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  • Writer's pictureBrad Morton

Case Study - Dr. Ted Stransky - A solar energy pioneer

In 1979, Dr. Ted Stransky, an ophthalmologist living in Newburgh, Indiana recognized and started thinking about utilizing solar energy in the design of his new home that he was planning to build. He wanted the house to take advantage of the free and natural sunlight that he knew would strike the house every day. His lot was positioned nicely along the Ohio River and the back of it would face due south with very little shading. So, his architect designed the backside to utilize passive solar windows that would heat his indoor swimming pool and surrounding concrete mass to store heat or BTU's. If the sunlight became too hot inside, motorized shades could be used to block the sunlight, generally in the summer months. Inside fans and ductwork could move the heated BTU's from the swimming pool room to other parts of the house when necessary. The system was designed and built with precise engineering and still works flawlessly to this day.

Dr. Ted Stransky's passive solar home in Newburgh, Indiana.

In 2012, Dr. Stransky purchased a Chevy Volt to drive to and from his office in Evansville, Indiana. The car drove and performed very well, but Dr. Stransky noticed that his electric bill had increased due to the daily charging cycles, which was to be expected. But, this led Ted to start thinking about the possibilities of utilizing solar energy to not only power his car but also his home. At that time, solar photovoltaic systems were fairly uncommon in Southern Indiana. Still, Ted had heard about some of Morton Solar's other projects in the region, so he contacted them to explore the possibilities.

Please watch this video produced in 2014 about Ted's house and how he powered his electric car with solar energy. Now that EVs are starting to gain market share, we wanted to share this video as an illustration of what the possibilities are for utilizing solar for powering both your home and car.

Although the house's roof was unsuitable due to the existing passive solar energy system, Ted was already planning to build a detached garage. So, Ted had his architect consult with Morton Solar to make sure the garage had the perfect angle and pitch for optimum solar photovoltaic production. Morton would also help design the electrical system for the garage to be able to handle the power generated on the rooftop and transfer it to the house where his electrical service meter was located. Since Ted's house consumed about 35,000-40,000 kWh per year, Morton Solar designed a 28kw system utilizing 110 AUO BenQ AC Modules. These were some of the first 'AC' modules with inverters attached to the back of the panels. Soon after commissioning, the system size was increased to 120 panels for a total DC rating of 30.6kw.

Dr. Stransky's garage was under construction in 2013. A standing seam metal roof was utilized which is ideal for solar energy systems since S5 clamps can be used without penetrations.

Fast forward to today (2023), and Ted's solar energy has generated enough kilowatt-hours to pay for itself. From his calculations, and with his 30% Federal Tax Credit, the breakeven point for Ted's system was about 8 years. So, for the last two years, the rooftop of his garage has been generating about 35,000 kWh of free electricity per year, and the solar panels are expected to generate power for another 15-20 years. At today's electricity rates, that is about $6,000 per year, but will increase along with electric inflation rates. So, Ted is very happy with his solar investment, to say the least.

Dr. Stransky's garage today with 120 solar panels attached to the standing seam roof for a DC rating of 30.6kW. The panels were installed without rails for a lower profile utilizing the S5 PV Clamping kit.

The next phase was to able to utilize his solar energy system to generate power during emergency power outages. Once again, Ted contacted Morton Solar and it was determined that a three Tesla Powerwall system would be an almost perfect fit. So, Morton designed the battery backup system to power the critical loads inside the home. This would include the heating and cooling systems along with the majority of the circuits inside the home. Since the Tesla Powerwall system utilizes a 200A transfer switch called the 'Gateway', his home's 600A service was modified to accommodate the switch and power most of his critical loads and most of the branch circuits in his house. Each Powerwall has a storage capacity of 13 kWh, so the total storage is 39 kWh which should be sufficient to get through any evening without grid power.

The Powerwall's are installed in the basement of the home.

If you already have a solar energy system, then you already have the fuel to utilize the Tesla Powerwall battery backup in your home. Most solar energy systems can be retrofitted since the Powerwall is an AC coupled system. What are the limitations of the Powerwall system? One Powerwall is generally not sufficient for whole home backup. Tesla recommends two Powerwall's for a moderate sized home. We also recommend installing a 'soft-start' on all of your AC units due to the start-up surge required by compressors. How does it compare to a backup generator? The Powerwall is silent, there are no oil changes, and the fuel is free. But, the output power is limited to 20A at 240V with one unit.

So far, the system has performed flawlessly. Now, Ted has the ability to take his home 'Off-Grid' by being able to press the blue button on his phone. This gives him comfort knowing that his wife Ana will be protected for whatever Mother Nature throws their way, except for maybe a volcanic eruption. But, for most situations such as tornados, ice storms, or other events, the Powerwall system will have enough stored power to get them through the night until the sun comes up the next day to recharge the batteries.

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