A solar trailer is a heck of a great way to harness solar power.
No need to haul around a noisy and smelly generator that runs on gas or diesel, when you can hitch up a solar trailer that will produce your power from the light of the sun.
To find out more about these portable power packs, SolarPowerBeginner talked to Jason Szumlanski. Mr Szumlanski owns Alternative Mobile Power Systems, a Florida company that rents and sells solar power trailers.
SolarPowerBeginner: For starters, what components does an AMP systems solar trailer consist of?
Jason Szumlanski: An AMP System generally contains photovoltaic (solar) panels, a maximum power point tracking charge controller, a high-powered pure sine wave inverter/charger, a battery bank, and a variety of standard AC outlets.
Of course, there is a lot more that goes into it, including circuit breakers, disconnects, ground fault protection, and other safety features.
Some AMP Systems are configured with audio/visual systems or other appliances as required by the buyer. The AMP System can also be configured as a battery backup only, without photovoltaic panels.
SolarPowerBeginner: Can household gadgets plug into the portable solar trailer directly?
Jason Szumlanski: Yes. Any household gadget or appliance can be plugged into the AMP System. The high-quality pure sine wave inverter ensures that sensitive electronics are protected. Other outlet types, like 20 amp, 30 amp, and twistlock receptacles can be included.
SolarPowerBeginner: What are some of the main uses for a solar trailer?
Jason Szumlanski: The original idea for our solar trailer was for outdoor event and wedding power. Since noise is often an issue at these events, a silent alternative energy system makes sense.
We quickly learned that construction sites and disaster/emergency sites were perfect places to use an alternative mobile power system. In short, AMP Systems can be used anywhere you would otherwise use a generator or where temporary alternative energy is preferred over utility power.
SolarPowerBeginner: Why would someone choose a mobile solar trailer like the AMP trailer instead of a traditional gas or diesel generator?
Jason Szumlanski: Gasoline and diesel engines are noisy. Even the quietest units can spoil a wedding ceremony. This is an obvious advantage of the AMP System.
In addition, generators are terribly inefficient, burning fossil fuels even when running at idle. Most of the fuel burned is lost as heat generated by the engine. The AMP System is an eco-friendly alternative.
The AMP System is extremely reliable, and can run continuously as long as sunlight or battery power is available. There is no messy and dangerous fuel transportation, refueling, and storage required. The AMP System can run unattended.
SolarPowerBeginner: Say I’m getting married in a scenic outdoor ceremony and I want to use one of your solar trailers to silently power some lights, a public address system, and a karaoke machine. How long will the power last?
Jason Szumlanski: Of course, it depends on how the particular AMP System is configured and how many lights and the size of your audio system. Most weddings receptions use the most power after dark, when the solar panels are not producing any energy. That is where batteries come in.
We have provided power at weddings with over 150 guests with tent lighting, a DJ, and other small electrical needs, and left with over 85% battery capacity. In our standard 5’x8’ trailer platform, we can carry over 38 kilowatt-hours of storage capacity.
In our experience, lighting is the largest power draw, so using energy efficient choices helps – this is usually not a problem because people who want a green wedding usually extend their green agenda to all service providers.
DJ’s and bands always overestimate their power requirements, basing their estimates on the maximum rating of their equipment. We have learned to educate entertainment professionals and use our experience to ensure that power requirements will be met.
We recently provided stage power all day to several bands at our local Earth Day event. Because it was a sunny day, we were able to supply their needs on solar power alone, leaving the site with 100% battery capacity.
In the case of evening events, batteries provide the power, and the solar panels can recharge the batteries over the next day or days.
If we have back-to-back events and need a quick recharge, the system can be plugged into utility power. This is not ideal, but it is still far more eco-friendly than using a generator on-site!
SolarPowerBeginner: Does an AMP solar trailer have enough juice to keep a construction site powered all day?
Jason Szumlanski: Again, it depends on the AMP System configuration, the sunlight, and the amount of power consumed.
On a single family home jobsite, a properly configured AMP System will have no problem powering hand tools, compressors, cordless tool chargers, and other conveniences like fans.
A recent test with a local green home builder proved that we could meet their needs while parked under a large tree, severely limiting the solar production.
We also did a 24 hour test recently at a large commercial construction site where dozens of workers performed various construction tasks on a multi-story building. We provided all of the temporary power for the day and lighting overnight.
While our small test system was not configured with adequate solar production, we proved that the battery capacity, coupled with the outstanding performance of a 4.4kW inverter was up to the task.
To put that into perspective, a jobsite like this would often use a 50kW or 100kW generator, wasting vast amounts of fuel.
The surge capability of modern inverters is so good that even a small inverter can power multiple circuits running a variety of variable and fixed loads during the day, and efficiently power lighting at night while only using the energy needed.
SolarPowerBeginner: How long do the portable solar trailer batteries take to recharge?
Jason Szumlanski: Depending on how deeply the batteries are discharged and how many batteries and solar panels are in the system, the batteries can be recharged using solar power in as little as two hours and as long as five days.
Fortunately, the system can be recharged with utility power, which is still more environmentally sound than using generators.
In addition, we offer temporary ground-mount panels that can extend the capabilities of the system and reduce the recharge time. In most circumstances, if batteries are depleted, they are fully charged the next day.
SolarPowerBeginner: What exciting plans does AMP Systems have for the future?
Jason Szumlanski: We have plans for several larger platforms that accommodate additional solar panels to provide more energy at remote sites.
The current platform was selected because the size and weight allow it to be towed behind many light trucks and SUVs. The system is completely scalable, and multiple systems can work in concert (pun intended) to provide more power.
We are starting to target all levels of government agencies, who we believe can benefit greatly from the perspective of disaster and emergency response, all while fulfilling green agendas that exist in many communities.