Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Energy Independence Week, Day 2

Saturday, the 5th of July, and Day 2 of Energy Independence Week.

On Friday and Saturday mornings both, I ate cold cereal for breakfast which I hadn't done in years.  This week I'm cooking only with solar, wood, and charcoal, which isn't as convenient as gas or electricity.  My 50/50 mix of Special K and Crunch Berries hit the spot.

In the morning I mostly worked on my solar electric lashup, which as you see is totally safe and structurally sound.  My panels are mismatched for voltage.  I have a current booster which is designed to downconvert my 72 v panels to 12 v to drive a pump - I was hoping it would be able to charge my 12 v batteries as well, but it didn't.  It ran a car wiper motor okay but just sat there doing nothing when I hooked the battery to its output.

So instead I just connected all the panels directly in parallel with the batteries.  This forces the high voltage panels to operate pretty far from their maximum power point, so about 70% of the power comes from the one little 12v panel.  I was getting about 5 amps peak under hazy skies.  With the panels directly connected they can draw power from the battery if it gets too dark, so I have to watch the ammeter.  I was still getting positive amps at 5:30 pm.

I was hoping to use my little folding solar cell phone charger to run the compost bin fan, but that didn't work so well either.  In full sun it ran about half-speed.

Rain was forecast in the evening so I broke down the solar array and hauled it inside for the night.  It's wired together with cut up pieces of lamp cord and such, no conduits or weathersealing.

Here's my little outdoor kitchen.  Note chimney-style charcoal starter, no lighter fluid allowed.  I grilled up some burgers, zucchini, and portabellas more or less as directed in this week's Green Scene memo.  According to those recipes, the key to grilled vegetables is salt, lots and lots of salt.  

I set the dutch oven on the grill to use the rest of the charcoal to heat some water for dishwashing.

Meanwhile I went down to river for a swim.  There's a nice little park by the dam.  Earlier in the day I had tried to fill the solar shower bag again, but it sprung a leak again in the exact same place where I had fixed it before, so I gave up on that.  

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