Thursday, July 26, 2012

Building a Power Station

This past weekend we were blessed with a visit from my sister. It was wonderful to have another member of the family come out to see what we were doing and interact with Ken. He really loves to show people around his homestead, and his enthusiasm for everything is quite contagious!

In between the hikes and swimming and playing, my second solar panel arrived. One evening while Kenny and Aunt Vicki were amusing one another at the yurts, I rewired my initial solar panel so that its leads both ran into a junction box, onto a connection block, through some 6A fuses, and then down to the charge controller. Having a sealed junction box and connection block made future expansion to three panels quite easy, and I was really pleased with how it has come together.

 

Mounting the second solar panel was then rather simple. It was a matter of repeating the physical mount, that is to say, using stainless steel bolts and nuts to ensure that the panel was not directly contacting my frame. Then clipping the leads and attaching standard automotive spade type connectors. The leads on the solar panels are shockingly short, apparently only really long enough to connect one panel to the next, and I ended up mounting the second (and eventually a third) panel upside down, alongside the initial panel. This worked out without having an inch of cable to spare! But hooking up my meter afterwards showed me pumping 9.5 amps of current into my charge controller - hopefully enough.

 

It's been a few days now, and the batteries are slowly coming up to a higher charge. Yesterday wasn't so good, as it was overcast and raining most of the day, but up until then they were ending the day with a greater charge than the day before, so that was gratifying. I still think another panel and more batteries are in the plan for this fall yet.

 

In the meantime, I decided to practise building a log cabin, by building a minature one to enclose my batteries, charge controller, inverter, and battery charger. I milled up a large pile of four foot two by fours, and proceeded to place two inch notches, one inch deep, two inches in from the ends of each two by four.

 

Then I ripped four of these "beams" in half to place at the very bottom, and very top of the box, to ensure a level surface. It was a fun matter to fit the beams together, in the manner of the toy log cabin sets that Kenny has played with. Of course, it wasn't long into the project before I realized that my accuracy in measuring was not as great as required, and most of the beams required further work with the saw and chisel on the notches before they would fit together nicely. That, and wailing with a mallet.


 

I put in a less substantial floor than in the Tardis, trying to use up some poplar planks that were rapidly warping over in a corner of my sawmill area. I also built a small interior wall to separate the batteries from the charging equipment. While I'm sure the offgassing of the batteries is very small, I do want to be sure to keep them away from potential sparks. I sized the box to hold at least six batteries comfortably. More if needed.

 

The roof of the box is still under construction. I think that I will soon do a run to the ReStore in Thunder Bay to see what I may potentially use to cover the roof. The angles of a roofline are actually more complex than I anticipated in my mind's eye. I ended up dusting off my slide ruler to do some of the calculations, as the calculators I had handy were all financial ones, and didn't have any options to calculate squares, roots, sines, cosines, or tangents. SOH CAH TOA still sticks in my head though! Finally, a practical application for math! This is why I think Kenny can benefit from homeschooling - a more direct connection between the abstract things you learn, and the concrete things you do.

 

Hopefully soon I can cover the box and move it into position - I really want to get started on bringing in my winter wood!

2 comments:

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