More on the DC Power Debacle

I’ve kept some track of the DC Power scandal - they built those massive solar trailers everyone has seen images of. It was pretty sketchy, as it went into a full on literal Ponzi scheme of paying the early investors with the profits off later ones.

More details are out, and… holy crap, that was dirty, through and through!

Ignoring the boring Ponzi scheme junk, are the numbers there?

Could your arrays that power your house (in theory) be put on a folding trailer of some largish sort?

Based on my napkin math, everything you have could fit in the back of a moderate box truck, so in THEORY it should be at least possible …


Carpoff began affixing 100-gallon diesel generators to the trailers as backup for breakdowns or cloudy days. But the rumble of diesel on what was supposed to be a fossil-fuel alternative made people wonder how much the planet was really benefiting. If too many weeks passed without a tune-up, generators would exhale plumes of smoke when the diesel activated. “You can imagine a solar tower with black smoke coming out of it,” the public-safety director at a university that tried them told me. “Students would sometimes say, ‘What’s going on? Is it on fire?’ and we’d have to explain that.”

this somehow perfectly sums up Corporate America’s greenwashing.

In the back of a box truck, sure. With all the hardware to make them deploy, that’s harder. But, yes, you can mount a good amount of stuff on a trailer if you’re willing to put the engineering into the mounts and how to deploy stuff - this is an open design task for the solar trailers. If you go to a big double axle trailer, you can certainly fit a lot. It gets better if you’re able to avoid shading and have the panels track the sun - that improves production a good amount.

But the “big” solar trailer I have right now is only around 1000W of panel (three 60 cell panels). However, I can also tow it with the Volt. Scaling up gives a lot of options.

The reality of off-grid power, though, is that you need some sort of backup. Even with 5kW of panel hung on my office, I need aux power at various points in the winter. I just think they sourced a cheap generator that wasn’t suited to the task.

Family Trips: 2600 Miles to Arizona and Back has some photos of one of their trailers, with generator, I found in the wild.

Yeah, I was just spitballing ideas involving semi trailers that mostly consist of those big banks of batteries you see on Commercial | Tesla with a “hat” of unfurlable solar.

Probably not at all worthwhile mind you (the wear and tear on equipment by making it mobile + cost might make it a worse option environmentally than a dumb diesel generator) but maybe …

Anyone got a cool billion laying around?

Billion? Couple hundred grand and you’ll see some impressive stuff out of Owyhee Mountain Power. :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously. We have a lot of ideas, just not funding to execute all of them, and I have a dayjob.

It’s not just the environmental considerations, though - look at supply chains. If you’re going into a disaster area (hurricane, flooding, etc), you may not want to have to worry about the diesel supply. This is one of the reasons the US military is looking heavily at solar - getting liquid fuels into warzones is often quite expensive and risky.

If told to “go build something massive,” I’d probably go with something that was a three sided “box” of panels over a frame - fixed vertical panels on the top (facing straight up), and two movable frames on the sides that could be adjusted through a range of motion from “folded straight down” to “About 45 degrees above horizontal” - ideally with some sort of motorized mechanism. Then it just follows the sun. In the spring/summer/fall, you park it with the long axis north-south and the panels will track east to west. In the winter, you park it with the long axis east-west, and it deploys everything to catch the south sun.

… but, seriously, if you know anyone with some R&D funds sloshing around, please get them in touch with me.

“weeks”!?. I’ve seen jobsites and food service trucks running Harbor Freight and Champion generators lasting way longer than that, what unbelievable garbage gensets did they put on there?

I took that part of the story to be “scary evil generator (it has DIE in the name!!!) that hadn’t run for awhile barfs some soot when starting” but who knows. I can’t see them bothering to get something even crappier than Harbor Freight.

I think the problem is more likely “Weeks without starting.” Or, more realistically, sat for months without starting, in the summer, without any sort of biocide in the diesel tank, so the injectors choke on a bunch of the algae and it runs like crap.

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Classic Ponzi scheme. “Sure, we’re making tons of money, see the earnings reports we typed up with imaginary numbers!” It’s astonishing how easy it is to deceive people with a purportedly authentic piece of paper.

Could your arrays that power your house (in theory) be put on a folding trailer of some largish sort?

Depends on how power hungry your house is. For small local power outages, I bought a 1 kwh “suitcase” battery and a 100W (12v) solar panel, and the battery by itself will run my fridge for ~24 hours, probably longer. With the solar panel, it should be extendable almost indefinitely if I rotate the solar panel three or four times a day to follow the sun (in summer. ~37 degrees north; san francisco bay area).

otoh, I just had minisplits installed, and that runs off a 240V 40A breaker .

One of these months, once I get some more wiring done, I plan to try to run my house on the big solar trailer and see how it works - and then probably pre-wire the 600V MPPT controller I have, so I can hook one of the A-frames into the trailer and see how it runs with that added power. I expect it’ll be rather power-scarce in the summer or winter, but doable for basic standards of living.