Sunday, July 24, 2011

10 Non-Travel Resources To Help You Travel Better

Recently back from a long month of non-stop PV training in the mountains, my thoughts naturally turn again to travel... that bug is always lying dormant right there at the surface, & I'm fairly obsessed with each & every nuance of travel. I came across this article by Boots & All while browsing my Travel RSS, & found that the advice is not only helpful for planning a 'Round The World' (RTW) trip, but in the organization of everyday life. It's so helpful, in fact, that I felt the need to save & share it. Check it out ~ I bet it'll rustle your travel &/or organization bug, too:

10 Non-Travel Resources To Help You Travel Better: "

Planning a RTW trip is a time consuming process, and travelers are always looking for ways to make their planning and traveling easier. In this technological age we live in, there are countless resources that can help us stay organized while planning a trip of this magnitude, and there are plenty more to help us once we’re on the road for an extended length of time.

Being able to accurately keep up with the budget, storing photos and music and books online, backing up our computers, and keeping up with friends and family back home are all aspects of a RTW trip made easier by the advance in technology.

Not all of the following 10 items were made with travel in mind, but these tactics and resources can help any long term traveler stay organized and in touch while on the road.

1. Evernote

This list is not in order of awesomeness, but if it was, Evernote would probably be at or near the top. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Workweek, referenced this app in his best-selling book. After checking it out and playing around with it, I am now addicted. You can access Evernote via a mobile phone app, on your desktop, and online.

Evernote is basically a note-taking, organizational, and storage system that can hold just about anything. Snap a photo with your phone, upload to Evernote, tag it, and any word in the photo is searchable. You can snap pictures of things like business cards and even handwritten notes, and then store them in Evernote with appropriate tags to keep them organized. The words in handwritten notes are even searchable, and between that, the tags, and the various notebooks you can create, it makes it super easy to find anything you have uploaded, even when you have thousands and thousands of notes! No need for a mess of post it notes scattered about your home or office again.

For travel, this can come in handy in a variety of ways. Many travelers are constantly jotting down notes in random places-notebooks, guidebooks, random pieces of paper, napkins, whatever we can get our hands on. If traveling with a smart phone, you can get rid of all the paper clutter. Someone suggests a great hotel? Open the Evernote app, type the name in, tag it, put it in the appropriate notebook, and bang, it’s available via your phone, on your desktop, or online at your account on See a yummy looking menu while walking around? Snap a photo of it, tag it, and you have a reminder for later, complete with the menu and address. Evernote has changed not only how organized I am in my travels, but also in my daily life.

...see the rest of the article here.

Check out Boots & All @

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grid-Direct Design & the NEC

Aaaaaahhhhhh the Grid-Direct Design & NEC class.... sigh.... such memories. This was a course to remember if ever there was one.

If only I could.

But I can't. I can't remember much of what I learned in the class because it was completely over my head. This class literally made me want to cry. The NEC (National Electric Code) Book is one of THE most terrifying things to ever be published, & getting to know it up close & personal has been an outright fright-show. Don't get me wrong, it all makes sense... all the sense of a psychiatrist prescribing meds to a junkie ~ I just didn't know I'd have to get my psych degree AND slam China White just learn to install PV! How could I know I'd have to memorize an 800-page code book before I get to climb up on a roof & hook up some solar panels?!?

But I won't despair.... I'll make it... It'll be a long tough road, but I'll pass that NABCEP exam if it's the last thing I do. And besides, you don't want people up on your roof who don't know what they're doing, right?? Well... rest assured that your credentialed PV installers know their stuff... & lots of supplementary numbers & in-depth math equations to go along with it.

These 2 women, who seemed so normal & sane during the previous installation class in Paonia, genuinely LOVE every aspect of PV design & the National Electric Code (NEC). And boy do they know their stuff. Amazingly well-informed & freakishly passionate about the topic, I can't imagine this class better taught by anyone else. Freaks though they may be...

Porn for the NEC-lover.

The Third Street Center in Carbondale, CO is a renovated elementary school turned earthy-groovy nonprofit center that houses a variety of regional artists, nonprofits & environmentally-minded for-profit organizations related to community collaboration.

The Third St. Cafe offers awesome coffee & tasty treats, with a cute little outdoor sitting area in the summer months. Very cute & small-town-homey.

The solar array on top of the Third Street Center, along with vented skylights & abundant recycling efforts power the majority of the building's electric needs.

Whitney O. (A) performs a popular rendition of the official Yosemite Sam Happy Solar Dance.

Students check out the inverter bank that converts this massive solar array's DC energy into AC power to be used in 'our world'.

The class took a little field trip to visit a local organization called SunSense Solar, who has been designing & installing residential, commercial & community solar power for the past 20 years. (

This huge array consists of 756 modules: 18 42-module sub-arrays, with 14 modules per string & powers the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) - a college-preparatory boarding & day school for high school kids in the area. The Jossman Building, which houses the CRMS Humanities Program, will use one third of the power, & the rest will be purchased by Xcel Energy and distributed to customers in Carbondale.

Isaac Ellis of SunSense gives us the low-down on the overall functionality of the array, which was installed in 2008 & is monitored closely online & in person.

This is one of 3 Sunny Boy inverter towers, each with 6 inverters; 3 strings per inverter. The Sunny Boys are unique in that they provide constant online tracking of the system's productivity, & will alert both customer & client via email when there is a significant change in power output.

A view of Mt. Sopris from the back side of the solar array.
Carbondale's pretty.

A much needed break taken with live music & picnic-ing at the lovely Two Rivers Park in the nearby town of Glenwood Springs.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Women's Solar Electric Lab Week

The Women's Solar Lab has been my favorite Solar Energy International (SEI) class thus far, & not just because it was a class of women taught by women (which I won't deny was a nice change in perspective), but because these women knew their stuff & we all worked together beautifully.

7 students installed 3 complete PV systems in 5 days, instructed by 3 very knowledgeable trainers @ SEI's solar education facility located just outside the tiny & beautiful mountain town of Paonia, CO. A gorgeous & functional training center, SEI-Paonia offers a expansive landscape of solar panel arrays & assembly structures, as well as outdoor classrooms, circuit panel demo dashboards & various other solar devices such as solar ovens, thermal water heaters, dryers, & even a solar work truck.

After a brief introduction & overview, the ladies got right to it, & it was 5 full days of hands-on work in the bright Paonia sun that resulted in the assembly & wiring of a 1) an 8-panel ballasted roof mount, 2) an 8-panel pole mount, & 3) a 10-panel enphase slanted roof system. There's nothin' like doin', & I we all learned a helluva lot about the physical aspects of panel installation.

This way to the PV Labs!

SEI's outdoor solar panel training facility, located just outside beautiful Paonia, CO.

An outdoor classroom, with dry-erase board & instructional circuit panel.

Angie uses a very cool device, the Solar Pathfinder, to determine potential shading factors throughout the year for the system we're about to install.

Whitney & I bring out the first solar panel for our ballasted roof array.

The team hard at work, tucking away wiring & making the last adjustments on our first install!

Ain't she beautiful?!?

Mama Kelly gives us the rundown on wiring specs for our next system.

Yeah ~ & this is the easy stuff : /

Preparing to get into the circuit boxes for the pole mount.

Tasha 2.0 draws out the wiring diagram for the pole mount system.

Karina wiring up the inverter for the ballasted roof mount.

Putting together the structure for the pole mounted PV system.

Now for the panels...

Girls being girls while taking a break @ the Revolution Brewery in town.

Angie & I secure the wiring on the pole mount.

Tasha & Monica perform finishing touches.

Isn't she lovely. (You too, Monica : )

Celebrating our successes with a solar cooked potluck : )

Mama Kelly demonstrates the importance of wearing a harness on a pitched roof.

Another hot day... the girls lag a little while getting started on the enphase system on day #5.

But we got 'er done, despite impending thunder storms!