What's off grid like?

Discussion about OutBack Inverters in Off Grid Applications

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Shadow_Storm56
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What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

I always loved the idea of being completely offgrid but it's not possible for me. But I'm curious of all you completely off grid people which theres alot of people on here who are completely off grid..... anyway

My curiosity is did you change alot of things about your useage to go off grid? Do you run out of power alot? Do you run gas for all your resistive loads (water heater, stove, dryer....ect) or do you run these electric. I generally never see off grid people run electric of thoes appliances but I have before.... guy has 4 radians.

Do you run generators alot or manage without?
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

We have been running a strictly off-grid system for over 5 years.

Our first system was a 3kW inverter, 3.5kW PV array, and 350AH @ 48V VRLA battery. Our backup generator was (and is) a Honda EU7000is.

Our average daily consumption was roughly 10kWH.

We ran the system for 4 years, and in that time experienced 3 shutdowns caused by overloading the inverter AC Out (Microwave, Dishwasher, and 1.5HP water pump all drawing power at the same time.)

Our generator provided 8% of our total power. The number is slightly skewed high due to 9 months of volcanic dust and ash obscuring the sun about 25%.

We sold the 3kW system and upgraded a year ago. Dual 3kW inverters, 7.0kW PV array, and 450AH @ 52V LiFePo4 battery. Our average daily consumption is 17.5kWH.

Over the past year, the generator provided 3.5% of our total power. The number is skewed high due to our mechanic advising us if we are going to keep gas in the generator, we need to run it periodically. Also by the fact we were only using 3/4 our total PV array. Now that the roof and panels are in place, the last 90 days has seen generator contribution of 1.2%

We have two small houses, with two refrigerators, two chest freezers, dish washer, microwaves, electric convection ovens, an Insta-hot water dispenser, garbage disposal, pressure pump, clothes washer, home entertainment systems, etc. Gas stove and oven (always wanted gas burners), and gas on-demand water heater.

We don't burn a lot of gas, but I like the idea of using renewables whenever practical. Fuel prices are traditionally high in the islands. If they go over the moon, it will be economic incentive to switch.

We've toyed with converting to electric domestic water heater, and an electric oven, but it would take another inverter upgrade. More likely, that would happen if we purchased an electric vehicle. I'm waiting to see how Ford does with their EV pickup trucks.

We have neighbors on grid power, and some with grid tied PV/Micro-inverter setups. The biggest difference is when people contact me and ask if our power is out, I say: "Nope".
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 7:48 pm We have been running a strictly off-grid system for over 5 years.

Our first system was a 3kW inverter, 3.5kW PV array, and 350AH @ 48V VRLA battery. Our backup generator was (and is) a Honda EU7000is.

Our average daily consumption was roughly 10kWH.

We ran the system for 4 years, and in that time experienced 3 shutdowns caused by overloading the inverter AC Out (Microwave, Dishwasher, and 1.5HP water pump all drawing power at the same time.)

Our generator provided 8% of our total power. The number is slightly skewed high due to 9 months of volcanic dust and ash obscuring the sun about 25%.

We sold the 3kW system and upgraded a year ago. Dual 3kW inverters, 7.0kW PV array, and 450AH @ 52V LiFePo4 battery. Our average daily consumption is 17.5kWH.

Over the past year, the generator provided 3.5% of our total power. The number is skewed high due to our mechanic advising us if we are going to keep gas in the generator, we need to run it periodically. Also by the fact we were only using 3/4 our total PV array. Now that the roof and panels are in place, the last 90 days has seen generator contribution of 1.2%

We have two small houses, with two refrigerators, two chest freezers, dish washer, microwaves, electric convection ovens, an Insta-hot water dispenser, garbage disposal, pressure pump, clothes washer, home entertainment systems, etc. Gas stove and oven (always wanted gas burners), and gas on-demand water heater.

We don't burn a lot of gas, but I like the idea of using renewables whenever practical. Fuel prices are traditionally high in the islands. If they go over the moon, it will be economic incentive to switch.

We've toyed with converting to electric domestic water heater, and an electric oven, but it would take another inverter upgrade. More likely, that would happen if we purchased an electric vehicle. I'm waiting to see how Ford does with their EV pickup trucks.

We have neighbors on grid power, and some with grid tied PV/Micro-inverter setups. The biggest difference is when people contact me and ask if our power is out, I say: "Nope".
Impressive system, the one line my solar is attached to which is our workshop, farm store, walk in cooler, and a line runs over to our fuel pumps too but that dosen't use much. I run atleast 100kwh to 150kwh per day so I got a ways to go. For a regular home 18kwh per day is pretty comfortable living.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

Also if you want a generator to live a long time you should run it monthly for a few mins with a bit of load. Could just top up your batteries or somthing that day, 7kw of solar you could run a dryer or a water heater or an electric stove but you would be very much at 100% load with that and your other basic needs.

Would your batteries handle stacking a 3rd inverter?
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Phi rates the 450AH battery to support as much as a 12kW inverter.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 8:51 pm Phi rates the 450AH battery to support as much as a 12kW inverter.
So your fine then to add another, impressive setup.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Yes. I'd actually add a pair, to keep the option of series stacking, though currently we parallel stack because we only have 120V equipment.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 10:13 pm Yes. I'd actually add a pair, to keep the option of series stacking, though currently we parallel stack because we only have 120V equipment.
Fair enough although you can move power around easier with split phase so theres that too.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Shadow_Storm56 wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 4:26 am
raysun wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 10:13 pm Yes. I'd actually add a pair, to keep the option of series stacking, though currently we parallel stack because we only have 120V equipment.
Fair enough although you can move power around easier with split phase so theres that too.
Actually, I've noticed just the opposite, and the main reason I've left the system single phase.

In a "one legged" electrical distribution, the full output is available to any branch circuit automatically.

With "two legged" split phase, loads must be physically apportioned between l1 and l2 in a manner that mechanically evens out consumption. Both legs needn't consume maximum available current, but output potential is wasted if the legs are unbalanced.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRKsolar »

I'm half a world away from Raysun (Puerto Rico) but his story sounds like mine, except I still have a connection to the utility instead of a generator. I run Mini Grid and never sell to the utility.
I started with a Radian 8048, 15kwhr lithium and about 4.5kw of panels and that covered about 80% of my usage. I added another 3kw of panels, charge controller and 15kwhr of batteries a few months ago. I haven't used any grid or generator power since then. I have 4.5 tons worth of air conditioning that we run all the time, although when it's really hot I have to play with the settings a bit. Battery capacity(30kwhr) is the pinch point and interestingly the biggest ac demand comes between 6-10pm when the solar has stopped so it's up to the batteries. Our house is concrete with zero insulation so that doesn't help. We don't have a dryer, our stove is propane and our water heater is solar (check into to it Raysun, it works fantastic). We don't need to even think about any other usage. We could use electric for a dryer if we used it during the day when the charge controllers are supplying the load, but will probably go with gas.
We ended up off-grid because the power quality here is brutal, lots of burned out appliances. It's not cheap, but worth it for us.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Mike Curran »

My 2 cents: I think it's a lot easier to be off grid when you live in a warm, year-round sunny environment. And of course, generator backup. When you need to heat your house and have snowfall, solar alone doesn't cut it unless you have a ginormous array. We have 2 air source heat pumps (barn and house), no dryer (unless you count the two clotheslines :grin: ), an oil-fired hot water heater (runs 4 hours/day on a timer, double insulated). Most lights are LED, most cooking on an induction burner, but in winter we have 2 circ pumps running constantly as part of a wood-fired boiler/furnace setup (~250W total). We also have a soapstone woodburning stove inside the house - we burn a lot of wood!

This year has been a pretty good one for us, electric-bill wise. No bills from April through November, partly because Outback upgraded the Skybox firmware to allow up to 12kW sell to grid. The previous limit was 5kW. (Thanks Outback!). But we couldn't go off grid with our current consumption habits. I'm pretty impressed with what you off gridders are able to do.

Sorry to go off topic. [And please notice, I didn't need to quote the entirety of anyone's previous (lengthy) post to make my point. A pet peeve of mine. :mad: ] Now watch somebody quote me :grin:
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 4:44 am
Shadow_Storm56 wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 4:26 am
raysun wrote: Fri Dec 03, 2021 10:13 pm Yes. I'd actually add a pair, to keep the option of series stacking, though currently we parallel stack because we only have 120V equipment.
Fair enough although you can move power around easier with split phase so theres that too.
Actually, I've noticed just the opposite, and the main reason I've left the system single phase.

In a "one legged" electrical distribution, the full output is available to any branch circuit automatically.

With "two legged" split phase, loads must be physically apportioned between l1 and l2 in a manner that mechanically evens out consumption. Both legs needn't consume maximum available current, but output potential is wasted if the legs are unbalanced.
I see your point, radians seem to be able to balance the load really well but with individual inverters for each leg you wouldn't have that ability at all. I wonder if you added 2 more inverters if you could do a 3 on one leg and one on the other combination. Get 240v but have 9kw on one leg, 3kw on the other and 6kw across the 240v. Best of both worlds if it will allow for that combination
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

radians seem to be able to balance the load really well
Does this imply that a 4kW Radian module can, for example, produce its 4kW of output on L1 and 0kW on L2 if called on to do so?
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

I think it's a lot easier to be off grid when you live in a warm, year-round sunny environment.
Without a doubt, and a key factor in the off-grid decision for us.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRKsolar »

Raysun: Does this imply that a 4kW Radian module can, for example, produce its 4kW of output on L1 and 0kW on L2 if called on to do so?
No, half of its power to each leg. Definately a drawback, but having split phase let me just attach the system to the existing transfer switch in place of a generator and run everything (including 240 loads) without adding any sub-panels.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRHill »

We began to plan our home 14 years ago. We knew it had to be off grid from the beginning as there are no utilities available unless you count 2 bars of cell (on a good day) and satellite access. I knew nothing of RE except for heat from wood and a friend who had four little plastic wind generators that were always breaking down. I can't recall how but I came across Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. In addition to their inventory, they were a wealth of information. I had the advantage of a fair amount of past experience with AC circuits and a bunch of DC so knew 48vdc was the way to go.

The first mission was water 'cause if no good water the whole project was a joke. The water well was a success. The pump was to be a Grundfos AC/DC and the well would be its own system feeding a pressure tank with 600w solar a 15a controller and 4 12v marine batteries. That came together with a learning curve but worked fine.

For the home, first was an energy audit for essentials. Then a really WAG for the needed power harvested from solar. Outback stuff caught my eye and I liked that they were a WA company. The choice was confirmed when I learned that the components could be interconnected and talk to each other. Whoa, cool! I went with a VFX3648 and an FM80 to handle 3000 watts. I could get 8 Trojans down the road. Propane ran the kitchen stove and a Rinnai on demand water heater. In the 12 years the system has been running 30AAC is completely sufficient and we've never had a over current error or even a flipped breaker (in the house). I've had the cleanest and most reliable power since I left big city life in the '90s.

The system worked from the initial power up. Programming parameters, particularly battery charging, was another story. I had already learned about deep cycle charging phases from the water well but the house system was much more involved.

The solar stuff was easy to amortize but I had a lesson to learn about consumables. Batteries, ergh! Generators, double ergh!! And this is the time to bring up maintenance. If something happened to me I wanted the wife to be able to continue on. She has A LOT of management experience for things and facilities massively technical but very little patience for the chores. Hooking up a new set of Trojans and checking the water and SGs was one thing. Then years 2 & 3 things begin to change. Years 4 and 5 got me a lot of dirty looks as the batteries aged. Then was time for a new bank and dang, this one will last longer. Not. I now know why but lead batteries and our system/usage were not a good match.

There are a lot of details omitted here. There have been some upgrades in recent years to mostly achieve the goal of the wife running things in my absence and frankly, to my benefit as I am slowing down a bit+. It has been pricey but no where the $250k++ to bring power 2.5 miles through the forest.

To the original post, we live with many of the same luxuries of modern life: electronics and gadgets, fridge/ice maker, 2 chest deep freezes, etc. But still suffer from poor cell service and the #&@% satellite internet and the need the search visitor's luggage for blow driers and curling irons. However we get to live in a place where the only sounds of civilization are those of a jet to/from SEA or PDX or the echoing of a logging truck's jake break 5 miles away in a different canyon. And the ability to sight in a rifle from the front porch.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 9:15 am Raysun: Does this imply that a 4kW Radian module can, for example, produce its 4kW of output on L1 and 0kW on L2 if called on to do so?
No, half of its power to each leg. Definately a drawback, but having split phase let me just attach the system to the existing transfer switch in place of a generator and run everything (including 240 loads) without adding any sub-panels.
That's been my understanding. Thanks for confirming. A GS4048 feeding only 1 leg is essentially a 2kW inverter module.

It's 240V split phase output, is, as you describe, the standard for connecting to North American house wiring that's patterned to accept grid power.

Ours is not, being a single leg 120V distribution. It would be a matter of adding an L2 feed, which we may do some day. For now, the dual 3kW inverters are parallel stacked for 6kW @ 120V, and are quite efficient at doling out power under varying loads. Were they series stacked, they would act much like a Radian, with each leg fed by its own phase. Each inverter perfectly capable of outputting 0 - 3kW (independently, per leg) instantly.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by EA6LE-ONE »

I am set as off-grid as well just a bit northwest of Puerto Rico in Turks & Caicos Islands. I have grid power which I use to charge the batteries in rainy days and from time to time to do refreshment.
I have a Generac 22kw propane generator in case of emergency that was used 2 times in the last 2 years(once when was installed and once for testing charging the batteries. I have a 80 gallon hybrid water heater that is se only on heat pump mode and three 7 gallon point water heaters, Two 5 ton and one 4 ton Carrier infinity 21 ACs as well one 9000btu and one 12000btu Mr. Slim from Mitsubishi. I also have 3 fridges, one washer/dryer combo and stand alone washer and dryer. one double oven, one induction cooktop, one microwave and oven combo, one range with induction cooktop, one microwave oven and various kitchen appliances. 2 water pumps 3/4HP and one 1HP, there is also the pool automated system with a 2.9HP pump. And of course lots LED lights indoor outdoor (deploying the Christmas lights at the moment, about 2 weeks of my spare time). Also big TVs and XBOX, PS, surveillance equipment, sound systems and 4 servers and 4 gaming laptops (converting excess of power for science projects on BOINC). And many smaller gadgets that we deem necessary of day to day use.

Not really trying to prove the "size" of anything but just accounting for all that is powered by four 8KW radian inverters set as two systems.

I had 2 older VFX3648s running for 1 year that were upgraded to a radian about a year ago. they were previously used to my old house where I still have one working with the old battery that is dyeing and will be replaced soon by simpliphi (if nothing better and cheaper is not coming out in the next 6 months). I still keep my old inverters just in case of emergency or another setup in the future.

In the last 2 years that I had the radians working I had only 3 faults. 2 were from the firmware version of the Mate3s and one recently from a power board from master inverter that went bad. Luckily I have a 5th inverter for spare and did the diagnostic and fixed my master in couple hours. Outback sent the part in warranty and I purchased another one for about $180 for spare.

All in all I am happy with my system and smile at all the others that installed solar power to augment the daily use and not off-grid that in case of power outage have no or limited back-up without a generator. Many got solar here but they don't understand the limits of batteries and need for constant supervision. When they calculate the cost of the system, maintaining it and the cost of replacing batteries they just give up and say never again.

So if you can deploy and maintain the system yourself it is worth the cost but you will have a hobby like it or not for life.

Here we cannot sell back to grid and if you install as grid tie/interactive with no battery back-up you can save maybe about a third of your power bill. The power company wanted for complaint system (installed by them) that all the power to go to their grid and then they will sell it back to you without fuel factor. I will have to check with them again as maybe they changed their policy in the last 2 years and there are few local company that they are installing solar commercially.
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- 30 (2x15) 235W panels with Enphase M215 microinverters, grid-tied

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- 14 Talesun 275W in series (DC array input to SB inverter/charger)
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Mike Curran »

So if you can deploy and maintain the system yourself it is worth the cost but you will have a hobby like it or not for life.
Could not agree more!
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

raysun wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 9:34 am
JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 9:15 am Raysun: Does this imply that a 4kW Radian module can, for example, produce its 4kW of output on L1 and 0kW on L2 if called on to do so?
No, half of its power to each leg. Definately a drawback, but having split phase let me just attach the system to the existing transfer switch in place of a generator and run everything (including 240 loads) without adding any sub-panels.
That's been my understanding. Thanks for confirming. A GS4048 feeding only 1 leg is essentially a 2kW inverter module.

It's 240V split phase output, is, as you describe, the standard for connecting to North American house wiring that's patterned to accept grid power.

Ours is not, being a single leg 120V distribution. It would be a matter of adding an L2 feed, which we may do some day. For now, the dual 3kW inverters are parallel stacked for 6kW @ 120V, and are quite efficient at doling out power under varying loads. Were they series stacked, they would act much like a Radian, with each leg fed by its own phase. Each inverter perfectly capable of outputting 0 - 3kW (independently, per leg) instantly.
It dosen't seem to be quite that simple, however the radian works it dosen't appear to work as 2kw per leg. Not sure how it balances it exactly but still.

It may be that some of the stages can handle more so it allow for the output to be unbalanced like 3 and 1 or somthing like that
Last edited by Shadow_Storm56 on Sat Dec 04, 2021 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

Posts are huge so I won't quote anyone but it's cool to hear about all these systems, the guy with 4 radians there is somone around here with a very similar sounding system. Everyone saying a hobby for life well I'll take it! Haha.

I notice alot of people 100% off grid tend to be in areas with low power quality.... seems to be alot more areas with bad power quality than I thought.
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2) Outback Flexmax 100 AFCI
12) Mission Solar 375W
8) Canadian Solar 395W
Tigo TS4-A2F

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by JRKsolar »

I can't say I've ever tested it and I don't know how they define continuous, but from the operators manual, pg 21:

IMPORTANT:
 The Radian inverter cannot support severe output load imbalance. The GS8048A can
maintain no more than 4 kVA continuously on either the L1 or L2 output, regardless of
the load on the other output. For example, it cannot maintain 8 kVA on L1, even if the
load on L2 is 0.
 Similarly, the GS4048A can maintain only 2 kVA on a single output, regardless of the
state of the other output.
 Any greater loads (at 25°C) will cause a Low Output Voltage error.
Shadow_Storm56
Forum Czar
Posts: 572
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:29 pm
My RE system: Solar panels, charge controllers , outback radian inverter.

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:02 pm I can't say I've ever tested it and I don't know how they define continuous, but from the operators manual, pg 21:

IMPORTANT:
 The Radian inverter cannot support severe output load imbalance. The GS8048A can
maintain no more than 4 kVA continuously on either the L1 or L2 output, regardless of
the load on the other output. For example, it cannot maintain 8 kVA on L1, even if the
load on L2 is 0.
 Similarly, the GS4048A can maintain only 2 kVA on a single output, regardless of the
state of the other output.
 Any greater loads (at 25°C) will cause a Low Output Voltage error.
Well in practice it does it anyway soo 🤷 🤪 maybe my until is special? Lol
Shadow_Storm56
Forum Czar
Posts: 572
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:29 pm
My RE system: Solar panels, charge controllers , outback radian inverter.

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by Shadow_Storm56 »

JRKsolar wrote: Sat Dec 04, 2021 12:02 pm I can't say I've ever tested it and I don't know how they define continuous, but from the operators manual, pg 21:

IMPORTANT:
 The Radian inverter cannot support severe output load imbalance. The GS8048A can
maintain no more than 4 kVA continuously on either the L1 or L2 output, regardless of
the load on the other output. For example, it cannot maintain 8 kVA on L1, even if the
load on L2 is 0.
 Similarly, the GS4048A can maintain only 2 kVA on a single output, regardless of the
state of the other output.
 Any greater loads (at 25°C) will cause a Low Output Voltage error.
Then again maybe they define continuous really weirdly
raysun
Forum Emperor
Posts: 7795
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:57 am
My RE system: Flexpower Two: (2) FXR3048A-01, (2) FM80, MATE3s, FlexNetDC
6 SimpliPhi 3.8-48 (48v @ 75AH. 450AH total)
Outback IBR3 battery enclosure
REC Alpha 440W panels - 2 arrays: each of 4 strings of 2 in series
Honda EU7000is gas fuel generator

Re: What's off grid like?

Post by raysun »

Well in practice it does it anyway soo 🤷 🤪 maybe my until is special? Lol
How is the output being measured?

The observation goes against expected design principals, and specifications stated in the documentation.

A Radian module cannot "borrow" power from the opposite phase to augment the active phase in any manner that I've seen documented. If anything the active phase may produce a surge current over its 2kW rating, but that would be short-lived.

Can an.example be shown?
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