VHF beacons at the Tehachapi property

     Taking advantage of the good VHF propagation at the Tehachapi property, VHF beacon transmitters are on the air there 24/7 (except when there are fires or equipment failures).  The first two-meter beacon went on the air full time in 2003 with batteries recharged by solar power.  By 2008, beacons were operating on six meters (50.068 MHz), two meters (144.294 MHz) and 70 cm (432.294 MHz), providing a reference signal on the three most popular VHF+ bands for propagation observations and antenna or  receiver adjustments. 
     After the cabin and almost everything else at the property was destroyed by a fire on Sept. 4, 2011, a new two-meter beacon was set up within a few weeks even as the post-fire cleanup continued.  Here's how the setup looked at the original cabin, pre-fire.
     On the tower behind the cabin, the top and bottom panels were pairs of Matrix Solar 80-watt photovoltaic panels (four total).  The middle panel on the tower and the panel mounted on the cabin's deck handrail were Kyocera 125-watt PV panels.  They charged a bank of 12-volt batteries having a total capacity of about 600 ampere hours.  The panels were mounted at steeper than optimum angles to minimize the time snow covered the panels during the winter.  After the fire, a new system was set up with four 125-watt solar panels to charge a 450-ampere-hour battery bank, initially housed in a steel job-site box.
     The post-fire beacon's output on two meters is about 50 watts into a small Yagi pointed northwest (about 315 degrees).  The two-meter beacon is regularly heard from Mexico to Sacramento, and it has been heard as far north as southern Oregon and as far east as Utah and Eastern Arizona.

This is the site of the N6NB/B beacon post-fire.  The 70-foot crankup tower on a trailer cannot be raised due to fire damage, but it appears to be in no danger of collapsing.  It is no longer safe to climb (if it ever was).  A tower that once supported a stack of HF antennas (including a 5-element 20 meter beam) is now nothing more than a mast for a small two meter Yagi.  At right above is a photo showing more detail of the steel job site box and solar panels.

The map at right shows the beacon site in the Tehachapi mountains.  At nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, the beacon has a clear shot in many directions.  If anything, the propagation is better now than before the fire because the near field is so much more unobstructed.

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