Safari Solar Power

Solar power is rapidly progressing from merely a “feel-good” issue to an increasingly impressive alternative to fossil-fuel derived electricity, especially as the cost of fuel escalates and the state of the economy deteriorates. Our Airstream factory-installed solar charging system, utilizing two 53-watt solar panels, enables us to enjoy our favorite style of non-hook-up camping in the solitude of nature, away from noisy generators and crowds.

We recently returned to our favorite desert non-hook-up site at Vallecito Regional Park nearby Ghost Mountain and raised our Earth flag.

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The Airstream factory installed two solar panels at our request as part of the solar option, custom order. I interviewed an Airstream representative who told me that Airstream first installed solar panels in 1994, and that most Airstream trailers were pre-wired for the solar option starting in 2000. Solar panels can also be added as an after-market item as described by Rich Luhr in his Tour of America blog.

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Our solar charging system consists of two 53-watt solar panels, two Lifeline AGM (Glass Mat) batteries, a charge controller, and panel display. Take the tour of our trailer and join the discussion at airforums.com. Rich Luhr’s system helped him to recharge his batteries after freezing nights and furnace use at Yellowstone. We are pleased with our system which has consistently recharged our batteries to 100% by mid to late morning every camping day.

We also continue to make progress towards more efficient energy utilization as technology continues to improve. For example, with our new MacBook Pro we can now watch the same DVD of the opera Carmen, and yet use much less power by not turning on the trailer’s LCD and 600-watt inverter.

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The following morning, we recharge the laptop and other small electrical appliances (2-way radios, portable speakers, cameras) with the Kensington Ultra Portable Power Inverter 150. This product works well and uses energy more efficiently than our 600-watt trailer inverter.

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The following two products kick efficient energy use up a notch. With minimal power, the iPod touch presents your favorite videos, internet sites, music, etc., which can be listened through its lightweight earphones. A group can also enjoy sitting around a picnic table in the evening and watching a movie when the iPod is attached to the i-F3 Portable iPod Speakers, rechargeable dock station, and built-in FM radio and alarm clock.

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Or you could make your own music and use even less power. Here Larry is practicing his ukulele while listening to a recording of Iz on the iPod.

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I’m learning to play “The Universe Song”* by Eric Idle and seen in the Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life“,* that reminds us of our place in the universe and that the sun is the source of all our power.

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Additional information on choosing and designing a solar system for your Airstream can be found in Michael and Susan Snowden’s article, “Powering Your Airstream with Sunlight”, in the Fall 2005 issue of Airstream Life.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Comments

  1. says

    We’ve been talking about outfitting Rich C’s Airstream with solar panels (listen to me…like I have a say in the decision…tee-hee!) I think it is wonderful though, that there is the option to go solar…I think it may actually be cheaper than going solar for my house, although with all the free sun in AZ, I think solar should be a requirement on all homes here…

    It looks like you guys had a great trip…

  2. Bill D. says

    Thanks, Sadira for your comment. Yes, we, the dogs, and the trailer enjoyed the sunny camping at Vallecito. But it’s starting to heat up out there, so our next destination is our favorite mountain, non-hook-up camping at William Heise Park later this month. We will be nearby trees and yet the trailer will still be able to soak in the sun’s energy during most of the day.

    Solar energy is exciting, along with advances in green technology. Check out the daily updates along these lines at: http://www.treehugger.com/