I write most of my articles between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. That is when my laptop is getting power directly from the sun instead of my battery bank. I have six 15 watt panels totaling 90 watts. However, here in the desert where there is low humidity, solar panels provide about 30 percent more energy than what they are rated at. That gives me about 120 watts of power, even more in the summer when the sun is showing off. I know that doesn't sound like much, being that two old-fashioned light bulbs use 120 watts of energy, but that was then. I will upgrade my $400 solar system as needed.
I am using a Powerbook Pismo from 1999. Some say it is the best laptap ever made. I can testify to that. Not only is it running OS 10.4.11, but the two battery bays give me up to 8 hours of off-off-grid power. In other words, I don't have to tap into my lead acid battery at night to use my laptop. It is being powered directly from the sun. My 5 watt light bulb provides plenty of light for my working space at night. The giant light bulb in the sky is more than adequate during the day.
It is now 11:55 a.m. Looking at my Kill-O-Watt, I am using 60 watts of energy to power my laptop, modem and router. The remaining 60 watts are going to my battery bank, which is already almost maxed out. I currently only have one lead acid battery in my battery bank, being that I accidentally blew one up last week. I am still learning what and what not to do. I greatly underestimated the power of the sun.
After writing this article, both of my lithium laptop batteries are now fully charged. I will have to find other energy hogs to direct the solar power to, or just shut off the system entirely, so that I don't blow up another battery. I do have a charge amp controller on the way in the mail, which will help with this problem. But for now, I have to keep a close watch on the system so it doesn't explode or fry my Powerbook Pismo before its 10th birthday.
Based on my experience, here are a couple of [b]tips for off-grid computing[\b]:
- Use a computer, laptop obviously, with a healthy battery storage capacity. The higher the storage capacity, the less you need to tap into your battery bank. The lithium batteries within your laptop are much more efficient than your lead acid battery bank.
- If you are on solar power, run your computer or other electronics when the sun is the most potent (midday, no clouds, etc.). Your laptop will get direct power from the sun without taxing your battery bank.
This applies to any electronics or appliances that are part of an off-grid solar system. Enough about me. We'd love to hear some real life examples of off-grid living. Please share your story with us.
Want to know what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint? Find out on Planet Green TV's Wa$ted