Portable Solar Power for Filming the Snow Leopard



snow leopard on snow filled mountain top

The elusive snow leopard is a large spotted cat native to the remote mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. Because its numbers in the wild are less than 10,000, it is considered an endangered species. It inhabits elevations from 9,800 to 15,000 feet, ranging from eastern Afghanistan and the Himalayas to southern Siberia, Mongolia and western China, and the majority live in China. They prefer rocky, broken terrain, and can travel without difficulty in deep snow.

The snow leopard’s fur is thick, whitish to gray with black spots. Its height can be 22 inches, and it can weigh 49-121 pounds or more. Its large, broad paws distribute its body weight like snowshoes for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase their grip on steep and unstable surfaces. Its long and furry tail helps it to maintain balance in the rocky terrain, and provides it a blanket for sleeping at night.

    

Snow leopards are solitary animals. They are active mostly at dawn until early morning and again in afternoons and early evenings. They rest near cliffs and ridges that provide vantage points for hunting and shade. Their preferred prey are wild mountain sheep and goats, they prefer to ambush their prey from above, using broken terrain to conceal their approach, and they will actively pursue prey down steep mountainsides.

    

For the above reasons, the snow leopard is rarely seen and has earned the reputation of being a ghost.  SFR was determined to capture the ghost leopard on film using her power hungry Red Cinema Cameras.  SFR approached Powerenz for a portable solar power solution that could be hauled by her and her crew through the extreme mountainous regions of southern China and northern Nepal.  Her crew consists of 9 persons, all highly trained physically and skilled in extreme wilderness situations, and there would be pack mules to assist during the majority of the trip.  We were told that 100-150 pounds of power equipment was acceptable.  In addition to providing power for the battery chargers that would be used to recharge the batteries for the Red Cameras, we were asked to provide solar USB chargers for multiple cell phones and other lightweight USB devices.

After analyzing the electrical specs of the battery chargers and other smaller devices, it was estimated that the daily consumption of energy would be approximately 1000 – 1250 watt-hours, and that the peak AC power usage would be 250 watts. 90% or more of the power/energy would be used to recharge the Red Camera batteries. In most of the regions that would be traveled on this adventure, one could expect 4-5 hours of peak sunshine per day, though the weather could be unpredictable and there could be days with no good sunshine at all. Of course, it was not expected that much use of the cameras would be necessary since the snow leopard was so difficult to find. Much of the time would be spent gazing through binoculars and spotters, rather than Red Cameras.

    

Powerenz assembled three LFP40 Sling Pack portable solar power systems, each with a pair of 88-watt high-efficiency foldable solar panels.  The total combined storage of energy was 1536 watt-hours.  Each of the three systems included a 400-watt pure sine wave inverter that would be used to power up the Red Camera battery chargers.  The combined solar power was 88 watts x 6 = 528 watts which, in 4 hours of optimal sunshine, could produce 2112 watt-hours of energy and keep the batteries fully charged.  The total weight of the three systems was 130 pounds.  Included in each system was a pair of plug-in AC-USB adapters that could be used as solar USB chargers to recharge their iPhones.

One week from the moment that SFR confirmed that she wanted the systems, the three portable solar power systems were assembled, tested, and ready to dispatch. Fortunately for us, SFR arranged for her own shipping – the same shipping service that handles the groups’ expensive photography equipment. SFR and her group have been traveling for almost 2 months now, and they have reported to us that they have plenty of sunshine and power to operate their gear. We await our first video of the ghost leopard to place on our website.


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