Anyone made a dyi solar generator in a rocket box? - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 11-12-2017   #1
 
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 89
Anyone made a dyi solar generator in a rocket box?

So I'm teaching myself about solar power with the goal of going off grid in the future. To that end I just ordered a cheap solar power kit to do some hands on learning. (Harbor freight has a 100w kit on sale for $149 right now, I know this kit will be low end but I think of it as just a learning tool) I thought it would be fun to make something that I could potentially take down the river. I don't really know if I'd ever end up taking it, I'm kinda against getting too techy on the river, but it would be a fun project/goal. I'm curious if anyone on here has any experience with this? I've watched plenty of crazy prepper videos of how to do it and I have a pretty good grasp of what's needed. I thought I'd ask on here to see if any river folk have any river specific ideas or tricks. Thanks

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Old 11-12-2017   #2
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Hi,

A 100 watt panel will be sort of large and hard to safely stow on most rafts. And might be overkill anyway...

I used a 10 watt folding panel to trickle up a 32 amp hour lawn tractor battery that folks used to charge their cameras and other small devices.

They both traveled in an ammo can that I rigged with a waterproof charging socket. When the time came to start recharging, I plugged the panel into the top of the can, strapped the panel to the deck, and let it charge away as I rowed.

Never ran out of capacity, as most of these cameras and other gizmos have miniscule batteries compared to even a small wet cell battery like that of a lawn tractor.

Hope this helps.

Rich Phillips
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Old 11-12-2017   #3
 
Mammoth Lakes, California
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 7
I took a 22 x 17 inch panel down the colorado last year. It fit into a drop bag on an 18 foot boat and I could pull it out when the sun was up and the river down. Most panels are pretty durable and can handle the occasional soak. I didn't bother with a controller. Just check for 13ish battery volts with a volt meter, if it is below, charge; if above you are good. I had a 25 AH battery to charge, and it fit in a 50mm can. My opinion is that drying a setup should it get soaked is easier then trying to waterproof everything. Usually the 'waterproofing' just traps water where you can't get to it.
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Old 11-12-2017   #4
 
Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: Apr 2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richp View Post
Hi,

A 100 watt panel will be sort of large and hard to safely stow on most rafts. And might be overkill anyway...

I used a 10 watt folding panel to trickle up a 32 amp hour lawn tractor battery that folks used to charge their cameras and other small devices.

They both traveled in an ammo can that I rigged with a waterproof charging socket. When the time came to start recharging, I plugged the panel into the top of the can, strapped the panel to the deck, and let it charge away as I rowed.

Never ran out of capacity, as most of these cameras and other gizmos have miniscule batteries compared to even a small wet cell battery like that of a lawn tractor.

Hope this helps.

Rich Phillips
Appreciate the input. I realize this system would be overkill for charging phones and the like. This is more about me getting some hands on learning and it was a cheap enough deal for me to pull the trigger. I figure I could find some fun uses for it, maybe a disco dance party with strobe lights on the river or bugging out during the zombie apocalypse. In reality I'm going to first try to make an outdoor lighting set up for my home and also be able to use it for an emergency back up system if the power were to go out.

One question I had... I'm planning on putting an inverter in the box but I've heard they get pretty hot. I'm wondering if it's a stupid idea to seal all of that in a metal box. I'd rather not blow myself up.
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Old 11-12-2017   #5
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Hi,

Hi,

It's not recommended to run things like that in tight enclosures. But if your use pattern is like mine was, the device recharging will take place on shore in the evening, and you can have the inverter in the open.

I ran only one GC trip with a solid panel, but it was much smaller than yours. If you deploy it during the day and keep it in the open in rapids, make doubly sure your wiring is solidly waterproof.

Also, with a 100 watt panel and a relatively small battery, a charge controller likely is in your setup. Making sure it is safe from moisture will be critical as well.

And finally, if you are doing really long trips, bring some distilled water and be ready to top off the cells if heat and heavy charging boil them off.

FWIW.

Rich Phillips
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Old 11-12-2017   #6
 
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Western Slope, CO, Colorado
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Posts: 285
OK. 101.

Ohm's law says Power ( Watts ) = Voltage ( Battery Rating or Appliance rating ( How much a device can use a higher electric charge without internally shorting )) X Current ( Flow, Drain, etc from a load )

P=EI, Where P = Power in Watts = Voltage X Current

So a Solar Cell generates x amount of Watts and delivers it at X amount of Volts which limits the drain from it to X amount of Amps. You can do the math and realize that that will only run a very small load ( Light bulb ) while the sun is out.

So you have to not use it during the day, but instead store it in a battery. Unfortunately a battery is a large weight and also deteriorates over time needing replacement occasionally.

Hence the inherent trade off of Solar Power.
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Old 11-13-2017   #7
Aqua Lung
 
Salmon, Idaho
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Great info, guys.
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Old 11-13-2017   #8
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Tabernash, Colorado
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One of the basics of solar power in general seems to be having plenty of storage, at least in relation to powering your home. My dad uses golf cart batteries for his system, and is completely off the grid.His well runs off a generator, and his fridge is propane,since they would require a LOT of panels to run.

One very good use of solar power on the river is a sat phone. I believe the charger was made by Goal Zero, for our Grand trip last winter. Even with limited amounts of winter sun, and keeping a second fully charged battery for emergency, we pulled off sending an update everyday to a site where family could see we were alive and well, plus a couple texts during Christmas and new years.
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Old 11-13-2017   #9
 
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Denver, Colorado
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So let me see if I can respond with out getting to lengthy. I ran the Grand in 2016 in May and wanted to do some extensive filming and photography. I had 4 GoPro's and mirroless camera my phone and some Bluetooth speakers. The trip was 16 days and I was worried about having enough power to keep all my gear up and running. I was also worried about storage capacity for my video files so I took a external hard drive and a lap top to be able to empty the MicroSD cards from my cameras.

So my solution was to build a large river battery in a rocket box with a solar panel to charge it during the day. Lessons learned the panels that I had were too small for the task and the battery too big, (it was the one I use for my camper so i so i figured i would use it). The battery was in the 900 cold cranking amp range and a dry cell. I was afraid us using a lead acid battery in case of a flip I did want to have to deal with the leakage. The size of the battery did end up being a benefit because i had issues with the connection for the solar panel and was not able to recharge the battery. Also everyone on the trip was able to charge their gadgets.

I also added a inverter, Stanley makes one that looks like a regular duplex socket and worked really well it did not get hot and I was able to run a hard drive and laptop off of it.

In hind sight I would use a smaller battery and larger panel. Also I would simplify the set up it was a lot of gear to manage and took more time than I liked. I did end up getting some great footage and pictures so it was worth it but would like to be more efficient next time.

The over all concept that I had was valid I would just go with a smaller battery and larger panels. I still us it for multi night trips and makes for a great light tool for camp, I can run X-mass lights off of it all night and have an LED set up for my boat.

https://youtu.be/56wD-xcCqD0
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Old 11-13-2017   #10
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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I've always been an advocate for bringing more batteries rather then a solar charging setup. I know plenty like the solar chargers, but I found it to be much more efficient to get a bunch of high capacity battery banks and charge them at home then to have to worry and fuss over a Solar panel all day.

My first trip down the ditch I had a Goal Zero solar panel and two medium sized battery banks. Everything I need to charge on a river trip is USB based (phone for listening to music and taking pictures and tablet for reading and multimedia use), so this worked fine for the first week until I had depleted the power banks.

I was using the Solar panel a little bit to try and save the battery banks, but found them to be very finicky. They aren't water proof, so you have to constantly be taking them in and out of dry storage. Even during the flat stretches you gotta make sure they are in direct sunlight, so frequent adjustment is needed. I also found that it was sensitive to high heat and would stop charging once it got hot which is pretty crazy for something designed to require direct sunlight. Its also useless in obvious times like sunless days and at night. At least with that Goal Zero 7 charger, it didn't fully provide the needed amperage to charge stuff unless it was in direct sunlight and but not so direct that it overheated the solar panel.

So essentially the only time it was able to be used reliably and easily was the few hours between getting to camp and sunset and I just didn't find that to be sufficient and ended up doing what many advocate for by just leaving it all in a dry box and enjoying the canyon on its own. I try to do that anyways, but I'll admit its nice to listen to tunes or watch a movie before bed and I find it makes the experience better not worse for me.

Before my second time down the Canyon, this last February/March for a 23 day trip, due to my negative experience with my solar charger, I decided to purchase three 27000mah battery power banks. I calculated that these would more then sufficiently charge my phone, tablet, bluetooth speaker and a gopro without ever needing to get a solar charger out. It was super nice to be able to just plug them in and go do other stuff without having to babysit them. I could plug it in overnight and wake up to a charged device. I ended up not even needing the third battery bank and basically always had charged devices. I found a great deal on the power banks, so it ended up costing me about the same as a decent 21w Solar Charger.

So yeah, I recommend really looking at whether a Solar Charging solution is really needed. At least with what is available currently, the complication and cost of a solar solution isn't worth it and I'd rather just bring extra battery capacity.

I think one great solution that I've been wanting to try is the Nissan Leaf battery modules. They are slim and compact, lightweight, easy to put in series, have lugs to wire them up with, come in a robust weather and shock resistant housing and aren't horribly expensive for the capacity they provide.



A few of those modules in an ammo can, a decent volatage regulator and a decent charge controller at home and you'll have a robust, lightweight and efficient high capacity charging solution.
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