In podcast 296, Paul, Rick, Jason, Steve Heckeroth, and Stuart Davis finish up their discussion of the
solar workshop. They briefly touch upon one more battery: a lead acid battery from a fork lift. This is a much taller battery that has a far longer lifespan than other lead acid batteries. However, it is often quite expensive.
Paul then brings up an idea that he has seen thrown around a lot but never actually implemented. Basically, you would build a pond on high, your solar system would pump water up into the pond, then you would have a micro hydro system to harvest that water, you would have 3 generators down at the end of the pipe and a controller which would activate valves to allow water to the generators depending on demand so the pond would effectively act as a battery made of water. They talk about how, because of recent technology, this might now be a possibility because there could be a way to program a controller to do this sort of thing.
The crew chats a little bit more about micro hyrdro systems and then move on to the biggest part of the workshop, electric vehicles. Paul talks about the four electrical vehicles they have at the laboratory and goes into more detail about the polaris. He tells the story of how the batteries in the polaris were boiling when they first got it. Various people told him different advice in regards to this but everyone in this podcast came to the conclusion that the boiling is only okay once every three months, and only for a controlled duration for about two hours.
Then the guys talk a little bit about what the real purpose of these vehicles are, and that it probably isn’t for daily farm use. Paul teases Steve for thinking that his electric tractors might have a chance of winning tug of war against Tim’s truck. Steve admits that he only claimed that before he actually saw Tim’s truck, and is bowing out of that hypothetical contest.
Paul brings the conversation back to the other problems with the Polaris. Not only did the batteries boil constantly but whenever they plugged the polaris in to charge, it would lose all the charge it had. After much contemplation and poking around, they realized that the wiring was set up backwards.
Steve then clarifies what the “low” gear on the Polaris actually does. It limits the RPMs on the motor because the highest, best power on the motor is at the lowest RPMs. He further explains that it does depend on which kind of motor it is (DC or AC) but the lower RPM has higher torque and lower speed.
Paul talks of another modification they made to the Polaris. There is now a DC to DC charger so that you can take an auxiliary pack and stick it on the back of the Polaris and it can run on that instead of the internal power pack. He says he would like to have 6 to 7 auxiliary packs or be able to just access the solar leviathan wherever. The solar leviathan also has a DC to DC charger so the charge can happen in a very short amount of time.
One of the guys does warn that there are dangers in doing this because hydrogen is created when doing this sort of charging. It could explode if you do not take the caps off. Paul brings us back to how it is scary trusting human discipline for anything so this might not be the best idea.
The last big topic they get into is the solar leviathan. It has many similarities to the volts wagon , it is just much larger. It has 3,000 watts of panels, multiple power packs, 48 volt systems, and a far superior inverter. The guys discuss how they built the leviathan a little bit and then discuss its intent. The solar leviathan will eventually be the power base station so they can get more use out of electrical vehicles and get other electrical use wherever they want on their land.
The guys admit that the workshop contained so much more information than what they could relay in these podcasts and they consider doing a dvd set but maybe not yet. Paul likens being off grid to using linux on your computer. You can get by using it, but you are going to have certain people who know what the hell they are doing to guide it and keep it working right.
The guys want the pod people to understand that the solar leviathan will indeed get completely finished, they are just waiting for some parts to come in. They talk a little bit about the kickstarter for DVDs about the solar leviathan but Paul says how he was extremely surprised at how few people were interested in solar and that the kickstarter might not even get funded. Regardless, the guys conclude that there is no way to convey all the information that got shared this week and if you don’t get a DVD then come out to the land and see some of this stuff for yourself.
Credit: Cassie Langstraat