We Have Solar!
Two months…a long, long time when you’re craving road and empty spaces. We’re not done yet, a few wires need to be connected, network magic must be cast, dark rituals of configuration recited and saved to silicon. But the hardware’s set, batteries charged and the life-giving rays of mother sun are being converted from photons to electricity.
Testing it, we ran a TV, lights, computers…a menagerie of things with power to spare. The bedroom A/C pushed on, using the batteries. It will run for a few hours without a problem. Once the remote start system is fully configured, things will light up and twinkle…and when the generator is needed, voila! More magic happens.
Solar Shake Down…
Next comes the shake-down trek. A week (or so) just pressing the system in boondocks and kicking the tires a bit. We’ll take notes, swear, put out a few fires when we come across the inevitable bugs (this is a really damn complex solar install!). Then we’ll roll back into town, tweak, tighten, swear some more, hit the road for a couple of weeks, have an adventure, come back (marry off a daughter) and hit tracks for most of the summer.
It’s all beautiful!
For now, however…I’ve got a LOT of video to edit.
You folks have been very patient.
So far, under normal load, we can run for about 20 hours without any charge (on batteries alone). And in good sun, the system changes faster than we can drain it; which is exactly how it was designed. With 400 Ah of LiFePO4’s, we’re equaling the usable energy of 1000 Ah of Lead Acid batteries… And they only weigh about 140 lbs… Total!
The panels we installed are the large panels and generate about 270 watts each (edit…transposed some numbers), we’ve got 6. Each weighs about 40 lbs. The batteries are 4x 100 Ah LiFePO4’s, also about 40 lbs each. With the equipment (inverter, controllers, etc.) and everything else, total weight of the solar system is around 350 lbs. It might be a bit above that, but under 400.
Just in weight alone (and throwing in the gas savings, both in towing and generator costs for being highly mobile and boondocking), this system will pay for itself in no time! Add the savings from being “off-the-grid”? I’m now estimating 2-3 years.
A good reference for Lead-Acid batteries vs. LiFePO4 can be eyeballed here (it’s not all roses with lithium, however…): http://gwl-power.tumblr.com/post/129014164076/test-results-the-lead-acid-battery-versus