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Old 02-27-2008, 02:41 AM   #1
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Solar/Wind DIY experiments

Let me start out by stating that I have a working 6.5KW original Onan generator that runs like a top. I also know that there are countless commercial systems that would completely suit my needs for solar or wind power. I only say this because I've read about 100 threads here that tempt this idea but the 2nd reply is always "go buy a Honda 2000iu for $900 and skip that mess". This is about tinkering around with ideas and mechanics, and learning about how this stuff works. It's what helps me fall aslep at night dreaming about little projects (stuff that drives my wife crazy!)
  1. I came across 3 of these free 10watt solar panels from returned items at my brother-in-law's work. They're from Solar Powered roof mounted attic vents.
  2. I read an article in Popular Science about building a homemade wind generator and found: Vela Creations - Chispito Wind Generator.
  3. I found a free treadmill on craigslist and robbed the electric motor out of it for my creation.
  4. it took me a while to find free 8" sewer pipe for the blades, but in the meantime I made a prototype with 4" pipe and one of the attic vent motors.
Then my daughter was born, and all this tinkering all but completely stopped. I'm back at it again, and I'm pretty sure that at some point I'm going to have to buy some equipment (charge controller) and spend some money.
I plan on mounting the solar panels on the roof near the manual TV antena (that I will never use) and I thought it would be cool if I could modify the antena crank to somehow tilt/turn the panels so I didn't have to mount them flat or I wouldn't have to always crawl up there to adjust them.
I also envisioned using the blackwater vent pipe as a base for a short tower for a wind genny. I'm going to do some testing with the small prototype to see if this is a possibility.
Most of the time that I use my airstream, we always boondock, and there's an abundance of sunshine and wind. Out in the High Desert, the Columbia Gorge, at the beach, or at the racetrack. Also, although this is the budget/experimantal route, I expect solar panels to reduce in price in the future and I plan on upgrading at some point. I don't think $1/watt is too far off.
I welcome any suggestions about a charge controller (BTW I have 2x12V deep cycle marine batteries, and 1x12V auto batt. for the chassis) I want to be able to see what's happening with the solar and wind and I want to be able to upgrade for "futures". I'm guessing that I can get 30watts from 3x10W panels for about 2.5amps? V*I=P And probably nothing substantial from my little wind genny but maybe 100W from the full size chispito?

Some links I've found interesting:
Welcome to AM Solar - Your RV Solar Specialists since 1987 (almost local to me )
Morningstar - The World's Leading Solar Controllers and Inverters
AVA Solar
Northwest Solar Expo | Clean energy solutions for home and business (April 19-20 won't miss it this year)
More to come.

thanks,
Kevin
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Old 02-27-2008, 06:58 AM   #2
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I'm not an expert on wind power, but could you simply use an automotive voltage regulator? The old Chrysler electronic two post might fit the bill for you, and they are cheap to buy.
As for your idea about mounting, the pipe is connected directly to the holding tank, so any stresses would be transmitted directly to the tank, which is plastic... The idea for an antenna mounted solar array is intriguing, it could lay face-up and lift and turn as needed. How mych does this weigh? You may have trouble cranking it up if it's too heavy, not to mention stripping the plastic gears.
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Old 02-27-2008, 09:06 AM   #3
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OUU OUU! Piggyback idea. Of couse the wind generator will have to rotate to always face into the wind. Create a venturi on leeward side of the generator mounting atop the black water holding tank vent pipe so the wind positively vents the tank while producing electricity!! A twofer!
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Old 02-27-2008, 05:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
I'm not an expert on wind power, but could you simply use an automotive voltage regulator? The old Chrysler electronic two post might fit the bill for you, and they are cheap to buy.
I don't know why not, but that's kind of what I want to figure out. I know that you need some kind of diode that keeps the genny from acting like a motor, does a voltage regulator do that? I also wonder about overcharging the batteries (thinking positive here). I wouldn't mind spending $100-200 on a charge controller, but I don't want to get something and then have to buy another one to handle more power or several sources of power.
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
As for your idea about mounting, the pipe is connected directly to the holding tank, so any stresses would be transmitted directly to the tank, which is plastic...
I've seen the plastic pipe in the bathroom closet, I wonder if I could reinforce it there instead of using guy wires like I was imagining. then I'd just have a single mast to put in the vent. Wind gennys work best when they're up in clean air, and the higher the better. I was thinking about the vent just because the top looks pretty sturdy, and it would give me 10' elevation to start out with.
Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
The idea for an antenna mounted solar array is intriguing, it could lay face-up and lift and turn as needed. How mych does this weigh? You may have trouble cranking it up if it's too heavy, not to mention stripping the plastic gears.
The panels are pretty light, but I haven't ever fooled with the crank. I didn't even know it had plastic gears. It might not work at all, but I like the idea of looking at a meter inside while I adjust the angle with a little crank.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 47WeeWind
OUU OUU! Piggyback idea. Of couse the wind generator will have to rotate to always face into the wind. Create a venturi on leeward side of the generator mounting atop the black water holding tank vent pipe so the wind positively vents the tank while producing electricity!! A twofer!
Hopefully the blades of the genny are at least 10-12' above the coach and have no effect, but makes me think that I surely don't want to create a positive pressure air mass over the vent - that would be bad if it pushed air down the vent!

thanks for the comments!
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Old 02-27-2008, 06:17 PM   #5
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Interesting posts... now if we could only think of a way to generate enough energy to deal with solid waste disposal and recycling of **liquids**, the only thing left would be food source.

Off THE grid. Except for the beer runs...
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Old 03-09-2008, 04:31 PM   #6
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I love the idea of utilizing the antenna! I've been thinking about how I could mount adjustable PV cells. (mine are big 125w though, & pretty heavy). you can get a good charge controler for your needs for >100 $. I like the guys at arizona wind & sun, they are VERY knowledgible. & I think have a forum on the webpage
Solar Electric Systems
I haven't had the pleasure of mounting my PV cells on an airstream yet, but looking forward to doing it!
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Old 03-09-2008, 04:51 PM   #7
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Very cool ideas. Hey, the streights and cheapest way home may be the highway...but the winding road is much more fun. Same thing goes for ideas. Ya have to feed a Honda...but they are not charging for the sun or the wind...yet
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmpray
Ya have to feed a Honda...but they are not charging for the sun or the wind...yet
I just became aware that Honda is now making photovoltaics. Honda - The Power of Dreams - Solar Cell

Maybe now photocells will go down in price and up in quality.
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Old 03-09-2008, 08:02 PM   #9
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I have an entire house that is run by wind turbins and solar panels. I think the wind turbine idea is interesting but the vent pipe is to light weight to take the stress of the gusts. Another thing is the noise that a turbine will make. Even a well balanced aeromotor will vibrate the airstream mounted on the roof. But give it a try and let us know. You may get rich from your idea. Best of luck.
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Old 03-09-2008, 09:13 PM   #10
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Tinsel Loaf, I agree that it would not be a good idea to mount a wind turbine to the vent pipe. Vibration will work on not only the vent tubing but also the shell. I see leaks galore on the roof.

This idea would make more sense, especially if you could make it yourself:
Amazon.com: Mount RV Wind Tower: Electronics
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