Paul Bias, a green builder in Arcata, Calif., frequently works on sites where it’s difficult to get temporary power. Rather than use a generator — which is loud and dirty and easy to steal — he powers his tools with energy from the sun.

He first tried this approach when the technology center at a nearby university hired him to do some work and loaned him a trailer-mounted photovoltaic (PV) power system. By the time the job ended he’d decided to build a similar system for himself.

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