Life in Crouch End, bikes, trying to be green and other randomness

Archive for solar power

Staying alive at Glastonbury

Not me – my phone. Despite falling in the mud, my  four year old nokia 8310 clung on to dear life despite some wonky text messages from the bits of Worthy Farm that I couldn’t quite get out of the keypad straight away. Better still, the battery is still reliable if given a full charge after being completely drained. It lasted 4 days of heavy texting (“we are at the pyramid stage etc”) – and I topped it up with the Freeloader that had collected about 7 days of solar trickle charge, enough to give a half charge. It may have even been enough for the entire rest of the festival had we not got stuck in one of the car parks for 12 hours whilst everyone ahead of us was towed off site by tractors.

Solar Power

Recently I’ve been experimenting with 3 different bits of Solar Kit. Solar power seems to have become very affordable very quickly over the last few years ….this has led to some really interesting items.

Firstly, some LED fairy lights designed to be used outside that have a solar charged battery attached to them. They are similar to the types of solar garden lights that have been around for some time. They charge up during the day, and then when the light falls to a low enough level this switches the circuit to turn the lights on. LED lights are very low powered, and only an hour of decent sun gave these a decent display in the twilight. I have the cord wrapped around a tree branch in the garden – and the effect is lovely. I got these off ebay, shipped from China, they are very impressive, and should have a decent lifespan.

The second is the “Freeloader” – as advertised in the Guardian Readers Offers, which is where I got mine. July is the peak month in the UK for solar radiation, so it is getting near the the optimum time for solar devices. The Freeloader works on the basis that a pair of panels trickle charge a lithium battery, which can then be discharged into another device- in my case my trusty Nokia 8310. Because i’m not sure how waterproof the freeloader is -(and it doesn’t look very) I’ve not been tempted to leave it outside over night or get up at dawn to set it up. Instead, the best two runs have come these last 2 weekends when I’ve remembered to put it outside the back door at midday, for half a day’s charge. The results are ok, half a day gives between 6-10 minutes of phone charge, depending on whether partial shade obscured the device or not. That’s enough to have kept the phone on 3/4 power all day today – with little use. It remains to be seen if there is any practical benefit of using it at one of the summer festivals.

Thirdly, there is a solar battery charger from Maplin that charges a number of different “A” size batteries. I had this in a window during the winter and it did a decent job or topping up the AAA batteries for my bike lights – but seems much less good at the AAs i have. This isn’t helped by the different capacities of the batteries I have, but the AAA’s are all the same type of high capacity battery so that’s no excuse really!