Solar heat for the shop. ^5's Morris!

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I would say you got in concert with a goof troop of a AE company or you made some grave miscalculations. The data out there is pretty well established as to payback of well designed and well located AE systems. While in many areas they can be markedly less cost effective none I have seen have a 30 year payback even in states with no rebates. I would have to think something in your calculations was incorrect or your system was overblown, poorly designed, etc. This wouldnt surprise me in the least as when capitalist greed gets involved installers usually pork up the system and install.
Most simple calculators available on line that take into consideration generating 75% of your residential power and a modest 6% annual increase in energy costs will show that an average house with a $75/mo electric bill will save some 30,000-40,000 dollars over the 20 year life of a 9-11k system. In many states this system will cost 3-4k out of pocket and less if you can do any of the install yourself.
Of course all calculations are speculative in that none of is know where the cost of energy is going in the next 25 years. If we can keep scaring OPEC over the loss of their cash cow we may be able to hold their feet to the fire keeping petro low. Have heard two or three times on the news here lately that some project if this low stays low we could again see 1.00 gasoline though it would of course be unsustainable. These low costs will, and are there to, thwart AE in any form. It is actually quite sad when we need to be forced to innovate.
Mark
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BDBConstruction wrote:

First, 6% is hardly a modest annual increase in annual energy costs and is not born out historically. Checking to determine whether it would be cost effective to change out my old heat pump for a newer, more efficient one, I checked my electric use for the past 10 years -- energy costs have not increased by that much on average. A more realistic average is closer to 3% per year.
However, starting with your estimate of $75 over 20 years with 6% increases, one gets the following:
Year Per month Per Year Cumulative 75% Savings Cum savings 1 $75 $900 $900 $675 $675 2 $80 $954 $1,854 $716 $1,391 3 $84 $1,011 $2,865 $758 $2,149 4 $89 $1,072 $3,937 $804 $2,953 5 $95 $1,136 $5,073 $852 $3,805 6 $100 $1,204 $6,278 $903 $4,708 7 $106 $1,277 $7,554 $958 $5,666 8 $113 $1,353 $8,908 $1,015 $6,681 9 $120 $1,434 $10,342 $1,076 $7,757 10 $127 $1,521 $11,863 $1,140 $8,897 11 $134 $1,612 $13,474 $1,209 $10,106 12 $142 $1,708 $15,183 $1,281 $11,387 13 $151 $1,811 $16,994 $1,358 $12,745 14 $160 $1,920 $18,914 $1,440 $14,185 15 $170 $2,035 $20,948 $1,526 $15,711 16 $180 $2,157 $23,105 $1,618 $17,329 17 $191 $2,286 $25,392 $1,715 $19,044 18 $202 $2,423 $27,815 $1,818 $20,861 19 $214 $2,569 $30,384 $1,927 $22,788 20 $227 $2,723 $33,107 $2,042 $24,830
However, applying the more realistic 3% increase: Year Per month Per Year Cumulative 75% Savings Cum savings 1 $75 $900 $900 $675 $675 2 $77 $927 $1,827 $695 $1,370 3 $80 $955 $2,782 $716 $2,086 4 $82 $983 $3,765 $738 $2,824 5 $84 $1,013 $4,778 $760 $3,584 6 $87 $1,043 $5,822 $783 $4,366 7 $90 $1,075 $6,896 $806 $5,172 8 $92 $1,107 $8,003 $830 $6,002 9 $95 $1,140 $9,143 $855 $6,857 10 $98 $1,174 $10,317 $881 $7,738 11 $101 $1,210 $11,527 $907 $8,645 12 $104 $1,246 $12,773 $934 $9,580 13 $107 $1,283 $14,056 $962 $10,542 14 $110 $1,322 $15,378 $991 $11,533 15 $113 $1,361 $16,739 $1,021 $12,554 16 $117 $1,402 $18,141 $1,052 $13,606 17 $120 $1,444 $19,585 $1,083 $14,689 18 $124 $1,488 $21,073 $1,116 $15,805 19 $128 $1,532 $22,605 $1,149 $16,954 20 $132 $1,578 $24,183 $1,184 $18,138
Now, that is still respectable and would provide a return on investment beginning in the 6'th year as long as maintenance is not required. However, I would expect some maintenance in terms of batteries or other storage devices required to achieve the stated 75% savings since one must be able to get some of that savings at night. If you are relying upon selling the energy back to the electric company at a 1 for 1 trade to serve as your storage system, one can't rely on that in the out years if more people start using this approach.
The systems I saw for solar electric sufficient for home electric generation were on the order of $60k, vs the $3 to $4k you indicate.

The 10 year average I used should be fairly applicable since it began at a period when gas prices were below $1 and have carried through this year's $4+ prices. The fly in the ointment in the future will be if this cap and trade taxation scheme ever gets implemented and destroys the cost of electric power.
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Even the most conservative speculations are not looking to even the recent past as an accurate gauge of where our energy prices could be headed in the next 20 years. We are by no means on a level grade though it is of course all speculation. The auto exec's surley based their business on an unmitigated analysis focused squarely on the past with no eye to the future and look where it has gotten their businesses. I have no idea if you are one that feels there is a never ending supply of oil and NG and we are all being snowed with regards to the energy and environmental issues we face in the future. If that is the case than the conversation is pointless as we can all rest our bones and just boost the thermostat.
With regards to system sizing/pricing I merely referenced a 1.5-2kw system which of course is not going to cut it for a large or all electric or wasteful/non-conserving home. Nor one in poor location for PV. This is a system that would cost 9-11k or less without storage. With federal and state rebates could be as low as I mentioned. This is a system respective of the 75.00 a month electric bill in most locations. However, if ones bill is more than 75, its more, system is bigger, savings are bigger. The common averages state that one can expect a 8-12 percent return on investment over 20 years depending on system cost and location (rebates). Most portfolios are lucky to hit that in decent times and arent further bolstered by tens of thousands of tons of reduced carbon footprint. At some point we have to stop merely looking at our wallet. Though it will always be the overwhelming factor at some point we are going to have to factor other things in that we may not be instantly compensated for or that we merely break even financially over the 20 years.
Given this is for CA but a simple calculator found in many forms on the net - http://www.suncalsolar.com/costs/costs.htm
This link is from a company we have used and these examples are more geared toward off grid homes. They all include costly batteries however also use grid tie-able inverters. http://www.backwoodssolar.com/reference/examples.htm . Examples 2-4 would be similar (less the batteries, trading them for panels) to what I was referring to. Even the largest system on the list isnt 60k though it doesnt include any installation.
With regards to system maintenance yes, of course there will be maintenance as well as risk. It isnt any different than any other investment you make. Just like hail can trash your car or home, a lightning strike, power surge, falling tree, could damage your system. Just like your vehicle oil changes, tires, and home require maintenance so will it though without batteries it would require virtually none. If there is storage involved replacing battery banks every 5-7 years will be factored in. However most grid tied homes opt to forgo storage and trade those $$ for more panels as the grid is a far more effective storage module than batteries. This would additionally boost output. This is something that always gives me a chuckle. When someone wants a cedar sided house, tiled roof, or an Escolade they dont "run the numbers". They just want it. The cost of owning it is offset by emotion. Yet when something like this is actually practical and in many cases even profitable it is held to unrealistic standards of scrutiny by some.
The simple fact of the matter, is most all calculators out there call out 8-12 percent return on investment with many factors included. Given some of this is based on state and fed rebates and it varies from state to state. Savings is savings. From my perspective if you can come within +/- 2 points of the average interest rate of the same period for investing your money its a no brainer simply due to doing more with less and supporting new and innovative industries.
Sadly, most of the blanket nay sayers with regards to AE in general come from a very biased viewpoint to begin with and will only be swayed if they get paid. Break even wont even move them. Its the Me Millennium, Welcome to the future.
Mark
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BDBConstruction wrote:

That is why using historical data is of value. Will it be 100% accurate? Of course not, but it provides a reasonable point of departure for planning purposes. If I take your 6% per year estimate and apply it to my average of $192 per month (all electric home in Arizona) for 2000 and forward-price that to 2008, it shows my average monthly energy cost would be $306 per month. That is not the case, even after this year's extra-ordinary cost increases and the fact that my December bill is not yet factored into the mix. The reality is that this year's average is on the order of $220, reflecting an average annual cost increase of only about 2.5%. Could energy price increases accelerate in the future? Of course, but if one is planning a large expense, one should use a more solid foundation than speculation. For the 6% per year energy increase to become true, energy rates would need to increase at more than twice the rate they have increased in the past.
As far as not being on a level grade, if you had been asked this summer if gas prices would ever reach $1.60 per gallon again, would you have answered in the affirmative? Energy as a commodity rises and falls with demand and economic conditions.
The concern here is going to be non-market factors such as government interference attempting to do social engineering by artificially inflating conventional energy costs.

There were numerous things that have contributed to the auto companies' problems, but not all of them are germain to this subject.

The fact is there are significant energy reserves that have been walled off to development and some of that are not yet cost effective to develop. The fact is that alternate energy approaches need to be able to compete with those sources of energy. If they can do so, then that is great, people will jump on board in a heartbeat; if those alternate sources can only be competitive by government fiat and subsidy, then that's not so rosy a picture.
As far as environmental issues, if you are one who has bought into the man-made global warming (oops, that didn't work since it's getting cooler), um, man-made global climate change; then I fear further discussion is pointless.

I always love it when someone points out issues in alternate energy computations or projected cost savings and is answered with one of those, "fine, go home and turn up the thermostat then" kind of responses.

System is bigger, initial cost is bigger.

OK, you do buy into the anthropogenic global climate change hoax.

Given the numbers I'm seeing, it's still not practical unless one makes some outrageous extrapolations for future energy prices. If energy prices do start to skyrocket at the rate you are speculating, then it will be worthwhile to look into, solar energy may at that time actually be cost competitive, and most likely will be somewhat more mature.
As far as pure emotion, how much closer to that can you come than when someone pays for a system that lets them smugly claim they have a $0 electric bill but have paid such a large amount for the system to produce it that they will never break even?

You'd do a lot better making your case without the condescension and derision.

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Mark & Juanita wrote:
<and Morris snipped extensively>

I agree wholeheartedly with the first sentence, disagree (sadly) with "jump on board in a heartbeat" part.
"The way I'm used to doing things" has just an incredible inertia. My experience has led me to conclude that people generally aren't willing to change established methods until their pain threshold has been well-exceeded.

Sadly, if conventional energy prices do again start to skyrocket, then the _price_ (if not the cost) of alternative energy will follow.

Yabbut - let's peel the cover from that claim. In the case you describe, what was /actually/ purchased was bragging rights and/or perceived social position, and the energy production capability is nothing more than a context for that (IMO superficial) goal.
Unsurprisingly, the usual response to such behavior is resentment that ends up poisoning acceptance of worthwhile technologies which actually do offer reasonable (or even excellent) ROI.
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Morris Dovey
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Morris, the "Drill-Baby Drill" crowd will never get it. Their way of solving the energy crisis is not to make things more efficient, but to develop new ways to make money so that the high prices won't bother them. All you have to do, is make sure you have enough money that YOU can still drive your SUV when others can't. Here we have somebody advocating that it might not be cost efficient to invest in solar energy, but that it is perfectly okay to blow bezillions of dollars (backed by the tax payers) on more outrageous ways the squeeze the last drop of oil from the earth.... or better yet, blow bezillions of dollars capturing foreign land and squeeze THEM for the last drop. That makes WAY more sense. OR... better yet.. convert all the food crops into fuel and starve the bastards away from the pumps so there WILL be more fuel for the SUV's.
I find that in most cases, when trying to have a conversation about alternative energy, the 'vision' is most often restricted by the same blinders that keep the sunlight out.
Take your panels as an example. When one accepts that they work as well as they do, then the next step will be the attempt to make them better and cheaper. To walk away at this stage by saying, that they're too expensive today, therefore unacceptable is dumb.
I could rant on, but a new dawn is coming. Free energy...oops can't have that..there must be a way we can keep the serfs small by making them pay for simple stuff like heat! What is this world coming to? No KBR? No Chevron? heavens-to-betsy... how will we raise money to buy politicians??..<G>
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Here we have somebody advocating that it might not be cost efficient to invest in solar energy, but that it is perfectly okay to blow bezillions of dollars (backed by the tax payers) on more outrageous ways the squeeze the last drop of oil from the earth.... or better yet, blow bezillions of dollars capturing foreign land and squeeze THEM for the last drop.
Well, you know why that's happening don't you? It's because it's being looked at from the bean counter's accountant point of view. It's a tried and true method that has worked well up to this point and it's easier for them to select that route because they know it works. And, you're right. Human beings as they are, are afraid of or just too damned selfish to make a change. Or, most of them at least.
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Robatoy wrote:

And yet, even I have to admit that petroleum-based energy has been comfortable - and the idea of switching to non-petroleum transportation is intimidating for me.

Yes, but that's not the /whole/ story. I think a lot of the situation stems from preferring the devil one knows to a strange angel.
There is risk in change, and people are especially averse to risk in times of uncertainty. "How can I recover if this doesn't work out as expected?" is a very important question, and so far, I've seen every purchase (including yours) as an act of real courage - so let me encourage you to show yours off. :)

It's going to be very difficult to make 'em work significantly better - although I do know how to make 'em last at least 4 or 5 times as long as the current 25-year projection.
I already know how to bring the price down, but if everyone waits for that they'll end up buying 'em from whoever replaces me (or him) who may not have much/any interest in bringing the price down. Currently the fixed overhead exceeds the selling price of the panels. It truly is a matter of "I lose a little on each one, but could make it up by selling at a lower price in quantity."
OTOH, as long as the payback period is shorter than the time required to significantly reduce the cost/price, it actually does make sense to buy at the current price. I wonder if anyone ever considers that...

I haven't looked to the politicians to smooth my path (and I'm fairly sure that the cost of having them do that would be more than I could afford) - I think I'd rather not have their "help".
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Morris Dovey
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Morris Dovey wrote:

I don't think it's an inertia thing so much as having to be cost-effective enough to be worth the pain and hassle of going through the change. Even when changing out conventional systems for another conventional system, most folks will postpone that change as long as possible, both for monetary and convenience reasons.

There is that consideration. Just as in other things, it's a matter of deciding the right timing.
I did run the numbers that the OP gave (both $9k and assuming a 30% federal subsidy) with the idea that rather than trying to replace all grid power, using it only as supplemental. i.e, use the solar power to reduce the total electric bill, not expecting it to pull the whole load. Loading the average monthly daylight hours, assuming about 80% of the day as being capable of generating 2.5kW, the payback starts getting more reasonable. It's on the order of 9 years unsubsidized and 7 years subsidized. Everyone has a different threshold, but my personal threshold would be for a 5 year or less payback period. Anything further out and you are dealing with too many unknowns to feel confident in the investment. One disclaimer, my computations assumed a 1 for 1 buy-back from the electric company, assuming that most of my use is after daylight hours. While I know that to be the case right now, I would guess that in several (unknown) years that will be unsustainable and a lower buy-back will be instituted (it only makes sense, the electric company is going to buy at wholesale and deliver at retail). That will make a significant difference when that occurs in terms of lengthening the time before break-even.

Good observation
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Which is what I found when I looked into it. It made sense, until I learned their buyback rate. They would pay ~2.5 cnts/kwh but charge me ~11.5 cnts/kwh.
No thanks. It turned my 5-6 yr subsidized payback into about 30.
JW
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jw wrote:

Tucson Electric Power was advertising their program yesterday, so I took a look at the website to see if things had become more cost competitive. They haven't.
The following web site was the only one that listed prices: <//www.tfssolar.com/solar-residential/calculators/> Selecting a 2000 kWhsystem (smaller systems are equivalent), the cost of the system after some pretty large subsidies was $38,200. My estimate for payback with various energy increase estimates ranged from 12 to 16 years. Given the buyback rate you list above, it would exceed the life of the system.
For a system that would be equivalent to the $75/month rate someone previously discussed, the subsidized cost would be $10.2k. To save $75/month?
I really want to see solar power succeed, but a breakthrough is needed in order for it to be cost effective.
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I think California has a bit more of an incentive, but my brother looks at it a little differently... He wanted to go solar but didn't want to buy or have a place for the batteries... When they came up with the "grid" plan, that cut the cost of his solar system, so he went with it..
mac
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For fun I looked at a grid of cells that covered my roof. It would be about 40x120 feet. It was about $300,000 for the array and I could expect an average of 30-40% for a year from it. Three months of the year - hot summer - less than 50% and winter months - very low.
Payback was very very long. Doubtful the array could last that long.
The biggest issue is cloud cover. Zero power under clouds. They work on long waves. If someone would invent a microwave or rather ultraviolet sensing cell they could clean up. Then it would work as long as the sun was up.
I'd buy it if I won the lottery. Otherwise it is a foolish thing in this area. Yea, I'd help me and all about 35% of the time, but it doesn't break even or pays off.
Martin
mac davis wrote:

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Martin H. Eastburn wrote:

If you're located between Terre Haute and Springfield, you could probably heat your 4800 sq ft home indefinitely using passive solar for less than 10% of the cost of your PV array...
...and the solar cooling project is underway. :)
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mac davis wrote:

That's a totally different mindset. If somebody wants to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the satisfaction of saying, "I'm not paying anything to the electric company [sub-vocal, 'my system will never pay for itself']" then that's a status kind of thing. From a practical standpoint, cost-effective solar just isn't there yet.

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Morris Doveys follow up is spot on,...

I wouldnt have guessed below two dollars this quickly but I was in complete agreement with several outspoken sources that repeatedly stated the gasoline prices were being artificially inflated by capitalist greed and OPEC. I had many conversations with individuals that as soon as these prices became unsustainable and AE began to once again look viable it would be crushed by an immediate price drop as not to undermine the system and that is where we are today.
It has been publicly stated numerous times that the petroleum industry has been more than willing to make it clear that they will price any competition out of existence to protect their market share or until they themselves can profit from it.
The fixing in ares like the food and gasoline markets going on in the past year is right out of the Enron/Tyco/K Street playbook. Greed, greed, greed. Reducing quantity, quality, raising the price, and record profits all the while blaming corn growers, truckers, supply, hurricanes that never make land fall, on and on. Around here everyone is skwaking that their vehicles which never had a problem before are now knocking and pinging like crazy, mileage is lower. It is clear producers are tweaking anywhere they can all the while driving the screws even deeper.
So yes, I did state that gasoline would drop and there is plenty of margin for it to drop more as there is in food and other commodities.

What IS germain is the flawed philosophy of in extremely dynamic situations heavily weighting the past in planning how to move forward in the future. Its why we struggled for a while in a new generation war we didnt know how to fight. No front line, no clear enemy, etc. Yet we go in with the strategies of Custer and WWII. All through the election we hear about Hoover, FDR, Lincoln, Regan, on and on. We are moving into times that many of them could not even comprehend yet all we heard was "a return to ...". It is perfectly germain to the conversation in that these people who harken the past most generally look for big overarching solutions to very complex problems and unfortunately our future has more facets than the Hope diamond. I had to have heard Britt Hume say 500 times "yeah, but whats his overarching message?" The past.
It just like your energy issues with your house. You could likely gain SOME of your heat from passive solar, SOME from active solar, SOME from electricity, SOME from NG, and come out financially, environmentally, and self sufficiently, ahead with a multi-pronged heat source that worked in power outages, saved you when electricity was high and NG was low, had built in redundancy, and did more with less.
All we hear is "electric cars arent the solution". But they are part of it. CNG isnt the solution. But it is part of it. Wind isnt the solution. But it is part of it. The politics of the past, and mainly the republican politics of the past, only want to see a single facet solution. Its more profitable and easier to control.

Not significant enough to weight them as a sole solution.

In your calculations for your home power you want to factor in every little thing to make it a non viable option, cost of operation, long term, short term, risk, change, esthetic's. Does it increase or decrease the long term value of your home. Even 5% ROI isnt enough. Likewise when if you factor in every little thing positive with AE many of them DO compete with petroleum today. However some of these things are not ones people can immediately see, they are not gee gaws and buttons, and heated seats, shinny paint. They are long term advances in efficiency and independence and just plain doing more with less. Look, the simple fact of the matter is things like CFL' s. It has been stated for years that if every home in the US changed ONE of their most used bulbs to CFL it would be the equivalent of taking 1,000,000 cars off the road immediately. Yet it is not done. I dont personally like CFLs everywhere, they are not the best light for certain applications, however there are many that are and I use them there. Many wont yet they are completely cost effective, highly profitable for the individual.

Thats not what I said, I said IF "we" are being snowed "we" can all sit back and turn up the thermostat. What is most perplexing is that the past 8 years of chest drumming and near public lynching of anyone who didnt fly a flag on their car or a ribbon on their trunk, why in gods name would we, as the most advanced and supposed innovative nation on the face of the earth and many would say the universe not expect ourselves to continually strive for improvment and innovation? Why would we NOT want an SUV that goes 45 miles on a gallon of gas? Not want a home that you can heat for 400.00 a year in New England. Even if there is no global warming why would we not innovate? Everyone wins, Mfr's, consumers, the list goes on. To hell with global warming, why not be in a constant state of advance? Yet our auto industry has been stagnant for 30 years resisted everything thrown at it and lived in the pocket of petroleum. Homebuilding is some of the least efficient of the advanced nations. Heating systems, mechanical systems, all way behind the curve. Some of the most wasteful appliances made in the world are for US consumption. Our auto industry makes some 30+ CNG cars that are not sold in the US? We've gotten fat and lazy and now we pay.

Savings are bigger, the percentages run parallel until you hit the rebate cap.

I dont know many that smugly claim $0 electric bill. The cost of the system and maintenance are amortized over the life of the system and in a case like ours in a state with no rebates what so ever and a political system tied to coal that will likely never implement a profitable grid tie program it is the most expensive power you can have. In these cases it is relegated to pieces of property that are cost prohibitive to run grid power to.
IMHO where the focus needs to be is imagining every new home and commercial property built from this day forward had some quantity of grid tied PV incorporated directly into the roofing system. No storage, just daylight generation. In a short time many areas would be generating substantial percentages of their daylight power via PV. With a modest increase in federal rebates this would be very cost effective and with the grid already in place it would be a direct offset to coal, NG, and petrolem which could then be diverted to better use. This could then be expanded to re-roofs and so on where a major capital expenditure was already planned and needed.

There is no condescension, I simply despise bias in any way shape or form.
Mark
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Morris Dovey wrote:

What kind of glass do you/they use on these panels? It seems to me that it could not be window glass because of the heat.
Chris
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Chris wrote:

I use a twinwall polycarbonate - not because of the heat but because it's a good insulator and because it's much less vulnerable to breakage than glass.
Neither Heat nor temperature is a problem. The panels are designed so that any increase in input results in a faster airflow (more heat energy at same temperature). The normal operating temperature at sea level is in the neighborhood of 110F increasing to about 125F at 5,000' above sea level.
The polycarbonate glazing is good to about 800F and it'll survive an 80 mph hardball pitch, so it's well suited for the job. A cross section slice would look like a ladder.
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Morris Dovey
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Morris Dovey wrote:

Chris
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