Monday, May 16, 2011

Urban Solar - Take 1 Post 1

There are probably hundreds of videos on YouTube relating to DIY solar projects. Sometimes elaborate, sometimes rather sparse, but almost always in some back yard, shed, garage or what have you. That makes sense, since typically, cities aren't exactly the best place to start trying to set up Solar PV panels. But I'm a geek. And I was bored.

My goal is simple: Build a custom solar panel and use it to offset some of my vampire load in the apartment. Before you flame me:
  • Yes, I know the amount I offset will likely be tiny
  • Yes, I know that this will likely take 5+ years to pay for itself
  • No, I am not crazy. I mean, I don't think so.
Why offset vampire load and not charge a battery for later use? First of all, deep cycle batteries, a charge controller, and DC/AC inverter can get pricey. This is meant to be a fun project with a tight budget. Plus, every time you convert energy from one form to another, like electric to chemical in a battery, you lose some power. Let's be honest, I won't exactly be producing gigawatts here. Every little bit counts. Lastly, who wants to deal with large heavy batteries? My "solution," if it works will pump juice right into my home grid. I should get some fire insurance.

So that said, I have an apartment with generously sized windows in NYC. They face downtown and "West". If you are familiar with NYC, you know that "downtown" is South-ish. And "West" is "sorta-West", at least as far as the Earth is concerned. I'll stick with South and West, and in true NYC fashion, let you conform to my naming conventions. ; ) See below:
(notice, no shadows! Unless Mr. Trump comes in to grace us with another one of his buildings, I think I will be shadow free for a long while)

Now what? I don't have $1k+ to drop on a solar panel, an inverter, mounting supplies, batteries, etc. So I purchased some used supplies off of Ebay. These included:
  • 30 Grade B Monocrystalline solar cells (NOT panels)
  • Associated tabbing wire, bus wire, and flux pen
  • A really subpar, completely inappropriate and unusable 23 watt soldering iron
  • A dinky 300 watt Grid Tie Inverter
  • A multimeter (actually, I owned this already)
 If I laid them all out on a table, they might look like this:

In my next post, I'll explain how I went from a bright eyed solar novice to this:

Off to dream up my next post.

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