Today I’ve got some pushback on the solar generator projects from a very annoying EMCOMM Commando. Some things need to be put on the table.
First I need to say I’ve got nothing against gasoline or diesel generators in fact I think they’re magnificent for short-term grid down. I don’t see them as a long-term solution for the field radio operator, although large organisations can make good use of them.
Here are the top five reasons I don’t use a gasoline or diesel generator for “field or emergency communications”.
- Logistics. Gasoline and diesel generators are pretty magnificent, providing a very large amount of instant energy, anywhere they are deployed. Unfortunately that energy comes at the dependence of a logistics network to get the genera tor in place and provide a constant supply of gasoline or diesel. This is fine for large organizations, the military, or some other Supply and Logistics based organization.
- The cost. Although a reasonable investment from a preparedness perspective, I can’t justify the cost of a gasoline or diesel generator along with the additionsl fuel and maintenance costs associated with it. With that said the idea of a small generator to recharge the storage batteries of my portable solar generators when the sun isn’t available, is an attractive idea, and one which I’m investigating. At the moment it’s cost-prohibitive, since I’ve invested so much into lithium based energy collection and storage.
- Portability. Honda generators are very small and portable however, they become boat anchors when the fuel runs out. As I mentioned in the number two, as a temporary emergency power source for recharging my batteries, (my primary power source), I can see the usefulness of a small Honda generator. On a larger scale for emergency communications, we come back to that Logistics problem of deploying a large gasoline or diesel generator. This is the disconnect between amateur radio EMCOMM, and emergency communications for preparedness. I’ve seen what it takes to deploy large generators while in the Marine Corps, and on deployment in North Africa. Without a good Logistics Network, large gasoline or diesel generators simply aren’t practical for the short term, unless they’re already on-site.
- Noise. Gasoline and diesel generators make noise. Not only audible noise, they also make RF noise which needs to be filtered out before it wreaks havoc on our HF radios.
- No energy storage. Gasoline and diesel generators produce the energy we use from them, in real time. I haven’t seen a gasoline or diesel generator with on-board battery storage, allowing it to continue providing power (temporarily) if and when gasoline or diesel runs out.
If money were No Object I suppose I would have a small Honda generator for emergency portable battery charging. I would also have a larger backup generator wired directly into my home. With that said my lithium based solar generators seem to scale up pretty well. I haven’t had a critical failure yet, and they are incredibly reliable. They are man portable, easy to deploy, with having only a single Achilles heel, the Sun, or lack of it. On a small-scale we can augment solar generators with a crank generator, or small inverter generator like the little Honda.
How to close? My solar generator 18lbs/8.3kg weighs about the same as a small Honda generator. Add my PowerFilm solar panels and it can recharge itself, without me carrying any additional supplies. The Honda generator always needs fuel carried along to operate it, but can certainly Supply an enormous amount of power right here right now. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m simply explaining why I haven’t invested in or deployed gasoline or diesel generators yet.