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Old 09-26-2007, 09:02 AM   #1
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Solar powered PC system

I thought this was pretty cool:

The price shows why I am not gonna do it though

Apart from the solar energy which still is too expensive in my humble opinion I did also like these articles because it shows you how to build a PC system that consumes as little energy as possible. This would still be great to have even if you then just hook it up to the normal power grid. So if you are in the market for a new PC, why not build your own low energy consuming one?

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Old 09-26-2007, 09:42 AM   #2
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$5000 for a PV system just to run a PC is nuts. A lot of loptops seem to use a 65 watt or less AC adapter whn plugged into the AC outlet, so the 61 watt PC that they solar powered isn't a big deal (unless I am missing something). They could power it directly with DC with a smaller panel than they are using, and a modest lead acid battery could store power for use at night or when it isn't sunny, for a lot less than $5000.

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Old 09-26-2007, 10:33 AM   #3
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Just to let you know, I have finally hooked my kill a watt up to my laptop, and it is currently displaying me as using 30 watts. That is with a 17" widescreen monitor. I have a range of about 5 watts to play with, depending on where I set the brightness to.

Soooo.... if you want low power consumption, laptops are the only way to go. I do miss 3.5" harddrives though...
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Old 09-26-2007, 10:35 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by McPatrick View Post
The price shows why I am not gonna do it though

Apart from the solar energy which still is too expensive in my humble opinion ... So if you are in the market for a new PC, why not build your own low energy consuming one?
One of the easiest things to do for now (and reasonbly cheap) is to just buy a notebook PC and hook it up to a docking station for use as a normal desktop when U R home. This is the best of ALL worlds.
1) Its financially friendly because a REAL docking station costs about $100-200 and allows you to buy ONE computer to use at home and away
2) It satifies energy efficiency warlords as laptops use VERY little energy when compared to desktops. When mated with an LCD on a docking station, they prob use less than HALF the energy of a desktop. I tested Latitude D600 and it only used about 20watts (according to KillaWatt) turned on as oppossed to Optiplex PC which used more than 4x as much energy. Later this month I will test when both are running apps and post the results.
3)Docking station allows laptop to have ALL PC capabilities that most laptops dont have by themselves. You can add PCI slots and additional CD drives (regular laptop CDRoms and drives, not just USB ones) with the right docking station.

My two cents. I will eventually have this setup at my house solely to save energy. As I said before, I eventually willpost data, but prob not until mid/late October. Hope this helps and stirs ideas and conversation
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Old 09-26-2007, 03:01 PM   #5
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So it looks like it isn't hard to find a laptop that uses less power than the one in the article. And, they had 260 watts of PVs. Around here, we average 4 peak solar hours a day, so that means that 250 watts of PVs would produce (on a year round average) about a kilowatt hour of power every day. 40 watts times 24 hours is 960 watt hours, so when you figure system losses and inefficiencies, those panels would not quite run a 40 watt load 24 hours a day, year around. But, using it for a few hours a day, you would generate adequate power with 250 watts worth of PVs. They should cost about $5 a watt, or $1250, and mounting etc is extremely variable. A charge controlller could cost $100 to $200, battery and wire, maybe $300 more. We're talking less than $2000 for a modest solar system--I wonder why they spent $5000??

Just seems to be an exercise in futility to me.

By the way speaking of solar energy, the National Solar Tour is coming up October 6th, and info available here:
Most states have at least a few participants, and some states have a lot. It is a good chance to see some working solar systems, wind generators, passive solar houses, etc.
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Old 09-26-2007, 04:53 PM   #6
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McPatrick -

It costs too much $$$, but the DIY part is cool for learning how to on this or something else, like a solar cooling fan.

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Old 09-26-2007, 05:49 PM   #7
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My Laptop uses ~45 watts when idle at the brightness I normally use.... I have a 15.4" screen - but my processor doesn't clock down when idle (and a fan is constantly on, but revved down).

When I do more power hungry tasks... That number will jump up significantly (130-150+)... Even plugging in peripherals (pen drive, mouse, etc.) will add to that budget and it's amusing to watch it on the KillaWatt

In any case, it's obvious this isn't directly intended for the typical end user

As is our practice at Tom's Hardware, we provide a wealth of information in this series of articles, not just to expose some fascinating technologies, but also to enable our readers to follow in the footsteps we document so carefully. In fact, it's not unthinkable that a system like this one might wind up in a remote mountain cabin or a hunting lodge in many places around the world.
The big thing is -- there's really no information/documentation like this on the internets.

They could power it directly with DC with a smaller panel than they are using
They are powering it directly DC-DC

Check out the Hardware article -- they actually did pick components with power consumption in mind (but computing power was a consideration too).

There's an awesome power usage breakdown:

12 Volt Solar-PC-System
Component 	   Idle 	 Max load
PSU 	             5.00 W 	14.20 W
CPU                  8.49 W 	38.66 W
Cooler 	             1.00 W 	1.00W
Motherboard 	  7.78 W 	19.71 W
RAM 	             6.06 W 	6.23 W
HD 	               5.93 W 	7.59 W
DVD 	             3.68 W 	4.92 W
Monitor 	    23.29 W 	23.29 W
Total:        	      61.23 W 	115.60 W
max. 160 Watt Custom PSU
The article said they could have gone lower by using non standard desktop components (2.5" HDD, like in laptops - slim drives etc.) - but they wanted to keep everything standard.

And the system cost was a little over $1000.

As for PV sizing... It said their weather required larger panels... they also mention efficiency reduction of new panels (and compensated for that), cable losses, and extra juice to run the computer and charge a battery.

On those perfect sunny days where not a single cloud occludes the sky with between 8 and 18 hours of sunshine, we could theoretically accumulate up to 2.6 kWh of power. Assuming something less than perfection, particularly because of the ever-changeable weather, we assume that our actual collection will fall somewhere between 1 and 2 kWh less than that amount.
thanks for posting They thought of a lot of those little vampire losses And bonus points for the modified power drill sun tracking system It's also cool that they added a battery, just for those rainy days

Finally... To be fair, you guys gotta read the article You can't know the ending if you skip the last chapter

The final cost was ~$ 3,800 including $1000 for the PC itself. The panels cost them $1200

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