Time was running out so I went to a local company and asked their opinion. And I am glad I did! I was stuck in analysis paralysis. Casey at Susitna Energy helped me get over it and pull some triggers. He convinced me that 300 watts (one panel) was enough, then he convinced me that I would be very happy with the Midnight Solar Kidd 30 amp charge controller, even though it did not have a remote display, or a hacking cult. I knew we were about to get busy and this was an important upgrade to get checked off my list before things get serious. Turns out, I was right about all that.
So, the first visit I brought home the panel, ($400) and started designing the mount in my head (more for another post) I researched charge controllers again, and decided if I could mount the charge controller in the right place, I wouldn’t need the extra install time for a remote display, and if ever get bored I will hack the controller if necessary. Second trip, I brought home the 30 amp Midnight Solar “kidd”
Installation took about 2 days with perfection and fabrication of the homegrown (tracking ready) mount. (still working on the tracking mechanism but the panel is mounted and I have at least one pivot point to work with in the future.
It is mounted spanning the top rails of the Ladder rack, plenty of airflow to keep them cool (and more efficient) and no self induced shadowing. I powered up the system at about 8PM on an overcast night and started making about 10 watts (that is better than 0)
12 hours later we took off for a 750 mile+, 72 hour jaunt to Fairbanks. It was sunny and 81 in Fairbanks and while we were parked at the job site, we saw 230+ watts and “Float” (which is why Casey recommended more batteries.
I currently have 2 Duracell 240Wh 6 volts, but watching the charge controller I now feel that I am wasting “free” energy, and want to be able to store more. (next project)
With the solar, we can keep the batteries topped off, and make ice (and other coldness) in the fridge (about 6.5 amps 70ish watts) and power the DC stuff without charging off the engine. We still start the engine to run the microwave for over about 30 secs. Incidentally, tonight we ran the micro on defrost (on a couple of New York’s) for 14 minutes with the engine running, and the solar panels contributing about 30 watts. The battery (the collection of batteries) still look like they will make it through the night.
Fast forward. We returned from the Fairbanks trip at noonish on Thursday, shit showered, shaved and did laundry then left for Juneau (1500 miles+ plus a ferry ride, plus a border crossing, 24 hours later. Except for the 23 hours at home, we have been “boondocking” for almost a week and have done over 1600 miles.
It is now Sunday night, we are in Juneau AK. We have made our own ice from the power of the sun all week, kept a lot of Dr. Peppers, and Rockstars nice and cold, NOT eaten out (because we brought real food in the fridge,) and thawed 2 New York strip(s) with a microwave without an electric bill. The grill is ready to light and we are tucked into a national forest campsite (for 10 bucks a night, NO HOOKUPS) cuz Juneau is a tourist town and frowns upon squatting.)
It has been an amazing magic sprinter week. We have taken 2 trips of a lifetime through Alaska and the Yukon. Check out @AlaskaTammy for the travelogue.
Priority projects. (in order)
- External (directional) antenna for the 4G router
- Get the cell booster working better (external directional antenna)
- 2 more batteries.
- Better, more secure, convenient mount for the torch.