A how to – Solar video production/editing 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).

The parts

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.

Charge controller
This acts as a basic power regulator and in shores that the “buffer” battery isn’t over charged and damaged.

“buffer” Battery
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.

Small laptop
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