What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, September 17, 2010


I spent a good deal of time yesterday looking into how to get my electronic devises powered while I am in Sierra Leone.  This is a major concern for my trip as it is the key to staying connected to this website.  I have been having a bit of a dilemma with my new computer.  I will be able to get a solar charger that will be able to power it, while still being reasonable in terms of size and power capacity.  I have been researching it for several months now and have been narrowing things down quite a bit of late.  I looked at a number of different brands and have decided that powerfilm seems to have the best power to weight ratio and thus would work best for a trip like mine.  But which model should I get?  They have both rollable and foldable ones.  And what about wattage?  My computer apparently needs some 30 watts to charge as if it was pluged in to an outlet (no concerns with my phone as it will charge easily with most any model).

Finally, after laboring over it, I finally just called Powerfilm, and...  JULIA TO THE RESCUE!!!  I must admit that I love some of the shopping I've had to do for this trip.  A lot of these companies are so specialized and focused that they can't help but be really personable.  You get to speak to real people and the same real person each time you call.  In Powerfilm's case the customer service number rings straight through to an incredibly nice women named "Julia".  I of course started asking my questions as I do... until I realized I should just submit my project to her and let her tell me how she would solve it with their products.   ;)  Much easier!!

So Julia's solution is that, technically, I would probably need a 28w panel given my netbook's needs and good sunlight in Africa - but its like 7 feet long!!  So we talked through my budgetary/logistical constraints and - though not guaranteed - I is probable that I could get by with the 14w and probably even the 10w panel.  The constraint is that it would take much longer to charge than a normal outlet.  This however is not such an issue as time I will have, space and weight I won't.  There is no way I would carry (or could pay for) the 28w panel.  I'd have to leave the computer behind.  

We also decided that the rollable one would be better as it is more durable and is waterproof.  The foldable panels, which are more compact and actually geared towards backpacking, are not ideal for me and my trip.  Especially with longer term considerations of rainy seasons and such.  I will have to be careful not to compress the roll though, but weather won't be an issue. 

The connectivity issue will be fine as well.  The panel connects like a car cigarette lighter.  So for my phone I will need a car charger and then I'll also need to come up with a converter for the computer.  I will also need to get a DC to AC inverter so that I get a steady charge.  I will need to look further into this in terms of price and functionality.  But, all told, I can get an affordable and logistically acceptable panel.  Thus I will have power for everything while I'm there.  Nice.  Thanks Julia!!  ;)

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