Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Understanding Solar Energy — As Exciting As The Wink In a Young Girl’s Eye

©Bert Gildart: We’ve been at Peg Leg now for almost one full week, and not once have we had to turn on our generator to satisfy our electrical needs.  So far solar energy — transformed into electrical energy through our six solar panels — has provided everything we need. Now this is exciting stuff, so exciting that I’m constantly getting up from my work table to gawk at the panel with the solar controller to visually observe — and appreciate — all of this heavenly largess.

It’s fascinating despite weather conditions, and during the past week we’ve had several days of overcast skies and nights when temperature dipped into the 30s, meaning the drain on our four batteries has at times been great.  Change, in fact,  is great, as my Zamp Solar Charge Controler tells me, and it changes further in accordance with the devices we are using at the moment. The list is long.


Computers, TV, printers, showers, all powered by the sun


We convert stored energy into usable electrical energy using two inverters. In turn, the inverters simultaneously provide juice for our two computers. As well, the inverters can charge up batteries in our cameras, cell phones, our electric toothbrushes, our i-Pod, etc.  We try and do this during the day when the sun is out and when the sun almost instantly replaces all Airstream battery drainage. For the same reason we try and take showers when the sun is shining for the drain created be water pump is substantial.


But we certainly use electricity at night and that’s when the depth of our four batteries comes into play.  The sun sets here about 4:30 and until we go to bed we burn all the lights we want, play the i-Pod, and may watch one of the many movies we’ve brought along.  We also operate the furnace, which is probably the biggest drain on our batteries. In the morning when we awaken, our voltage normally reads 12.9, but this morning it read 12.7. Presumable that was because we ran our furnace. After all, it was cold.

Nights are very long right now so we go to bed about 9 but I’ve been getting up about 5, at which time I work on the computer.  That means I need battery power for the computer until the sun comes up about 6:45, at which time the panels seem to kick right in. As the sun rises I start with a reading of 0.2 on my solar controller, but by 11 everything seems to be fully charged, regardless of whether or not the sun is obscured by clouds.  By 10 o’clock voltage on the solar monitor is reading over 14 and if the sun is shining, the monitor tells me that over 10 solar amps are pouring into our Airstream each hour.  Wow!


To some, this may not mean a darn thing, and until recently, it didn’t mean much to me, and to tell the truth, there’s much I still don’t understand.  But it is satisfying to know all the research is paying off and that I can monitor all these transformations as they actually take place. That’s so exciting, and many of you may be able to relate.

Just think back to that glorious moment when your junior high science teacher told you that energy could neither be created nor destroyed, only converted.  Wasn’t that one of the greatest – one of the most exciting — moments of your life?

Now you know how I feel — and yes, I’ve listened to Bruce Springsteen crooning about “the wink in a young girl’s eye.”

*NOTE: I’ve just learned that Wikipedia has picked up my blog  Night of the Grizzly, calling it “extra reading.” The Video, Night of the Grizzly, produced by Montana Public TV, has also been released.  It’s a thorough and informative documentary and pulls together the many people involved with the tragic and fatal maulings back in 1967.  The documentary also reviews the life history of grizzly bears.  Many were interviewed, including me.  What’s more almost half of the still images in the documentary were mine — and I’m very proud of that.




*Kayaking Tampa Bay


One Response to “Understanding Solar Energy — As Exciting As The Wink In a Young Girl’s Eye”

  1. Tom & Sandi Palesch Says:

    Boys and their toys! I always thought that at our age we should strive to make life and things simpler or at least, less complicated.

    But then again, I guess solar is simpler. I’ve often thought wind power would also be worth looking at if the vibration could be controlled or tolerated. Then, let darkness reign! Who cares if it’s raining or cloudy? Sailors around the world use wind generators.

    Have you tried that “forked stick” thing while looking for your goldmine? You might instead discover water and really hit the big time.

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