A solar powered blog

This blog is now powered by a Raspberry Pi using 100% solar energy. Nicole instrumented the Phidgets sensors so we would gain some visibility into our electricity production & consumption. This has already given us some great insights. We can see the effect that each device we use has on the system: how much the LED lamps take to charge, the hole that the inverter blasts through the battery when turned on. We can tell that not all sunny days are created equal in their ability to give a charge. We can even tell the increase in electricity consumption that rsyncing a whole bunch of data to the Pi has: 0.03A.

The sensors

  • solar panels volts (a good indicator of sunlight)
  • input amps (indicates when the charge controller uses produced electricity)
  • output amps / load (what we consume with various devices)
  • battery volts (whether this blog will make it through the night or not)

For now I’m only graphing using the Gnuplot one-liner from Hell. More to come…

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It blows my mind way too hard that I have a system in which sunlight comes in and organized information comes out. And by organized information I mean lolcats.serious-cat

Solar install tidied up & half instrumented

 Charge controller (top), Raspberry Pi (top right), Phidgets interface kit (bellow the pi), Phidgets current sensors (bottom).

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My new favorite project screws

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The volt-meters (left) aren’t live yet but the amp-meters (bottom) are.

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With the inverter hooked up and a properly fused distribution box

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The Pi reading its sensors, Nicole is taking on the data aggregation.

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The goal is to move Akrin to the Pi to have a solar powered server.

Solar – little steps forward

It’s been hard to finally get to wiring what I have for a solar install. I’m still fuzzy on some of the science and I want everything to be perfect for the big launch. Necessity and having all the gear sitting there is making me reconsider. This afternoon I decided to wire the basics and deal with the imperfection.

What we have now are 2 panels in parallel, a charge controller, a 35Ah deep cycle battery and the load. No inverter, no clean wiring, no fancy instrumentation to measure everything.

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What this gives us is the ability to use a 12V DC socket and 3 USB ports, even when the sun is not shinning ­čÖé This isn’t much but as I said earlier, when starting from scratch everything is a huge victory. It sounds trivial until you realize how much everything we do now is either 12V DC or USB powered. The charge controller comes with its own USB port with which I tested powering a Raspberry Pi.

I’m so exited about generating my own electricity. Solar is really beautiful, much more so than I thought it would be going in. I’m really amazed that these panels just sit there and make electricity. I’ve always known that but I’m actually using this electricity, I find myself contemplating the system for a lot more than its function. It feels like getting something for nothing, while not burning fossil fuels, while going straight to the source, while being independent, while drinking a beer. I’m a fan.

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