After a long day of sampling, you walk back into camp and lug in your field phone, inReach and radio. You sit down to start data entry on your fully charged laptop. But something is
different. There is no constant drone, no smell of exhaust, and no need to mess around with jerry cans of fuel.
This summer we experimented with the use of solar panels and lithium ion batteries to run our camp. We started small with a portable power station, the EcoFlow River. Portable power stations are a combination of a battery, charge controller and inverter. These power stations make running a solar system very easy with the built-in charge controller regulating energy flow from an outlet, cigarette lighter or, most importantly, a solar panel. The inverter converts the battery's 12v DC power to 120v AC plugs, allowing for the use of household appliances. In order to charge our power station we also purchased an inexpensive 100w flexible solar panel.
What could we run off our battery? A fully charged power station could recharge 6 icom radios, 3 inReaches, and 6 field phones after a day of work, as well as topping up laptops, running some LED lights and grinding coffee beans. Unfortunately, a small system like this one could not run pancake griddles or toasters. The best thing about using this system was that we didn’t have to fire up the generator every time we needed to do something.
If the sun was shining and the solar panel was facing south with good exposure, we would always come back to a full battery. However, if it was cloudy or we were tucked into the mountains, the solar panel and battery couldn’t quite keep up with our demand. We had a Honda 1000i generator and would run it for 30-60min every other day when conditions were not optimal. This kept our small camps of three to six people powered.
After the success of our first year, we are thinking bigger. This small system worked well for small remote camps. Soon, we plan to run electric coolers, e-bikes, and potentially, induction stove tops off our solar system. In the years ahead, we look forward to larger solar panels and bigger battery banks, demonstrating that mineral exploration camps can run on less fossil fuel.
(If you are interested in starting this transition in your larger drill or sampling camps, chat with the team at Moment Energy about their refurbished lithium ion batteries.)