It Ain’t Rocket Surgery

How hard is solar power? Some folks are a little intimidated because they don’t know anything about it. John has asked me to put together a booklet for do-it-yourselfers and I think that is a good idea. It just requires a little more focus than writing down whatever pops into my head. Today, though, I am going to write down whatever pops into my head AND give you an idea of how simple solar can be.

Years ago I built a playhouse for my young ward Alexia. She has about outgrown the thing, but still likes to go out there for solitude (away from her sister) or crafting. In the summer, it can get hot, so I found a small 12v panel and a small fan, the kind you can put on the dash of your pickup truck to stir up a breeze. No batteries and no controllers. She saw that if you hook the red wires together and the black wires together it blows air out the front and if you reverse the wires it blows air out the back. The only hitch is that the sun has to be on the panel and not blocked by the trees. There are lots of trees. We’ll probably get around to a more elaborate system with some old batteries when we enlarge the playhouse, so the fan will run better and she can have lights on these afternoons that get dark early.

I have a backup water pump that uses a similar setup. A couple of hundred watts of PV panels are mounted to a simple rack of 2x4s and 4×4 posts and a cable runs down to the spring where the pump is located. There is no battery. If the sun is shining the pump runs. Lots of farmers use similar rigs to water their cattle.

It sounds simple because it is.

Well, a while back I was working on a project out in the hot sun, making another modification to one of the golf car/farm trucks, and Alexia decided she was going to help. She ran to the playhouse and got the 12v fan and got a block of 4 small panels that were leaning against a tree. She used a screw gun to mount the fan on a post near my work and twisted the wires to connect solar panels to the fan. Voila! Instant relief from the heat. And a 10 year old did it, remembering what she had learned a year or two before!

Solar just isn’t that hard with a little guidance. I’ll try to help with that by getting started on that brochure.

By: Neal Collier