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 Solar - Any Recommendations? 
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Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:18 pm
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Post Solar - Any Recommendations?
Hi All,

I am setting up a solar kit for remote places.

Can anyone suggest a good kit to start looking at?

Cheers

Murray


Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:35 am
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Location: Alberta, Canada
Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Hi Murray,
I would google some websites that could help you in calculating your power requirements.

I went through all this when I bought a solar panel/batteries for my RV.

There are 2 main factors:
1. The amount of capacity you require to run your equipment, add up amphours, etc. (the batteries)
2. How much of the power that you use daily which must be replaced by solar.

For example, if you are going on a one week trip and you calculate that your batteries can last 4 days, you must be able to make up for the extra 3 days by charging your batteries enough by solar. If your requirements are indefinite (ie. 5 week trip to the salt) your solar must be able to replace what you used from the batteries every day. My recommendation is to calculate what you need and add at least 50% to the solar power charging capability as cloudy weather and such can put you behind and it's hard to catch up if you're merely able to replace the power you've used each day in optimal charging weather. I went overkill on both battery and solar and I'm really glad I did, I never run out of power, I can go a week in the rain before I start thinking about conserving. Running out of power SUCKS! Fleeting, majestic landscapes don't wait for your batteries to finish charging!

Also, make sure that you get some kind of charge controller as you can very easily overcharge your batteries and ruin them. The controller also has a diode so that if you leave the panel hooked up all night you won't lose all your battery power out the panel.

Don't forget to calculate your longitude/latitude so you know what you can expect the panels to put out. Here's a site that should help you calculate:

http://www.solar4power.com/solar-power-sizing.html

One last bit of advice you may not find on the web is that solar panels are much more efficient when they remain cool, since putting them in the shade won't help you much, always make sure there is some airflow behind the panel and it's not on the super hot ground. This will often get you an extra 5-10% efficiency.

Hope that helps you out! By the way, your salt stuff and other photos from your site are awe inspiring! I'm going on a 6 week trip from Canada through the western US in 2 weeks and I'm definitely hitting the salt in Utah/California! Cheers bro! Any idea where your documentary can be seen/ordered in western Canada?
Chris


Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:02 am
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
murray let me know if you ever talk to those brunton people. i'm still thinking about their 12v system.


Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:57 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Quote:
some of the new high end panels actually increase efficiency when they get hot. sanyo panels are incredibly efficient in higher temps. the hotter it is outside the more power they produce. they are also the smallest size to watt ratio of any panel that i have found.


Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but I'm quite certain all solar panels lose efficiency with an increase in heat, it's just that some of the newer more efficient technologies don't degrade as much as others. You're still best off to keep the panel as cool as possible. Here's some info:

http://www.energymatters.com.au/sanyo-2 ... -2486.html

also here, see the section on "cell temperature" about 1/3 of the way down:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell

Power output per unit area (efficiency) is one thing, price is the other. My panel is a little bit larger in size than the most efficient panels for similar wattage, but cost quite a bit less money so it was an easy decision.

Murray,
If you're riding your bike/trailer onto the salt for a long ways, you probably don't want a huge 12V battery weighing 70 Lbs (but if you don't mind that'll work great). You can most likely just take a panel at least 50% bigger than you think you need (like T said, even double the size wouldn't hurt) and charge your camera batteries right off the panel during the day assuming you have some sort of DC to DC converter to step the Voltage down before you hook it up to your DC battery charger. Most panels put out around 16-17V to push through and charge a 12V battery and I think that's too much for charging your +/- 7.4V batteries directly. T also has a great point about the wiring- DC is very inefficient so keep the wire diameter on the big side and as short as possible. Hope that helps.............


Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:15 pm
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Ok,

so I am looking now at a foldable 30watt panel or perhaps 2 panels daisy chained.

The question is, I still end up with 12volt DC. Do I use an inverter to get AC and lose efficiency or do I cut the 240volt transformers out of the standard battery chargers wiring for the laptop and camera batteries and hook them up directly?

Cheers

Murray


Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:14 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
I'm not an electrical specialist by any means but I have some limited knowledge from my own solar/AC/DC experience and research. If anyone can correct me or add to the following please do:

If you can keep it all DC I think that would be best, if you convert from DC to AC and back to DC you're losing a lot of power in the conversions. An inverter to convert DC to AC is really very inefficient. The only time it could be beneficial is if you have a long distance from the panel and/or battery to the appliance you're powering as AC travels over distance much more efficiently than DC. I would keep it all DC and keep your wire gauges on the larger side and as short as possible (within reason).

I would use DC battery chargers (like the cigarette lighter kind). If the DC chargers won't tolerate the 16-17V most panel(s) will put out I would use a DC/DC converter (these typically accept a wide range of input voltage) to drop the voltage from the panels to the DC battery charger(s). This will cost you some efficiency but not as much as converting to AC and back. Chinese DC battery chargers on ebay are usually dirt cheap depending on your battery type.

http://www.amazon.com/Mono-crystalline- ... B000GDC2MA

I'm not sure if the panel above is similar to what you were looking at, it seems great as you can alter the output Voltage for your needs so you wouldn't need a DC/DC converter. This 30 watt panel's peak amperage is 1.66 amps under ideal conditions and with the above inefficiencies should (I think) allow you to operate (3) +/- 400 mAh DC battery chargers for the duration of peak sunlight (maybe 5-6 hours depending where you are). It would likely power 1-2 camera battery chargers during morning/evening sun. So for example, if it normally takes a bank of 10 batteries 24 hours to charge off one +/- 400 mAh charger (just a guess?), you could expect to charge 3 banks of 10 batteries over 3 days assuming you have good sun. If it's cloudy, you won't be charging much, maybe 1/3 if you're lucky. If one bank of 10 gets you 2 nights of shooting, you'll have some power to spare, depending how much you use your laptop (buy a DC cig lighter charger for your laptop).

***Make sure to unhook all batteries from the panel at night unless you have a charge contrtoller.

One thing I'm not certain about is if the output amperage of the panel will increase if you decrease the voltage output of the panel (i.e. from 17V to 13V for your 12V camera battery/laptop chargers). If this is the case, you may have a higher output amperage which will enable you to charge 4 banks of batteries? This I'm not really sure about, can anyone who understands power better than I do verify this? There's a site with some ratios below. I'm just not sure about some of the output voltages of smaller panels (to charge a 12V battery the solar panel puts out about 17V, to charge 7.4 V camera batteries using a 12V DC charger, you'd want the panel to put out approx 13V:

http://www.evparts.com/img/voltsampsohmwatts.PDF

You probably won't need a large 12V battery but if you do remember to get a charge controller.

My last piece of advice is that unless it's very clear and very sunny without fail every day where you're shooting, opt for a bigger panel than you think you'll need. My panel rated at 7.6 amps has put out over 8 amps on very clear, cooler days (rare) but I usually experience around 5-6 amps on average on clear sunny days. Don't expect the panel to put out the full rated power that often, assume about 80%. Hope that helps!
C/


Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:23 am
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Location: Alberta, Canada
Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
In theory the wind generators are a good idea but not for traveling. They're quite heavy (even the small ones), they take too much time to set up properly (they have to be very stable and perfectly level) and they're noisier than hell. They're great if you live somewhere that has wind all the time and you don't have to move it much, otherwise they're a pain in the ass. I got rid of mine for solar and am much happier with solar. 400watts was enticing but didn't happen very often and when it did it sounded like my moho had a turbo prop.


Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:51 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
tmophoto wrote:


Don't mock the bicycle generator. I top up my 5AHr 12v batteries using my bicycle generator. A few minutes of cycling = a lot of time-lapses. I admit, not as easy as solar power.


Attachments:
bike_gen_with_honour.jpg [61.58 KiB]
Downloaded 1808 times

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Sun Apr 12, 2009 5:22 pm
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Post Re: Solar - for Dynamic Perception Stage Zero
This was the closest existing thread I could find, so I hope this is the right place to ask.

I have a new Dynamic Perception Stage Zero 6' Dolly on its way, and I want a power solution; but I spend 100+ days away from home, often camping, 50-70 days a year in and around Yellowstone, typically a month in the Canadian Rockies (bike touring/backpacking), and other random trips. Often I have my car to recharge every few days; but sometimes I need solar to keep things running. In the past I have been able to use a small solar charger to keep GPS and essentials running while having a few extra batteries for my 5DII/7D; but with my recent push into time lapse I need a power solution and ideally it would be one that I can charge with the sun.

I have looked at both:
http://www.goalzero.com/
http://store.bruntonoutdoor.com/portable-power/

Do folks have any thoughts?
Anyone using a Goal0 or Brunton battery to run a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero? (I am just assuming it can be done, I don't know much about electricity)

My thought is that most of the batteries for solar have/have options for 12V DC cigaret plug out, so I could go from that to a 2.1x5.5mm DC barrel plug and run the Stage0 Dolly. And at the same time have power to charge batteries for laptop/iPhone/iPad/Cameras/etc...


Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:08 pm
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Location: ATL, GA
Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
GoalZero is the way to go if you need a method for recharging batteries in the back-country. From my research, the Brunton units (i.e. Sustain) feature over rated specs and not good value for the money.

I recently built my own 5w solar panel --> LiPoly battery ---> Canon 400D inside a custom pelican case. It has been running at a secret location in Canada for 2 months now. I pulled photos after 1 month of shooting and all was working well-- through rain, snow, sub-0 temps. Now I just have to hope it makes it through summer. A rigid 5w solar panel that is weather proof can be had for under $100. Rigging up the panel with LiPo and a charge controller is a little bit more involved, but actually simple once you figure it all out. My initial rig used a mini charge controller going to a 12v SLA battery, but the weight was too heavy to get it into my back-country location. LiPoly shaved 10 pounds off the system and resulted in a much smaller Pelican case.

I'll share more detailed photos once my project in complete. For now, it's all under wraps. A few images are posted for you to get an idea of the rig size and design.

In the mean time, check out this 12v solar panel with 1.2aH SLA battery built in from Moultrie. I got a test unit and it worked flawlessly with the Stage Zero kit (MX2). Only down-side is it's a bit heavy due to the SLA battery. I found that smaller, cheaper 12V batteries could be had online... and carrying multiple units into the back-country made more sense then lugging this solar panel with only a 1.2aH battery. However, if you had to leave your unit unattended somewhere and needed power, this would totally work for you! $99

http://www.moultriefeeders.com/productd ... id=mfh-cpp

Good luck!


Attachments:
File comment: Testing the solar rig in cold temps (built in ATL, deployed high-elevation in Canada). This initial test resulted in a dead shutter on my old 400D. Luckily, we found a replacement 400D locally and had success deploying the camera at the real location.
testsolarcam2.jpg.JPG [701.74 KiB]
Downloaded 1047 times
File comment: Works perfectly straight out of the box on the MX-2
mx2solar.JPG [417.84 KiB]
Downloaded 1047 times

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Mon May 23, 2011 8:32 am
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Nifty set up.
I guess you have some sort of heating on the lens/body to prevent fogging?

I remember shooting a 'locked off' deep timelapse with camera rigged to a tree - resulted in a slight image shift because the tree was still growing. :oops:
(As I'm from sunny Australia, why is the bark missing from the base of most of the trees? ..... hungry critters, snowdrift depth?? )


Mon May 23, 2011 5:24 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Here is that same solar panel/battery set up for cheaper from Amazon. At 54 bucks that seems to be pretty cheap!

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001DEZ26Y/

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Tue May 24, 2011 10:13 am
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
upthinklab:

Can you tell me anything about the clamps you have holding the pelican to the tree? Where did you find such big ones and how did you attach to the case?

I have the same 1300 case but am trying to decide how to attach to the telephone pole I hope to use.

Thanks for any help!

Bob


Tue May 31, 2011 7:21 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
You may find this video useful:

http://vimeo.com/20173304

and here is the link to the video that the solar set-up powered:

http://vimeo.com/19731783


Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:00 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Schatz:
I got the large clamps from Grainger. You'll find smaller ones (up to 12 inch diameter) at most home improvement stores for dirt cheap. I found that those were too small, so I went to Grainger-- they have all sorts of large diameters available. Only downside is that you have to buy them in packs of 10 which can get expensive. The ones I got were about 2-3ft in diameter and ran for around $25. I rigged some custom aluminum supports onto the side of the case as an attachment point.

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Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:24 pm
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Post Re: Solar - Any Recommendations?
Murray Fredericks wrote:
The question is, I still end up with 12volt DC. Do I use an inverter to get AC and lose efficiency or do I cut the 240volt transformers out of the standard battery chargers wiring for the laptop and camera batteries and hook them up directly?

I'd have a look for the 12v car charger adapters for the batteries you require - they may end up being 3rd party ones. Then just attach a 12v cigarette socket to the solar panel's 12v output. Would be more efficient than going into an inverter to go to 120v or 240v, then through the regular AC adapter.

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Wed Jun 01, 2011 2:46 pm
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