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01-04-2008, 07:04 PM   #1
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Solar Power; Pentax DSLR owners

Solar Power; Pentax DSLR owners, power your studio room from the sun.

Dear Pentaxians / Pentax DSLR owners,

Many Months ago, when I started this blog, I was inspired by another blog site called OK1000 Pentax, administered by Michael Gaudet. You need to visit his site. My site is different than Michael’s as I tend to alternate with K10D “how to” articles, “how to” for general photography using Pentax DSLRs and some random, sometimes off-the-wall posts about this-and-that and about places I visit and photograph.

Michael always has good material on his site, but one of his Post stood out from his blog and made me think about all of us as photographers; ”Be a green photographer”. He has a very detailed post about how we should all be “Green” photographers. He lists several ways that we can become more “Green” and Earth friendly. His post has many links bringing the reader to some sites about specific steps that can be taken to be more Earth friendly, use less electricity, create less waste, etc. You ought to read it.

I have adopted many of the suggestions brought to my attention by Michael’s Post, such as using compact fluorescent lights, turning the computer off when not is use or at least set the computer so that it goes dormant after a pre-determined amount of inactive time, use recycled paper, print only when I need, etc.

I have been pondering about the idea of getting off the power grid all together, at least for my photography activities and computer equipment related to my photography. I searched many Websites about solar and wind power, but it seems that nobody has small systems, at a reasonable price, that can run between 350 to 500 watts of continuous power, (I know that the peaks will be about twice that much for a fraction of a second) which is about what my desktop, LCD monitor and maybe my printer uses when all are in operation. I am a mechanical engineer, and know little about electrical engineering and calculations.

With that said, I do invite anyone with electrical knowledge to help me out along the way with your suggestions. I am not doing this for the money that I will save as much as for the satisfaction of being able to produce my own electricity and at the same time, do my part to save our unique little planet.

Here is the system that I want to implement. I live in the California Mojave Desert area and we get plenty of sun all year round and it’s windy almost every night. I purchased several solar panels rated at 12 volts and 10 amps, although when reading the voltage, it reads closer to 14 volts.). I also purchased a DC/AC inverter with 350 watts continuous and 750 watts peak, I got a 12 volts deep cycle marine battery, and a charge controller. Later on, I might purchase a regular automotive alternator and use it with adequate fan blades to generate wind power at night. The power generated will be stored in the marine battery or batteries, for when the sun is not shinning or later on for when there is no wind at night. The specs on the battery show a reserve, at the same remaining voltage, of 110 minutes per battery. Two batteries in parallel become 220 minutes, three batteries 330 minutes and so on. I plan to purchase more batteries to extend the power availability when either the solar or wind power is not available. I will use more solar panels if needed as well. This is going to be a progressive project, but in the end, I will let everyone know the costs and what I can run and for how long with the reserve in batteries. I use the computer very little during the day. After work, I usually spend three to five hours on the computer. Of course, I will recharge all of my camera gear, cell phone, iPod and other battery operated gadgets from the inverter as well.

I believe that the solar panels, (coupled with the charge controller that will limit overcharging the batteries or draining them when there is no sun) will have enough power to recharge the batteries during the day. If I use the computer during the day, which I rarely do, it might still have enough charging capacity to allow recharging while using it. When I launch my system, (5 to 10 days) I believe that I can add additional batteries, hooked in parallel, to sustain operation without any source of solar or wind power, for about six hours. That is my goal at the time. I will start with the solar panels first and add the wind generator later. I currently have two solar panels and hooked in parallel, should give about 20 amps. I only paid $40.00 each at the local flea market. The vendor is there every week and I can buy more. The panels will be located on the second floor, inside my 4ft x 8ft window. They will be at an angle of 60 degrees from vertical and the window is facing south.

I figure that adding more panels or batteries will get me to my goal. I don’t anticipate spending more than $500.00 but will spend up to $1,000.00 if needed. Whatever I can do with that amount will have to suffice. At worst, I can always use my laptop instead, which uses a lot less power and adds one internal battery to the system. The solar DC power will be converted to AC with the inverter and then the 110 volt equipment plugged in the inverter. I know that this is not the most efficient method, but as I see it, it’s all free power or rather not grid supplied power. The great thing about doing this progressively is that you spend the money in small amount at the time.

One could actually install such systems for their hobby room, or garage or maybe one room at a time, powering lamps and TVs and what have you. It will never be a system to power your air conditioner, dryer or electric stove, and you will never have enough power to sell back to the grid, but you can be partly independent and self sustained for your photography needs.

Thank you for reading and let me know your ideas or comments. You can leave messages on this site, on my blog or by sending an email yvon@k10dbook.com

Photos and full story located at Pentax dslrs

Y'all come and see us now, you hear!


Yvon Bourque

01-04-2008, 08:17 PM   #2
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wow, this sounds really ambitious! I'm curious to see what input you get.
And thank you for posting that link, as going green is something I'd like to do.
01-04-2008, 08:56 PM   #3
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I wonder how much cheaper panels have gotten or more efficient since the lat time I looked at the costs of solar (probably about 2 years ago).

based on my numbers, you are going to wind up well on the other side of $1000 unless your power usage estimates are off. You might try something like the kill-o-watt plug that lets you measure actual usage of the specified gear

From an efficeincy standpoint, a solar heated water cistern would probably do well for you with the tons of sun. Wind might actually be cheaper for the electricity. A prefab 400 watt generator can be had for about $700.
01-04-2008, 09:33 PM   #4
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Y'know, I thought it was gonna be about a new camera like this:



I love the Ricohs. They're, some would say, the poor man's Pentax. Canyon owners would have you believe the Pentax is the poor man's Pentax, but hey.

Interestingly, most wind-power projects I've seen advocate the use of converted washing machine motors as a cheap generator unit.

01-04-2008, 09:57 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by raz-0 Quote
I wonder how much cheaper panels have gotten or more efficient since the lat time I looked at the costs of solar (probably about 2 years ago).

based on my numbers, you are going to wind up well on the other side of $1000 unless your power usage estimates are off. You might try something like the kill-o-watt plug that lets you measure actual usage of the specified gear

From an efficeincy standpoint, a solar heated water cistern would probably do well for you with the tons of sun. Wind might actually be cheaper for the electricity. A prefab 400 watt generator can be had for about $700.
You can purchase car adapters to run a TV, small appliances, a laptop computer, etc for way less than $100.00. The car alternator recharges just the one battery in the car. I may well use three or four deep cycle batteries ($65.00 at Costco) in parallel and an array of solar panels ($40.00 each for 14v - 10 amp each, again in parallel. With just the solar panel, and the inverter, I powered a lamp and my guitar amplifier (90 watts of power) and I played for about an hour while the sun was out. With several batteries as reserve, charging all day, why couldn't I power my computer system? I already charged all of the camera and battery powered accessories, with the one solar panel and the inverter. It seems to work just fine. So far, I spent about$190.00.

I have ordered a Kill-o-Watt from Amazon and I will check what my system draws. Hope for the best, but I can always use the laptop with a large monitor. It uses a lot less electricity that a tower desktop.

If there is an electrical engineer out there, I would appreciate the formula to calculate how much 110 AC current I can produce with one DC14v / 10 amp solar panel and an inverter? How long to recharge a 12v deep cycle battery from 10v to 14v? How much will a deep cycle 750 amp battery will be able to sustain the conversion from DC to AC with the inverter with a load of say 100 watts/hour? I can figure out the rest by applying the same to more panels or batteries.

Thanks,

Yvon Bourque
01-04-2008, 10:06 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithos Quote
Y'know, I thought it was gonna be about a new camera like this:



I love the Ricohs. They're, some would say, the poor man's Pentax. Canyon owners would have you believe the Pentax is the poor man's Pentax, but hey.

Interestingly, most wind-power projects I've seen advocate the use of converted washing machine motors as a cheap generator unit.
That's awesome. They should put the same on both sides of the prism on all DSLR. Is the Ricoh shown here real of photoshopped? I don't know about the efficiency with the power hungry DSLRs, but if it could extend the number of images per full battery charge, that would be a step in the right direction.

I can just imagine using a camera bag with a solar panel in the back (They already have them, I know) but with a connection on the camera, and a cable from the camera bag long enough to manipulate the camera, where you could constantly recharge the battery as you go.

That would be great for trekking in the wilderness.

I can only imagine...
01-04-2008, 11:30 PM   #7
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Yvon,
I won't have the time to go through everything for a few days Yvon, but I'd like to thank you for all the effort that you've done.

I was looking for that type of thing about a year ago, and never found anything.
01-05-2008, 12:11 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by k10dbook Quote
That's awesome. They should put the same on both sides of the prism on all DSLR. Is the Ricoh shown here real of photoshopped? I don't know about the efficiency with the power hungry DSLRs, but if it could extend the number of images per full battery charge, that would be a step in the right direction.

I can just imagine using a camera bag with a solar panel in the back (They already have them, I know) but with a connection on the camera, and a cable from the camera bag long enough to manipulate the camera, where you could constantly recharge the battery as you go.

That would be great for trekking in the wilderness.

I can only imagine...
Nope, that's a bona fide Ricoh camera. It's real.

The manual's here:

Ricoh SRL Systems, manuals, instruction

They're great cameras. And, yes, it's a K-mount (or as Ricoh called it, P-mount, as a nod to Pentax, I guess).

01-05-2008, 12:29 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by k10dbook Quote
You can purchase car adapters to run a TV, small appliances, a laptop computer, etc for way less than $100.00.
Yeah, this will work for a while. I know people who use them a lot for powering electronics on site or on the go. They are a consumable item for the most part. Especially the cheaper ones.

QuoteQuote:
The car alternator recharges just the one battery in the car. I may well use three or four deep cycle batteries ($65.00 at Costco) in parallel and an array of solar panels ($40.00 each for 14v - 10 amp each, again in parallel. With just the solar panel, and the inverter, I powered a lamp and my guitar amplifier (90 watts of power) and I played for about an hour while the sun was out.
Your amp likely isn't drawing even close to 90 watts most of the time. You were also doing during daylight. Which leads to the second problem... power storage. Those deep cycle batteries won't last that long as the sole powering device. When using inverters, they expect the alternator to be doing the work. If you have lots of wind, you can probably shore up dips very easily with enough batteries. But you will be surprised how many batteries you will be buying to get 5 hours of continuous use of 500W of actual equipment. Then there is the question of how fast cna the solar panel charge the battery. I know with my charger, a dead deep cycle can take 6+ hours when new, but 10+ when it's getting older. How many of them can one panel charge in your average sunny day?

QuoteQuote:
With several batteries as reserve, charging all day, why couldn't I power my computer system? I already charged all of the camera and battery powered accessories, with the one solar panel and the inverter. It seems to work just fine. So far, I spent about$190.00.
yeah, the smaller batteries are no issue. I actually have some stuff for emergencies so I cna do just that. But you are talking a lot less amp hours than the 12 marine battery.

QuoteQuote:
I have ordered a Kill-o-Watt from Amazon and I will check what my system draws. Hope for the best, but I can always use the laptop with a large monitor. It uses a lot less electricity that a tower desktop.
You can do something fairly sustainable with the laptop for fairly cheap. It's the other stuff to go along with it that starts making the numbers harder. Like you said, it's for fun and you are playing with cheap parts, give it a try. REalistically the marine battery should power the whole shebang for some period of time. SWAG from messing around with speccing UPSes for harware installations, probably about 30 minutes.

If you are going to have to guess, I'd take a multimeter and the battery and a panel charge the battery using a charger, run it down with the inverter, taking measurements along the way, and then see how much you get back charging with the panel.
01-05-2008, 06:00 AM   #10
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I'll be completely off the grid here shortly (living in Central Africa for a year) and after much research I'll be using a similar system.

Sunlinq 12w Solar Panel (much much more than $40.00 but folds to the size of a large wallet)
Voltage regulator
400 watt inverter (should I get a smaller one instead?)
Car Battery (purchased in Africa since you can't fly with one of these)

I'll be using it to charge my camera batteries, AA batteries, Laptop, and a couple of compact florescent light bulbs.

I know a person who used a similar set up in the same place with success so I hope it works well.
01-06-2008, 07:15 AM   #11
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Neat project. Sounds very complicated. Would like to point out that solar cells may not be as green as everyone thinks. haven't checked this out in about 7 years. At that time making solar panels was MORE polluting than driving a gas car. they had a race overseas with all vehicles allowed. Talking gas cars, solar cars, pedal trikes, electric cars, etc. The race sponsor figures in all the energy and pollution required to make the vehicle and adds it to the racers. Idea was to see who could go farthest/fastest with least pollution and energy. Solar car didn't win when the all the energy discredits were added in.
This may have changed in recent years. There are problems with flourescent bulbs too. My parents both came down with skin rashes. Have hundreds of dollars at the doctors they found that they are sensitve to them. Ouch. Conservation is darn complicated.
thanks
barondla
01-06-2008, 09:23 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by barondla Quote
Neat project. Sounds very complicated. Would like to point out that solar cells may not be as green as everyone thinks. haven't checked this out in about 7 years. At that time making solar panels was MORE polluting than driving a gas car. they had a race overseas with all vehicles allowed. Talking gas cars, solar cars, pedal trikes, electric cars, etc. The race sponsor figures in all the energy and pollution required to make the vehicle and adds it to the racers. Idea was to see who could go farthest/fastest with least pollution and energy. Solar car didn't win when the all the energy discredits were added in.
This may have changed in recent years. There are problems with flourescent bulbs too. My parents both came down with skin rashes. Have hundreds of dollars at the doctors they found that they are sensitve to them. Ouch. Conservation is darn complicated.
thanks
barondla
barondla,

Thank you for your comments. It's not a complicated project at all. I got it working now but I will need additional batteries to keep the charge longer. However, when I have the wind generator as well as the solar panels, I will be off the grid .

As for the solar panel making, it may have been true a while back and maybe still today, but as technololy evolves and as there are more people buying them, it will get better and better, eventually there should be enough manufacturing plants powered by solar and wind that the solar and wind powered energy will be used to make more solar panels, etc.
01-06-2008, 10:18 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by nikonic Quote
I'll be completely off the grid here shortly (living in Central Africa for a year) and after much research I'll be using a similar system.

Sunlinq 12w Solar Panel (much much more than $40.00 but folds to the size of a large wallet)
Voltage regulator
400 watt inverter (should I get a smaller one instead?)
Car Battery (purchased in Africa since you can't fly with one of these)

I'll be using it to charge my camera batteries, AA batteries, Laptop, and a couple of compact florescent light bulbs.

I know a person who used a similar set up in the same place with success so I hope it works well.
Don't use a car battery. They sacrifice deep discharge ability for massive current draw to operate the starting motor.

Use an RV or Marine battery. They can be discharged to extremely low levels without damaging the battery. They don't do as well with the high current draw of a starting motor. They are more money, for a reason.

You might even consider paying a bit more money than that and get the gel cell batteries that don't gas out or spill.

PS - I'm an RV'er. An RV furnace will flatten a car battery in nothing flat, but an RV battery will pretend it's the Energizer Bunny.
01-06-2008, 10:24 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
Don't use a car battery. They sacrifice deep discharge ability for massive current draw to operate the starting motor.

Use an RV or Marine battery. They can be discharged to extremely low levels without damaging the battery. They don't do as well with the high current draw of a starting motor. They are more money, for a reason.

You might even consider paying a bit more money than that and get the gel cell batteries that don't gas out or spill.

PS - I'm an RV'er. An RV furnace will flatten a car battery in nothing flat, but an RV battery will pretend it's the Energizer Bunny.
The battery, and maybe battery bank in parallel will be an Opyime Blue top. See at OPTIMA Batteries
They sell them at Costoc, still a bit expensive but worthed, I think.What do you think?
01-06-2008, 01:41 PM   #15
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I have seen both solar and wind powered converter systems with batteries in the local "Canadian Tire" for something in the 400 watt range you are looking at about $2K as a commercial price from memory.

I am not sure getting green this way is the best option however. Think about how you travel to and from your photo sites. I'll bet there is a lot more CO2 generated by driving all over the place as opposed to alternitives.

Just my 0.02 worht
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