solar computing question
by Simon St. Laurent
I've been doing some volunteer work for a forestry group whose main office is effectively off-the-grid. There's a phone line, but that's it. They have an ancient diesel generator, but while it's effective for circular saws, I don't think running a computer off it would be wise or especially convenient. It's louder than the saws.
The inside of the building is lit with solar power, generated by a small array of panels. Right now there are only four 12V car batteries for storage, but that's been sufficient for lighting. This place is in upstate NY, which is notoriously cloudy.
They're hoping to put a computer there, and I've suggested an inkjet printer, possibly with a scanner/copier all-in-one thing. Laser printers are much hungrier for power, so hopefully that'll avoid a problem.
My larger question is the computer. They have an ancient Gateway sitting in a corner, but if my past experience is at all accurate, it'll be very hungry for power, as will the monitor for it. An LCD might help, but I'm also wondering more generally about the computer.
Anyone have suggestions for energy-efficient computing? Laptops seem like the place to be in general, and most of the solar info I can find is panels for laptops. Something that runs on 12V would be nice, but most of what I find in my searches for 12V is specialty auto/marine stuff that isn't cheap. Cheap inverters are also not especially efficient.
Any thoughts on how to run computers off the sun?