Oh-no...contaminated solar panels/systems/

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Last week I received a letter from a getting-informed y2ker and she wrote that she heard/read that some parts of the solar panels/components/computer setups that are presently being installed are not compliant and will crash just as assuredly as other embedded chip systems. Does anyone have any info on this, and if so, is this industry wise or just a particular solar suppler/company? A friend just mortgaged her house to put in a $14,000 solar setup, and this potential devastating news I don't want to reveal unless I know for sure it's a problem. Thank you, whoever.

-- Luana Alika (luana@walkon.net), November 21, 1998


You couldn't tell from her description. The panels would not have a problem - no programs or chips - but there might some other controllers. I don't "see" any that would seem especially vunerable though.

The power regulator, the dc-ac convertor, the hook to the house lines? Sensors? House circuits? Can't tell what the equipment is, how it interfaces, what might happen.

But I'd rather tell you I don't know than leave you empty. Any other people with better info?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), November 22, 1998.

I understand that solar panels have to be adjusted to follow the sun, and that there are computerized systems to do this. I don't know why they'd be date sensitive. The "turn the date back to 1972 (or whatever year)" trick should work for this. However, that's just another guess. Do we have any solar-energy expert types out there? If not, I know a man who works in this field, and I'll ask him if he'll post here.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), November 22, 1998.


I've been involved with solar equipment for over 20 years.

#1: As others have already stated, solar panels are microprocessor-free, so no concern there (unless the sun goes out ). Charge regulators sense voltage and/or current, not the year .. no problems there either. *Some* inverters (a device to change the battery direct current into 120 volt alternating current) contain microprocessors. Of note are the models manufactured by Trace Engineering. I'm using one made by Exeltech (located in Houston, TX). It's microprocessor free and super reliable. Quality is tops too. (And no.. I don't work for them.)

Item #2: Unless there are some unique components in the system that perform certain functions automatically (after a certain amount of elapsed time) there are no other potentially date-sensitive items that could exist in her system to the best of my knowledge.

Item #3: Just because there is a microprocessor in *some* of the equipment is no reason to panic. Only if a date-sensitive function is present should there be cause for any concern. I'm not aware of any such solar-related devices that use date for any task.

Item #4: Regarding the panels that "have to be adjusted to follow the sun". They follow by tracking the sun's position and not by date or time. They are purely mechanical in nature and operate on light-sensing circuitry .. not computers. They'll be working happily in 2000 and beyond.

If your friend still has any serious concerns, have her contact the manufacturer of her equipment and ask if there are any microprocessors used in the item in question. If the reply is "yes" .. have her ask if there are any date/year functions built into the system in any manner. If the reply is "yes"... then there is a possibility of trouble which she would need to pursue further.

To reiterate .. I'm personally not aware of any equipment that would fit this profile .. but then again .. I don't know 100% of everything there is about 100% of the solar gear that's being produced today.

My credentials: I live in a totally solar powered home; I've lived with solar power for nearly 15 years; I've been working with solar equipment since 1963 (grade school); ... I have a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and have designed some of the devices of which we're speaking.

I can't check here often .. but will do what I can to help keep accurate answers posted here.

Good luck.


-- Dan (DanTCC@Yahoo.com), November 22, 1998.

Thanks for the posting, Dan. To the point and useful, all in one!

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), November 23, 1998.

Thanks Dan, Tricia, and Robert....some good hints, info, ideas here, which I will pass on....I should have given more data on her system, but I don't have much because I didn't want to upset her with more bad news, (her husband is dying of bone cancer in the midst of all these y2k preparations)....anyway, I still don't have brand names and the setup, but I can tell you she has a room full of computers, monitors, switches, meters, etc....the system is automated and is used in conjunction with PGE (electric company) to whom she sells back some generated electricity from her solar system....she does have timers for a well and watering system, and if there is not enough sun to power from the bank of batteries, the system switches itself to get power off the grid....I will pass on all your responses, questions and suggestions to her in a couple days....meanwhile, I'll wait to see if more arrives on what I've written above....bless those of you taking time from busy lives to help on this matter....hugs, Luana

-- Luana Alika (luana@walkon.net), November 23, 1998.

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