach in Canada, Puerto Rico and, more recently, Haiti, where I have shared my skills with those who have, almost literally,
nothing to their names,” Rebekah said.
She also nurtured relationships with the people she met in 2001 at her first Distributor Festival on the Real Good campus in Hopland, California.
“Integrating new relationships with old ties brings new perspectives, a better understanding of technology, and a continued love of our work,” Rebekah said. “It fueled my drive to maintain a commitment to this often stressful industry.”
The people Rebekah has designed, installed and serviced solar systems for love Rebekah and her sidekick Louis Russell-Cook. The only problem? Rebekah and her team are in high demand. But everyone who has worked with his company, Fingerlakes Renewable, insists the wait is worth it.
Recently, Rebekah and Louis took a look at an arbor covered in “two-sided solar panels” (bifacial – powered by sunlight from above and below the panels). For many years, the arbor panels had powered the family’s electrical needs through generation into the NYSEG grid. But now elderly homeowners wanted to be able to shelter in place in the event of a power outage if the power grid lost power.
Two years after contacting Fingerlakes Renewables, Rebekah excitedly informed the couple that the timing was perfect. “Battery integration is much, much easier than it was two years ago.”
After a lively, informative and hilarious conversation, the plan was sketched out: Rebekah and her team could add a lithium battery via a hybrid inverter to the current system.
The new battery would supply electricity to essential outlets in the house (furnace, some light fixtures and refrigerator) in the event of a power outage.
“The Energy Storage System (ESS) using a hybrid inverter and lithium storage will seamlessly transfer to a dedicated load panel, which will then remain on in the event of a utility/grid outage,” explained Rebekah. “Dedicated loads are designated by the owner as the essentials needed to maintain lights, heat, water and security until power is restored. During a grid failure, the backup battery will continue to be charged by the solar panels, as long as the sun is up! As soon as power is restored, there is an automatic and seamless return to full power. Sometimes homeowners don’t even know there’s been a power outage! In a directly grid-tied solar system, the safety controls in place only allow electricity to be produced when the electrical grid is functional; the solar panels remain inactive otherwise. Until recently, unless you initially installed a battery backup system, the costs and system modifications to add batteries were high. With the advancement of inverter technology and the development and deployment of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, it is now possible to add backup to existing systems with relative ease.
Rebekah said the backup battery would fill up or “recharge” to power essential outlets as more sunlight is collected.
“In rescue mode, the panel will still charge and perform loads,” she said.
How safe is a storage battery in a basement?
“Lithium technology is very safe. It does not contain lead and therefore no lead acid can escape. Lithium batteries do not require venting and there is no thermal runaway.
Rebekah and Louis had to move on to their next appointment, but before they left they mentioned their 10-year, 6,000-cycle warranty, along with Wi-Fi to watch what’s happening in ‘real time’ with the backup battery and the hybrid inverter. system.
As Rebekah and Louis waved goodbye, Rebekah shouted, “Store your solar power in case the power goes out!” A good idea!”
To reach Rebekah and her team, visit the Fingerlakes Renewables website at www.flenergy.com or call 607-327-0053.