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Innovative Energy
Eric Westerhoff
P.E. President

Posted September 14, 2013

If you are considering using Innovative Energy for your renewable power needs we would suggest caution. A lot of caution. We are very unhappy with them and Eric Westerhoff for a variety of reasons and we will go into detail about those reasons. While they installed our original power system, subsequent support was lacking, and in some cases, reluctant.

The winter of 2007-2008 saw an enormous amount of snow dropped on Colorado. Several feet of snow and a very bright sun created a white glossy reflective surface all around. The “solar booster” controller installed by Innovative Energy was rated at 50 amps and over-powered by the unusual sun and glare.

During the 2007-2008 winter we noticed an unusual drop in voltage overnight. Our in-house meter would show charged batteries at dusk but in the morning our voltage in the batteries had dropped below what was reasonable. Fully charged batteries would show a 24.6 on the meter with an over night drop of maybe a .3 (point three) to a 24.3. Instead, we were instead waking up to a 23.3 and sometimes lower.

Going out to start the generator, hoping that might help, Mike noticed the voltage display on the solar booster was showing a negative point three (that is, -.3). At night the voltage display should be a zero because of the lack of sun. That reading was the equivalent of leaving on all the lights in the house all night. We would never do that, especially being on solar. We informed Eric that there was something wrong with the solar booster. Eric likes big jobs but little jobs with a long drive he does not like. He declared that what Mike saw could not happen and told us that it had to be a bad cell in one of the batteries. He told us we had to test every cell of every battery first. We did. They were all good. We called Eric again.

Did we mention that Eric likes big jobs but little jobs with a long drive he does not like? He came to our place. He repeated his mantra that what Mike had seen could not happen and proceeded to prove his point by throwing a large tarp over the solar array as a test. That is not the same thing as testing at night. And for that matter, we have no idea if he actually tested the solar booster or just said he did test it to with the flamboyant tarp tossing event as a means to just shut us up. When Mike insisted the solar booster was showing a negative drain at night, Eric became indignant and suggested we find another solar contractor. Pouting, he left.

We did get another solar contractor. One who came to the house the next night to test the solar booster. It had a blown diode because of the intense reflections. He replaced the solar booster with a higher rated booster and we have not had a problem since. Five years later, no problems. What Eric claimed could not happen, did happen. But there is more. Much more.

We had Innovative Energy install a 65-feet tall wind tower generator and controller at a cost of $5,000. We did not know that it would be a lightning rod as well. And it was.

On May 24, 2002 the wind tower took its first direct lightning strike. It would be out of commission until September 10, almost four months. We do not remember the cost but it was not free. When we asked Eric about lightning protection he replied that there was not anything available to protect our 65-feet tall tower from taking hits.

Subsequently, a nearby ground lightning strike caused damage to some of the electronics. More money. And another hit causing the wind generator unit to be replaced. We began to cringe every time we heard thunder.

The last lightning strike on July 28, 2007, knocked out the wind tower as well as one of solar controllers for two of the arrays. Both returned to service August 21. Another $1,246.50 spent for free solar and wind power. We say this was the last lightning strike because the following year, July 2008, we had another solar contractor erect a lightning arrestor. Since then we have not even had a nearby lightning hit. Did we mention that Eric said there was not anything available to do this?

We wanted to add a 220v line that would be used perhaps once a week for five to ten minutes. In February 2007 Innovative Energy added a second inverter/controller for $3,000. This inverter/controller was piggy-backed to the first inverter/controller to give us 220v on one line in the house. We found out later, in September 2013, that Innovative Energy could have installed a $350 transformer instead of a $2,500 inverter, which would have done the same job with less battery drain.

Hmmm? Now why would they do that?

Over the years we spent some $60,000 with Innovative Energy for installation, service and improvements. The two inverters/controllers that were piggy-backed also monitored the generator AC input into the batteries. In June 2013, while servicing the lightning arrestor, Richard noticed the "error" lights were on for both units and proceeded to correct them. In doing so the acceptance of generator AC input was somehow altered. Richard was unable to figure our what "trick" Innovative Energy had used to put the two units "in-sync".

This created a recharging problem. We emailed Eric for assistance since his company had installed the two units and had not left us with any documentation on the combining of them.

Sent: Wed 8/21/13 6:48 AM
To: Eric Westerhoff (innovate@colorado.net)

Talked to Brian on Friday and were hoping for some help.

Background: we had a contractor cut a wire which cut off our system. We were able to reset with no problem although we had an error light on both inverters but everything was fine.

Our solar guy came out to run tests on our new batteries while they were under warranty and reset the inverters so the error light was gone. About 30 days after that our system "fell off the cliff". Used to be both inverters would show a bulk light if we turned on the generator, now only the lower inverter does. Somehow you had the inverters tied together, can you send us the information on how to link them?

Karen and Mike

[emphasis added]

All we asked was information on how to "link" the two inverters. Inverters he had installed. His reply:

From: Eric Westerhoff (ericw@renewablepower.com)
Sent: Wed 8/21/13 2:25 PM

Hi Karen and Mike,

We are unable to help you out with your solar electric system. Try another company.

Eric Westerhoff P.E.
Innovative Energy
PO Box 6538 / 1760 Airport Rd
Breckenridge, CO 80424
(970) 453-5384 office

Catty and juvenile. Equipment he and Innovative Energy installed and he will not give email assistance to correct something for which he left no documentation? We spent some $60,000, not including some service fees, with his company over seven years and we get what?

The above is why, in our opinion, if you are seeking a contractor for your renewable power needs we would suggest caution. A lot of caution. We are very unhappy with Innovative Energy and Eric Westerhoff.

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