Solar Sponsor!

A geek living in a bus is all well and good until the batteries run out. I’m DELIGHTED to announce that this (quite substantial) problem has now been solved thanks to a very lovely bunch of folk over at Off-Grid Energy.

Off-Grid Energy

Off-Grid Energy: http://www.offgridenergy.com.au

Yes, it’s true – reallybigroadtrip has its very first official sponsor! And once again it’s a James Mellor related connection. I first met James through a short film community called KINO (who have hubs all over the world but this one was in Adelaide). At the same time I met a lovely lady called Emily and both soon became firm friends. At James’ funeral last year I caught back up with Emily & met her fella Hugh. They were starting a new company, Off-Grid Energy, who (as the name suggests) specialise in providing standalone solar energy solutions to people and places that are too far away from standard electricity supplies, or who simply want a more sustainable ecological solution. Of course we talked about this project, the plans I have for my own ecological sustainability and how life on the bus would be.

Since then we have continued conversations – in fact Emily & Hugh were one of my couchsurfing hosts last year over Adelaide Festival time. A few months ago, Hugh contacted me to say they had developed a prototype portable solar generator (the Shakpak :) that they were using for their own power supply during on-site installations. He figured that this – or something like it – might help me with my electrical needs on the bus. So a couple of days ago I drove out to meet them and came away with my very own rig.

Hugh & Randal from Off-grid installing the rig

Hugh & Randal from Off-grid installing the rig

Now these guys are far from a major corporation, so their generosity in supporting reallybigroadtrip means EVEN MORE to me. I’m essentially taking their new product (which they, like, actually need to do their jobs) and in return will provide feedback on how it works in different contexts (for example how long do the batteries last in a Tasmanian winter versus how long it takes to charge up in an Alice Spring summer) and of course promote this awesome new system to people that I meet on my journey.

At the moment I have two portable solar panels but the system is designed to take three. When I come back from my next gig we’ll install a couple of solar panels on the roof of the bus and work out how to attach it to the distributor so it can trickle charge from the engine battery while I’m on long drives. It’s currently strapped to the passenger seats, but we’ll fix it properly and generally continue to tweak things as we go.

the "shakpak" rig

the “shakpak” rig

This will COMPLETELY CHANGE MY QUALITY OF LIFE IN THE BUS! I can’t tell you how tricky it’s been not having my own source of power. My laptop battery is pretty shonky and of course I have a number of devices that all need regular recharging. The bus has a 24v battery system and while I can recharge from that it’s not a terribly reliable system (after all, who wants to push-start a bus?!). I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out in cafes working & recharging things, whereas right now I’m happily sitting in a park working from my bus drawing free energy from the sun – HEAVEN!

I’ll be updating on the system and its progress as the journey evolves and Emily is helping me track and analyse my carbon footprint around the project in general. But for now I just want to say a HUGE thank you to Emily, Hugh, Sean & Randal and update my blog so it now has a “Sponsor” section – #squee!

Oh & since I know a bunch of you are serious nerds, here’s some data on the rig…

You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter too.