The EV mobile lab was purchased in 1998 by the Colorado College, providing a mobile facility for class research projects, faculty research, and educational outreach programs.
The solar power system and backup diesel generator provide continuous power for laboratory instruments in the field, including a recent trip to Canyonlands National Park (9/2004). The lab also demonstrates the utility and simplicity of solar power systems, including a 600 watt photovoltaic (PV) array. Finally, the mobile lab is used for biodiesel production and experiments, creating biodiesel from used cafeteria cooking oil. Many sponsors generously provided equipment and expertise for this facility, including Xantrex Technology, BP Solar, Bogart Engineering, Pulse Energy Systems, Advanced Power Products, and Southwest Wind Power.
The mobile lab consists of a 20-foot box GMC W4 diesel truck, containing a solar power system, a diesel generator, and a wind turbine. The solar system was installed in 2000 to (1) create a quiet, clean working environment for accurate field measurements; and (2) to provide an educational outreach resource for renewable energy.
How does it work? The photovoltaic (PV) array consists of 8, 75W panels at 24 VDC (BP Solar 575), combined into a single DC input at a combiner box. The DC input then enters a Trace C40 power controller, which regulates the power input to 24 batteries (Sun-Xtender PVX-6220U). These no-maintenance, 6V batteries are known as "valve regulated" batteries with absorbed glass mat technology, consisting of microfibrous silica wrapped around the cathode. This silica sponge and large headspace within the cell prevents water loss and consumes gases generated by electrolysis. The controller also prevents current leakage from the batteries to the solar panels at night, as current flows from high to low resistance regions. Both the PV and battery power inputs are converted from DC to AC power via a Trace SW4024 inverter, producing low ripple power required for scientific instruments. The PV system also includes a TriMetric 2020 multimeter to provide continuous monitoring of the system amperage and voltage.
System Specifications (24 VDC, 120 VAC, 60 Hz):
Battery Bank: 285 Amp Hours, 24V
PV Array: 600 watts
Wind Turbine: 400 watts at 28 mph
Diesel Generator: 10 kW
More detailed information regarding this solar power system can be found in the senior research project of Seth Kassels and the associated schematic.
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