Welcome to Ken Clifton’s blog.

If you are a student, you will be most interested in the “teaching” category content. Please feel free to explore the “About” and “Resume” links at the left.  We have Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) available to satisfy the NC Solar Set-Aside requirements in North Carolina.  If you are interested in RECs please see the renewable energy certificates link.  You may also be interested in the Salisbury Post newspaper article on our solar facilities that ran on February 8, 2011.

We are excited about renewable energy! This site is run on solar generated electricity.  We have solar PV and solar thermal renewable energy facilities approved by the State of North Carolina at our home.    See the renewable energy link for more information. If you are interested in biomass, CO2 neutral home heating or global warming, please read the Salisbury Post newspaper article published on February 11, 2007 for more information.  My presentation made to several groups on biomass is also available.

Thanks, and I look forward to working with you during the Fall 2014 semester!


Thanks for Attending the Basics of Solar Thermal @ RCCC

Thank you to everyone who attended
“The Basics of Solar Thermal” class today at RCCC !
Don’t forget the Solar Electric Generation Class next Friday, May 2nd from 10AM-12 Noon.
Walk-in(s) on May 2nd are permitted, but please register
to ensure the class gets run!
The link for class content is below the photo
The Basics of Solar Thermal

As promised, a PDF of the class material is attached to this text (click to download).


Video: The True Cost of Gasoline

Sometimes the truth hurts a lot. But then again, so does COPD and not being able to breathe. Watch this video on the true cost of gasoline.


Battery-Less Wind Turbine and Micro-Inverter

Primus AIR-40 Wind Turbine

Primus AIR-40 Wind Turbine

I have been interested in small wind turbines for some time. But, not because they are practical in my area from a power production perspective.  My interest is that I could use the wind turbine’s production to reduce the demand-charges imposed by our utility.  With our time-of-use service, the power company imposes an additional charge for each kW we draw during the peak rate periods.

While a wind turbine’s payback in my area is pretty long based on power production, if it reduced demand charges that is a different matter.  In fact a wind turbine might pay for itself very quickly considering that when we don’t have good sun, we usually have wind.

Another detractor regarding the wind turbines is the added complexity of a battery bank and dump loads.  The cost and maintenance of a battery bank just did not interest me. All that changed yesterday when I found a Masters Thesis by Christopher Eldridge (2011) at Kansas State University.

In his thesis, Eldridge experimented with using an Enphase micro-inverter, and a Primus AIR Breeze 160 watt wind turbine without a battery bank.  His thesis is very interesting.  I expect to be looking for some capacitor boards, and power NFETs very soon.  Mr. Eldridge’s work is much appreciated and definitely changed my perspective.

Thoughts and insights from other solar producers are welcomed!

Here is the information on his thesis:

Using super capacitors to interface a small wind turbine to a grid-tied micro-inverter

Author: Eldridge, Christopher Sean

Publication Date: 2011
Graduation Month: May
Degree: Master of Science
Department: Department of Electrical Engineering
Major Professor: William B. Kuhn


NISSAN DC Fast Charger in Salisbury, NC

As of today, NISSAN electric cars with a quick charge port can charge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes here in Salisbury, NC.  The fast charger should really help folks driving I-85 between Greensboro and Charlotte since we are right in the middle. Kevin Murphy of Ben Mynatt NISSAN sent me this photo today of the new DC fast charger that is now operational:  click to view status .

New 480 volt DC fast charger in Salisbury, NC

New 480 volt DC fast charger in Salisbury, NC


Regressive New NC Fee for Electric Vehicles

NC Discourages EVs

NC Discourages EVs

So, with the New Year, the Legislators officially embark on another quest to discourage electric vehicles. We all breathe the same air, so they will be inhaling the effects of their own work along with the rest of us. Lets hope that all the studies about the ozone and air quality are wrong, otherwise they should worry about the increased risk of COPD, heart disease, lung cancer, etc.

On an optimistic note, I don’t think their new fee applies to hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Anyone reading this with a different interpretation please comment. Here is a copy of the new law with references:



SESSION LAW 2013-360




The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:



SECTION 34.21.(a) G.S. 20-87 is amended by adding the following new
subdivision to read:

“(13) Additional fee for certain electric vehicles. At the time of an initial

registration or registration renewal, the owner of a plug-in electric vehicle that is not a low-speed vehicle and that does not rely on a nonelectric source of power shall pay a fee in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) in addition to any other required registration fees.”

SECTION 34.21.(b) This section becomes effective January 1, 2014, and applies to initial or renewal motor vehicle registrations on or after that date.


North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) (2013, July 26), Senate Bill
402 / S.L. 2013-360 Appropriations Act of 2013, Retreived from NCGA Web site: on January 1, 2014

According to the Carolina Dealer Training (CDT) Web site of Kat Messenger, this new $100 fee is only applicable to vehicles with the fuel type “E” on the registration

Also, it is imperative that you make sure the fuel code is correct. This is for
“plug-in” electric vehicles with a fuel type of “E”; meaning, purely electric, and does not rely on a nonelectric source of power.


Carolina Dealer Training (2013, Nov. 1), One Day Delay in Additional Registration Fee for Electric Vehicles. Retrieved from Carolina Dealer Training Web site: on January 1, 2014


Seven Years of Biomass

Seven years ago we installed a LMF 100,000 Btu Biomass furnace.

Biomass 100,000 Btu Furnace

Well, it is still running — especially last night and today. The temp recorded on the solar thermal collector last night was 14.8 degrees here just outside Salisbury, NC.  There is no replacement for solid fuel combustion — talk about HEAT.

It is currently running on soft-wood pellets. I took this photo today of the flame — the blue diamonds remind me of SR-71 exhaust..

Biomass Furnace Combustion

Our house is so well-insulated and air tight that the big biomass furnace just idles most of the time.  Over the last seven years we have saved an average of $2,500 per winter on heat, moving from propane to biomass (aflatoxin corn, barley, rye and wood pellets).

Here is a link to my post from 2007 when the furnace was installed:


Catawba Sustainable Communities Talk

Photo of Catawba College

Catawba College, Salisbury, NC

I gave a one hour talk to the Sustainable Communities class at the Center for the Environment of Catawba College located in Salisbury, NC today (November 11, 2013).

The slides from my talk can be downloaded by clicking this text.


FILL-UP, SCHMILL-UP – Last Fill-UP Six Months Ago

Last Fill-Up 6 Months Ago

Last Fill-Up 6 Months Ago

Are gas prices high these days? I wouldn’t know. Most Volt owners fill up once a month, but by charging regularly, I just went 6 months without a fill up in my Chevy Volt! Learn more about how it works:

The VoltDC reports 277 gallons of gasoline saved.  Running the math @ $3.30 per gallon that amounts to $914 saved in less than one year.

We could not be more pleased with our Chevrolet Volt!  There is no comparison to the Nissan LEAF that I owned for one year.  Chevrolet really stands behind their car and its battery!

Volt Gallons Saved!

Volt Gallons Saved!











How Far Behind Tennessee is North Carolina?

Short answer:  real far, when it comes to electric vehicle charging sites…Last summer my family took a trip to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Tennessee.  As a two electric car family, I popped up the Recargo App on the iPhone to check out near by charging stations.  Here is what I saw,  (notice most sites actually had TWO CHARGING STATIONS) and all this within 10 miles:

Pigeon Forge Charging Sites Screen 2

Pigeon Forge Sites Screen 1

Pigeon Forge Charging Sites Screen 1


Next, lets compare those screens to a map of Salisbury, North Carolina, aka an “EV Desert” with ONE charging station total:

A North Carolina EV Desert Map, Salisbury NC

You be the judge.  There really is NO COMPARISON.  But, it actually gets worse.  The one charging station for 20 miles in any direction is actually in a clean-up area at a dealership, so it is very difficult to even get to the station.

So, while the North Carolina EV desert suffers from the 13th worst air quality in the entire USA, all efforts to get any businesses to roll out a charging station have failed — even with the free ChargePoint Jumpstart Program last year.  We sure did try — talking to numerous businesses and organizations. The program actually furnished a free station and an installation subsidy — not a single taker. Way to go North Carolina.  Oh, I forgot to mention, NC is going to tax folks extra for driving an EV.