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Publication Title | Guerrilla Solar

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Maka Rukus & Jenny Freely

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It was a bright and calm spring morning. Two shadowy figures emerged from an unmarked van. It

was so plain, so ordinary, that if anyone had been around, they would not have noticed the activity on the otherwise deserted city street.

One person was carrying a long case with a handle. The form quietly stepped across the sidewalk and glanced in both directions. In a graceful, practiced manner, a key was eased into the lock of the building. The figure slipped inside so quickly that it seemed as if no one had even been there.

The other person moved cat-like, gently closing the side door of the van. In through the unlocked door of the building, the second was soon behind the first— carrying a thin but somewhat unwieldy cardboard box about four feet square. It was carried as if it were precious cargo, like an expensive 17th century painting by one of the masters. The door clicked shut, and locked.

They were pros. This was guerrilla solar.

Chapter One

34 Home Power #67 • October / November 1998

Earlier this year, we made a toll-free phone call to Alternative Energy Engineering (AEE) in Redway, California. A new solar product was on the market, and we were excited to check it out. We ordered the new “AC Module.” This 108 Watt 24 Volt PV panel has Trace Engineering’s Micro Sine inverter glued to the back. The inverter box on the module back is not much larger than the junction box itself. The inverter is pre-wired into the module’s junction box, and has a long, thin, four- wire cable coming out of the side. A standard wall plug is wired onto the end of two of the wires, and then inserted into an ac receptacle inside the building.

Our intentions are honorable, but less than legal. We did not tell the utility that we were going to feed homemade electricity back into their power grid. This wasn’t a decision arrived at lightly. Any revolutionary action should have all of the potential consequences weighed carefully before proceeding. In this case, we knew the risks would be minimal—unlike blockading a nuclear power plant where arrest was likely. We felt that the worst scenario would be the utility shutting off our power until we de-installed the illegal PV system.

Safety Isn’t the Issue

Every utility puts high priority on making things safe for

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