If someone had told me a decade ago that it would be a smart idea to figure out how to create and maintain my own power grid, I would've thought that was nuts.
But as the wildfires in California and the freezing weather in Texas have shown us, our climate is becoming more extreme. The nation's power grids weren't created with these edge cases in mind -- and the edge cases are becoming markedly less "edge," with California's fire season now lasting year-round.
"“We’re not seeing ‘fire season’ any more,” said Issac Sanchez, battalion chief of communications for Cal Fire Sacramento. “It’s just one big fire year, where we can be prepared for and expect a large destructive fire at any point.”
We live our modern lives assuming that we can depend on infrastructure to "just work." But I'm not as sure about that as I used to be. Especially when it comes to our nation's aging transportation and power grid infrastructure. It feels like a good time to brush up on my MacGyver skillset and take a bit more control of some of the infrastructure I depend on.
One thing I'm doing is learning more about solar power and solar generators. I'm converting a 4x4 Sprinter van and recently installed two 175 watt solar panels on the roof, which charges a 100 amp hour Inergy Apex unit.
I recently tested it out on a trip, and it performed flawlessly, powering a microwave, laptops, lights – even a dry flush toilet. The solar panels can recharge the unit in under 4 hours. And it's such an incredible feeling to have the sun powering up a generator for later use, completely independent of the power grid.
This summer, Inergy is coming out with an even more powerful unit called the Flex 1500, which will have stackable batteries. Each battery provides 100 amp hours. Here's how it'll work:
This unit with four batteries will allow me to have 400 amp hours of power in the van, so the next time rolling blackouts hit California, at least I'll be able to use my van to power the critical appliances in the house.
MacGyver, here I come.