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Old 12-21-2012, 04:35 PM   #29
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Your operative words there are "topped off", "converted ice-box refrigerator" ( i.e. fairly small ) and "constant tradewinds".

It behooves everyone considering renewable energy to "consider the sources". Anecdotal info is good but often quite misleading to newcomers to the field as some critical caveats get lost in the message.

Wind-power is great. You can have it 24/7 and even a small turbine will deliver 3-7A at charging voltages for a 12V system. Sounds ideal, right? The proviso is to get any usable power you definitely will already be aware of the wind, like in "yes, it's windy". Better yet, it is already doing some whistling in the lines and you hear the halyards slapping the mast. That sound means you might be getting upwards of 3A. For full output you will need a good 12-15kn blow or more.

In tradewind areas that is not an unreasonable expectation, yet other locations may get such conditions only 5% of the time. Don't expect your fridge to stay cool there.

Solar cells: Similar issues. Great with clear skies and long days in low latitudes. Fog, heavy clouds or short daylight hours will get you only 5-30% of the potential output.

Having a triad of solar/wind/diesel is probably the safest approach. While away from the boat one or the other of the first two options will keep batteries and an anchor light going 24/7, in almost any location. When aboard the diesel genset does the rest and there are some very small and compact ones available.

Cloudy dark skies usually means some wind for your windmill but if that too fails you run the diesel genset. No, NOT your engine but a generator. Your typical alternator on an idling engine will hardly put out worthwhile current. Only at 1200-1500 rpm will you get the 30A or more that you typically need. ( my engine alternator at 1000rpm puts out almost zero amps, yet 50A+ above 1500 revs ) You can cover your bases further with a towable or prop-generator but that of course means your boat or waters must be moving.

It is not easy running on alternative energies but it can be done very well with good planning and alternative sources. The technologies certainly are getting there but the critical players still are wind and sun. They may not always play your game.

What is often overlooked is efficiency of the various components. Better fridge insulation, top opening freezer doors, reduced numbers of openings, color, LED vs incandescent lights. All these affect the energy budget. A few critical changes there and you may find you can make things work when previously you could not.

BTW: both my boat and home are solar/wind powered for years already. The home is on solar only, in fact it was built using only solar energy. ( Jack-hammer, Skilsaws, nailers, staplers etc.)

While it sure helped having a career in electronics "green energy" can be done by other mortals too and I'll be glad to help you with your conundrums. Bzzzt PiFFF... aaargh!

Ivo on s/v Linnupesa
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:51 PM   #30
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Useful comments Ivo. Green energy isn't mainstream even for us electronics guys, it's a separate field entirely. It's a philosophy and a technology rolled into one.

As an anecdote, I'd like to tell you about a friend of mine who is a property developer. He's 26 and owns a portfolio of around $6M of rental properties. I floored him one day by pointing out that if he sold it all he would barely have enough to buy ONE coastal property in Sydney. Then a few months later I emailed him and mentioned that I'd bought a coastal "property" for $5,100 that was surrounded by $6M houses. He nearly had kittens until I explained that it was a yacht.

There are two ways to become rich. One is to work hard and acquire assets, the other is to reduce one's needs to a reasonable level. This fits in well with the Green Energy philosophy. I'd LIKE to have kept my V12 BMW but what I really needed - and bought to replace it - was a 1994 VW Transporter van on LPG. I'd LIKE to live in a mansion on the coast, but I get the same view from the boat at peanuts on the dollar. I'd LIKE to have refrigeration, but UHT milk tastes just as good and lasts years on the shelf.

Many of the new possibilities open to yachties are now changing our world. Solar panels at $1.55 a watt, controllers for $10 each, LED lights and many other products have made living on a shoestring possible. What a great time to retire and leave the rat race. :-)

Rob
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Old 12-22-2012, 03:02 AM   #31
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Haiqu

thank you for your kind comment. But, but, but... you forgot to mention the cheap terminal health care options that are open to yachties everywhere in the world and only a step away... just over the railings.

Agreed then, less can be more but as you say this is often difficult to digest for a lot of peeps. Or results in a litany of having kittens!

The point I was trying to get across is that we should not take the "let us throw a pill at it" approach when looking at green energy. It does require a more holistic tack and perhaps even a certain kind or change in philosophy. Too often I read of people embracing solar or a wind charger as the pill to solve their problems. Sometimes it works (as some pills do) but more likely a lifestyle change or do-over is required, from A to Z. Only then does that pill become really effective.

Case in point: a local municipality here adopted solar panels for a "going green" project. Not to mention basking in the accolades of the adoring public. Yet, their location is totally unsuited for solar, as even in summer the area is often blanketed in fog or clouds. Hello, anyone home?

Don't get me started on the supposedly "green" plug-in cars. As if that power-cord attaches right to the sun, ya think? Unfortunately a lot of the green agenda has been hi-jacked by industry that offers a pseudo-green solution to which we get suckered in.

Uwe, a fellow Krautzenheimer on Aquarius, uses an electric motor on his boat, which is quite commendable in principle. It is good to have such pioneers out in front of the herd but it pays for them to also look behind to see if the herd is still following. ( My apologies Uwe, I try to remain universally insulting, with no bias to creed or whatever )

While a lot of new tech has brought great benefits we should not lose sight that some of the old stuff still gives us the biggest bang for the buck. Like it or not, that includes diesel and lead-acid batteries. We need to look at efficiencies, see things clearly and in context and not just blindly stumble along behind some mantra of the principle.

Did I really say all that? Ouchies! But back to solar.. yes, it usually works and I'd highly recommend at least a pilot project for everyone with a live-aboard or at anchor boat. It won't do your cooking or air conditioning but you'll be surprised by how much it can do with so little effort, reliably, quietly and day after day.

Ivo on s/v Linnupesa ( 2x130W panels, wind/water gen and 5kW diesel genset. The shore power cord last used in '03 is going to e-bay )
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Old 12-22-2012, 05:35 AM   #32
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As a pragmatist and long-term cheapskate (I've always been poor) there's no way I'll be investing in technology that doesn't work. Local councils are notoriously dense, as are national governments for that matter. Here in Sydney the sun shines enough for it to be practical even without a generator, so long as I don't expect to run aircon (never did like it and my whole family are fridgies!) Cooking - including making coffee - is still done best using gas.

If old stuff works it stays, which is why I'll use a wood plane or spokeshave any day over getting some timber yard to dress my cabin rails for me. Elbow grease is cheap and keeps me off the computer, saving even more energy.

As for electric propulsion, I'm still not convinced but if LiFePO4 batteries comes down to about 50% of their current price it might be worthwhile. The electronics and motors are already at a price point I'd buy. Still, a Chinese V2 diesel is also an option.
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Old 12-24-2012, 12:01 AM   #33
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Here's the latest version of my analysis, which has been constantly evolving since I've been living aboard. I don't have some of these items installed yet but it takes into account all future loads that I might be using, including a fridge:

240 volt power Rating Usage Notes
=================================================

Soldering iron 40W 4 Uses 150W inverter
Printer 60W 5 Navigation charts
Oscilloscope 40W 4 Repairs
Microwave 700W 35 3 min/day reheating food
Power Tools 1000W 80 Grinder, jigsaw, drill

Total 240V power 128 Watt Hours


12 volt power Rating Usage Notes
=================================================

Radios (standby) 5W 80 CB, Ham, VHF and/or HF
Radios (transmit) 50W 25 30 min/day @ 50W avg.
Autohelm 2000 10W 80 Uses 5A intermittently
Chargers 20W 40 Phone, battery drill, e-cigs
Notebook PC 40W 160 Navigation, internet, TV
Shower 90W 3 2 min/day avg.
Fridge / freezer 96W 188 Eutectic system
Toilet pump 150W 5 Macerator
Bilge pump 240W 20 Normally unused
Engine starter 1200W 0 Recharges batteries

Total 12V power 601 Watt Hours


12 volt lights Rating Usage Notes
=================================================

External lights 30W 360 Mast and running lights
Cabin Lights 30W 240 LEDs 8 hrs/day

Total 12V lights 600 Watt Hours


=================================================
Total power and lights 1329 Watt Hours MAXIMUM TOTAL
=================================================

Input
=====

3 x 80W solar panels + 1 x 100W wind generator = 1360 Watt Hours (est. 4H per day average)


Battery
=======

2 x 12V 100AH = 2400 Watt Hours available


The total power usage and capacity of the battery and solar panels match pretty well, although more battery power would be advisable for redundancy when out on the ocean. Around the harbour this setup should be adequate.
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Old 12-24-2012, 01:54 AM   #34
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You are obviously a knowledgeable sparky type and I seek your advice. I have a Freedom 10 inverter/charger, powered by 2, 85 watt solar panels and an Air Marine wind gen .The Freedom 10 is of the modified, rather than pure, sine wave type.

Is it safe to run a laptop computer direct from the power supply, or should I use the supply only to charge the laptop battery, to then power the computer independent of the inverter?
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Old 12-24-2012, 02:33 AM   #35
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Yeeees Auzzie, you called?

Charge the battery by itself. It acts as a giant capacitor and will absorb SOME power/voltage surges.

Your laptop should already come designed with a little surge and spike protection, but those are the shoulda/woulda/coulda/wishda items.

Modified sine wave can mean anything up to a square wave, or on-off pulses even. Square waves have notorious voltage overshoot or spikes, which tend to kill simple lap-top protection circuits. The AVERAGE converter voltage may be regulated quite well but the few milliseconds of double or more spike and harmonic over-voltage does the damage.

Of course, you'd really like to run the 'puter with the battery in place. For that you'd want a more fancy SURGE and SPIKE filter, designed for that exact purpose and placed between the source and unit.

I'm not sure if you are running a DC-source to your battery or a small AC-DC converter, fed by your wanna-be sine-wave AC source. The filter mentioned would help the AC become cleaner by removing the objectionable spikes. Rob or I can tell you how to make a real cheap filter too, out of junk parts, and so can google.

Your battery itself doesn't care whether it's charged by pulses or sine or pure DC, as long as it gets a reasonable charging current with the right polarity.

Happy holly-daze there down under, go easy with the sauce! ( Sorry, I forget you are Oz, silly me! )

Ivo

PS: A clamp-on ferrite choke or a few simple knots tied into the AC-cord may be enough help already. The knots act to slow down the electrons as they have to run the corners. Of course, being Oz electrons they try to keep their beer from spilling, so clutch it more tightly and slow down a bit. Ergo, lowered voltage.
Rob will explain the MOV's and pi filters you'll find on google under filters and spikes.
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Old 12-24-2012, 04:04 AM   #36
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The only thing I'll add to the already posted above good advice is for steel and to a lesser extent ferro/cement boats.

Being a steel boat owner under no circumstances would I trust or use an inverter/charger. You absolutely want to have no electrical connections at all between on-shore AC earth and on-board AC earth. Run the charger into the batteries and run the inverter off the charger.
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Old 12-24-2012, 06:32 AM   #37
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Xantrex (the makers of your inverter) have a page that answers some of those questions:

http://www.xantrex.com/documents/Tec...-Universal.pdf

The answer I can provide from personal experience is that I've been using my laptop - an IBM ThinkPad - running off a 150W modified sine wave car cigarette lighter inverter for a year with no ill effects.

There are various web pages that list the devices that MIGHT have trouble. In the main I haven't noticed any issues yet using two different types of modified sine inverters, the abovementioned 150W unit and a 1000W brick that I fitted to the boat.

Most of the time these days I'm running it off the house batteries via an inverter charger (12V-to-18V) specially designed for the ThinkPad, and if you can find something like that you're laughing. It's also the most efficient method since you're not going 12V-240V-18V via multiple adapters.

As a backup system I tested out the possibility of charging it directly from the solar panels and with the right connector this gets the laptop to about 60% charge. So if the whole charging system crashes I still have navigation available at least.

While Ivo's waffling about spikes and filters is theoretically interesting, the plugpack core will effectively kill all that stuff before it gets to your PC. It just doesn't have the bandwidth to pass any RF through.

Rob
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