Solar Power on the Playa

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wkorthof
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Solar Power on the Playa

Post by wkorthof » Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:57 am

Solar Power on the Playa... anyone planning any interesting solar power installations on the Playa this year?

Rather than setting up multiple smaller systems at disparate camps, this year we're evolving our solar power system.

The camp I'm with, Snow Koan Solar, will be building an even bigger array this year... around 24,000 watts. This year we're planning a solar-powered mini-grid... to include Nectar Village plus a couple other adjacent camps,
including Comfort and Joy.

Like the past two years, we'll have a "solar charging station" open for anyone to bring and plug in rechargeable items---electric art cars are welcome.

We're also working with a couple artists to solar-power their installations.
power to the people from the sun

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ourania
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Post by ourania » Wed Jun 10, 2009 5:09 pm

Great to hear what you're planning. I'm planning on a very small solar set up (2 small panels) to recharge our battery. The panels only generate 30 watts, but we only need power for LED lights for the shade structure and the laptop which we'll only have on long enough to upload photos from the camera. Frankly, I have no experience with solar, so I didn't want to (and couldn't afford to) invest a ton of money until I understand how well it works. It'll be great to see how your array works. I'd like to learn more.
Look forward to seeing you on the playa! :)

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Post by Captain Goddammit » Wed Jun 10, 2009 9:43 pm

You're both fools. Solar does not work at BM. There is too much dust, and it will clog the solar panels. And, when you place a load on dust-clogged solar panels, they emit an irritating buzz. Get a generator!
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Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:34 am

Captain Goddammit, you might be full of dust (or something else). Just a possibility. But we dust off our solar panels and keep them facing the sunny side of the playa. Over the past 3 years, I've worked with artists and supplied solar system that successfully powered 20 art projects on the Playa. Yes, some were "little" projects, like the Temple, the Trucks, and Cubatron (all 2 yrs ago).
All worked, and we've never had...used...or needed backup generators.

Our solar charging station allowed hundreds of burners to charge their batteries and have 12 volts (or flash lights, or digital stuff) back at their own camps. We also charged up dozens of electric bicycles, scooters, art cars, even a few mobility scooters. There are lots of different ways to light up your flashlight. A dust-chugging, oil gulping generator is a great way to add droning noise and asphyxiating gases into your camp (or your neighbors). Some burners like to leave the electricity at home. The Alternative Energy Zone people show that burners can run basic stuff and lots of neat little gizmos from simple home-made small solar/battery setups. Our Solar Village concept is yet another idea... we're connecting solar with efficient power uses in multiple camps as a microgrid because electric power systems tend to work better as they aggregate in a network.
power to the people from the sun

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Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:56 am

Ourania:
Sounds like you're off to a good start.

(2) 30 watt panels will produce around 2 amps (charging current) each in full sunlight. If they stay in the sun, and the battery isn't full, they can put about 24 amp-hours per day into a 12 volt battery on the Playa.

24 amp hours x 12 volts gives you an energy "budget" of around 288 watt-hours per day.
Suppose you have a (10) 1-watt LEDs (pretty bright); you could run them all for 10 hours each night using only about 10 hrs x 10 watts = 100 watt hours per day, or 100 wh / 288 wh = 35% of your solar output.
You could easily charge a laptop for 1 hour per day as well (~60 wh)

I'd suggest bringing a 12 volt battery with a capacity of 40 amp hours or more (35+ lbs). Any marine battery from Costco would work.

Another option is to get a Xantrex Xpower 1500 power pack (battery + inverter), and connect one or more solar panels to it (use a charge controller for over 30 watts of solar). Then you have 12 volts DC and 120 volts AC, already hooked up. These units are simple and work great.

/wk

[quote="ourania"]Great to hear what you're planning. I'm planning on a very small solar set up (2 small panels) to recharge our battery. The panels only generate 30 watts, but we only need power for LED lights for the shade structure and the laptop which we'll only have on long enough to upload photos from the camera. Frankly, I have no experience with solar, so I didn't want to (and couldn't afford to) invest a ton of money until I understand how well it works. It'll be great to see how your array works. I'd like to learn more.
Look forward to seeing you on the playa! :)[/quote]
power to the people from the sun

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BAS
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Post by BAS » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:13 am

I heard that APOKILIPTIKA is bringing an old Soviet built nuke plant for power this year...
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Do things that have never been done."
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Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:43 am

Sounds good. And no hassles about radioactive waste on the playa, with all that sun a big evap pond will take care of it.
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Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:41 am

I prefer using my tried-and-true nuclear reactor that stays just about 93 million miles away.
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more...

Post by stack » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:24 am

"(2) 30 watt panels will produce around 2 amps (charging current) each in full sunlight. If they stay in the sun, and the battery isn't full, they can put about 24 amp-hours per day into a 12 volt battery on the Playa.

24 amp hours x 12 volts gives you an energy "budget" of around 288 watt-hours per day.
Suppose you have a (10) 1-watt LEDs (pretty bright); you could run them all for 10 hours each night using only about 10 hrs x 10 watts = 100 watt hours per day, or 100 wh / 288 wh = 35% of your solar output.
You could easily charge a laptop for 1 hour per day as well (~60 wh)"

This is good info. I'll be running a small system as well, and originally was planning a Coleman kit from Costco that was 60 watts. I'm budgeting around 240 watts / 20 amps a day as well to run a LED light system, and possibly a small swamp cooler for the hexayurt. After trying the panels out at Apogaea last weekend I'm confident that these #'s should work fine.

I am planning to return the kit to costco though, as it is cheaply manufactured and rather large. I'll be replacing it with a 50 watt Kyocera panel and a Morningstar sunsaver 10 amp charge controller. For about the same $ I'll have a sturdier, longer lasting system that will produce around the same wattage.

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Post by chiefdanfox » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:53 am

wkorthof wrote:I prefer using my tried-and-true nuclear reactor that stays just about 93 million miles away.
Yeah sure, for now. You just wait.

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Post by Brandon314159 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 11:41 am

Hey,

We are planning to bring a DC powered art vehicle to the playa (think electric miniature articulating city bus) and was curious about what sort of power you can provide for charging?

Specifics welcome :-)

Thanks!

[url]http://mutantbus.wordpress.com[/url]
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solar power for charging

Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:26 pm

The charging station will have standard 120 volt outlets... plus a NEMA14-50 or two. Our own art cars use 48 volts, and we may plug in directly using anderson SB120 (gray) connectors. The bigger SB175 we usually reserve for 12 volt packs, and we use the SB350 for connecting our 48 volt forklift packs.

/wk
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charging

Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:41 pm

... and a little bit more info... for electric art-cars, I'd suggest a 48 volt battery pack and a PWM motor controller, Altrax, Curtis, Zilla, whatever. Speeds are low on the playa. 48 volts stuff is manageable. Definitely consider an onboard converter to supply either 12 volts (for 12 volt audio/lights) or an inverter for 120 volts (audio and lights). Consider putting solar directly on the art car to help charge the pack.

As for public charging at Solar Snow Koan, the offical plug-in times for big items are the sunny daylight hours. We might not want 15,000 lb electricity monsters plugging in to empty our pack at midnight. And while we have the ability to supply a 10 kW (240 Vac) charging load, no guarantees that we'll be able to devote that that much power at any time... and in the event of mass adoption of electricity, active load shedding might occur. ;-/
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Post by Brandon314159 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:10 pm

Not to threadjack too much...but are you also making 48V available if someone is running a 48V pack (assuming they have the right connector?) IE...would there be a SB175 to directly connect up to if we happened to be running 48V?

Just thinking out loud. Being able to do green art cars = awesome. Less fumes. Less idling annoying engine noise. yay!
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plugging in

Post by wkorthof » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:32 pm

Yes, we'll make 48 volts available again this year for artcars.
The connectors for that will be SB120 (preferred) as well as SB350.

We're all in favor of more electric artcars. Rolling around at 5 mph, most artcars need less power than your average golf car. Add a tiny bit more power for a good sound system + LED lighting... and you're set.

/wk
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Post by gyre » Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:46 pm

That's a very impressive system.

I would like to hear more about your experience with electric vehicles on the playa.
I have a motor and curtis controller.
The motor is around 3 hp/ 9 lbs torque.

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Post by oscillator » Thu Jun 11, 2009 11:54 pm

Snow Koan Rox!

Gotta luv the 14K array - saved my shizzle in 08 after underestimating current reqs for the install in the playa heet and not bringing enuf fossil for the gennie.

Those cats got me hooked, no not just the snoCones, tasty as they are.

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Post by wkorthof » Fri Jun 12, 2009 8:18 am

Oscillator, thanks for the props. This year we're planning the solar array to be a little bigger, around 24 kW. And we're planning 2 or 3 forklift batteries for the overnight/stormy weather power.

I've worked on at least four electric art cars on the Playa. Each of them started as a very old electric utility car or golf car, and all started with resister controllers (archaic power system from the '70s and earlier). In golf course duty, those controllers still work but eat up maybe 20% the power. On the playa, the losses are higher (slower speeds, rough playa) and usually we're starting out with questionable batteries anyway. PWM variable speed controllers run the drive motor a lot more efficiently, and are especially good at slow speeds and high torque (ever get stuck driving around on rough playa?). We've used 36 and 48 volt systems... if possible, I'd suggest a 48 volt system for most art cars. If you have control over the gear ratio, go as low as possible. At ~48 volts, the car should be running 15 mph or less. Direction control: if you want to be able to drive in reverse, you need to reverse the wires leading to the field winding on the motor--- they sell big switches for golf cars to do that. You also want a battery gauge (volt meter at a minimum). And a charger... from 120 volts AC.
It's not hard to add solar power an art car. On two different cars, I used (3) 200 watt sharp panels to make big canopies, and Outback MX60 units to control the charging between solar and the battery packs.
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Post by Brandon314159 » Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:14 am

Our art car is using a large Forklift motor 36/48V...about 250lbs.

It should, with the gearing we chose, be able to push it around quite effortlessly. 6-axles and electric drive...is that some sort of BM record? Hehe
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Post by wkorthof » Fri Jun 12, 2009 2:13 pm

nice, 6-axle? wow, that sounds big.
What kind of battery pack?
2 years ago there was an electric-powered western saloon art car, it was built on a heavy-duty 48 volt utility cart frame. They doubled the battery pack to (16) 6-volt golf cart batteries. That thing was able to suck tons of power from our array.
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Post by oscillator » Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:44 pm

>>>This year we're planning the solar array to be a little bigger, around 24 kW. And we're planning 2 or 3 forklift batteries for the overnight/stormy weather power.

You'll span what, >20'x24'?? What is the W/ft2? ~50watts??

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Post by motskyroonmatick » Sat Jun 13, 2009 9:57 am

I always bring a small solar set up for my evaporator. It is small enough that it will only run a 600 gph sump pump and nothing more. It does the job.
I ran in to some of those small solar panels that come with new VW cars. I have 15 to be precise. I am planning on grouping them together on a piece of plywood or such and using them with a charge controller to power a CB radio base station battery.
Has anyone messed with these things? I am planning on cutting the wires above the connector and then grouping all the black and red wires. Then attaching them to the correct points on the 10 amp charge controller. Anything out of line with this approach?
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Post by wkorthof » Sat Jun 13, 2009 11:40 am

Planned dimensions for our 24 kW array are:
95 ft wide x 22 ft deep x 10ft (high side) to 4ft (low side) tall.
The modules put out around 13 watts per square foot (full sun).

As for grouping multiple small modules, you just need to make sure the voltages are compatible, the wire is large enough, and that you have adequate charge regulation. Supposing you parallel (10) 10 watt "12 volt" panels
(maximum output is actually at 15-20 volts), that adds to 100 watts total.
Assuming they produce that output at 15 volts, you get a maximum of 6.7 amps. Your battery needs to be able to take 6.7 amps and you probably need a charge controller (a 10 amp controller is fine).

/wk
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Post by motskyroonmatick » Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:35 pm

Thanks wk!
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Post by gyre » Sat Jun 13, 2009 4:43 pm

wkorthof wrote:Planned dimensions for our 24 kW array are:
95 ft wide x 22 ft deep x 10ft (high side) to 4ft (low side) tall.
The modules put out around 13 watts per square foot (full sun).

As for grouping multiple small modules, you just need to make sure the voltages are compatible, the wire is large enough, and that you have adequate charge regulation. Supposing you parallel (10) 10 watt "12 volt" panels
(maximum output is actually at 15-20 volts), that adds to 100 watts total.
Assuming they produce that output at 15 volts, you get a maximum of 6.7 amps. Your battery needs to be able to take 6.7 amps and you probably need a charge controller (a 10 amp controller is fine).

/wk
You're going to use up all the sunlight out there.
I bet a solar panel makes a dandy shade covering.

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Post by The Chinese » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:02 am

Damn!!! That's serious. what's the cost of setting something like that up, or maybe better, are there old panels that can be purchased for cheap? That's a significant commitment!!!!

impressive

Chinese
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big solar array on the playa

Post by wkorthof » Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:28 am

So our big solar array will in fact be used as a shade structure. In past years, we've used the space for tents, a cool room, battery chargers, chairs and couches (shade lounge), storage. Because of how stable the structure is, it's a great space in camp.

The modules we use are sometimes new, sometimes used--but generally destined for installation on a roof or in a back yard once we return to default world. Sometimes the modules are temporarily borrowed from existing active systems, like the array on our office roof, other times new systems.

Currently, were just using bulk purchased modules like any other new ones. The supply of cheap panels is not very reliable---and the secondary market for such panels after burning man is even worse. The first-rate modules we use at BM for this year are likely to cost us around $2.75 per watt, and we could sell the same panels to others for close to that. Together with the racking, batteries and battery rentals, inverters, and wire/cables we bring, the cost/value of our solar stuff is probably in the neighborhood of $100k, but since the labor is free and most of the equipment is simply borrowed, our budget is closer to $12k (mostly recovered by supplying power to camps and art projects for money)

/wk
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Re: big solar array on the playa

Post by stargeezer » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:20 pm

wkorthof wrote:Together with the racking, batteries and battery rentals, inverters, and wire/cables we bring, the cost/value of our solar stuff is probably in the neighborhood of $100k, but since the labor is free and most of the equipment is simply borrowed, our budget is closer to $12k (mostly recovered by supplying power to camps and art projects for money)

/wk
It appears to me that you are going to BM as a business. What happened to gifting and no commerce other than ice and coffee at center camp? If you are going to profit from BM, do you at least require that the monetary transaction happen off the playa, or do you have a big sign?

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Post by wkorthof » Fri Jun 19, 2009 7:35 pm

Good point. Maybe people should stick with generators. Everyone likes the sound and fumes of a genset outside the tent all night. Philanthropic Oil companies and the friendly oil counties need our money.
Anyhow...As for the arrangements we use, we gift all incidental charging for portable stuff, batteries, bicycles, and art cars. Prearranged power for theme camps and art projects is on a planned budget and not free. When sierra pacific runs wires to the playa and gifts free power from large solar and wind plants, we'll think up another BM project. What are you gifting?
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Post by stargeezer » Sat Jun 20, 2009 9:05 am

Nothing personal, I just find it hilarious how many people ignore the whole Burning Man concept and justify their buying or selling of services by claiming they enhance the experience for others. For those who are selling services, I can understand, for them BM stands for Business Model and they are just out trying to make a buck or two. What really bothers me are the ones buying services, either because they are too lazy to do it themselves or think they are above the whole self-reliance thing, and after all, if there were no buyers, there could be no sellers.

It is also funny how the community accepts the sale of some services and really chastizes others. There was a thread where an individual wanted to buy or rent an art car, and they were immediately buried in negative responses, yet here you are with little objection. Just what is the difference other than where you draw the line?

Now, after thinking about it a bit more, I am feeling kind of lazy this year, maybe I should just buy a theme camp and hire the help.

Good luck with your solar endeavor, it is better than generators. But just out of curiousity, do you break rules in the default world like you do at Burning Man. Probably not, I am sure you report this income to the IRS.
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