Power - the Key to Remote Viewing
Friday, August 07 2009 @ 07:27 PM EDT
Contributed by: richardpitt
One of the many problems associated with bringing you the live streaming video of our wildlife projects is power. Power is the key to doing many things in the field and we've stretched several technologies to the breaking point in our efforts to bring you more and better video, audio and wildlife experiences.
To illustrate, the Chehalis Estuary/Eagle Point project has been on our books for 3 years now. David first conceived of this for the 2007 Fall season, and we invested in some solar panels and batteries to test things out with the view to putting a camera and wireless link out on the flats to watch the eagles feed.
I had this solar setup in my backyard for the summer of 2007, running completely autonomously and feeding me video 24 hours/day - albeit mostly of small birds bathing in my stream and fish swimming in the pond. I guess I should have pushed this out to the net but it really didn't fit in with our "wildlife" theme :)
But, and this is a big one, even with almost full summer sun, the system could not keep up with running all night on the batteries and coping with the several days duration cloudy periods - and this with more daylight hours than night! Running the setup in the Fall/Winter with far more night than day and far darker and more frequent cloudy days simply would not do. We had to come up with something else. We conceived of running some sort of remote control to turn things off at night but one of the reasons we wanted the camera on was that there are interesting things happening at night that nobody has seen before so to lose that opportunity would be a real waste.
More solar panels was an option - but in doing the calculations we realized we'd need almost $10,000 worth to do what needed to be done - not an option.
This year we have had a massive battery farm donated to us - they're used, but they're in remarkably good condition. So we proceeded to figure out just how we could use this - how often we'd have to recharge them and how, using "conventional" motor-generator facilities. I found a vendor for a fairly inexpensive propane-powered generator, and we have this all in hand. The only problem is getting the generator to fire up remotely (it has electric start but no other controls) and remotely monitor the batteries for charge condition, etc. We figured that about 6-8 propane cylinders would do for a couple of months, and that visiting the site once or twice during the season would not bother the birds much since there are hunters and fishermen not that far away at times anyway. All this is good, but not really what I had hoped. I've been looking for and wondering aloud to any and everyone I meet about a smaller generator that we could run more frequently and that was integrated with battery charger and such. You see, there are far more applications out there for such a thing than just our projects. The donor of the batteries has used them in one such facility for the past 25 years - remote monitoring and radio facilities - and many others have similar needs.
But it turns out there is a different solution - and it's brand new...
On Wednesday this week I received an email from Jason Abdi, excecutive account manager for Four Stones Ltd.:
I was on your website reading your article on how to setup a wildlife cam. You mentioned in your article that power to these remote sites is very critical. In this field, quiet operation and very little disturbance to the wildlife habitat is needed, the battery banks, like you mentioned in your article are heavy and costly to transport and require frequent visits to recharge.
For years for we have faced the same problem. We found that the battery banks required frequent site visits, the solar panels where great in the summer but did poorly in the winter. Then, we found a solution that solved all those issues for us, it was quiet, able to power the camera, DVR system and modem for remote viewing for long periods of time. To top it off it was 100% Environmentally friendly and maintenance free. We loved the product so much that we brought this technology to Canada. Let me tell you about us and what we do.
Four Stones Ltd. is an innovative new company marketing fuel cell technology to provide cutting edge, remote power solutions for off-grid applications. We are making user-friendly, advanced fuel cell technology available to Canadian markets. This green technology provides a power solution for your off-grid applications, and provides you substantial operational cost savings.
At Four Stones Ltd., our priority is to provide Canadian markets with green technology that is cost effective and portable. We utilize EFOY fuel cell technology, which uses methanol as a fuel source. The fuel cell is also able to integrate with solar panels or work on its own for long periods of time, and, is completely maintenance free. This new technology has the capability of remote control operation; from any PC with Internet, you are able to access and change the configuration, or even check the fuel cartridge level.
Our expertise is in surveillance technology and the use of the EFOY fuel cell systems provides us with firsthand knowledge on how the EFOY fuel cell systems answer the need of today’s Canadian markets.
Today (August 7, 2009), David Hancock and I spoke at length with Jason and the president of Four Stones Ltd., Dana Brown, and I'm pleased to say I won't have to deal with the propane generator or huge battery farm for this project. In fact their product opens up some very interesting opportunities that we've simply not been able to address due to power limitations.
You see, they have what has to be the most elegant and all around best solution for producing small amounts of power over long periods of time at remote sites - a methanol powered fuel cell. It's small, quiet, non-poluting, and best of all can run for weeks and months with no maintenance, all the while keeping a small battery fully charged and even working with solar power panels to help in the task. It's all done for me - I don't have to do anything more - I love it!
Four Stones has stepped up to the plate and is sponsoring this major part of our Chehalis project. You'll see more about them as we roll things out because we believe in their product 100% and they are committing heavily to help us because they are "... committed to being a leading solutions provider for off-grid applications that can be powered by environmentally-viable sources such as fuel cells, solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy." (quote from their web site)
Dana and Jason will be in Vancouver next week and they'll be bringing a unit and methanol containers with them. I've arranged for them to be on David Ingram's Around the World streaming video program on Wednesday evening at 6PM. If you can, please tune it to watch, or watch the archive version at David's site after that.