Problems with boat solar install
Installed a MPTT 12v set-up on my boat about 9 months ago, worked well getting 4-8 amps from 2x 120w panels mounted flat on the boat cabin roof.
A week or two ago it started to fail, one of the panels was putting out 1.4v the other full volts so disconnected one panel and the set-up worked for a few days before the other panel failed. It was putting out full voltage but only showing 0.1 amp on the MPTT controller under full sun.
Checked all the wiring, no change, so replaced all the wiring, this did not fix the issue. With all the new wiring I put in a older non MPTT charge controller and went away for the weekend, came back to find the battery’s at the same state of charge.
The “broken panel” was putting out 1.4v in the shade and 9.5v in full sun, the “working panel” 13-20v depending on the sun, but no power was going though to the battery’s.
I removed both panels and installed a old 100w flexible panel, this worked with the old charger and the MPTT charger. It seams both of the 120w panels had failed.
Talking to the the suppler to resolve the issue.
Cheap travel/small screening projector
LED bulbs, cheap lithium battery’s and high power USB charging have changed what a projector is. Its now easily possible to have a full cinematic experience in your pocket and run it for hours on very cheap USB battery’s. The days of expensive, power hungry and fragile projectors are over for all but the most demanding permanent set-ups. The are hundreds of these “micro” projectors available, they vary in quality a lot, here is a review of a good one.
If your looking for a very cheap travel/small screening projector I can recommend this one
Tiny, relatively well made, lots of ports and did I say very cheap.
LED bulb so robust long life and low power.
Plays videos from HDMI, USB thumb drive, micro SD card in many formats (it will not play surround sound audio files). As with many embedded playback devices it can get the aspect ratio wrong this is a normal problem. Will work fine by HDMI with image and sound from a laptop etc.
Used it at a recent all night illegal rave party under a railway bridge to provide background images, plunged into a small USB battery (5000mah) it easily lasted the night on loop.
Fits in your pocket and has a built in battery which last 1-2 hours, charges/runs off standard USB up to 2amps.
Its no were near its rated 800 lumen, more like 50-100 which is normal for a projector this size. You would have to pay something like £500 for a 500 lumen LED projector. Its brighter and the sound is louder if you plug it into a 2amp USB battery/power supply rather than run it off its internal battery.
Sound might be an issue when running on mains power due to hum.
In darkness it creates a large bright (somewhat over saturated) image, like all micro projectors it will struggle to overcome ambient light.
|Display Type||DLP Technology|
|Highest resolution supported||1080p (this is acturly only 854x480 and will be dowen scaled)|
|Brightness||800 Lumens (this is not true)|
|Aspect Ratio||4:3 ,16:9|
|Built-in battery||3.7V 1500 mA|
|Focusing Manner||Manual Focus,F=125|
|Image Size||14 to 150 Inches|
|Projection Distance||35.5cm-430cm(short throw)|
|Power consumption||10W Max|
|Lamp Life||20,000 Hours|
|Interfaces||HDMI/USB/AV/SD/3.5mm earphone jack|
|Supported Video Format|| 3GP(H263, MPEG4) / AVI(XVID, DIVX, H264) / MKV(XVID, DIVX, H264) / FLV(flv1) / |
MOV(H264) / MP4(MPEG4,AVC) / MPG(MPEG1) / VOB(MPEG2) / RMVB(RV40)
|Supported Audio Format||MP3 / WMA / ASF / OGG / AAC / WAV|
|Supported Picture Format||JPG / PNG / BMP|
|Supported Document Format||TXT|
|Dimensions||78*71*24.5mm (L x W x D)|
Have been testing it for a week, so far I would say a buy.
7/10 value for money
Installing new or upgrading solar
Cheap solar panels
Review of Goalzero adventure pack - Solar power
UPDATE: they sent a replacement panel and battery pack and am awaiting a bag to send back the old ones so they can test them. Good company.
Nomad 7 (7 watts) Solar Panel and Guide 10 Plus battery pack
This is a high power 5V usb solar charger that works as well as plugging your phone into the wall in good sunlight. With 1 amp of power it will efferently charge all but the latest huge phones such as the note II which it dose struggle a bit at.
An excellent products that I have been using for the last 2 years. In that time with about 9 months of hard use both parts of the set-up have finely failed.
It had been well used in over 7 country’s and over the summer of its failer was used for 6 months In Poland, Slovakia, Crimea before finaliey failing on a 2 month trip to the Canary islands.
The Guide10plus battery pack melted the plastic rappers off a set of Mignon Hybrid NiMH AA 2100mAh battery’s. They were finger burning hot, then with a fresh set of battery’s it gives off pungent white smoke from one of the internal components and dose not charge or function.
The panel failed at the same time, this time the failer was less final. Originally the panel worked fine in a good sunny position it could could charge 3 devises in a day with power to spare.
Now it is lucky to ¼ to half charge a devices in a days good sunshine. I think an internal cable may have broken if goalzero don’t come back with a solution might try to cut the fabric open and examine each join to check this. Both products had exposer to due and some light rain in north Europe in the south Europe the was a lot of fine blowing sand and volcanic dust. The panel had the cover folded back which might have stressed the internal cables? Neither had any “abuse” beyond normal hard use.
To sum up the products are excellent but not indestructible and am now reaching out to the manufacturer golazero to get feedback on what might have coursed both components to fail at the same time. Watch this space for a reply.
Cheap Solar 175W
A evil tainted favour leads to a renewable energy mess
To illustrate what a mess we are currently in. Solar power over the last 10 years has plummeted in cost and crept up in efficacy, leading to a shift to sustainable energy in many western country’s. This decrease in cost had nothing to do do with western entrepreneur and the capitalist path. The funding (huge subsidy) was paid by the Chinese government (and the people it taxes). It was a state planed and funded attempt by the chines communist party to gain dominance in this new era, they did this by top down building of huge solar power factory and infrastructure, the plan was to bankrupt the western producers by swamping them with cheap products and then profit from cornering this global future industry.
This seceded up to a point but they over steeped the production so were caught in a spiralling decrease in price that easily swept away the nebulous western solar industry. But also run away and undermined their own economic base, central planing in a “capitalistic” hybrid system is hard to control. So, we have a moment of hugely under priced solar flooding the world market. This has been proven to be very challenging to our existing energy monopoly’s. With no indigenous solar industry left the is nobody to lobby our legislators any more to keep the market open. Our monopolist are putting legislative blocks on solar roll-out in place to prop up their old industry’s and apart from some green’s the is little standing in their way.
China inadvertently doing evil dose the would a huge favour, but the “evil” in the end taints the “favour”. Its clearly a mess and if we still had a grown up politics maybe we could do something to mediate this mess.
Smartphone Solar Charging
Am thinking of running a workshop on small scale solar power.
Here is an example of a cheap set-up that will run your large smart phone (and charge a tablet)
This a Samsung Note phone to give you an idea of the size.
The panel is rate at 1amp were the 6000mAh pass through USB battery is rated at 2.1amp's
Thus the set-up will charge your phone as fast as if it was plugged into the wall, using the battery as a reserve of power to achieve this.
This is a light weight and cheap solution costing less than £40 a realy usefull travel and adventure tool.
Mobile Solar power for a laptop
Am thinking about running a workshop on portable solar power.
This is 32w folding solar panel with a battery pass through DC to DC transformer and 13' video editing laptop running adobe CS.
All Folds up and fits in a laptop bag.
The solar costs £200-250 and you need a relatively expensive ultra book with 3D graphics card to do CS editing. Portable solar will struggle to power a full sized editing laptop. Total cost just over £1000
Offgride travel with Small Solar Power
If you are taking your small USB powered devices off grid for a week or so then you will need a way to keep them powered up. In this review I look at 2 small folding solar panels. Both will charge a "dumb phone" or a normal smart phone and can charge larger phones or tablets for occasional use.
We have the Goalzero Nomad 7 from the USA and the smaller and cheaper UK based Bimbalesolar panel (A badged china import)
Both have approximately the same power output but the is a large price difference. The Slightly lower powered Bimble panel (6W) is a few years newer than the US panel (7W) thus smaller due to the use of 20% efficient cells compared to 17% for the older panel
The Nomad 7 has a light wait plastic regulator/plug box and has both USB and a 12v output (3-4W) which could be useful for trickle charging lead acid 12v battery’s. But not much everyday use for this function.
- Weight: 16.2 oz (460 g)
- Dimensions (unfolded): 9 x 1.5 x 17 in (22.9 x 3.8 x 43.2 cm)
- Dimensions (folded): 9 x 1.5 x 6.5 in (22.9 x 3.8 x 16.5 cm)
The Cheaper panel has a heavy folded metal box.
Extend Size: 200 x 400 x 20mm
Folded Size: 200 x 155 x 26mm
Is the size and large price diffrence worth it?
The build quality of the Goalzero panel is excellent, with custom components throughout, and it will likely survive for longer with hard use. While the Bimblesolar panel has good build quality and will like survive OK. The cheaper panel might prove to be easer to repair if it fails as it is made with standard components. Both will work fine to charge your small USB device.
On balance the price, and to a lesser extent the size differences makes the Bimblesolar panel the clear winner between the two.
How to use:
If you can turn your device off to charge it as this will reduce charging time. (some devices will not turn off while pluged in such as iphone's)
Use a power pass through USB battery pack to store power while your charging your devices. You must look hard for "power pass though" and pay slightly more for this feature.
Keep your expensive electronics dry, cool, in the shade and out of site.
Take care of your USB cables as they are fragile. If you can use the cable that the device came with as each cable is actually different and can alter charging times. Shorter cabals are better than longer cables in general.
Best small USB Solar Panel
Solar USB Charger 6W
Simply plug your USB charger into the back of the charger and let the sun charge it back up, good for external USB batterys.
Good for travelling, festivals, trips to the park and charging on your car dash board. If you are traveling then you can use the side tags to strap it to your back pack so it will charge your devices while you walk along. It has a zip up net on the back to keep all your charging cables neatly together.
Maximum Power: 6W±5%
Numbers of Panels:2
Output Terminal: Intelegent USB
Extend Size: 200 x 400 x 20mm
Folded Size: 200 x 155 x 26mm
Bag Material:Fabric (waterproof):PVC
Solar Panel: Sunpower Solar wafer
Zip net to keep cables
- Recharge by: USB, Solar Panel
- Power Output: USB, AA/AAA Batts.
- Ideal for: Phone, GPS, Headlamp
- Kit Includes: Guide 10 & Nomad 7
- Weight: 1.2 lbs
With the Guide 10 Plus Recharger and Nomad 7 Solar Panel you have a portable, rugged charging kit as adventurous as you are. Charge AAs from the sun or any USB port, then power your phone, MP3, GPS, or perk up your tablet in a pinch.
Chargeing your Laptop form solar power
12V Macbook Magsafe2 Laptop Charger, rather than running an inverter and then your standard charger this will allow you to charge directly from your 12V batteries being more effecient and saving you power. Link
12V Universal Laptop Charger, rather than running an inverter and then your standard charger this will allow you to charge directly from your 12V batteries being more effecient and saving you power.
Adjustable output voltage at 15V, 16V, 18V, 19V, 20V, 22V 24V
Support most of the Notebook for HP IBM COMPAQ and SONY (With circle plug) LINK
DIY solar power to far
Many of the times I tell people how easy it is to build a small solar power set-up, I am given a dismissive and superior reply that I should be making my own panels not advising people to buy ones. This like many insecure replies is both wrong, dis-empowering and could be dangerous. Here is an article on the subject http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/Solar-Articles/build-your-own-solar-panels.html the article highlights its not a bad thing to actually make your own solar panel, just don’t do it as a serious way of generating DIY power. To give building a go try this article http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Solar-Panel
How to solar power your Tablet
You need a panel with at least 14W to charge a tablet, the are a lot of them out there, but, they get VERY mixed reviews. I have only used larger or smaller panels so can't vouch for any of these so please do some research before buying.
Here are a sample that fit the speck - click on the image for the ebay link for each
The is no guaranty that a naked USB power lead out of a solar panel will charge your device, to increase the chance of this working you need to buy a USB battery with pass-through. This is just an example, check the speck carefully very few USB battery’s do pass-through charging
This setup would work fine for a large smart phone or any USB powered device. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and feedback real life experience here please.
You can't always get what you want
Problem with semi flex solar panel
Solar speck - Broad Beam canal boat
Was asked to speck out basic solar for this boat. They don’t use a lot of electricity so a small set-up would help keep there battery’s topped up and healthy and they could add more latter if needed.
As it has so much free roof space might as well go for framed panels as they are cheaper. Would need to check the panel size and space around the mushroom vents and find a way to get the cable into the boat to the battery box.
Depending on the cable run, for a short run to the battery’s I would recommend this basic simple 12v set
For longer cable runs this one might be better.
The advantage of 24v is less voltage drop from long cables the disadvantage is complexity, you are mixing 12v and 24v so could be messy if fixing things with out experience.
You would need to make some custom cables and connectors and secure the run from the panel to the battery box. http://www.bimblesolar.com/extras/6mmcable this cable will allow you to add more panels with out re-wiring.
Basic solar power for lifeboat
Here is a list of components to get basic solar power working on a converted liveabord lifeboat.
Then you have a choices of 2 different type of charge controller, possibly unreliably but more efficient MPPT or a bog standard cheap PWM controller - to start out I would probably go for the cheap controller.
Or a very cheap basic controller here for around £12
Then you would need a length of 6mm cable and a pear of MC4 combiners
The boat currently has 4 starter battery wired up into 2 separate redundant 24V banks, I would re-wire one of these as 12v and use that for a while.
Have to test a all the wires and find out what is 12v and what 24v
Have to find out which bank of battery is live
Then get some 3 way car cigarette splinters, good soled wire and 5m of LED lighting strip, more info here
Quality Refurbished laptops - Thinkpad
I recommend buying a Refurbished Thinkpad laptop to activists.
T series - are good soled general use laptops
X series are small and very low power for protest camps and solar power setups
Used ThinkPads are cheap because after businesses are done with them, which is 3-4 years after they’ve been released, they flood the market.
- They’re really cheap when you buy a used one
- Splash-proof keyboard
- Keyboards feel excellent while typing
- Great Durability
- Utilitarian design
- Spare parts are easy and cheap to obtain
- Easy to repair, upgrade and maintain
- TrackPoint (that red thing on the middle of the keyboard), great for those who type a lot
Find out more here http://www.ktgee.net/post/49423737148/thinkpad-guide
Look on ebay for good prices it changes all the time here is a link that might still be good
Boat Life - Battery power
Need at least 4 big battery’s http://www.alpha-batteries.co.uk/boat-batteries/225-ah-xplorer-leisure-battery/ could have more depending on space under the floor. Then cabling to put them all in series and charging for solar arrays and wind turbine, would need a selection of charge controllers and heavy-duty cabling – then lighter cabling around the boat for LED lighting
The battery’s will need to be put into a battery box with external ventilation.
Light portable solar laptop power
This might be a good portable low powered laptop charging system.
Mercury27 Portable & Foldable 27 Watts Solar Battery Charger. I haven’t tested this and it gets mixed reviews but for bang for the buck this is a very good deal if it works. Get it here
MP3450E-60 27,000 mAh Dual External Battery Pack. For a more portable set-up you could use a single battery.
If anyone is doing a trip to the USA I would be up up for ordering one if they could brining it back to test.
A basic solar power setup for summer laptop use and winter lighting
Here are a list of components you could use to build a basic solar power set-up for powering a laptop in the summer, charging a phone and LED lighting. In the winter it would provide lighting and basic phone charging but would have problems keeping a laptop running. The images and links are just examples, you would need to research at time of buying for best cost/utility of components. Am up for consultion on this.
The panel goes in a sunny location (high up and out of the way) with no shade, the cable comes down to close to the battery (make up the connectors for the charge controller) connect the panel to the charge controller and the controller to the battery with as short wires as you can manage. Then the battery to the 3 way splinter, plug the 12v cigarette lighter plug into the splinter for laptop and USB charging. Wire up the LED light strips with cheap wire to the battery with a switch. Then connect the voltage meter to the battery its very important not to run the battery at less than 12v as it will permanently degrade its function after a while. Try and keep the battery full charged at 12.6v if you can, to do this it is best to use the power during full sun in the middle of the day and not at night, if you store the power to use latter you can lose as much as 40% of it...
100w solar panel from under £100
Basic Solar Charge Controller Solar Panel Battery Regulator under £20 (a 10amp charge controler is fine)
*** you will need to get the correct conecters for the cables for the charge controler you buy ***
12V 110AH Leisure Battery at under £100 you could just use a old car battery, but it would degrade in 6 month to a year depending on use.
You need a "lug" to put on the top of the 12v battery to screw the connectors two and rings to put on the end of the cables
BATTERY LUG TERMINALS around £10
To connect things to it you need:
MULTI SOCKET CAR CIGARETTE LIGHTER SPLITTER USB PLUG CHARGER DC 12V under £10 you would need to cut the plug off and directly connect this to the battery (remmber red (white strip) goes to + and black to - if you do this wrong ones you burn out the USB sockit)
Warm White LEDs Waterproof Flexible Strip Lighting12V, best off buying these from hongkong (less than £15) then cut it up to fit the space.
This would come to £200-250 with out the battery and take a day to put together with basic soldering/crimping skills. Probably a day to order from ebay and Amazon.
* use a volt meter to check polarity when connecting cables
* use your nose to smell for burning and look out for heat
* never plug any 12v components directly into the solar panel with out the battery in between (apart from charge controller)
* don’t run the battery under 12v for any length of time
* keep the battery full charged as much as possible
* in the summer make shore the battery is in a well ventilated space as it may produce explosive gases
* in the winter make shore the battery doesn’t freeze
* to conserve power run your laptop with its internal battery disconnected
Solar vagabond - Smart Phone
This is a setup which will easily charge and run small electrical devices up to tablets in size. The panel Weighs only 0.8 lbs (0.36 kg) and fold to the size of a book.
List of equipment: http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/79/Guide-10-Adventure-Kit/1:1/
UPDATE: this kit worked very well, now off to a desert island for a month to test it out with some new battery’s and bigger phone.
UPDATE2: it failed the test see this post for more info
Balcombe - power use
I have been at Balcombe anti-fracking camp for two weeks now (DRAFT)
Broken inverter box of shame
We have come a long way in the tech tent in helping to change the mindset of the camp to be more environmental. The camp is moving more slowly towards being in tune with the wider natural rhythms of the seasons. Our next challenge in this is to get the camp to recognise that there are seasons and that autumn is coming. As a natural shift, power generation will start to move from sun to wind and other more experimental energy generating.
What have we achieved:
We moved peoples' perception on to be aware that where power comes from affects when you have it. The current power is solar and it comes from the sun so any power we have is available when the sun is brightest and strongest – so we have power between 11-4 o’clock to use laptops and charge phones. Before and after this only core and emergency use is available.
We managed the transition from inefficient inverters powering 240v AC hungry household appliances to native 12v DV low powered equipment. This is a basic green issue of energy use: use less and use it better. The inverting is costing more then 40% of the power coming in when you take into account battery efficiency.
WHY? It's about the efficiency of the battery/wire/voltage converter technology. Storing the power then retrieving it has a cost. We decide not to pay this cost. We use the power as much as possible directly from the sun. The batteries are used as floats, they buffer/moderate the power. If you use the batteries as floats and buffers you can use this power with little loss. As soon as you shift use of the power to other times you have the energy cost of charging, storing and retrieving the power – this can be as much as 40% of the total coming in. When you add to this the inverting (DC-AC-DC) of power which we were doing at the start this makes no sense at all unless you are connected to a coal or nuclear power station. The reality was that the batteries in the camp were shipped out by car each day, charged on the grid then shipped back by car, drain and repeat.
We are still working on the respect and longevity of the environmentally damaging batteries that we use and are donated. 6 have been destroyed so far and most of the rest damaged/degraded. This is a ecological cost in polluting with dangerous lead and acid. It's a mission that we will have more time for after the basic set-up is in place.
We cleared the tech space of the mad rip-it-apart-every-night energy and replaced this with more clear and safe sorted people (well, as sorted as you get at protest camps). This led to semi-permanent working set-ups rather than the draining of energy of having to re-build everything from scratch each day. It's interesting that it's hard to move people beyond the black and white thinking of solving problems to the more holistic thinking of respect for diversity of strategies. This mad creative/destructive energy has a space in the camp – and we have to nurture a space for it, rather than try and use a lot of energy failing to exclude it.
We face the basic green issue of energy use, use less and use it better in the case of batteries. The core space is now working, the next challenge in power is diversity of sources. Can we move investment away from solar as the summer comes to an end and the daylight hours shorten and fade.
For any power you take out in the evening about twice as much power has to be put back in the morning, so it's a bad way of borrowing shifting use times. It's an education building a power station at a protest camp.
Solar Panels - 100w cabling and connectors
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOLAR
What’s the difference between solar panels tecnolaguys?
-Made from single silicon crystals
-Works well in any conditions
-Made from multi-crystal silicon
-Looks like fish scales or shattered glass
-Simpler manufacturing process
-Easy to manufacture
-Weak: break easily
-Work well in shady conditions
-Typical use: solar calculator
18 Watt Folding Solar Panel Laptop Charger
This is cheap and light: Nature Power 55020 18 Watt Folding Solar Panel Laptop Charger w/8 Amp Controller.
Nature Power 55020 18 Watt Folding Solar Panel Laptop Charger w/8 Amp Controller
- Rugged and Weather Resistant Canvas
- High Powered Crystalline Technology
- O-Rings for Mounting
- 8 Amp Charge Controller
- 10 Laptop Adapter Plugs
- Battery Clamps
- 12\' Wire\
I haven't tested this - funding permiting I will get one to review, in theory it would work well with this Tekkeon 3450i
The best voltage regulator/battery for portable laptop solar power
You need to buy this exact model myPower ALL Plus MP3450i R3 External Instrument Battery as the cheaper ones in the myPower range do not allow power pass through, that is you can only charge OR power you cant do both at the same time. It also regulates the power in from 12-24VDC to charge the battery. A one stop solution for medium powered portable devices when combined with a 20-30 watt solar panel.
myPower ALL Plus MP3450i is a lithium polymer battery (16% more capacity than MP3450) for use with portable, laptops, instruments and equipment as portable power, or as an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) for battery backup. This universal battery provides power for equipment between 5V and 19V.
6.85" (L) x 3.32" (W) x .9" (D)
Portable power pack
This looks quite usefull, next time we get some funding in I will get one to try, has anyone used one?
PortaPow Premium Dual Emergency USB Battery Extender External Pack here
The capacity is 6600mAh, 203g and 110x88x15mm
The pack outputs 2.1A from one socket and 1A from the other, a total of 3.1A of power which will alow fast chargeing. the only issue seams to be that it whont pass charge through (need to test this).
Solar Vagabond - escape the rat race
You can run IT equipment with renewable energy. Would you like to escape the rat race and move your office to the hart of nature, deep in a old growth forest, camping on a beach. Anywhere the is sun you have a power source.
In this video I take you through how to set-up a basic portable solar set-up to power a laptop. The cost is around £300-400 for a DIY build.
Find out more at http://hamishcampbell.com/gadget
Old UPS battery for solar setup
Am testing out a load of solar gear in my back garden, have a old 17AH lead acid battery from a UPS, trying to find out if it will hold a charge. You have to keep batteries topped up with power otherwise they deteriorate over time.
UPDATE: it did not hold a charge I had to go out and buy a new battery from maplins, which works fine.
UPDATE2: I damaged the new battery so have to replace that, by charging it with out a charge controller, was using a volt meter to keep an eye on its level manually, but it only took one time forgetting and leaving it out in the sun to damage the battery - get a charge controller as human beings are prone to fail (:
Solar power ready for the summer!
Spent all day repairing my solar kit for the summer, lots of soldering involved, made some new cables as the is no standard for plugging the different parts together in solar setups.
Solar laptop power
This is a new 32W panel which is more than my older 25W panel, and runs a bigger laptop
Rugged folding 32.2W solar panel. 18 to 20VDC open circuit voltage. Current 2.4A in full sun. Cigarette socket connector. 16" X 10" folded; 14" X 44" unfolded. 1 1/2 inches thick folded. 6 pound 4 oz weight. Eyelets at each corner and at panel middle to allow mounting or suspension with rope or bungee cords. Very durable and rugged. Ripstop camouflage nylon enclosure. Take this panel anywhere. No glass. Advantages over thin film: open circuit voltage 18-22VDC (thin film tends to be 15 to 16VDC, as panel heats in sun or if in hot climates voltage for thin film panels drops and you may not charge efficiently or at all). Also thin panels are much less efficient. Substantially larger area for comparable outputs.
This is a 7AH lead acid battery, it is used as a voltage buffer and as a reservoir of power. The cables are a 240v inverter, AA battery charger, Volt meter.
This is a much bigger laptop (14.1" and i5 proceser) than my usual solar setup, we can eather charger OR power but not both at the same time.
Workshop on Solar Vagabonds at London Hackspace
The solar vagabond. Move your office to a beach or mountain-top far away from the power lines and keep connected. I have been testing and working with solar tech for years and will do a presentation of new and old toys. With advice on which gear to buy/not buy for your laptop/mobile. Feel free to bring your own gear!
The exampes I give here are from two of my less successful solar experdions.
Fri 17th February 6.30pm
This is 32W soild panel with 2nd generation lithium battery
This was a more robust solution, but it had many problems, the second generation battery would not pass throug power while charging thus was very limited in use. And the set-up was 3x as heavy as the flexible panel limiting its use to more long term set-ups rather than vagabonding. This set-up hasn’t been fully tested yet.
Equipment: Thinkpad T410 and Panasonic 900 AVHCh
Not used yet due to carrying weight issues.
0.2w USB 4xNiMH phone charger
A very cheap, 10 and 10 for the battery’s. This worked, but it would take 2-3 days of sun to power the phone for one charge, and the NiMH battery’s had a high self discharge rate thus would lose power as fast as they gained it on low sun days. This kit kinda worked, so I bought a second one, I use it mostly as a USB backup charger for my citizen journalism work – with the recharging coming from the laptop USB not the solar panels. On the Greek island trip I would use a car lighter USB charger to recharge the NiMH battery pack for later phone charging, with the solar part being marginally useful.
HTC Desire Z and Nokia 95B
Used on wild camping trip to Greek island beach for one month.
The history of my Solar Vagabond kit (DRAFT)
Film-makers/writers/graphic designers have you ever dreamed of being able to work in the hart of nature rather than a boring office in the hart of the rat race. Well now you can work away from the electric grid (in a sunny climate) using small scale, light wate solar technology, the latest folded solar panels work well for powering portable electronics. Here we provide a set-up for a solar powered video production/editing studio that fits in a small day backpack.
25w flexible panel + lead acid battery
The first set-up was a tangle of wires and connectors. This worked fine for running/charging small laptop with about 15 min battery power out of the sun. This would run a 12V laptop power supply up to 20Voutput.
Equipment: Fujitsu laptop and Sony PC330 camera with 12V battery charger
Used for Canary island for a month, I built a lean to hut from dried cactus prongs and bamboo in abandoned village in the north of the island. A short work from a empty beach.
25w flexible panel with 12xNiMH battery replacing the lead acid battery
This didn’t work well, as the battery’s didn’t charge and/or were over charged damaging them. This barely worked beyond smoothing the panels power output.
25w flexible panel with 1st gen lithium ion battery
This was the perfect set-up, allowing the running of a small laptop and charging USB devices. This would run a laptop upto 20V input
Equipment: Thinkpad X61 and Sony HC7 camera
Used for a overland hitch-hiking, train, bus, bout, cregslist car share and portareacken taxi trip from San Francisco to New York overland 6 weeks.
The problem was that the panel internal (folding) connectors failed during the trip and the battery pack was latter damaged while charging from a 24 volt bout battery on a island squat in London.
32W soled panel with 2ed generation lithium battery
This was a more robust solution, but it had many problems, the second generation battery would not pass threw power while charging thus was very limited in use. And the set-up was 3x as heavy as the flexible panel limiting its use to more long term set-ups rather than vagabonding. This set-up hasn’t been fully tested yet.
Equipment: Thinkpad T410 and Panasonic 900 AVHCh
Not used yet due to carrying weight issues.
0.2w USB 4xNiMH phone charger
A very cheap, 10 and 10 for the battery’s. This worked, but it would take 2-3 days of sun to power the phone for one charge, and the NiMH battery’s had a high self discharge rate thus would lose power as fast as they gained it on low sun days. This kit kinda worked, so I bought a second one, I use it mostly as a USB backup charger for my CJ work – with the recharging coming from the laptop USB not the solar panels. On the Greek island trip I would use a car lighter USB charger to recharge the NiMH battery pack for later phone charging, with the solar part being marginally useful.
HTC Desire Z and Nokia 95B
Used on wild camping trip to Greek island beach for one month.
7w USB charger with 4xNiMH battery
Am currently testing this set-up, it is likely a perfect system, it has plenty of power for charging a smart phone, and the battery’s are low self discharging NiMH. It will charge a device very fast in changing sun conditions and can charge 2 USB devices at the same time. Can also be used for slow charging small 12 volt devices.
HTC desire Z and thinking about getting a Kindal for reading.
Will be used on my next trip.
Solar - recharging a smart phone
If you are buying a solar kit to charge a smart phone and small electronic devices, cameras, AA battery’s etc. I would recommend this one http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/132/Guide-10-Plus-Mobile-Kit/6:1/
A would not recommend any of the small hand held devices except for VERY light use.
DIY guide to using solar panels for your laptop and smart phone
This is a show I made a few years ago on solar power and vagabonds.
Shows you how to connect your laptop, camcorder or digital camera to a folding solar panel. Free energy from the sun so you can work anywhere. Your host Hamish Campbell also gives you a look at his X-ray of his broken shoulder.
My first backpack Solar edit studio
Filmmakers/writers/graphic designers have you ever dreamed of being able to work in the hart of nature rather than a boring office in the hart of the rat race. Well now you can work away from the electric grid (in a sunny climate) using small scale, light wate solar technology, the latest folded solar panels work well for powering portable electronics. Here we provide a setup for a solar powered video production/editing studio that fits in a small day backpack.
For a small laptop the cost of the solar power system is around 350-400 pounds, and for a big laptop around 600-650 pounds which might seam a lot but this is for free portable power from the sun for 20 years (the life of the panel).
You can also use this system for charging any small electronics devices: ipods, mobile phones, PDA’s MP3 players, GPS systems etc. vie a car cigarette lighter adapter, or by a using a small DC to DC power adapter (they come with different power tips that fit most devices).
Folding Solar Panel
Sunling produces a 25W panel that will charge laptops and camera batteries and run a small laptop if the panel is in full sunlight. The is a more expensive 55W panel (P3) that will run larger laptops. To make it all work efficiently you need full sun and a way to adjust the position of the solar panels to face the sun directly as it moves through the sky.
This acts as a basic power regulator and in shores that the “buffer” battery isn’t over charged and damaged.
The solar panels output unregulated power from 12-25V, with most appliances used being designed to run off 12V this can easily damage electrical equipment – thus the battery provides a buffer to “sock up” this excess voltage and put out a more stable 12-14V of power which the equipment is designed to handle. It also allows a reserve of power when the sun goes behind a cloud the laptop will run (10-15 min) or continue charging (30 min or so) drawing power from the battery and panel. The buffer battery automatically chargesoff the panels when you are not using or have finished charging your laptop/camera batteries.
DC to DC converter for laptop power
This takes the 12-14V from the solar panel (and/or the buffer battery) and coverts it into the correct stable voltage for the laptop in the case of the fugitzue this is 16V. They also come with a selection of connecter tips so you can plug the system directly into the normal DC power plug of most popular laptops.
Cables and adapters
You need a bundle of assorted cables, car cigarette power plugs, crocodile clips etc to plug every thing together. Ones you have the system running well there can be hardwired into a neat/secure connecter box.
Its good to use a laptop that is very low power with a good size battery. Change the power settings in the operating system power management to maximize battery life/runtime.
To directly power the camera you can use a 12V car cigarette power supply (buy from the manufacture). Or the best option is to get a cheap 12V battery charger which saves the camera from possible damage from the variable voltages of a solar system. Then run the camera off the batteries when using it as an editing deck. This will work better as your panel might not provide anufe power to run the laptop and camera simultaneously while editing.
12V camera battery charger
Are cheap and available for most camcorder batteries. You can also charge all normal rechargeable batteries for other appliances with the appropriate charger.
A shady waterproof spot for editing
To easily see the laptop screen and work comftabel you need a shady environment, with reliable full sunlight close by for the solar panel. Electronic equipment doesn’t like heat, moister, salt or dust so when not working keep everything in a clean sealed containers and outa the sun.
Your expensive electrical equipment is very fragile and the is no guaranty that the vagaries of solar power will not damage it. We can accept no responsibility for such damage – be careful/aware when plugging things together:
* if in any doubt get some one who understands electricity to help you out.
* normally black goes to black and red to red when connecting 12V cables.
* test everything thouraly, make shore all electrical connections are secure/soldered and cannot move/short out.
* when testing use a volt meter to check output voltages at each stage of the connections.
* always use a “buffer battery” or some sought of voltage regulator (the charge controller is NOT a voltage regulator).
* plug appliances in, if the charging light doesn’t come on un-plug themIMMEDATLY and re-check all the connections/settings.
* keep a good eye on all components till you are shore the system is reliable and safe – look for flashing warning lights, burning smells, excess heat and other problems.
When your solar system is stable it can be a very safe and reliably source of sustainable power. If you have any more questions or need handholding through the process of buying and configuring we run a consultancy - please get in touch Hamish@undercurrents.org