Sunday, March 28, 2010

Photo voltaic revisited

Since I started "greening" my house this past year, I have had a lot of people asking me questions about it. First, I don't really see this as a "green" project as much as a "I hate contributing to the political mess involved in using imported oil" mess. A long term investment in my home as well as reducing my electric bill are two of the other advantages. Being "green" is a nice to have, but not my one of the primary motivators.

I'm about to add the next phase to the roof; an additional 15 panels and inverters. This should reduce my average Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) bill down to around around $8.00. That is the "monthly connection fee".

Here are the answers to a lot of the questions:
  • The system uses SunPower 220 P/V panels that are around 5' long by 2.5' feet wide and Enphase 190 DC to AC micro-inverters. Each panel has its own inverter.
  • The system "wakes up" as soon as the first light shines on it (around 6:45AM)
  • Optimal power production occurs between about 9AM and 3PM. A 6 hour daily window; though the system produces power as long as there is some light.
  • During a typical day, each panel produces around 1KWH. So, 15 panels usually produce between 14 and 16KWH in the winter. However, I have had several 19KWH days.
  • The total system cost was around $28,000 including the mounting on the roof and all of the electrical work necessary to tie 3 separate P/V circuits (just 15A breakers) in to the house. The 3 separate circuits was a design decision that I made.
  • If you want to come by and see the system, sure, come on by. But there is not much to "see" besides some circuit breakers and the panels themselves. The real interesting stuff is in the software which you can see from where you are sitting. The Enphase software allows you to view my system's out in near-realtime. Well, about a 30-45 minute delay. See McBee Photovoltaic system.
  • For the 2009 tax year, I'll get approximately $19,000 in tax credits (state and federal). Thus, the actual out-of-pocket cost for the first year is around $9,000.
  • Actual "payback" at the current cost of electricity (around $0.24 / KWH) is around 7 years.
  • If you are considering this and have the sunlight available, do solar hot water first. Second, put in a "low flow" pool pump (if you have a pool). Both of those provide a better return on investment. I have both; P/V was the next logical step.
  • The panels are on the south-facing side of my roof. They take up about 1/4 of the south facing roof space. For the most part, my neighbors cannot see them.
  • I financed the first year and most of it back from the tax credits. The remainder, I paid back from my savings account.
  • I am adding 15 additional panels next month and am using SunPower's "no interest and no financing for a year" program to finance them as well.
  • I picked the SunPower 220 panels and Enphase micro-inverters because liked the idea of the panels functioning independently. The sizing of the panels and the inverters was confirmed by the vendor (Sunetric Solar Power of Hawaii).
  • The vendor (Sunetric) did ALL of the installation work including the electrical work, permitting, HECO paperwork, and mounting the panels. I just watched and took pictures. :-)
  • There are NO batteries; I am not 'off-the-grid'. Maybe in Phase 3 I'll do that for some critical house-hold things such as the refrigerator, microwave, and a few outlets.
  • On average, I "push back" to HECO around 6 to 8KWH per day of electricity that is then used somewhere else on the grid.
  • At night, I use power just like everyone else. HECO gives me "credit" for the power I sent to them during the day. The idea is to "size" the system so that it generates in about 6 hours the total amount of power you need for 24 hours. HECO only gives a 'credit' for the power. If I consistently generate more power than I need each day, HECO wins. They will NOT pay me for the excess power I produce; only a one year credit.
  • If the commercial power fails, my P/V array shuts down. That is a feature of the inverter. The inverters have to have an "A/C push" from the utility otherwise they don't work. This is so that if HECO shuts off power on my street, I don't keep pushing power out and shock their lineman (line-person?)


Mastering Exchange Server 2010 is now available

Yes, everyone, it is FINALLY here! The Mastering Exchange Server 2010 book is finally on the shelves. Well, actually, given how bookstores are stocking technical books now, it is probably NOT on the shelf, but you can order it.

Writing this book has been a big undertaking and this is the first major book that I have written while also having a full-time job. Over the past 10 years of writing, I have usually been a contractor and thus had more time to write.

Putting together a 1,000 page technical book is a time consuming endeavor. And, often, a huge part of that time is fighting with the software to make it do what you need it to do. Crashed virtual machines, poorly documented beta software, and hardware problems all slow down the over all writing process. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 hours worth of "lab" work just to write 2 paragraphs and get a screen capture.

Regardless of what authors will tell you, most books do not get written by any one author nor reviewed by any single editor. I'll be the first to admit that MANY people were involved in the writing, reviewing, and editing of this book. Some people wrote a few paragraphs or did a first-pass technical review, while others contributed multiple chapters.

The technical editor for the book was Ross Smith; I'm not sure that Ross is going to speak to me anymore. :-) We had a number of spirited in-person, e-mail and "Word" discussions during the TE review. Ross did an excellent job and I'm sure he did not realize just how much work this was going to be. The book is a far, far better book because of Ross' involvement. If there is to be an "Advanced Administration" book, I hope that Ross will consider being involved from the start.

My co-author, David Elfassy jumped in to the project when it became apparent I would not get finished anytime before the next version of Exchange was released. Even with multiple projects on this plate and a new child on the way, David pushed ahead. Devin Ganger was helpful early on in the project and produced several chapters for me. Ken St. Cyr wrote 2 excellent chapters in the middle of trying to finish his own book. Other authors that contributed full or partial chapters included Doug Fidler, Pat Richard, John Rodriguez, Randy Williams, Michael B. Smith, Martin Tuip, and Ilse Van Criekinge.

Many of my fellow Exchange MVPs, MCT's, MCSEs, and Exchange Team members helped me with technical questions, confirmations of technical facts, or insight in to a product or function including Brian Tirch, David Espinosa, Melissa Travers, William Lefkovics, Paul Robichaux, John Fullbright, Peter O'Dowd, Scott Schnoll, Nino Bilic, Harold Wong, Evan Dodds, Rich Matheisen, Glen Scales, Missy Koslosky, Mark Arnold, and Bharat Suneja.

Some of the feedback I have gotten from the past 2 Mastering books was that they were "too advanced" for some administrators. The feeling was that someone could not just pick up the book and learn how to become an e-mail administrator. Maybe they could learn how to be an Exchange administrator, but not an e-mail administrator. The first few chapters of this new book includes more of the basics of e-mail system administration, but I'm beginning to think that there should be a 200 - 400 page book on that topic (client/server systems, SMTP, MAPI, RPCs, POP/IMAP, DNS, PKI, etc...) [Would you buy this for your junior administrators?]

The book is missing a number of things that we just did not have enough time or page space to include. Notably missing is database availability groups (DAGs) and high availability scenarios. This was a decision partially out of necessity; we just could not include the necessary material in the few remaining pages since we had a "maximum page" limit under which we had to stay. I did not want to write 25 or 30 pages of DAG material only to have it severely lacking. To properly cover DAGs and high availability, I really felt like we needed about 100 - 150 pages. I have also never felt like high availability belonged in a book that was intended to help someone "master the concepts and basic features of the product". However, I suspect for medium sized and large businesses, DAGs are going to become a requirement.

At this point, I don't know if there will be an "Advanced Administration" book or not. I feel there is a need and certainly there is the material for such a book. We will see.

For all of you out there that have bought a previous edition of this book or might buy this one in the future, thanks much for your support!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Outlook 2010 supports photos from GAL

For people that have been longing to publish photos in to the Active Directory and then have those photos viewable in Outlook. The thumbnailPhoto attribute is now being used to show this information. I had talked about this a year or so ago when talking about how to better size pictures to load in to the jpegPhoto attribute. My Directory Manager and Directory Update products allow you to upload a photo in to either the jpegPhoto or thumbnailPhoto attributes. If you have used the jpegPhoto attribute to upload your photos, it is a pretty simple matter to use a tool like ADModify.NET to copy the photos to thumbnailPhoto.

In the article GAL Photos in Exchange 2010 and Outlook 2010, Bharat Suneja talks about how to take advantage of this feature. An especially useful new feature is the ability to upload the photos from the Exchange Management Shell using the Import-RecipientDataProperty cmdlet. The below text is from Bharat's article:

Loading pictures into Active Directory

Now you can start uploading pictures to Active Directory using the Import-RecipientDataProperty cmdlet, as shown in this example:
Import-RecipientDataProperty -Identity "Bharat Suneja" -Picture -FileData ([Byte[]]$(Get-Content -Path "C:\pictures\BharatSuneja.jpg" -Encoding Byte -ReadCount 0))
To perform a bulk operation you can use Get-Mailbox cmdlet with your choice of filter (or Get-DistributionGroupMember if you want to do this for members of a distribution group), and pipe the mailboxes to a foreach loop. You can also retrieve the user name and path to the thumbnail picture from a CSV/TXT file.


Saturday, March 06, 2010

My roof goes photo-voltaic

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know this, but this past fall I added the first of 15 photo voltaic panels to my roof. Another 15 coming in the next few months.

The system was "sized" to produce about 14-15KWH per day, but I'm usually producing between 14 and 18KWH per day. And that is in the winter time!

My daily electric usage averaged around 40-45KWH per day. The pool pump is the biggest offender (at around 10KWH per day), but I'm putting in a more efficient pool pump this month.

The system has been operational for the last 3 months and I'm VERY pleased at this point. Here is my the average daily usage for my last bill. I'm down to about 20KWH per day that I have to "buy" from the electric company.