Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Riley School and Solar Power

Presentation at Riley School
Last Monday, May 21, I gave a presentation to about 40 students and teachers at Riley School, in Rockport, Maine.

This was my second school presentation.  The weather for the day was perfect, about 70 degrees and sunny.
Once again the students mostly enjoyed seeing and hearing about the animals and pets of the village, and the daily lives of the children.  Of special interest were the chickens in the pueblo of La Libertad, which a few of the Riley students also raise at their homes here in Maine.  After the presentation the students spent a good amount of time looking at the village's handcrafts, asking questions, and examining the blowgun.  Thank you to Nohora Estes and Riley School for hosting the event!

Electrical Power in the Jungle
Current Problems:
  • The diesel generator is expensive to fuel and produces air and noise pollution.
  • The diesel generator in the village operates only 2-3 hours in the early evening.
  • The power generated is of questionable tolerance levels.
  • The electricity is connected in a very limited area central to the school and community buildings.
  • At times the generator does not function.
  • There are limited opportunities to charge batteries (for cell phones, LED lights, UV water purification, laptop computers, and cell phone (and data) signal amplifiers.

A Solar Solution:
I have been trying to put together a low-cost off-grid solar power system for La Libertad.  So far I have a 68 watt solar panel that is a flexible laminate.  I am able to take it in checked baggage and then adhere it to a reinforced aluminum panel when I am in Leticia.  This system will include a voltage regulator, power inverted, wires, and various adapters.  So far the price is at a little under $350, but this does not include the price of the battery.  The system has worked during preliminary testing, but a much more rigorous test is needed to determine load values and charge rates under various conditions.

Problems with the solution:

  • Deep cycle batteries are priced at about $80 to $400, depending on size and quality, in the USA.  In Colombia I expect the price to be double, and if they are found in Leticia I have no idea of the cost (and I would be afraid to ask).  These batteries may not be transported on a plane.
  • Transporting the system has the danger of damage to the components.
  • The electrical connections and operation may be more difficult in the jungle.
More to come on the solar options in the following months!

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