Consulting work

I have been doing some non-broadcast related consulting work lately. It is actually sort of fun and pays well.  One thing that I have become involved in is solar installations, or more precisely data communications from solar installations.

It seems that a critical part of any solar installation are the production numbers.  Owners/investors like to see a return on investment.  They like to know that their system is working properly.  Getting hard data on electricity production is an important part of the customer service aspect for a solar installation company.  Being able to remotely monitor the system and be alerted of any faults or failures helps keep those production numbers where they should be.

Solar installation on a large fuel storage tank:

Thin film solar panels installed on a fuel storage tank
87.5 KW Thin film solar panels installed on a fuel storage tank

It turns out that those fuel storage tank facilities use a lot of electricity. Not just for the fuel transfer pumps, some of their product is heavy oil; #4, #6, Resid or bunker oil is very thick (or viscus). Tanks, pipes and pumps for those distillates must be heated to certain temperatures in order to move them. That is all done with electric resistance heating.

There is a very good book about oil and how it is extracted, transported, refined and used called Oil 101 by Morgan Downey.  It is an eye opening read, to be sure.

Looking at the tops of those tanks; there is a lot of unused area.  It is a novel idea to use that area to generate power for the tank farm.  The thin film solar panels come in rolls. They have adhesive backing and are peel and stick. The nice part about this type of installation; the steel tanks help keep the panels slightly cooler, which boosts their production on hot summer days.

Three phase solar inverters installed on fuel storage tank
Three phase solar inverters installed on fuel storage tank

In this installation, each inverter reports to a web site that logs all of the output data, as well area temperature and percentage of sun light. This system helps the installation company and tank owner know if there are any problems with the array.  In order for that to work, the LAN needs to be set up and a communication device used to connect to the public network.

All in all, that was a fun project.

By the way, if anyone needs a solar system installed, I know a company that can do it.

The Gibson Bass Guitar

Back in the days of my early adulthood, I found myself in various situations that were neither familiar nor followed any known script.  Thankfully, I seemed to manage those things without getting suckered too badly and/or causing too much trouble for myself or others.  Thus, when I was living in a barracks building and one of the other guys asked me to loan him $100.00 until pay day, I deferred.  Lending money to anyone is fraught with danger and in 1983 or 1984, $100.00 was worth quite a bit more than it is today, especially for a junior enlisted guy like I was at the time.  A few hours later, the same fellow approached with a different arrangement; I would lend him $100.00 and he in turn would give me his Bass Guitar to hold onto until he paid me back.  I looked at the rather nice Gibson Grabber bass complete with road case and said okay.

Now, this guy took that $100.00 and for some reason that was never clear, stole his room mate’s car that night and went UA.  He was arrested a few days later some distance away near the border to another state.  He never returned to me my $100.00 and I never returned to him his guitar.

1978 Gibson Grabber Bass Guitar with original hard road case
1978 Gibson Grabber Bass Guitar with original hard road case

Over the ensuing years, I have picked this instrument up and fooled around with it from time to time.  I even learned how to plunk along with some easier songs like Louie Louie.  It was never serious and for the last twenty or so years, it sat unused in the back of a closet.  A few days ago, while cleaning up, I noticed the road case sitting there.  A little bit of research reveals that it was made in 1978 at the Gibson Guitar factory in Kalamazoo, MI.  As it is in good condition with the original case, appears to be worth a bit of money.

I took some time and cleaned it up.  One of the pots was a little scratchy, so I cleaned it with a bit of Deoxit.  I took the bridge apart and cleaned it, removed the pick guard and pickups and cleaned those thoroughly.

Gibson Grabber on stand
Gibson Grabber on stand

Being the curious type, I started fooling around with it again.  I then found a few Youtube videos on how to play bass.  I watched those along with some other learning tools.  I began to practice scales.  This turns out to be kind of fun.  I do remember how to read music, although I would need to brush up on this skill somewhat if I want to become an actual bass player.  I purchased a small Fender Amp, a scale chart and a clip on tuner and we are off to the races.  I wonder how the electric bass translates to a stand up bass.  I could forgo the Rock ‘n Roll experience completely, but if I get good enough, I’d really like to play in a Jazz band.  A boy can dream…

For those concerned people

I have received a few comments and off line inquiries about my well being and the status of the Engineering Radio blog in general.  First, let me say; thank you for your concern.  There are many things going on right now, both professionally and personally.  Some of those things are good and some are bad.  In other words; typical life stuff.

First, from the professional side:  The company (?) I work for has undergone some internal changes. We are, in general, very busy and I myself have at least five or six irons in the fire when it comes to projects.  These include things like two complete studio projects, a couple of transmitter site rebuilds, some STL installation work, a couple of new IP data links, etc.  On top of this there are, of course, maintenance issues and emergency calls, irate general managers, frugal owners, old equipment, and so on.  We have had a pretty good cold snap over the last weekend (-10 to -15F), which has lead to numerous failures; pipes freezing, diesel fuel gelling, UPSs quitting, etc.  <s>All in, it has been so much fun I cannot believe I actually get paid do to this </s>.  If you have worked in the business for a while, none of this should surprise you.

When I get time, I will put together some posts on the above projects, as some of them are quite interesting or at least somewhat entertaining.

Secondly, from the personal side:  Youth hockey season is here and I have been carting my son around to practices and various hockey games in upstate NY and western Massachusetts.  Last weekend, his team played in the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York.

Lake Placid hand shake
End of game hand shake, USA rink, Lake Placid, NY

For any fan of Hockey, a trip to the Herb Brooks Arena can be a semi-religious experience.

In addition to this, another common radio engineering problem has occurred; marital discord.  So much so that alternate living arrangements have been considered.

Thus, my time and very often my mood has been constrained.  Hopefully, after youth Hockey season ends in next month, I will at least have more time to do some quality posting.  Your patience is appreciated.