Tuesday, June 10, 2014

While off-grid, a 50 watt solar panel is connected to my "house" battery.  

Boondocking and Solar Power

I prefer dry camping (boon docking).  I like the solitude of Forest Service, BLM and other open spaces. A few weeks ago I towed my rig from it's winter home in Southern Utah to some beautiful land in Southwest Colorado.  At this location I have amazing views of the West Side of the La Plata Mountains, horses to hang out with, and a wood shop and art studio.  I use my camper dining table for making art, but while at this location I can also build in my shop and paint with oils too.

Running power tools 

I have no power at many locations, while camping I keep my batteries fully charged with a 50 watt solar panel.  It's very sunny here in the Southwest, so solar is the way to go.

While woodworking in the shop, I use my cordless power tools and charge up my batteries using a small inverter plugged into my jeep lighter, or I bring fully charged batteries.  I have a cordless skill saw, and cordless drills. But I need more.

As I looked at the process of converting my shop to solar, and to keep it simple, I searched for  a usage chart online to get some idea of the size of the Power inverter I would need for most of my tools.  Initially, I plan to power up my batteries for cordless work, light up the studio with a few CF bulbs, run my small iPod stereo speakers and power tools.

I learned that smaller tools like sanders, drills, and jig saws don't draw a lot of continuous power, they surge when they start.  Other tools like my chop saw and table saw draw more power and surge on start too, and will have to wait for a bigger inverter.

For less than $100. I ordered the Power Bright Inverter from Amazon prime.  I thought I'd get started with the 1100/2200 inverter and upgrade to the Powerbright 2300 next year.  I will need the bigger inverter for the big saws and welding.

The setup includes:

  1. 50 watt panel and 35 watt panel, parallel connection if needed.  I will start with the 50.
  2. 12volt deep cycle marine battery (just like our RV battery)
  3. 30 amp charge controller
  4. 1100/2200 Power inverter - Powerbright PW1100 (Modified Sine Wave)

What will I use this power for?

Lights (compact fluorescent)
Music (iPhone stereo speakers)
Chop Saw
Table Saw
Bisquit joiner
Palm sander
Orbital sander
Angle Grinder
Jig Saw
  1. The inverter will be connected to 12v DC battery (deep cycle)
  2. The inverter will supply 110v to tools, light, etc
  3. The solar panel will keep the battery charged
  4. The charge controller will shut down the power coming from the panels to avoid overload.
There are many helpful sites online and youtube videos to show how simply I can power my shop.

About Boondocking

Solar Toolman

Desert Wildflowers are in Bloom

The cactus flowers are spectacular this year

This year marks an epic cactus bloom. It's the best display of wild cactus flowers, and continues to be so.  I heard this bloom is considered a 100 year bloom (prolific). A combination of cold and rain in April and May have watered the gardens of the desert and the cactus are the stars of the show.

I like to create compositions that tell a story about the life of the prickly pear cactus

By photographing with my macro lens (Nikon 60mm), I am able to get within a few inches of the subject
and by choosing a large aperture, like f2.8, the background blurs considerably.

Camping close the the subject

In the evening light, the blooms along the slick rock were singing. ©Kit Frost
One of the primary reasons I love camping is to be close to my subjects when the right light hits.  I knew I would only photograph for a few hours after breakfast and again before sunset. The BLM lands in Southern Utah make camping accessible and private. When I scouted the subjects a few weeks ago, the blooms were amazing; up to 50 flowers on each plant.  By the time I came back for a weekend, many of the bigger blossoms were finished.  But persistence pays off, and I found many plants still in full bloom.
In this image, I focused on the main, large, bloom.

Using my 60mm macro lens and manually focusing gives me choices.

I love the pink bud hanging out with the yellow flowers

And then, hit the river.

Needing to cool down after a hot morning in the sun, it was time to move camp to the San Juan River.  I love the Sand Island Campground near Bluff.  We had our pick of sites along the river because it was "past season" in Southern Utah.  But the river trippers "put-in" is at Sand Island so I sat, lounged and watched the river flow and the rafters and kayakers go by.  I occasionally sat right in the "eddie" to cool down.