Author Topic: Mini Solar - baby steps.  (Read 2724 times)

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Offline rossw

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Mini Solar - baby steps.
« on: January 22, 2012, 05:26:04 pm »
Everyone starts somewhere... this is a brief story of my entry into the solar electric arena.

Back in 2002 my wife and I purchased a wonderful 22 acre block on an elevated site right on the edge of town, and started about the lengthy process of building our unusual earth-covered home. Trials and tribulations, red-tape, difficult neighbours, regulations, vandals etc all had a hand over the next few years.

Before we started building, we needed a reasonably secure site-shed to store things in, and decided to use a second-hand 40' shipping container. It became site-shed, storage shed and amongst other things - makeshift solar panel mount!

The earliest need for power was to run a small submersible pump to get water up to our new water tank. (105,000 litre concrete tank). The pump was a low flow pump, so needed to run for a long time. Running it off a generator was not practical, but solar was.

I purchased two 75W BP panels, at great expense (nearly $10/watt back then), and made a fairly rough but functional mount.
Here is is sitting atop the container. (The container is a "high-cube" - 9'6" high, with nothing to get hold of, so fairly safe against theft)


The frame was some old scrap steel, welded to form an "H" base. I drilled a large hole through the middle, to take some brass plumbing fittings that would hold the panels down, allow them to turn so I could align to the sun, and provide a water-tight entry into the container for the cables.




The frame was angle-adjustable for season by changing where the upright arms attached. It was pretty crude, but it worked.
The hinges at the bottom were (barely) adequate. Although supposedly galvanised, I think they were just stored in the same room as the zinc. They rusted and were not much good in surprisingly short time.


It wasn't much after the panels were set up than we started having problems with after-hours problems. So I put a small wireless IP camera in a weather-resistant enclosure and sat it discretely with the panels. It connected via wireless internet back to my office and home so I could keep an eye on things.


The solar panels charged a car battery stored in the container, with a PL20 charge controller. The PL20 ran the water pump when there was plenty of power available, and the battery kept the camera going the rest of the time.


A year later, it was time to move the panels. I'd set up a more permanent access point and the panels were more useful powering it (and a larger battery that wasn't getting so hot in summer - the container was over 65 degrees C inside)


The addiction clearly had begun. 2 panels were good. 4 panels must be better!


Another year on, and the panels finally made it to a proper mount rather than just sitting on the ground. This was a commercial tracker. It was cheap and flimsy, but it gave me a substantial increase in watt-hours per day, just by tracking. I also liked that the panels were finally off the ground.


And from these humble beginnings, I've grown to 3,500 watts of PV today.

Offline Wolvenar

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2012, 01:20:56 am »
I vaguely remember you talking about vandals years back.
What kind of things did they do or steal??
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
Just to abuse what I make. (and run this site)

Offline rossw

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2012, 01:34:32 am »
I vaguely remember you talking about vandals years back.
What kind of things did they do or steal??

Weeeeelllll....  a picture is worth a thousand words, so grab a glass of something, pull up a comfy chair, get your reading glasses 'cause here's a short book...

Got an alarm, lost a link. Odd...  Yup, that'd do it...



Another day, another link failure. It'd given no signs of problems. Went to have a look and found what had been like this a few hours before:


was now like this:


It wasn't just pulled over.... it was beaten to a pulp..


They'd cut the chains to the gate, hooked a rope or chains around the post and pulled it over with a vehicle.
This was double pipe (a pipe over a pipe spike), filled with concrete.


Various bits of equipment, glue, "keep out" signs etc turned to carbon


There we other incidents too graphic to show.

Offline oztules

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2012, 05:34:51 am »
Just one more reason to live on an island..... that does not happen here.... not even a little bit.




.............oztules
Flinders Island...... Australia

Offline Wolvenar

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2012, 08:12:19 am »
Did you ever catch anyone in the under panels camera?.
If it were around here it would likely been a bunch that used the field  before the new owner.. Saw it happen they claimed this is an invasion of *their party field*
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
Just to abuse what I make. (and run this site)

Offline birdhouse

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2012, 09:47:29 am »
ross, i know the feeling.  it makes very very angry, and sad all at the same time. 

i just recently had to replace the chain on my gate.  the offender didn't get through, but got one link partially cut, and tried to melt off the inline DNR lock.  i'm very glad there are such things as triple case hardened chain! 

the same gate was cut clean in half a year or so back.  beefy I beam didn't even stop them.  here's a pic-



adam

Offline rossw

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2012, 01:48:53 pm »
Nobody was ever charged because the local cops were too lazy or incompetent to do anything.
At various times we had good fingerprints, foot and tyre prints, video footage of the perps. Accurate logs of when things happened etc.

Thankfully, we haven't had any further instances since we moved in, although some lowlife did come and take some PV pretty early in the piece. (That was before I started using cap-screws and nyloc nuts, and construction techniques that make dis-assembly more difficult)

Offline Wolvenar

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2012, 12:03:40 am »
I remember the incident with your vehicle outside your old office as well.
Trying to make power from alternative energy any which way I can.
Just to abuse what I make. (and run this site)

Offline rossw

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2012, 12:08:49 am »
I remember the incident with your vehicle outside your old office as well.

Yeah. But that was "down there, in the city". Learned to expect that.

Offline wdyasq

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2012, 05:58:37 pm »
"The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century." -Wikimaybethetruth

I guess it was a long swim to OZ  .... but they finally made it.

Tighter security on the beach may be necessary.

Ron

Offline RichHagen

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Re: Mini Solar - baby steps.
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2012, 06:49:27 pm »
In the past a large distribution warehouse leased cctv equipment from me as a side job for me. I found that the hidden cameras were much more effective than the obvious ones.  I learned to use the visible ones as decoys for the hidden pinhole cameras.  Cover all of the bay doors with visible or even dummy cameras and put the hidden one looking at an unalarmed emergency exit with no visible camera for example.  Kind of like steering the criminals.  Tire tracks and shoe prints are only useful if you have a specific tire or shoe to compare with.  Even if you determine the brand or tire or shoe size and brand, if there is no prior connection between the offender and victim, it will most often go nowhere.  The fingerprints, on the other hand are golden.  They can identify a specific subject and prove that he touched the object at some point.  If the object is fixed to the property they prove he (or she) was there at some point. 

So far no one has swiped any of my panels in the City, (knock on wood) but I definitely worry about that a bit here as we have no shortage of worthless individuals who have never done an honest days work in their lives, and as I've found, even those that do are not immune from the temptation to steal.
A Joule saved is a Joule made