PRAIRIE WINDS OBSERVATORY IS SOLAR POWERED!
We have never been connected to the grid. We removed the single solar panel which was used only for opening and closing the roll-off-roof. In the past, we had to start the generator. The switch was thrown on January 23rd to allow the installed
solar panels on the south end of the building to start feeding the battery mounted in the warm room. The mini-split climate control unit was activated and the inverter was working with about 54- volts. By mid-week the battery was operating at over 90% capacity. And though they wish to remain anonymous, many thanks to our donors and workers who made this possible! We worked many cold winter days to complete this project. The key in the winter months is keeping the battery above 32 F. We need to keep the doors closed. Jim Wehmer has placed thermometers both on a table in the warm room and in the observing area. If you are at the site, please note the temperatures and report them on the battery charge report sheet in the warm room. The mini-split is in “vacation mode” and the lowest temperature setting is 46 degrees. The warm room thermometer has given us readings in the lower 40’s, though, at this early state, more data is needed. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in this project!
Pretty exciting stuff! And all thanks to several people who put in the time and effort to research the project, purchase the materials, and do the work. My personal thanks to (in alphabetical order): Ken Chapman, Jan Cocatre-Zilgien, Scott & Leanne Glick, Norm Knicl, Mike Lockwood, Sarah Lyon, Mike Rosenberger, Bob Rubendunst, Jim Wehmer and of course our anonymous donor who wrote the check for the entire project. Sort of nice to go to the observatory and just flip on a light without flipping any switches or starting a generator. We’re in the process of updating opening and closing procedures as even the long-time users will need retrained.
Solar power is working nicely at the Prairie Winds Observatory, southwest of Willard Airport. Jim Wehmer moved items back
into the room, which freed up space in the observing area. Jim also ran Romex from the east to the west side of the dome and
we now have several outlets on the west side. The idea is to now use adapters so we no longer need batteries to run the
telescopes. We have covered the wires to eliminate the tripping hazard. Dave Leake took a shop vac to the site and
vacuumed up the sawdust and much of the dirt, plus he wiped down the tables and benches with disinfectant.
It’s pretty impressive now! We’re monitoring the new solar battery and the system is performing wonderfully. We were out there on a cold cloudy day. The battery charge was at 89%. We ran the heat full blast for 2 hours while we worked and it dropped the battery to just 82%. Not bad. Jim did this again on a sunny day and the battery stayed at 100%. We keep the warm room temperature at the lowest setting vacation mode 46 degrees while no one is present.