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Thinking about my solar power setup

Filed under: Solar, Modern Computing

For the past couple of years I've been powering my desk, bench and stereo from 4 100 watt solar panels. This project started off with just a 60 watt panel and grew from there to include 2 charge controllers charging two separate banks of batteries. One bank responsible for the router and server, one for my desk and bench. In North Texas there have only been a few weeks where its been cloudy for so long that I've run out of power and overall I'd call it successful.

Doing this has definitely changed how I approach computing. Starting out I had a laptop, a couple of older monitors and several ARM Linux boards acting as servers for various locally hosted services. Now I use three Android devices as my computers, and the servers have been reduced down to one and all of the locally hosted services are gone with the exception of Home Assistant.

A big eye opener was when I spun up a locally hosted Pleroma instance and tried to run it from solar power. One cloudy day was all it took for my 1.2 KWH of battery to be almost completely empty. While I understand the push on the privacy side to move to self hosted web applications, I feel like its not practical from an energy perspective. Beyond that there are discussions about security and abelism that aren't happening as much as they need to.

I've moved to as much of a "mesh" infrastructure as I can as an alternative. My git repositories are hosted on a folder that gets synced to my devices using syncthing, negating the need for a service like Gitea to be running. I likewise use DecSync to sync my contacts and calendars to other devices. While fine in those applications I know from experience that messaging/microblogging isn't really feasible in a mesh architecture. Even if we had reliable and well established protocols to handle the data, we would still have to find some way to deal with the energy requirements of each node processing all of that data.

Looking back its been interesting to see how I've adapted to use as little energy as possible in ways I wouldn't have considered before. I feel like practical experience is an overlooked way of solving engineering problems. It will be interesting to see how I need to adapt when I move to a less sunny climate.

Author: Lady Errant
Published on: Mar 13, 2023, 12:00 PM GMT

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