An American Missionary stationed in Brazil, WFR, commits his precious time to a remote tribal village in the Amazon River Basin, 100 miles west of Manaus. In the small village, there are approximately 115 people of which 20 are children. There has never been electricity in the village, and the members of the tribe have never experienced an electronic device, nor have they ever watched a movie, video, or television. WFR chose to introduce electricity and Christian videos to the people of the village, especially to the children. Access to the village in the Rain Forest consisted of long trails in the jungle wilderness that are hiked mainly by foot, but sometimes by pack mule.
WFR approached Powerenz, Inc. with a very specific request – to design and assemble a portable source of electricity that would provide enough power for a small DVD player and projector to show Christian movies to the villagers during the evenings, and that would recharge itself in sunlight during the days. The power system would need to work the first time and every time, since there are no people in the Rainforest jungles who are capable of trouble-shooting and repairing such a device. The system would need to be lightweight enough to be carried over long distances through the jungle via backpack or on a mule, enclosed in a waterproof enclosure in case of rain, resistant to high humidity, protected from insects, simple to use, and extremely durable. All of the components of the portable solar charger system would need to be hauled over many miles by just a few adults, including portable solar panels. All of the electronic devices that are sold in Manaus require 220 volts AC. Both the DVD player and projector were selected for this application by a local consultant from an electronics warehouse in Manaus, and both devices were selected to draw very little power.
Powerenz designed and assembled a portable solar charger system that consisted of the following:
a. 100-watt, foldable, light-weight, efficient, water-proof solar panel, including a 30-foot outdoor and underground-rated extension cable, b. 40 amp-hour, 12.8-volt, lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack with protective circuitry, c. 10.5-amp highly-efficient and lightweight solar charge controller, d. continuous 200-watt, pure sine wave, 12VDC-220VAC power inverter that has 2 AC outlets, e. 12-volt DC cigarette lighter socket, f. water-resistant, heavy-duty carrying case with internal foam padding, g. spare parts, fuses, etc., and a basic volt-meter with spare rechargeable batteries, and h. A small battery charger that could operate off of the main system, and that could recharge AA, AAA, and CR123 batteries.
The completed system weighed approximately 26 pounds. Due to the limitations on the total weight of the system, and, therefore, the size of the battery, Powerenz recommended that WFR purchase a small, energy-efficient movie projector that used LED or fluorescent lighting, rather than a more traditional inefficient, excessive heat-producing, incandescent or halogen projector. Lithium battery chemistry was chosen over lead acid in order to reduce the weight, and increase the operational life significantly. A lightweight, foldable, portable solar panel was chosen over the traditional aluminum-framed, tempered-glass, roof-type solar panel to reduce both weight and dimensions, though the cost increased significantly. Based on the power draw specs of the DVD player and projector, two 2-hour movies or other videos, documentaries, and educational videos could be shown every evening using the power system. During the hours of daylight, assuming a location could be found that has good unobstructed sunshine, the power system battery could be recharged from empty to full in 7-8 hours, and be ready for the next evening’s presentations. In the event of rain and/or poor sunshine that lasted an entire day, the battery stored enough energy to operate for 2 consecutive evenings in the absence of recharging. This was satisfactory to the group.
Five months later, the children of the village watched their first ever movie by Walt Disney, The Jungle Book, of course. Members of the Mission were able to translate as needed. There are similar small villages in the Rain Forest, more remote, and harder to get to than this village. Once the performance of the portable solar charger and panel have been perfected, perhaps WFR will venture to another village and bring along his silent source of electricity with him.