The Cost of Portable Off Grid Solar Power

Hello Operators.

The first image you see in this post was taken in Lapland back in August 2018. It’s one of the scenes from The X days off grid series.

It may come as a surprise, but much of the pushback I get on the channel and blog come from people, preppers or other operators, who find no value in reliable portable off grid solar power. There’s the constant comparison to cheap Chinese solar panels available from Alibaba or eBay. Firstly, let’s not confuse this with not having a budget for good portable panels. That is a separate issue most of us have these days. There simply isn’t always enough money for luxuries like this. At 65° North, good gear isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement.

Personally, I have no problem with whatever Solar Solutions people want to use. The problem becomes an issue when people get started on the channel, giving me grief, because I’ve chosen the apex of portable off-grid solar panels. Let’s be clear here, I don’t find c-notes under the pillow when I wake up each morning, the channel is not a business, and I’m not trying to sell anybody, anything. I’m simply showing the community what I’m using, and how I’m using it. That’s it!

I rarely talk about it on the channel, but I understand the cost of good gear, including these solar panels. I certainly understand how they might put people off. I also have to make sacrifices to afford the portability and reliability of the gear I use. Again, I don’t knock anyone for their choices.

I make no excuses for investing in PowerFilm panels, Belgian rifles, or undies made right here in the country I live in. I’ve already done The Goal Zero, the cheap Chinese look-alikes from eBay and almost everything else. At the end of the day, I don’t want to find out halfway through a 300km hike, that the voltage regulator on my cheap Chinese panel, burned out (again). I invest in PowerFilm Solar because I want reliable portable off-grid solar power, without worrying if it will last the journey, or not.

Please don’t misunderstand the purpose of the channel. The channel exists to Showcase what I’m doing, and what I’m doing it with. With that said, no one should be punished because of their gear choices. I can’t afford to repeatedly replace substandard gear when they break, so my gear choices are made as an investment. I try to buy the best gear I can, in hopes of buying it only once. In the long run, it’s much cheaper for my situation.

Another Point people are making, ” those Chinese panels are so cheap, just buy multiples for backups”. This is again a ridiculous comment! Should I seriously carry multiple backups with me when I’m out in the field!? My approach is to carry one piece of Kit with built-in redundancies. I refuse to increase my load out by carrying multiples of the same thing, almost guaranteed to break anyway. Anyone suggesting we seriously carry multiple pieces of substandard gear for redundancy, has no idea what they’re talking about, and hasn’t spent any serious time off grid, or out in the field.

Where I save with portable off-grid solar power, is in the batteries. I DIY build my own lithium iron phosphate batterues saving money there. I choose the cells, integrate the BMS I want, solder or spot weld the cells in the configuration I want, then build the pack in a shape which fits my requirements. You simply can’t buy that off the shelf. If you could, it would be terribly expensive.

I also save by playing the long game. Some cheap Chinese look-alike gear might be cheaper to buy today, but in the long run it’s more expensive to own, since it will undoubtedly be replaced long before end-of-life, of a quality product.

With the investment I’ve made in time, research and gear, my station is pretty much capable of sustained field communications for weeks at a time. What happened to the people of Puerto Rico after the grid down disaster called Hurricane Maria, is one of the driving forces behind having capable portable off-grid solar power. Even in North America and Europe, power outages are common after severe storms. That’s not some abstract statistic, it is a straightforward fact which most people ignore, until their lights go out. So what most operators call going out and playing radio, powering our stations with solar power, I call testing. This is serious for me! Amateur radio in the field is a way of testing my research and gear choices. It also puts an enormous strain on my portable off-grid solar power. If I’m ever placed in a grid down scenario like Puerto Rico, I’ll have redundant Portable Off Grid Power & Communications for such a scenario.

So give me a break guys.

Portable Off-Grid Battery & Solar Power for Amateur Field Communications:

Julian oh8stn
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