Ted’s essays

community comms

solar panelsIn any surviving, thriving community there is a wide range of specialists who make The Whole strong. An important gap I am striving to fill locally is communications. Both within our neighborhood and beyond.

Step one was to learn a little bit and pass the FCC tests to earn a license. The first level, “Technician”, covers local communication well and with modest equipment investment. But it is the second, “General” level that shares information with adjacent regions, all states and the world. The gear costs go up significantly at this level. This is where I am licensed, but with a champagne appetite on a beer budget.

Meanwhile, what I do have is moderately functional. solar controller and battery

It starts with twin 40-watt solar panels feeding, via a left-over welding power cord, daylight energy into my radio shack. There it connects to a solar controller that feeds a deep-cycle marine battery which is more attuned to radio use than a standard automotive battery.

Running from the battery via a pair of 50-amp-DC fuses directly above the battery is a 12-volt-DC to 120-volt-AC inverter that enables it to run some standard household devices when the grid power fails. I have a power strip that can quickly be switched from grid to inverter if I want to keep the Internet going and other modest-draw devices.

It put a smile on my face the 24-hours our grid was down following recent storm damage and I was Internetting away by oil-lamp light via a satellite 22,000 miles away. 🙂

I had two batteries hooked up until I recently “stole” the second to be a more critical second in The Beast (my mobile station). I owe my household setup a replacement of that battery that I expect to be in the budget soon.power panel and radios

A 50-amp heavy-duty automotive fuse to the right of the battery interrupts a heavy wire running underneath my bench to a NAPA auto parts fuse block. There I can put 6 standard automotive blade fuses in to each of the 6 circuits.

I only have 3 occupied so far. Next to that is the common negative post for all connections. It not only goes back to the side of the battery, it also connects directly to the 3/4″ copper pipe that runs into an extensive grounding network outside serving the DC equipment as well as the Radio-Frequency grounding requirements.

Hanging under the shelf on the left is the 2-meter regional radio. Above that is the intra-state and international HF radio and tuner. All running off the solar panel system.

Imperfect to be sure, but a reasonably robust system in practical terms.