Solar Panels Up at my Off Grid Darkroom

March 20, 2016  •  3 Comments

I am happy to share that my solar panels are now installed at my darkroom and they are in the process of becoming operational.  

I had to dig six post holes in some very rocky terrain to set the 10 foot 4x4 posts.  That took a full day just to accomplish this part and some Ibuprofen that evening.  The 4x4 posts are concreted in the ground and they serve as the frame along with some 2x6 treated lumber.  

The posts are cedar and the cross beams are treated lumber to help make the structure last for a long time and resistant to the elements.  

I had to determine the proper angle to mount the panels for my location, which turned out to be 32 degrees.  This specific angle will give me the best year-round efficiency.  I designed a 24V system for maximum efficiency and capacity.  My solar panels are 250 watts each and connected in parallel.  My battery bank consists of 8 6V batteries wired in two sets of 24V banks in parallel.  I will have plenty of available electricity to run all of my enlargers, fans, air-conditioner, lighting, Jobo processors, computers, scanners, and so on.  I designed the electrical system so I could work just like I did previously on the grid.  But, this time the sun is proving my electrical power needs and I feel very good about this transition to a more self-reliant and sustainable model.  

The end of the darkroom that is closest to the solar panels is where I will have my wet side of my darkroom.  I will be moving my 8 foot sink from my current darkroom and I will be custom building a lot of work surfaces and shelving to maximize my space.  I am in the process of building a cross wall and a door to enclose this space so that I can control the temperature of this area with a high degree of accuracy.  All of my film processing is based on 68F/20C, and the darkroom is in a location where there are four distinct seasons where the temperatures can range from freezing to extremely hot.  

The area beyond the wet side, I will be building a lot of floor to ceiling shelving and storage capabilities.  I will also have my framing and mating table in this area too.  On the far end, I am building an office area where I will have my computers, scanners, books, and lots of desk area.  I am going to hand-craft my flooring from reclaimed barn wood and I will also likely do an accent wall with this wood too.  

Stay tuned for future updates and I look forward to your thoughts and comments below.

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Tim Layton


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Comments

Tim Layton Fine Art
Hi, thanks for commenting Matthias and Richard. In regards to the solar charging system I do have a MPPT controller so that is a good thing. My inverter is also a charger that I can connect to my generator if I ever run low on power. For water, I am also in the process of doing a rainwater catchment system and I also already have a 300-gallon water tank planned that will be a gravity fed system for the wet processes. In regards to disposal, I don't have all of that figured out just yet. My black and white chemicals are all eco-friendly, so that is easy, But the E-6 chems, not so much... When it comes time, I will get it figured out. Stay in touch and thanks again for sharing your thoughts and questions.
Matthias(non-registered)
Take care to have a balancing system in your battery-array. Every battery has to be fully loaded on a 6V charger before setting up your serial connections. If you do not the more empty battery will be the suffering by being discharged to deeply and the other ones will tend to be overcharged. Take a look how battery balancing is done when using Lithium-Ion batteries. I would have definetly recommended a 24 Volt battery.... The best are the ones used in electric forklifts. Even used ones are way better then anything else, except Lithium..

I now repeat myself, get atleast a battery charger for 6 Volt and charge every single battery fully. This means leave it on the charger for 24 hours after they show full charge.
Do this with each cell and check their single Voltage atleast every month. On the other side, never ever discharge your system lower the 50 %. Deep discharge is the main killer of lead-acid batteries. To check your system invest in a battery monitor with a shunt, like the Victron. So you can have a look at what is happening with your batteries and solarcells. The other important thing is a MPPT-chargecontroller. Using one of these would allow you to set your solarpanels in serial, not parallel. By this you could get a system Voltage on your grid of around 60 Volts, which bring much less voltage drop on your wiring. And even better with a starting voltage of 60, your array will deliver some load even when the sky is cloudy, or the panels are partiially shaded in the last hours of the day, because even then you get atleast some 25 volts...

Okay that's it.

Matthias.

Ps. I have a sort of ofgrid situation as well on my boat, where mostly all electricity comes from the sun :-)
richard daiprai(non-registered)
i am about to do a similar set up for my dark room on my farm we just bought. we will be using rain water capture system for the water . i was wondering how you will dispose of your waste water off the developing and printing process ? we have a septic tank but did not want to send the chemicals there to leech into the ground. i also am in Missouri and just do medium format for personal use .
thanks for any info you could share
rich
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