Renewable energy trailer comes to life!
By Claire Carlson, Executive Director
If you follow us on Facebook (and if you don’t I encourage you to do so) you might have seen some of the fun we were having earlier this month installing solar on a trailer for our outreach work in Lake County. While most of my time is spent in the office or in meetings and less frequently these days delivering workshops, it was a great opportunity to get out and see if I remembered anything from my NABCEP classes and to experience the thrill of making energy from the sun first hand.
Here is a little background on the project in Lake County:
Thanks to funding from Oregon Department of Energy, Solar Oregon has had the pleasure of working on an extensive outreach campaign in Lake County over the last year. The funding is intended to heighten adoption of renewable energy use and energy efficiency upgrades that economically benefit Lake County communities. Last summer, Solar Oregon formed a steering committee comprised of residents from all parts of Lake County and the Klamath Tribes to provide input into the campaign. This group attended Solar Now! University in Bend last fall to increase their knowledge of solar energy and to learn from other communities around the state. Using this knowledge the steering committee decided on an ambitious project to build a renewable energy demonstration trailer to educate and raise awareness of solar, wind, and geothermal technologies.The Renewable Energy Demonstration project aims to:
- Dispel myths about renewable energy
- Raise level of awareness of available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies
- Show concrete, affordable applications for homes and businesses
- Allow people to see first-hand how renewable energy systems work
Creating a renewable energy demonstration trailer would not have been possible without a lot support from our friends in the solar community. Lucky for us we are working with a very “can do” group of Lake County folks and have been met every step of the way by those who wish to see the project succeed. While the trailer isn’t yet fully finished, here is a little about the first steps:
|Borrowing my mother’s truck, I drove to Woodburn on the 31st
of January to pick up the trailer from Blaser Trailer who had given us a nice
discount on a new 7’x 16’enclosed trailer. With a little assistance and some
help changing my 3 way plug for the 7 way needed for the trailer I was off for
Sunmodo in Vancouver. There Cliff
Schrock, former Solar Oregon board member and engineer, was waiting to help
Emily and I design and install a racking system (Cliff is also far more
talented at backing up a trailer than I am or we would have had to add an extra
half day onto the project).
With Cliff’s guidance and Sunmodo’s generous donation of all the racking, tools and a place to work, we put our heads down and dug in. Using Cliff’s design that would allow for the least wind resistance while driving and an adjustable tilt toward the sun, we drilled, screwed and managed not to fall off any ladders all day.
The finished racking system was sleek and durable and Emily and I were exhausted and anxious to get out to Bend to install the solar.
At 9am on Saturday we arrived at the E2 Solar warehouse to meet up with Mike Hewitt and Ryan Hendrix our teachers and leaders for the installation process. More members of the Lake County Renewable Energy Steering Committee came from as far as Lakeview to add their skills to our crew.
Here’s what we were working with:
- Magnum 1000w inverter
- A full weekend of labor, tons of balance of systems parts, a demonstration Schuco solar water heating panel, a great sense of humor, excellent coffee, tools, workspace and a great learning experience by Mike, Ryan, Kelli and the E2 Solar team. You guys are awesome, thank you so much!
|The trailer itself was a blank slate with a racking system
on top. We quickly set to work after Mike introduced us to the most amazing
coffee machine I have ever seen. Latte in one hand and donut in the other I
joined the group as we gathered around and Mike explained the pros and cons of
positioning the equipment and the batteries in various locations of the
trailer. Settling on building the battery casing at the front of the trailer
and installing the system components to the side which would be opposite the
elevated end of the panels when raised
we began work.
We broke into 3 teams. One team started measuring and building the boxes to house the batteries, another started on the inside of the trailer configuring the layout of the disconnect, charge controller and inverter. I ended up on the roof with the team installing the panels. We continued to work in teams like this switching places periodically in the attempt to gain a better understanding of the project as a whole but I would have to say that it would most likely take 3 or 4 of these weekends before I could begin to really wrap my head around all aspects of the end result.
I ended up on the roof with the team installing the panels. Installing the panels was awesome. Trying to work on the top of a trailer from a ladder (obeying all safety measures) to do so was trying at times. Ryan Hendrix should teach yoga as well as solar after watching his grace and strength in getting those modules in place and connected while balancing in some of the positions the job required of him.
Batteries that big are very heavy and deserve a lot of respect for what they could do to you if you were careless. Thought was taken with the design of the battery box to encourage safety as well as allow for education by making the lid angled so no one would sit on it or be tempted to set anything on it as well as using a clear covering so folks will be able to see the inner workings.
When we wheeled the trailer out of the warehouse on Sunday afternoon I was happily ready to see those batteries start charging and the light bulb plugged into our outlet turn on. While that did happen a quick measurement showed that we were not getting the full output of our SolarWorld modules. Some trouble shooting led us to a wire with a faulty connection to one of the panels, most likely my own fault for not securing one of the plug-ins properly. With that corrected we were running at full steam! Mike then provided us with a tutorial on the equipment and maintenance and the assurance that he was just a phone call away which was much appreciated.
I have to say that while I was very happy to know that the trailer was in the good hands of LCRI and headed off to Lakeview for the next stages of its work, I was a little sad to have to make my goodbyes. I want one of my own!
The kick-off for the trailer and educational tour in Lake County will be at Irish Days in Lakeview on March 16th. Next, the trailer will travel to the North Lake School’s Science Fair on March 20th. From there it will go to the communities of Paisley, Christmas Valley and Adele this April and May. To accompany the trailer display, Bob Rogers of Lake County Resource Initiative will be teaching free hands-on workshops, “Solar Electricity for your Home or Ranch” and “Heating with Renewable Energy.” To find out more on when you can catch the Renewable Energy Demonstration Trailer in action, contact Emily Krafft, Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org