So, it’s been a long time since I posted anything, but I have been busy working on projects that might be of interest.
The biggest one is the retrofitting of the hanging tomato frame I built. I tired using these over the last two years and have come to the conclusion that they are indeed totally and utter garbage.
Not only do the plants not grow anywhere near as vigorously than those planted in the traditional method, but after two years of use, most of the bags have totally disintegrated due to exposure to UV from the sun.
Now, you might be thinking that I wasted a lot of material just building the frame that I no longer have a use for. I considered the failure of the bags and what to do with the frame should this be the outcome. I built it knowing I could use it to grow something else; cucumbers.
By using pressure treated 1X4s, I enclosed the base of the frame, I filled it with a soil mixture and planted seeds.
From each of the rings used to hand the tomato grow bags I ran a heavy string all the way down to just 1” above the soil in the base.
Once the plants started to grow, it was an easy matter to wrap the plant around the line.
In some areas, it became apparent that I needed more lines. This was easily accomplished by running another line supported in between to rings.
Here are the results after a few weeks.
Here is the video. Keep an eye on his right hand.
Solar panels simply suck.
For those wanting more of a technical detail as to the short-comings of current solar-cell technology, let me start by posting the fact that from what I can find related to current solar cell technology, the highest efficiency is listed as 44.7%. To quote one often cited claim:
“German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin announced today that they have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum’s energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap. “
The problem is that most commercial solar cells in use and available fall short of this mark, by a huge degree from what I have read and been told. Imagine only around an 18% to 23% efficiency.
Most tech can work with this even given the low efficiency except for one major category: illumination. This is where the solar panels suck factor enters into the conversation. Solar powered light are dim, weak and sadly a joke.
Still, with that said, I found one that works rather well if you do not mind spending a few extra dollars.
When I first purchased these, they were $66 each. I tested one and was so please with the output, I purchased another. Even given the harsh bright-white output of these, I am still considering replacing four halogen-based landscaping lights with four of these.
Still, after two years of use, a big problem developed. One that I did not know anything about when it comes to solar panels oxidation.
UV radiation will cause the protective covering of solar cells to break down and turn cloudy. This, in turn, will cause the solar cells efficiency to drop even more and mot be able to recharge the batteries the lights use at night.
I have contacted the manufacturer of the lights and read several blogs and articles about how to recondition and restore the solar panels. This included anything from toothbrush and toothpaste as a polishing abrasive to emery cloth and oil. I decided to try a different product based upon the oxidation of a similar plastic used in a major product most of us use every day, or rather every night: headlights.
I picked up a Rain-X Headlight Restoration Kit at a local Advanced Auto.
I started with the older and heavily oxidated solar light and was amazed at the results. Unfortunately, I did not take any before and after pictured of this solar light. Fort the sake of this blog, I did take pictures of the second solar light I reconditioned.
Yes, that is my reflection on the solar cell. This is after waiting a few minutes for the final sealant to dry. I do not know how long this finish will realistically last.
The current wisdom appear to be that an automotive UV polish or similar protective substance should be applied twice a year.
I’ll have to test that out over the summer.
To expose a friend to yet another band he can look down his Worthington the III nose at, I have another music video to post, but first, a bit of background.
The band in question is Steam Powered Giraffe wich is from the genre of SteamPunk.
For similar high-cultured members of the sangre azul, let me explain what SteamPunk is.
Imagine a world just like ours with cars, rockets, air and space travel, computers and even robots but instead of being powered by electricity, everything is powered by steam. There is much more to the genre, but this is usually enough for people to get it.
Some of the members of this band take on the persona of steam powered robots.
So here is Steam Powered Giraffe playing Me and My Baby (Saturday Night).