|Power to the Gadgets

We’re looking at what it would take to run our electronic gadgets (phones, compies, camera…) with renewable energy–solar, wind or bicycle.

We have a small Goal Zero kit that we bought a few years ago for camping trips and mini-expeditions–Guide 10 (before the “Plus” was added). Between the battery that came with it and a supplemental battery (Eton Boost 4200), we’re more-or-less able to power our two phones–a smart phone and an old school cell phone.

That leaves us needing AC power for the camera battery, laptops and printer/scanner (no TV). After reading a bit about wind power, it doesn’t look like a good option for our situation (Mother Earth News). That leaves solar and bike.

I’ve looked at a few pedal-power systems:

But I’ve also found DIY instructions for making one (example: Instructables). This is intriguing, though I know I’d need some help to make it happen. On our budget, this option is preferable. If I did make one, this Duracell looks good–Powerpack 600 ($120). It’s used in some of the kits above.

Because we have a small living area, space is one consideration as I think about various AC power generating options. If we had a kit like Pedal-a-Watt, I could bring the bike inside to pedal or take the stand outside to pedal. Either way we wouldn’t need to store a bike inside. But that would mean moving the bike a lot, a step that might limit its use. And if we build one ourselves, it would probably need to stay mounted  to the base as a single package (bike-stand-battery), which would mean we would need to leave it outside. Using it would involve going outside, uncovering the big, and plugging in the battery each time we needed to recharge the battery.

Turning back to solar, we are considering how to “amp” up our camping system so it can charge something like the Powerpack 600, a significant step up from our USB-connected devices. There are a lot of options for this. A lot. Again, we’re not trying to go completely off the grid or even to power all our appliances. I’m just playing with the idea of juicing our electronic devices.

We could get a bigger Goal Zero solar panel, like the Boulder 30 (30 watt, monocrystalline, $200) to power a Powerpack 600. Here is an amateur radio operator who put four Boulder 15s together on a camera tripod (same as two 30s, I presume)–YouTube. Home Depot offers a number of options–Grape Solar 105 Watt ($140), Grape Solar 100 Watt (polycrastalline, $150), Sunforce 30 Watt Amorphous Folding Kit (thin film, $170), Grape Solar 160 Watt (monocrystalline, $230), Ramsond 100 Watt 12-Volt (monocrystalline, $260), Sunforce 80 Watt ($260), Nature Power 65 Watt (monocrystalline, $280). The options seem endless–Ameresco, Value Line, Solartech, Power Up, etc.

I certainly have a lot to learn beyond what I’ve seen on YouTube. In that regard the kits make sense.

Maybe I should start by learning enough to connect my Goal Zero Guide 10 into a proper system (solar panel, charge control/solar regulator, battery, inverter). And maybe I should go study with Bunker Roy and his crew.


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