A Sunny Day on the Chehalis
Saturday, January 16 2010 @ 05:14 PM EST
Contributed by: richardpitt
The sun is out at Chehalis and the camera is up. We've had our problems this year with the systems near Eagle Point on the Chehalis River estuary but in some ways that's OK. You see the hard rains in November washed most of the salmon carcases out of the estuary area and down into the Fraser River, so there really were not that many eagles to watch most of the time.
Our problems began when one of the LED lights we had installed failed internally and caused a high drain on the power system. This drew far more power than we expected, enough that at night the fuel cell simply could not keep up and the system would go offline for up to an hour at a time when the inverter input voltage got too low. The problem light would drain the battery down, shut off the inverter, and then with the lower load the fuel cell would bring the voltage back up and the cycle would start all over. Eventually the battery failed and the system all but quit to the point where there were times when there was not even enough power to run the fuel cell at night. If we had not had the solar array on the system this would have caused it to fail completely not long after the problem occurred, but since the solar panels kept bringing the voltage on the battery back up to restart the inverter, we thought there was some other problem.
Over a period of a couple of weeks it appears something went wrong with the fuel cell due to this constant battery problem. Even though we brought out a new battery and disconnected the problem light the fuel cell simply stopped generating power. We've removed it and the system is currently reliant solely on solar power. In fact we added a 3rd panel to the system when we removed the fuel cell and aimed the panels so they'd pick up the sun earlier and later to extend their utility across more of the day.
At this point we will not likely put the fuel cell back into the system this year. The fish are pretty much gone and rains over the past few days have brought the water level up to the point where any carcasses from the most recent spawn will also be washed out into the Fraser.
On the bright side, the rest of the infrastructure worked well. We have a good deal of archived video and stills from the cameras and our volunteer camera controllers have been getting a good workout searching for eagles and other interesting views.