Off Grid Ham News Digest, Spring 2019

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News Digest is an occasional Off Grid Ham series on developments and news in off grid and alternative energy relevant to radio amateurs. I’ll sort through the geek stuff so you don’t have to! If you come across a news item that would be in interest to Off Grid Ham readers, please send in a link and I’ll include it in the next edition. If it’s really compelling, I’ll dedicate an entire article to it. Keep those ideas coming…you have a voice in what appears on Off Grid Ham.

off grid digest


Field Day is two months away!

Field Day 2019 will be on June 22-23. The ARRL states that there are no major changes in the rules, and they have also activated a Facebook page. I especially encourage participation from new hams who have never worked Field Day, and older hams who have not been to FD in a while. It’s a great opportunity to test your off grid capabilities and operating skills. By the way, you don’t have to wait for someone else to form a Field Day group. You can always get together with a few friends or even operate solo.

Better lithium batteries?

Rensselaer Institute announces exciting progress on lithium batteries. They are developing a battery with higher energy density and blazing fast charge times. Using nanotechnology, Rensselaer scientists are addressing the problem of “Peierls distortion,” an effect which causes molecular breakdown within the battery. There is no word on when the new battery will be on the market or what it will cost, but the prospect of a lithium battery that is lighter, more powerful, longer lasting, and faster charging than what is available now is very exciting.

It isn’t easy being green.

Solar Daily has an interesting piece that discusses the conflict between recyclability and durability in electronic products. Having a device that is easy to recycle but will not last long versus a device that is well made & durable but difficult to recycle…which is better for the environment? Solar Daily points out that there is no easy answer.

It isn’t easy being green, part 2.

Renewable Energy World affirms something that has been pointed out before on this blog: Renewable energy itself may be “clean,” but the process of manufacturing batteries, solar panels, and related electronics comes with quite a bit of environmental baggage. REW reports that the region of South America that holds 60% of the world’s lithium supply is experiencing water shortages and disruption of livestock graze lands as a direct result of lithium mining.

Being sick off grid.

Also from Renewable Energy World, a great article that highlights medical needs when the grid goes down and what can be done to keep the electricity on. With the commercial power grid becoming older and more stressed every day, and medical equipment getting more advanced, those whose lives depend on keeping medical devices powered up have plenty to worry about. There are documented cases of patients dying simply because they lost power to life-sustaining medical equipment. If you or someone you care about requires power for medical needs, plan accordingly!

Honda generator recall.

If you have a Honda inverter generator, then verify it is not part of this active recall. If it is on the recall list, then stop using it immediately and have it properly serviced to resolve a significant fire risk.

What off grid is really like.

Mother Earth News presents this enlightening facts-and-myths article about what it’s really like to be off grid. I can confirm from my own experiences that it’s not as easy & glamorous as it seems, nor is it inexpensive. Let’s face it, if it where that easy, everyone would be doing it!

Beware the taxman.

If you have any intentions of installing solar, then 2019 is the last year to claim the full Federal Solar Tax Credit. The credit was supposed to end a few years ago but the Trump administration extended it to 2019. Right now the credit is 30%. It will go down to 26% in 2020 and be gradually reduced in subsequent years until it zeroes out. The FSTC is applies mostly to grid-tied systems but consult with your tax advisor to fully understand the options.

Amazon not walking the talk?

Not really off grid ham radio related, but this article from The Guardian illustrates how corporations that like to virtue signal about being progressive and “green” don’t always live up to their own public relations spin. Yes, the report is sourced from the environmental group Greenpeace, (an organization that isn’t exactly the pinnacle of factual & objective research), but as the old cliche goes, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.

Do you know of any news relevant to off grid amateur radio? Post a link in the comments below or email it in through my contact page. Thanks and 73!