Too Much Solar Power Isn’t Enough

I have been thinking about solar panels and even battery storage lately. It ends up being a complicated game of costs and paybacks. This is odd because we don’t do this with other technologies. It bet my computer sits idle 99% of the time. Of course, that would not have been acceptable when computers were scarce.

My air conditioner has a similar problem. I only use it in the summer. Yet, nobody bemoans all that lost cooling potential sitting around idle all winter. We just accept a certain low level of efficiency.

With solar panels getting so cheap it occurs to me that maybe we just need more of them. Same with batteries. I suppose the real problem is that there is an alternative and comparisons are easy. Yet somewhere in the food chain, as solar prices keep plummeting, the notion of efficiency should go away, like it does for many technologies. Found and article in Quartz that talks about this.

It’s time to start wasting solar energy

Conway’s Life

A New York Times article about Conway’s “Life” cellular automata simulation. Like lot of techies in my generation, I went through a phase where I played (if that is the correct word) lots of life. Everyone should give it a try, even non-techies. Not mentioned in the article is that Conway was an early COVID-19 death.

Mochi Mochi

A Japanese friend generously sent us some mochi for the holidays. It is a New Years tradition to eat some mochi in Japan. Yesterday a package arrived. The mochi! A kilogram (2.2 pounds). Seems like a lot, but there are four of us. I will find some recipes on line. Then today we get another package. Another kilo of mochi. Did we get a (daily) mochi subscription? I contacted my friend, who had also gotten a kilo for himself. He said he received his, so it wasn’t an address / mailing error. He wasn’t charged for our second kilo, so I guess it is ok. Going to have to find some folks to share my mochi with.

Mower Project Midpoint

The good news is that I have ridden the riding mower. It occurs to me that I have put a motor where the battery was and batteries where the motor was. If that is progress. I’m taking a bit of a (holiday) break to regroup a bit. Some notes:

Speed: it is slower than I would like. I used a large gear for convenience which also has the effect of slowing things down. I have ordered a smaller gear that would speed things up. In no real hurry to change this. I can even eventually revisit direct drive with a shaft coupler.

Power: the original mower had a 14 horsepower engine. That would be a very large electric motor (at about 750 Watts per horse). I figured half that for general efficiency and half for moving the blades. Still a hefty motor. I was looking at a 1800W motor but eventually just went with the 500W based on gut. 500W turns out to be enough power for this vehicle, at least for my purposes. In the short test drive, power was never an issue, and the motor wasn’t even warm when I was done. Anyway, it looks pretty easy to swap out a motor if I want to upgrade.

Batteries: I went with the battery I had, a 12V lawn tractor starter battery. Not in any way ideal. I bought a second to get 24V. They are cheap and seem to be adequate. I can always change these. The new lithium batteries are light and hold lots of charge, but are expensive and don’t necessarily have a high output. This has led me to looking at chargers for battery banks and perhaps using the mower batteries as backup power, perhaps with solar charging. That seems like another project, though.

Electronics: Bought some new parts for control (variable resistor, switch, LED displays). Going to make a prettier display for the controllers. Ordered a second identical controller for the eventual blade motors. Also bought some proper wire and connectors (right now I’m using bits from the old mower which are not the correct sizes).

Blades: I have some ideas for the blades. That will be the second half of this project.

These projects aren’t much like the engineering projects I did professionally for years. I’m not constrained by a schedule or (within sane limits) costs. In that sense they are more Art Projects. I will mess around with them until I like what I have. There isn’t necessarily an endpoint deliverable. It is all for enjoyment.

Not a Car Bomb

On Chrisrmas morning, a large explosive device was detonated in downtown Nashville. The foreign press that I have seen (Italian and UK) are using the terms “car bomb” and “terrorist attack”, which seems accurate. Neither the press nor the police are using these sorts of words in the US. Even more bizarrely, the local newspaper was forced to apologize in July for running a full page advertisement claiming there would be a July 18 nuclear attack by Islamic extremists, based on Biblical prophesies. A July article from RT (not my favorite news source) below explains. Will be interesting to see where this one goes. My money is on White Supremacists, but I suppose there is no shortage of crackpots capable of this sort of thing these days.

Tennessee newspaper apologizes after ad promising nuclear bomb from Islam in July based on ‘Bible prophecies’