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Power failures  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. What is the longest power failure that you have personally experienced?

    • Never had a power failure
      0
    • Under one-hour
      0
    • Half a day to a day
      3
    • About 24 hours
      1
    • 1 to 3 days
      2
    • 4 to 7 days
      5
    • 1 to 4 weeks
      2
    • Over a month
      0
  2. 2. About how many power failures have you experienced in your lifetime?

    • None
      0
    • 1 to 5 power failures
      3
    • 6 to 20 power failures
      9
    • Over 21 power failures
      1
  3. 3. Would you say you are currently well equipped to go through a seven day power failure

    • Yes, absolutely
      7
    • Almost, I need a few more things
      4
    • Absolutely not, I'm under equipped
      2
    • Every time there is a power failure, I go to friends' or a hotel
      0


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ELMER

I'm curious to know how any of you have dealt with power failures in past. Also, do you have obscure recommendations that you think others may not have thought of to deal with both short and extended failures?

powerfailure.png

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I am off grid all the time. I have been cut off for good. I will never have service from smeco. So I dont care if the system burns down I will still be on the air. Thats a good thing. I am part of the OX-COM group.                                     SEE YA AB3LE OX-COM Charlie  

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I use a 20A Astron 12V DC power supply in the shack along with a 20A gel cell battery. I use a KI0BK Low Loss Power Gate to keep the battery charged and for seamless transition from mains-derived power to battery-supplied power.

I plan to pick up a small inverter-controlled output generator and a better/faster battery charger, along with additional battery capacity, so the generator only stays on long enough to recharge the batteries.

Ideally, I'd like to get a whole-house generator, with a battery bank that can keep required loads running, again, so the generator only runs to handle bigger loads and battery charging.

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We installed a natural gas-powered generator that supplies power to key areas of the house and heating system when the power goes off.  In the shack I’ve installed a large gel cell battery that’s charged using a West Mountain Radio PowerGate.  When the power drops the radios remain on while the the generator comes on line.  We installed the generator after the Derecho rolled through the area a few years ago.  We have had several power outages since then, one that lasted nearly a day, and the generator served us well. We consider it was worth the investment. 

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ELMER

If anyone has photos of any original power failure setups, feel free to post them! I'll post a couple in coming days.

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ELMER

I have experienced a small number of extended power failures at home. My station power supply is a 12V/100Ah lead-acid battery that is charged by a ProMariner ProNautic 1220P battery charger. This high-performance charger includes critical safety features like temperature compensation and shorted-cell detection. And in a pinch, with the flip of a (virtual) switch, it becomes a 12V/20A regulated power supply - no battery needed.

I have a 3 kW inverter/generator that provides enough power to keep my station battery charged, power my telephones and refrigerator, and run a small portable heater that is sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing (we have radiators!). This is a labor-intensive arrangement, but it has proven effective on those rare occasions where I have needed it, and costs a lot less than a whole-house backup generator.

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ELMER
3 hours ago, KN3U said:

I have experienced a small number of extended power failures at home. My station power supply is a 12V/100Ah lead-acid battery that is charged by a ProMariner ProNautic 1220P battery charger. This high-performance charger includes critical safety features like temperature compensation and shorted-cell detection. And in a pinch, with the flip of a (virtual) switch, it becomes a 12V/20A regulated power supply - no battery needed.

I have a 3 kW inverter/generator that provides enough power to keep my station battery charged, power my telephones and refrigerator, and run a small portable heater that is sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing (we have radiators!). This is a labor-intensive arrangement, but it has proven effective on those rare occasions where I have needed it, and costs a lot less than a whole-house backup generator.

Al, do you have an inverter? Curious because I'm looking into one now and am always concerned about RFI, even with ones listed as pure sine wave. I recently had a problem with my Vertex MPPT solar controller 😞 I couldn't figure out why my waterfall was suffering from an series of less-than-joyful birdies, lots of them. Inverter-wise, for now, I'm looking at the Samlex 600w pure sine wave inverter pst-600-12, which happens to be on sale. I would use it for my radios but also for small AC needs during the power failure. Just curious... @W4DOI has the 300w but for the price difference, I thought I'd go for the 600.

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  • 4 months later...
  • Elmers
ELMER

At present

My first back up is a 5000 watt Engine Alternator Set (Generator to most folks).

Second back up is a Honda EU2000i Inverter Generator, over 400 feet of various outdoor cords, with weather proof connection covers.

Third is a "Pup" generator. That is a small engine mounted on a steel plate and fitted with an A pattern industrial belt pulley. That drives a high capacity vehicle alternator, using a A belt to another A pattern industrial pulley, which produces an effectively unlimited supply of 12 volt DC; i.e. more than I'll ever need. That will be supplemented with a large capacity sign wave inverter, once the stay at home order is lifted and I can prowl the wrecking yards for one out of a total loss service van or truck. I already have a source for a riding mower engine which is higher horsepower than the present one in case the one I have will not carry the inverter I hope to get. I plan to put together cord sets with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standard connectors for 12 volt DC, to run to a Schlocky Diode battery isolator  and a charge controller for the battery.

Fourth is the 2 Absorbed Glass Mat Valve Regulated Lead Acid 100 Ampere Hour batteries. Those are under continuous charge by the station's 50 Ampere linear power supply.

That leaves me set for the likely duration of power outages here at my home location. Which is to say 2 to 4 weeks maximum.

What it is not completely adequate for is for a true field deployment. To be completely prepared for a prolonged field deployment I would want to add another switching power supply to the 23 Ampere one which I already have. I'd prefer a second one to a larger one so that each of the 2 readily transported radios I have will have a power supply if they need to be used apart. The other thing I'd love to be able to afford to buy would be 2 Lithium Ferro Phosphate batteries of somewhere around 50 Ampere hour capacity. Again that would provide one for each radio I might need to deploy. The reasons that I would like to obtain the LiFePh4 batteries is that they are much lighter per ampere hour than almost any other battery chemistry presently available. AGM batteries weigh 80 pounds in the 100 ampere hour capacity size. LiFePh4 batteries that are 100 A/h in size weigh 15 kg or 33 lbs 1 oz, have a much flatter discharge curve; that makes it possible for a LiFePH4 battery to carry nominal 12 volt loads through almost their entire capacity without any need for a boost regulator; they are acceptable in air, and other common carrier, transportation, they are not counted in the limit on Lithium polymer capacity which is now enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); but because of inadequate training you will need to take them to the TSA office with the documentation of their acceptability well prior to your departure. That means that you don't have to go through the additional effort and high expense to ship them overnight to the deployment area when you travel by Airline, Bus, or Train. Being at the Airport much earlier than your scheduled departure means that you can run them over to an air freight office if the approval is declined.

--

Tom Horne

 

In the future

I am planning to add propane / natural gas fuel capability to my larger generator set. The reason to have propane fuel supply as well is that propane, like natural gas, does not have fuel storage issues. Thus whatever sized propane tank I’m able to afford would be available to run the generator if the natural gas supply failed. When I need to replace the generator which I have now I hope to be able to buy an electric start model which could be left connected to Natural Gas so that by solenoid controlled gas flow and electric starting I could have it online without leaving the operating position. When I could afford to add an automatic transfer switch I would do so but not necessarily leave it in automatic all the time. If I bought a 200 Ampere automatic transfer switch the cost would be higher than I can justify on my family's budget. By placing the minimum critical loads in a feeder supplied panel supplied from a fifty Ampere breaker as the Feeder Over Current and Fault Protection I would only need a fifty ampere transfer switch for automatic transfer and generator control of the power to the emergency loads feeder supplied panel.

The reason to leave it in manual start is to be able to use any load in the house and avoid overloading the generator by applying careful load management.

When I didn't need the automatic transfer capability I could have the generator connected to a different cord inlet and a generator supply relay of only 50 ampere capacity. On the closing of the starting control relay, by wireless remote, it would apply the generator’s Starting and Ignition battery's 12 volts to a solenoid trip on the emergency panel feeder's breaker. An auxiliary contact of the shunt trip Service Disconnecting Means breaker would close when the breaker tripped and apply the generators Starting and Ignition battery power to the generator supply relay. A Normally Open auxiliary contact on the generator supply relay would then close and apply battery power to the starting solenoid of the generator.

If the Service Disconnecting Means breaker fails to open, when the DC of the generator starting and ignition battery is applied to it's solenoid trip, the contact which would have supplied the 12 volt DC control power to pull in the generator supply relay remain open and the auxiliary contact on the generator supply relay would also remain open and not engage the generator starter.

If we are talking about a power outage of months in duration I would like to have Solar Panels with capacity sufficient to carry the essential home loads together with a small wind generator for longer periods of cloudy whether. Those would feed the more cost effective AGM VRLA batteries in a home battery bank. If I ever got filthy rich I would use LiFePH4 batteries for the house bank as well because of the flatter discharge curve that makes more of the nominal capacity of the battery available for actual use and the much greater number of Charge cycles that can be done before the capacity of the battery begins to decline.

--

Tom Horne W3TDH

Edited by W3TDH
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ELMER

Wow @W3TDH, what a complete and useful description. THANKS for this. I definitely agree that the LiFePO4 batteries are extraordinary. Alan, @W4DOI and James @W3JRD swear by them. I know that we've used Alan's batteries often, comparing them to my AGMs and they far outperform them and, yes, they are much lighter. As for the price, agreed, not cheap. James actually has one of the 100AH batteries which must have cost him just under $1K.

I notice that you left solar right to the end of the future options. I must say that this is where I have invested the most, mostly because it is the one failsafe option. This said, it does come with its fair share of inconveniences and inefficiencies. For one, good luck with a solar panel behind a glass window. The Fresnel effect quickly brings you back to Earth; those panels have to be outside. Also, they're still not efficient enough for my taste. This said, we've become rather good at managing what power they do give us. I currently have 400W of portable panels, going into a very efficient, and too expensive, MPPT and then into a newly acquired (for the lockdown) 1500W pure sine inverter. I tested it with my big GE fridge and a few other necessary AC trinkets and I'm satisfied that with a reasonable amount of sun (I calculate 2 hours of pure sunshine) per day on average, and cycling through usage as in powering the fridge one out of every four hours, I could last as long as my batteries live. I also have a small 600W generator but being in an apartment, my fuel storage abilities are limited in space, safety, and legality.

I'l finish the thought by saying that, from experience, we are the rare birds. The vast majority of people do not plan well for power outages. Indeed, even those who purchase a Generac style generator, don't really understand the ins and outs. They neglect maintenance, let fuel sit for months, etc. Makes me realize that it's time to get my two daughters equipped with some backup power!!

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ELMER
9 hours ago, K3MRI said:

Wow @W3TDH, what a complete and useful description. THANKS for this. I definitely agree that the LiFePO4 batteries are extraordinary. Alan, @W4DOI and James @W3JRD swear by them. I know that we've used Alan's batteries often, comparing them to my AGMs and they far outperform them and, yes, they are much lighter. As for the price, agreed, not cheap. James actually has one of the 100AH batteries which must have cost him just under $1K.

I notice that you left solar right to the end of the future options. I must say that this is where I have invested the most, mostly because it is the one failsafe option. This said, it does come with its fair share of inconveniences and inefficiencies. For one, good luck with a solar panel behind a glass window. The Fresnel effect quickly brings you back to Earth; those panels have to be outside. Also, they're still not efficient enough for my taste. This said, we've become rather good at managing what power they do give us. I currently have 400W of portable panels, going into a very efficient, and too expensive, MPPT and then into a newly acquired (for the lockdown) 1500W pure sine inverter. I tested it with my big GE fridge and a few other necessary AC trinkets and I'm satisfied that with a reasonable amount of sun (I calculate 2 hours of pure sunshine) per day on average, and cycling through usage as in powering the fridge one out of every four hours, I could last as long as my batteries live. I also have a small 600W generator but being in an apartment, my fuel storage abilities are limited in space, safety, and legality.

I'l finish the thought by saying that, from experience, we are the rare birds. The vast majority of people do not plan well for power outages. Indeed, even those who purchase a Generac style generator, don't really understand the ins and outs. They neglect maintenance, let fuel sit for months, etc. Makes me realize that it's time to get my two daughters equipped with some backup power!!

 I should point out that I worked as a control electrician and was good enough that other electricians would ask for my help with control wiring challenges. I've done controls for pharmaceutical laboratories that handle dangerous pathogens. I passed the field Underwriters Laboratory Inspection on both of those. I also worked for 2 years as a fire alarm installation and repair electrician which involved a lot of control work to integrate the fire detection with elevator, kitchen hood system, fire sprinkler controls, and central station signalling systems.

I share all that to say to anyone reading the control schemes above that I AM, IN FACT, A PROFESSIONAL CONTROL ELECTRICIAN! Even another electrician who has not done extensive control work should not try to devise a power transfer assembly because it is literally a devastating injury and death prevention task. I'm not being arrogant in taking this task on. Life and death control systems, such as elevator control and fire alarm systems were my bread and butter for years. I know how to make and read ladder diagrams and control schematics. Attempting to design a one off power transfer control assembly would not be something most electricians would know how to do and, more importantly, know how to test. I'm not going to describe how transfer assembly testing is done less I tempt unqualified people to attempt it. It requires tools and equipment that most electricians do not have access to, let alone most AROs.

As too why I left solar power for my home to last, it is because of it's cost and the amount of work required. My order of back up power improvements, to my home, is based on short term effectiveness followed by long term effectiveness but only from a continuity of emergency radio operations point of view. Making the changes in the transfer equipment would go gradually from strictly manual; which is what I have now; to remote manual. Then from remote manual to partial automatic. And from partial automatic to fully automatic transfer.

Now that you made me look at this again I'm thinking that I will bypass the middle step and go to fully automatic with load shedding. That will save a lot of work and maybe lower the total costs. What may push me right back to a laboratory listed 200 ampere Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) is the possibly prohibitive cost of 200 ampere and 30 Ampere solenoid trip breakers needed to open the Service Disconnecting Means breaker, which would disconnect the entire building from utility power; and shed the Air Conditioner load which, at least for now, would not be within the power budget of the present generator. I have not priced them yet but I seem to remember, from my working electrician days, the cost of solenoid trip breakers being quite high.

I don't know if I ever told you that I've done radio equipment shelter builds from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska and from Uganda to French Frigate Shoals. Almost all of those involved a solar power array, charging controls, and battery bank. Some of the other power sources that we used were wind generation, thermal electric, and even water power on one site. Water power is a maintenance hog so we had to have a dammed good reason to resort to that. Many of the sights had some sort of Engine Alternator Set (generator) for back up power. LP gas was the fuel of choice for those. It will store without deteriorating almost forever or at least until the container corrodes through from the outside. It is also gentler on the engine itself than most other fuels and yet still has fairly high power density in Volt Amperes per pound.

In the deployment arena I would prefer to add in solar as soon as possible but as I'm sure you know that is fairly pricey to do. Improving on what I already have would be more cost effective in the sort term. I have an entire box of used folding solar panels here that I obtained from the left overs of a development project. I've just never taken the time to pull them all out, test each one for function, and begin to acquire the other parts of a transportable solar charging system for batteries.

Perhaps you would be willing to help me get to work on that after the pandemic crisis has abated. One of my hesitancies  is a complete lack of experience with transportable systems.

--

Tom Horne W3TDH

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ELMER
50 minutes ago, W3TDH said:

I don't know if I ever told you that I've done radio equipment shelter builds from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska and from Uganda to French Frigate Shoals. 

Perhaps you would be willing to help me get to work on that after the pandemic crisis has abated. One of my hesitancies  is a complete lack of experience with transportable systems.

On the first point, no you did not, and as though I were not impressed enough with you as is, I am more so now.

On the second point, absolutely. I love a challenge.

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ELMER
21 minutes ago, K3MRI said:

On the first point, no you did not, and as though I were not impressed enough with you as is, I am more so now.

On the second point, absolutely. I love a challenge.

Well great. If I make it through this pandemic alive I'll give you a call.

--

Tom W3TDH

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/2/2020 at 5:54 AM, K3MRI said:

 I currently have 400W of portable panels, going into a very efficient, and too expensive, MPPT and then into a newly acquired (for the lockdown) 1500W pure sine inverter. I tested it with my big GE fridge and a few other necessary AC trinkets and I'm satisfied that with a reasonable amount of sun (I calculate 2 hours of pure sunshine) per day on average, and cycling through usage as in powering the fridge one out of every four hours, I could last as long as my batteries live. I also have a small 600W generator but being in an apartment, my fuel storage abilities are limited in space, safety, and legality.

 

Jim,

I've been casually considering installing a solar system with an MPPT charger, AGMs and a pure sine wave inverter with the goal of powering the shack and chest freezer + refrigerator. I've got spreadsheets with various component selections but I've been afraid to pull the trigger over concern about RFI. I think you mentioned something about that up thread. Is your system RFI quite now? If you're willing to share I'd like to know your component selections.

My current likely components are an AIMS 40amp MPPT charge controller, AIMS 24v 3kW pure sine wave inverter with 2x100aH AGM batteries and 2x300W Monocrystalline solar panels. I'm thinking 24v panel to charger and battery bank in 24v configuration. This would give me a system costs of around $2K, plus wiring, panels, breakers, etc. Thoughts?

Thanks,
Mike / KA4CDN 

Edited by KA4CDN
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10 hours ago, KA4CDN said:

Jim,

I've been casually considering installing a solar system with an MPPT charger, AGMs and a pure sine wave inverter with the goal of powering the shack and chest freezer + refrigerator. I've got spreadsheets with various component selections but I've been afraid to pull the trigger over concern about RFI. I think you mentioned something about that up thread. Is your system RFI quite now? If you're willing to share I'd like to know your component selections.

My current likely components are an AIMS 40amp MPPT charge controller, AIMS 24v 3kW pure sine wave inverter with 2x100aH AGM batteries and 2x300W Monocrystalline solar panels. I'm thinking 24v panel to charger and battery bank in 24v configuration. This would give me a system costs of around $2K, plus wiring, panels, breakers, etc. Thoughts?

Thanks,
Mike / KA4CDN 

Hi Mike.

Before giving you a fuller answer, a couple of questions.

Based on the gear, I am assuming that this is for the home shack and not for an RV or portable.

If I am correct, how far will the install be from the shack and what kind of walls or flooring do you have between you and the MPPT. If you read between the lines, the MPPT is often the worst culprit. I'll do some research on the AIMS 40 amp and revert.

I love my inverter, but it still gives of RFI. The good news is that I only use it in the field and I've got the sweet spot figured out. As long as it's over 100 feet away, it's nice and quiet. Any closer and it's RFI central.

Over to you.

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  • 10 months later...
  • Elmers
ELMER

The Pup Generator Runs again.


If you have wanted to have an inverter generator but cannot afford to buy one of the good Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) offerings you may want to consider Home Brewing one. I have no interest of any kind in any materials vendor which I mention in this posting.

I suppose that most Hams who are thinking about an Inverter Generator realize that the most expensive part of one is the Inverter. It is possible to find one that is not going to put an unbearable hole in your back account balance. Vehicle Salvage yards can be a great source of parts for your project. Many Service Vehicles are fitted with Inverters of various capacities to run power tools at job sites or on board the service vehicle itself. Service Vehicles also get involved in collisions, some of which result in a total loss. Focus your searching on salvage yards that specialize in service vehicles or in trucks and vans.

Watch Craig’s List, Freecycle Network, Nextdoor free items lists and other such sources for the small engine you need. You may also be able to get an alternator from such sources. Free Lawnmowers are a great source of 4-7 HP engines.

The distinct sub assemblies which will be needed to build your less expensive inverter generator will be:

  • Mounting frame including;

    • Protective carry frame

    • Mounting plate

    • Drive enclosure

  • Vehicle alternator with 150 amperes or greater capacity

    • Universal cooling fan for alternator,

      • Alternator will be turning in the opposite direction from that for which the OEM cooling fan was designed,

  • Drive engine of 5 brake horsepower rating or higher

  • Drive assembly consisting of;

    • Flywheel pulley mounted on engine drive shaft, industrial A pattern, match shaft size,

    • Drive pulley mounted on Alternator drive shaft, industrial A pattern, match shaft size,

    • Drive belt, 36 inch, industrial A pattern,

  • Wiring harness and output connector for alternator,

  • Pure Sign-wave Inverter, capacity appropriate to the amount of DC current available or to your budget.

    • Using modified sign-wave output inverters will cause improper operation of some loads which can then damage the equipment which they supply or are a part of.

    • Some loads can be directly damaged or destroyed by a modified sign-wave supply.


The first thing that you will make or buy for this is a mounting plate. If the plate were only for mounting it would be easier to fabricate but since it also serves as the adjusting bracket for the drive belt tension it is probably the most work of the whole effort. If you are not up for cutting the mounting slots in the plate it can be obtained; along with many of the other parts, from the https://theepicenter.com/emergency-power/homemade-generators/vertical-belt-drive.html.


Second is the frame on which the mounting plate will be fastened. U Channel Construction strut is a good choice of material because many of the fittings can be purchased at a home center or Electrical Supply House.

Enclosure materials can be perforated metal sheeting, Expanded Mesh, and 1/8 inch opening Hardware cloth. I favor the hardware cloth because of it’s lower cost and lighter weight. Use angle metal to cover the edges.

 

The remaining steps of the assembly process are:
  • Fit the universal cooling fan and the small RPM multiplier pulley to the alternator shaft,

    • The OEM cooling fan will not be effective because the alternator will be turning in the opposite direction than the OEM fan was designed for.

  • Fit the larger flywheel pulley on the engine shaft,

  • Mount the mounting plate on the frame,

  • Mount the alternator and the engine on the mounting plate,

  • Adjust the positions of the engine and alternator to tension the A pattern industrial drive belt,

  • Adjust the pulley mounting on the shafts to align them at the same distance from the mounting plate,

    • Make that distance as close as practical to the bearings of the engine and the alternator to avoid placing avoidable leverage on the shaft.

  • Connect the alternator wiring harness,

  • Mount the alternator power connection,

  • Mount the Inverter to the frame,

  • Connect alternator output to inverter supply terminals,

  • Install enclosure material,

Note: If you don’t add an Inverter you will have built a “Pup Generator” That is a “Rectified Output Engine Alternator Set” that will produce copious amounts of DC current. That can be directly connected to the Starting, Lighting, and Ignition (SLI) Battery of a vehicle to supply all of the current that could possibly be needed to run several radio stations in or adjacent to the vehicle.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Here on the North Carolina coast we get hurricanes every year so a generator is almost a necessity.  My 5K generator runs most everything but the HVAC and water heater while we're waiting for Duke Power to get the lines back up.  Technically I could run the water heater if I didn't run anything else, but hot water isn't that big a deal for me in the summer.

The problem with my setup is finding gasoline for the generator when the power goes down for days.  Since gasoline goes bad after awhile I don't store large quantities of it, so when the newsman says a Cat 4 is coming, everyone runs out to fill can cans and that puts a strain on the supply.

Longest I've even been without power is about 6 days when Florence came through in 2018.

Power.jpg

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