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?


2002-06-10 17:12:25
My experiences living off-grid
I posted my reply at

Glen Gillmore

2002-06-18 05:31:16
Hope this is what you're looking for!

These folks have been around for 20+ years selling and designing off-grid solutions plus they provide one of the most comprehensive catalogs that I know of.

On thing for sure - if they can't help you directly they will certainly point you in the right direction.


PS: I do own 10 shares of their stock and I wanted to be upfront about that fact.

2004-08-24 19:39:58
Solar Computing
Look into Mini-ITX based computers....
Low wattage motherboards.... under 50 watts.
Couple with a lcd monitor, and you could be computing at less than 120 watts/hour.