Published Date 2/2/12 4:40 PM

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.