Friday, December 3, 2010

Solar power preparation

Earlier this year I ran an advertisement on Craigslist and stated that I would be willing to haul away any unwanted old satellite dish. Well, I got one response and headed out the next day to dig it up. It took me about 5 hours to complete the job as the pole was set in concrete about three feet deep.

I took the nine-foot satellite dish to the recycling center and they gave me $9.00 for the aluminum scrap. I then dug my own hole and set the mounting pole in concrete in our backyard.

The mounting base has a motorized unit which lets the solar panels move along a single axis. I have the panels facing south at approximately a 30-degree angle.

I added two steel cross pieces to mount the solar panels on (Two Siemens 12v/43w panels, in parallel).
We have four deep-cycle batteries on a shelf in the shed (pictured in the background) and a 7-amp charge controller (from Harbor Freight) manages the charge.

View from the back

View from the front

Close up view from the back
I am still planning on making a circuit to control the motor and track the sun's movement throughout the day, but for now I can simply turn on the motor and move the panels (which I have not done for the last two months). The batteries have been maintaining a steady charge of 13.16 volts, which isn't that bad considering that they were used (another Craigslist trade!).

[EDIT: I just wanted to point out that we are currently living in suburbia, and while it isn't my ideal location, we've decided to take advantage of having city water, electricity, and all the amenities which come with modern living. This is the perfect scenario to take advantage of and figure out all this stuff NOW, while a failure of anything we're learning how to do won't cause any sort of hardship - except perhaps monetarily. The time to learn and try all this out is not when one's daily life depends on it. The time to learn how to make a fire using flint and steel isn't after 6 feet of snow falls and you're living outside in the woods. The time is now, while things might still be good.]


  1. Hi, just came over from MD's site, congrats on winning the knife. About that 9 foot dish, they make great solar ovens. Just line the inside with heavy tinfoil or stainless/aluminum flashing and the sunlight will be directed to the bottom center where it will heat up anything you place there, like a black cast iron pot. It'll cook like a crock pot without using any fuel. Good luck going off grid.

  2. Thanks Jack, that is a really good idea, and for no more than the recycler was willing to give me for it, it would have made a great, low cost solar oven.