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Solar Installed!


3-17-12, La Garita. CO - One of the major projects I had to do with the wagon is to upgrade the electrical system. Today, I finished installing the new solar-electric power system.  As of now, the wagon has 720 watts of solar panels, which feed a bank of four deep cycle batteries. This will provide me with ample power to run just about anything I want, without having to resort to plugging in at someoneís house or running a noisy generator.

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One of the three - 240 watt panels installed on the wagon.  In this photo you can see the wooden rack support and a partial of the panel rack, constructed of perforated angle iron.

Iíve been asked, ďWhy are you going to all the expense and trouble of putting in this large solar-electric system?Ē

There are actually three reasons: 1) Iíve always wanted a free, and abundant source of electricity to run the refrigerator, coffee pot, lights, etc. 2) I firmly believe that photovoltaic power will play a large role in the future of many of us.  One of the goals of this trip is to promote this technology.  Not because I expect to profit from it; rather, because I think it is a good thing.  3)  Finally, itís really cool!

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All three solar panels installed on the roof of the Biscuit Wagon. Covering 52 square feet, the panels generate 720 watts, or 13.8 watts per square foot. The panels just about cover the roof of the wagon. In a strong wind, as long as the wagon remains upright, the panels will stay on the roof.

At night, and when the sun isnít shining, I have a bank of four deep cycle batteries that provide about 4 kilowatt hours of electrical storage. The batteries are wired series-parallel to provide a 24 volt output to the inverter.

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When the cover is installed on the battery compartment, it will be sealed and vented to the outside. In case youíre wondering where they are installed - theyíre under the bed (table) and up against the window. If I try to crowd four people around the table, the inside people might have to cock a leg on top of the battery compartment.

On Trip #4, the overall weight of the wagon and trailer will be slightly more than when I started of on trip #3.  With the solar system, new brakes and doors, I will be 490 pounds heavier.  But with weight savings in other areas, I reduce that by about 150 pounds; leaving the wagon and trailer 340 pounds heavier.  With two horses hitched, I can still pull 7% grade hills.  If I hitched up in a Unicorn, Iíll be able to handle grades of between 10 and 12%. If it gets any steeper, I can always find someone with a pickup that can give me a pull.

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This picture shows the battery charge controller installed between two circuit breakers that I installed at the output of the solar panel and the battery output to the inverter.  This provides overcurrent protection and allows me to isolate the battery.

Tomorrow, I have some other wagon wiring to do, to include installing my new, bright, white strobe light.  Monday, I have to take apart the front end of the wagon and bring the spindle assemblies down to the machine shop and get new spindles (that allow front brake assemblies) welded on. Installing the new brakes should take several days.  On trip #4 Iím going with completely independent front and rear hydraulic brakes, to include separate master cylinder/pedals.

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Since 24 volt DC to 120 volt AC inverters arenít available everywhere, Iím carrying a spare one on this trip.  The fan is pretty quiet on this inverter, so Iím installing it in the wagon, on the bulkhead leading to the driving compartment.

Most of the modifications should be done next week, leaving a new coat of paint for the following week.  If I get too busy, or I want to spend more time working the horses, I can always do the paint job in the two week time period after I get back from the 12 day trip to the other side of the valley with my friend Dave.

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Like always, the antelope are around to greet visitors to La Garita. These five pregnant does are already starting to bulge with their fawns.  Pronghorn Antelope are the last surviving species of a Genus of North American Antelope that were alive during the last Ice Age.

I thought I would end this blog by printing a recent letter I got from my good pal Bernie Harberts, designer and builder of both the Biscuit Wagon and now the Triscuit Wagon.  I get such a joy out of reading his correspondence, I thought I would share it. 

Howdy Bob,

Just pokin' in with a quick howdy. You know, anything to take a break from doing the tax thing. Uggg.... Love the "Triscuit Wagon" name! Funny thing is my buddy Ronald Hudson calls my stove the "Zesta" in homage to the cracker-box-tin-sorta-look my home made cooker has goin' on. Could be a theme building there

.... Sure looks like you're getting a dandy rig worked up. Hell, one day we're going to cross tacks out there on the wide open and I'll sneak up and hitch to the back of yours and you won't even know. Yeah, it's so light this week when Polly jumped a puddle (had a dead pup aboard but that's another story) it just skimmed across the water. Sorta like a mule powered hydro-wagon. I'm working on covering my forecart this week. Like it so much I could see a forecart voyage with no wagon at all. Might just happen if Newfoundland is as rough as I'm being told. Then next week I want to take a ten day ramble to try out some new tobacco and a bottle of Kansas moons**** I found in my old wagon. Okay, gotta find some more deductions. Sure have enjoyed tagging along on your site.

Cheers from here. Bernie