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Solar Panels

Riding I spend lots of time thinking how fucked up the energy situation is in both Chile and the World. Here in Chile there are plans to put more dams for hydroelectric power, patagoniasinrepresas.cl, to install more thermoelectric plants and to expand the reach of the interconnected system that distributes the energy in this country to ever more rural areas. Some might see this as progress, I see it as bad news for the environment. I believe strongly in solar power, Marta and I travel with a solar panel to charge our gadgets. I believe that solar power is a good solution to our energy crisis. I had not seen a single PV (photovoltaic) installation at a home or business on our bike trip until on our way to Tolhuaca I saw and pointed out to Marta a steep north facing PV installation. I stopped and yelled out to see if someone was home.

Segundo showed up. I asked about the solar panel installation, he said it belonged to a rural satellite phone that a company installed 10 years ago on his property. I asked if it worked… it did not. He said the batteries where dead. I asked if I could take a look… Long story short I got my multi-meter, a device that can check voltage, continuity and other electrical measurements, and I started trouble shooting. Of the 4 6volt deep cycle batteries one had no water in it and it was badly corroded, the others measured super low voltages. The panels on the other hand where delivering plenty of voltage but the charge controller was not showing signs of operation, blown fuses. I bypassed the fuses, connected the better 2 of batteries in series, then jumped the PV to the battery pack and the controller came to life. In 30 minutes I had the system working and charging the batteries. The problem was that Segundo had nothing to connect to his new power source, I gave him 2 12v LED lights I had in my pack with the intention to use them for the lighting of our tent at night. This man up until now burned a candle at night to have light now he can flip a switch and have some light in his dark single room home. this made me feel so good.

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