Solar panels installed on roof at G4MCU

In the interest of being “greener”, this past week we have had solar panels installed on our roof, and a large battery unit downstairs together with an inverter. I had been concerned that there was a risk of RFI, particularly on 2 metres, my favourite band for weaker signal work, but it appears there is none so far. I have scoured the Web for a general consensus on possible problems, and I summarise what I have found, which gives me relative peace of mind.

Solar panels themselves do not typically cause significant noise interference for radio amateurs. However, some of the associated electronic equipment, such as inverters used to convert the DC power generated by solar panels into AC power for household use, can generate radio frequency interference (RFI). This interference can potentially affect radio communications and cause difficulties for radio amateurs.

The level of interference depends on various factors, including the quality of the solar equipment, the design of the installation, and the proximity of the radio equipment to the solar installation. In general, well-designed and properly installed solar systems should comply with electromagnetic interference (EMI) regulations and have adequate measures in place to mitigate RFI.

If you’re experiencing interference from a solar installation, it is recommended to contact the owner or installer of the solar panels to address the issue. They may be able to make adjustments to the system or add filters to reduce the interference. Additionally, radio amateurs can employ their own mitigation techniques, such as installing additional filters or shielding on their radio equipment, to minimize the impact of RFI.

Our inverter is in our house and directly below the mast with my yagis for 2 metres, 70 cms and 23 cms, and within no more than six metres from the 4 metre vertical.

No problems detected at G4MCU but should there be any I will keep you posted. So far, so good.


How do we encourage younger people to become radio amateurs or hams in UK?

Visitors to Hamzilla 2023

There are several ways to encourage younger people to become radio amateurs or “hams” in the UK. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Introduce them to the hobby: If you are a radio amateur, introduce younger people in your family or community to the hobby. Show them how radios work, what you can do with them, and the benefits of being a ham.
  2. Attend ham radio events: Encourage younger people to attend ham radio events and conferences, such as the National Hamfest, the RSGB Convention, and the Ham Radio World event. This will give them an opportunity to see first-hand what ham radio is all about and meet other hams.
  3. Collaborate with schools: Work with schools in your area to introduce ham radio to their students. Offer to give presentations or demonstrations, or even set up a radio club at the school.
  4. Use social media: Use social media to promote the hobby and connect with younger people who may be interested in becoming hams. Share photos and videos of your radio activities, participate in online discussions and forums, and use hashtags to increase visibility.
  5. Emphasize the STEM aspect: Highlight the scientific and technical aspects of ham radio, emphasizing the STEM skills that can be developed through the hobby. Many young people may be interested in ham radio as a way to explore their interest in technology and engineering.
  6. Offer mentorship: Offer to mentor younger people who are interested in becoming hams. Provide guidance, support, and encouragement as they learn about the hobby and work towards obtaining their license.

Overall, it’s important to emphasize the fun and excitement of ham radio, while also highlighting the practical skills and STEM education that can be gained through the hobby. By making the hobby accessible and engaging, we can encourage more young people to become radio amateurs in the UK.

That is all very well in theory. The other day a new full licensee asked on-line for suggestions for joining a local club. Of course, I pointed him in the right direction, but it highlighted that new recruits do not come as they used to with a history of “short wave listening” as most of we old-timers did. CB was another route, but also has had its day as a source of radio amateurs.

Yes, take our young relatives and friends to radio rallies. There is always plenty to enjoy, not all radio-related, but maybe the radio can rub off on them. Would they come to club field days and see radio amateurs operating and try it themselves? The mentorship could follow. My best mentor was after I had my first licence, but I could have done with one before getting my ticket.

Should the RSGB target schoolteachers in science and technology? Send letters to schools! AMSAT has done a good job in connecting schools to the International Space Station.

What do you suggest?

Similar proactive promotion from the RSGB or the radio clubs themselves would definitely help.

Use social media. Well, I do. Do you?

Any other suggestions?

Radio rallies and Hamzilla 2023

Hamzilla 2023

When I was first licenced back in the Seventies, and going on into the Eighties, there were quite a few radio rallies reachable from my Essex base. There were very good ones in Harlow and Colchester, and of course the Eighties were the early days of the Canvey Rally. The major radio emporiums used to attend and sell their gear and there were always the small traders with tables selling equipment and junk, except that the latter was probably not junk to everyone.

There was also the big show in Leicester at the Granby Halls, and I also remember a very good show at Kempton Park racecourse.

Now the major radio emporia sell most of their equipment via mail order and online and they do not go to rallies; neither for the most part do the radio manufacturers.

Covid caused a pause in radio rallies being put on, but now we are seeing a few more, which is good news. My own club, SEARS put on the Canvey Rally last month, although I was not able to help in running it, but we were not short of very good club member volunteers who did. It was successful, though I am sorry I did not take any photos.

This month we had Hamzilla, run by the Dover Amateur Radio Club. That is about 70 miles from home in Essex, but I went with Aubrey, M7SDA, who kindly drove, and John, G4PJA. They were very pleasant company and made for an enjoyable day.

Hamzilla in full swing.

So, what about the rally? I somehow expected it to be bigger than it was. It was hard to judge numbers in a rather differently shaped hall to Canvey, but my impression was that the attendance was about the same as Canvey. Yes, I do know the numbers for Canvey as a club member but that is for us to know. Still, I think we have to say that Hamzilla 2023 was a success, so well done to DARC.

There were plenty of traders and one major manufacturer, ICOM, was there. Of course, their headquarters are local to Ashford, but I was pleased to see them. Clubs were represented as was RAIBC.

ICOM stand

I met a few people I knew, so the social aspect was satisfied as far as I was concerned.

The only minor niggle was the venue café, where the service relied on one lady who clearly found it difficult to cope on her own. There was a young chap who was running in and out of the kitchen for her, but she could have done with more support.

All-in-all I feel that Hamzilla was a success and I look forward to next year’s event. Again, well done DARC.

Transequatorial propagation on four metres

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a brief chat with Dick ZS6BUN over dinner at the RSGB Convention. He talked about VHF activity in South Africa and we each have an IC-9700. informs us that he is interested in weak signal work at VHF. Dick touched on the subject of TEP on six metres. Of course, not everyone at the table was into VHF so it was only a brief conversation on the subject.

In one of the 70 MHz groups to which I belong, someone drew our attention to a quote from the RSGB website:

“For some years stations in South Africa (ZS) have had a 70MHz allocation. The 9000km path between the UK and South Africa is particularly interesting as both ends lie at the extremity of the trans-equatorial zones. A contact over this TEP path is quite possible around Sunspot maximum and should take place when conditions are particularly good on the 50MHz band. Possible openings between the UK and South Africa will probably occur during the month of October.”

I am a newcomer or at least very late returner to 4 metres; I have limited experience and 50 watts to a quarter-wave vertical. However, I am very much interested in VHF propagation and was surprised by the comment about TEP on 70 MHz as far as the UK is concerned.

I emailed Dick in South Africa to ask him if he had any knowledge about this. He replied that he worked TEP on 50 MHz but was not equipped for 70 MHz However his friend Willem ZS6WAB is active on four metres TEP and has been for quite a long time. This was useful information and set me on the trail to find out more.

It turns out that Willem has worked into Europe on 4 metres and it looks as though he is the SSB record holder for distance although there is one longer into Italy via ISCAT. So there have been TEP QSOs between South Africa and Rome and to Mallorca.

What I cannot find is any reference to 70 MHz TEP QSOs further north in Europe, and apparently not to UK.

I would welcome any additional information. It is just conceivable that UK – South Africa contacts at 70 MHz could be made via TEP and some other mode of propagation, maybe very enhanced tropo, even Sporadic E, but both SpE and TEP are seasonal (SpE around the solstices and TEP around the equinoxes) so they may not coincide. TEP is apparently via chordal hop relying on two reflections via the F layer without an intervening ground reflection. One of my correspondents has suggested that the “geometry” may not be right for contacts beyond around 7,500 km on four metres. Has that distance been exceeded? I do not know.

Those were the days

I passed the Morse test and obtained my Class A licence in 1981 in order to operate meteor scatter on 2 metres using a high speed keyer, which sent code at 1000 lpm or equivalent to 200 words a minute. Like many others I used a cassette tape recorder with suitable pot to slow the tape down so that I could decipher what was being sent in response from the other end. We used to set up skeds on 20 metres (14 MHz) and that was the other reason I had to pass the Morse test; to be allowed to go on any frequency below 144 MHz in the first place. Incidentally my Yaesu FT221R handled 1000 lpm well without any mods.

We used to alternately transmit and receive in five minute periods and for that reason needed a very accurate clock. My then shack clock is pictured. It kept very precise time to the second once set against the pips on the BBC or the speaking clock on the telephone. This clock did a few years as the shack clock, and then thirty years as the kitchen clock (because that is what it is) and now as we have a new kitchen and new kitchen clock it is back as the shack clock. It has worked faithfully all these years and still keeps very good time. It is a very good example of older technology which just worked!

What helped me most to pass the Morse test in 1981? Well, I had my Datong Morse Tutor. I have never checked how accurate the speed calibration is, but it is supposed to be 6.5 to 37 wpm. I have no reason to doubt that, and it sounds about right, quite literally, as the Tutor still works well after at least 41 years.

I still have the FT221R but have not fired it up recently. On the subject of old technology from the Eighties my original FT290R works well but has needed repairs, and I like FT290Rs so much I have another two available for transverting, or operating on two metres in addition to my modern rigs.

But I just love the way the old clock and the Morse Tutor still work as they always did and I will be using the Tutor for practice as I return to active CW.

RSGB Convention 2022 dining companions

Inside Kent Hills Park

When I was in business I always believed in networking and it seemed to work best when sharing meals. I ran a breakfast networking group for quite a while.

Anyway, here is a summary of my Convention mealtime networking, or at least of my fellow diners.

Dinner Friday

ZS6BUN Dick SSB operation on the HF bands and weak signal working on the VHF bands. Dick had flown all Thursday night Friday morning and come to Milton Keynes, rather short of sleep I think.

Breakfast Saturday


Dinner Saturday

G0CKV Olof Presenting “Dxpeditions to 3B8”

M0OHV Piet

G3VKW Keith

M0IFT Dave

Breakfast Sunday

GM3SEK Ian Well known radio designer, constructor and contester whom I had never met and I just happened to grab a space on the table where he was sitting. To date I have worked him 24 times on 144 and 432. And of course also at the breakfast table…

MM0WNW Nadine, Ian’s wife.

Apologies to anyone else I might have eaten with but whose name and callsign I failed to write down. It was a pleasure to meet everyone.

My take on the RSGB Convention lectures and the event 2022.

Kent Hills Park reception and the radio van on the air

I attended nine lectures over the two days, five on Saturday and four on Sunday. My main interest in radio is propagation, especially VHF, but I am always willing to add to my knowledge regarding the lower frequencies.

I started on Saturday with “Building a VHF/UHF contest station” with Alwyn Seeds G8DOH. Contests are not really my thing but there were some useful tips on setting up a station. In the afternoon John Regnault G4SWX presented “Using the right tools to work more 144MHz DX, which was fascinating to hear how he does it very successfully. Next on was James Stevens M0JCQ with “VHF Equipment to start you going” which would have been particularly useful for VHF beginners and is something James has written about in RadCom.

Following on was John Petters G3YPZ “Getting ready for Cycle 25 – What to expect on the HF bands” which was interesting for me as I may return to the lower frequencies. John promotes the use of AM, which may not result in the best communication, but I am sure it is fun. I have worked John often on 2 metres but never on HF.

I finished the day with Nick Totterdall G4FAL’s Transatlantic Tests, which was a history of the early years of radio from around 1920.

On Sunday morning Brian Coleman G4NNS introduced us to the UK Meteor Beacon Project which was interesting but technical. I then attended Steve Nichols G0KYA, talk on “RadCom HF predictions – now and in the future”. Yes, lower frequency stuff, but good to know they do it.

In 2019 I did not stay until the end, going home early Sunday afternoon. This year I attended two after lunch lectures as I felt they would be unmissable. The first was a fascinating talk by Dr Colin Forsyth of UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory about Space Weather which is very relevant to amateur radio both for HF folk and us VHF people. It was very technical at times, but I think I got the gist.

The second talk on Sunday afternoon was entitled “What have the 2020s told us about Sporadic E?” by our old “weather friend” Jim Bacon, G3YLA. A good deal of Jim’s material was also quite technical and was remarkably interesting, but we still do not fully understand why Sporadic E propagation happens or how it can be predicted. It was very worthwhile staying for the afternoon sessions.

I thought the event was excellent, the content of the lectures was of a high standard and kept me more engaged even on subjects outside my main interests in amateur radio. I hope I learned quite a lot. I would certainly recommend to anyone who has not been to an RSGB Convention to consider attending in 2023.

Many of the lectures were livestreamed but also recorded so in due course they will be available on YouTube. Well worth watching and revisiting.

RSGB Convention 2022 – the venue

Inside the sloping courtyard at Kent Hills

The Convention was held as previously at the Kent Hills Park Conference and Training Centre in Milton Keynes on 8th to 10th October. I had attended my first Convention in 2019, which I enjoyed and due to Covid there was none in either 2020 or 2021, though the RSGB managed virtual conventions with live streams and recordings of the presentations by the chosen speakers. This had worked well, but of course the social aspect was very much missing. That is why I felt I must do my best to attend in 2022, which I did.

The accommodation at Kent Hills as of a reasonable standard as one would expect at a conference centre, but mostly single rooms with ensuite bathrooms. As some of you may know, I have had recent health issues which have affected my mobility. I found that with the arrangement of furniture it was difficult for me to manoeuvre myself in and out of bed, and in the bathroom, there was a shower over the bath, rather than a walk-shower, and again this caused me difficulty. If you have similar issues like me, you should ask for a more suitable room if going next time, which I understand from a staff member would be available.

The accommodation in general is three hundred rooms spread out in separate buildings over two floors, but all connected with covered passages to the conference rooms, bar, and restaurant etc, so no need to face the weather if it is poor. During the 2019 Conference it rained most of the time on all three days.

So that is mainly about the venue. I will tell you about the lectures shortly.


I learned yesterday that Mal Guthrie, G1NOX, Dartford, had gone Silent Key. I never met Mal in person but since my return to radio four years ago we had many contacts, and he came across as a very caring and interesting guy. I know he enjoyed dancing (jiving) and liked old cars, but we discussed so many things.

Mal had OFCOM withhold his details and you would not find him on, yet he was a stalwart on 2 metres SSB, calling CQ pretty much every day on 144.30 SSB. He worked us locals, and up and down the country with a decent set-up and was also on 70 cms. I know he enjoyed working serious VHF DX too, though I think he did not keep much of a log as many of us do.

There will be many people throughout most of the UK who will remember Mal, mostly for 2 metres, and he will be much missed, and certainly very much by me. RIP Mal, a really nice chap.

Sporadic E and a tale of the unexpected

MOONRAKER 70MHz Base Vertical Antenna

An exciting couple of days after my previous post about working the Spanish station on 4 metres!

Yesterday things started to happen on 144 MHz and in just over 20 minutes from 1510z I worked IK0FTA, IK0SMG, IK0RMR, and IK0BZY all in JN61, all 59. I did not hear anything else in terms of DX on the band though some other stations did. I felt pretty pleased with this “haul.”

Then, much to my surprise (again) having gone back to 70 MHz for a look just after 1800z I worked 9A2SB (JN95) and 9A1Z (JN86). My 50 watts SSB and small Moonraker vertical are doing well, far better than I hoped. I think I rather like 4 metres. I certainly did not expect this sort of DX on 4 with the antenna I have, but this is terrific! I have worked just four squares and three of them are rather distant, and 9A2SB is nearly 1,500 km away.