Published on June 11th, 2008 | by Philip Proefrock3
Solar Power and RVs
How does driving an unsustainable fuel hog around contribute to the adoption of solar power? While some purists might point out that RVs are great fuel hogs and a waste of energy, nevertheless, they do offer an educational opportunity to help spread the acceptance and familiarity with solar power.
For many, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are just a step below rocket science, and PV systems are too complex for ordinary people. While there is a fair amount of engineering involved in good PV system design, it does not need to be hugely complicated. More familiarity with the technology will help promote wider acceptance and use of solar PV.
As fuel prices rise, solar panels will become an increasingly attractive alternative to ordinary fossil-fueled portable generators to provide power for appliances and amenities when a connection to line voltage is not available. RV campers typically have a number of electrical demands, including refrigerators, air conditioners, lights, and entertainment electronics. Rather than relying on noisy, fuel consuming generators, campers are using solar panels to provide electricity for their needs.
Some time back, I came across a simple, motorless,automatic solar tracker that could be used to keep a solar panel oriented toward the sun during the course of the day. Keeping the panel aimed directly at the sun allows it to get more power for a longer period of time. This device had been developed by an Australian for use by “caravaners” (RV campers), who were already flocking to the use of solar panels to provide for their electrical needs while camping.
In addition to gaining familiarity with the basic technology of PV, campers will learn to balance the limited power provided by the PV panel with their power needs. A camper with a limited amount of power from a PV panel will learn to be more conservative with their power use so as to maximize the benefit of their solar panel and be able to operate the systems they want to use.
Although many people might be reluctant to install solar panels on their homes, those who have had some prior experience with the use of solar panels will be more willing to take the same plunge for their own homes, even if it is a limited application. As much as cost and availability are limiting factors in the adoption of solar panels, education is another component. With more people becoming more familiar with solar photovoltaics, even if that comes from an unexpected direction, acceptance of solar power will continue to rise.