Friday, January 4, 2008

Solar Power; Pentax DSLR owners,can you power your studio room from the sun?

Dear Pentaxians / Pentax DSLR owners,

Many Months ago, when I started this blog, I was inspired by another blog site called OK1000 Pentax, administered by Michael Gaudet. You need to visit his site. My site is different than Michael’s as I tend to alternate with K10D “how to” articles, “how to” for general photography using Pentax DSLRs and some random, sometimes off-the-wall posts about this-and-that and about places I visit and photograph.

Michael always has good material on his site, but one of his Post stood out from his blog and made me think about all of us as photographers; ”Be a green photographer”. He has a very detailed post about how we should all be “Green” photographers. He lists several ways that we can become more “Green” and Earth friendly. His post has many links bringing the reader to some sites about specific steps that can be taken to be more Earth friendly, use less electricity, create less waste, etc. You ought to read it.

I have adopted many of the suggestions brought to my attention by Michael’s Post, such as using compact fluorescent lights, turning the computer off when not is use or at least set the computer so that it goes dormant after a pre-determined amount of inactive time, use recycled paper, print only when I need, etc.

This is my system that I want to power with Solar energy.

I have been pondering about the idea of getting off the power grid all together, at least for my photography activities and computer equipment related to my photography. I searched many Websites about solar and wind power, but it seems that nobody has small systems, at a reasonable price, that can run between 350 to 500 watts of continuous power, (I know that the peaks will be about twice that much for a fraction of a second) which is about what my desktop, LCD monitor and maybe my printer uses when all are in operation. I am a mechanical engineer, and know little about electrical engineering and calculations.

With that said, I do invite anyone with electrical knowledge to help me out along the way with your suggestions. I am not doing this for the money that I will save as much as for the satisfaction of being able to produce my own electricity and at the same time, do my part to save our unique little planet.

Here is the system that I want to implement. I live in the California Mojave Desert area and we get plenty of sun all year round and it’s windy almost every night. I purchased several solar panels rated at 12 volts and 10 amps, although when reading the voltage, it reads closer to 14 volts.). I also purchased a DC/AC inverter with 350 watts continuous and 750 watts peak, I got a 12 volts deep cycle marine battery, and a charge controller. Later on, I might purchase a regular automotive alternator and use it with adequate fan blades to generate wind power at night. The power generated will be stored in the marine battery or batteries, for when the sun is not shinning or later on for when there is no wind at night. The specs on the battery show a reserve, at the same remaining voltage, of 110 minutes per battery. Two batteries in parallel become 220 minutes, three batteries 330 minutes and so on. I plan to purchase more batteries to extend the power availability when either the solar or wind power is not available. I will use more solar panels if needed as well. This is going to be a progressive project, but in the end, I will let everyone know the costs and what I can run and for how long with the reserve in batteries. I use the computer very little during the day. After work, I usually spend three to five hours on the computer. Of course, I will recharge all of my camera gear, cell phone, iPod and other battery operated gadgets from the inverter as well.

I believe that the solar panels, (coupled with the charge controller that will limit overcharging the batteries or draining them when there is no sun) will have enough power to recharge the batteries during the day. If I use the computer during the day, which I rarely do, it might still have enough charging capacity to allow recharging while using it. When I launch my system, (5 to 10 days) I believe that I can add additional batteries, hooked in parallel, to sustain operation without any source of solar or wind power, for about six hours. That is my goal at the time. I will start with the solar panels first and add the wind generator later. I currently have two solar panels and hooked in parallel, should give about 20 amps. I only paid $40.00 each at the local flea market. The vendor is there every week and I can buy more. The panels will be located on the second floor, inside my 4ft x 8ft window. They will be at an angle of 60 degrees from vertical and the window is facing south.

I figure that adding more panels or batteries will get me to my goal. I don’t anticipate spending more than $500.00 but will spend up to $1,000.00 if needed. Whatever I can do with that amount will have to suffice. At worst, I can always use my laptop instead, which uses a lot less power and adds one internal battery to the system. The solar DC power will be converted to AC with the inverter and then the 110 volt equipment plugged in the inverter. I know that this is not the most efficient method, but as I see it, it’s all free power or rather not grid supplied power. The great thing about doing this progressively is that you spend the money in small amount at the time.

One could actually install such systems for their hobby room, or garage or maybe one room at a time, powering lamps and TVs and what have you. It will never be a system to power your air conditioner, dryer or electric stove, and you will never have enough power to sell back to the grid, but you can be partly independent and self sustained for your photography needs.

If everythnig else fails, I can always get this system!

Thank you for reading and let me know your ideas or comments. You can leave messages on this site, on my blog or by sending an email

Yvon Bourque
Post a Comment