Houston, TX., 9/1/2005 — Thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans are bussed to refuge at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston Astrodome
The Prepper or Survivalist movement is not a new concept and has been around for at least 80-90 years. Many of us are familiar with the increased popularity of underground bunkers during the decades of the cold war as a means to survive nuclear explosions and the resultant widespread radiation. Preppers are individuals or groups who actively plan and make themselves ready for emergencies, both personal and widespread, including disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international, loss of jobs, being stranded in the wild or under adverse weather conditions, pandemics, changes in climate, shortages of water and food, natural disasters, financial disasters, and states of war. There is emphasis is on self-reliance, stockpiling supplies, and gaining survival knowledge and skills. There are prepper schools, clubs, and trade shows. Preppers acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures such as survival retreats or underground shelters that may help them endure a catastrophe. Preppers may acquire weapons to defend themselves and hunt, precious metals to use as currency, and various methods to produce electricity, for example portable solar, wind, and/or hydroelectric generators.
During the first peak of the Coronavirus outbreak in the Spring of 2020, KDR from a prepper networking group in the north Georgia mountains reached out to Powerenz for information about quality portable solar power systems. KDR used adjectives and descriptors such as rugged, durable, reliable, work first time – every time, efficient, lightweight, easy to carry by one person, easy and quick to set up and take down, long lasting, manufactured in the USA, solid customer service, and weather and water tolerant. Critical electronic devices that would be needed and used included communication radios, cell and satellite phones, flashlights and headlamps, emergency and weather radios, HAM radios, small coolers to store important medical supplies and medications, such as insulin and antibiotics, small battery chargers, handheld GPS, water filters and purifiers, night vision systems, a small water desalinator for those near the coast, small digital cameras, a radiation dosimeter, and perhaps a laptop computer.
In the north Georgia mountains, conditions of sunlight are variable, very good during the summer months, not great during the winter months, and somewhere in between during the spring and fall. On average, a few hours of good sunshine on most days could be expected to produce electricity using solar power. On the other hand, the presence of running streams or rivers at regular intervals makes hydroelectric sources of power very appealing, especially since they can generate power 24/7. In breezy or windy locations, small portable wind power plants would be useful, also 24/7.
Focusing on solar power, high-quality lightweight batteries, and durable efficient portable solar panels, Powerenz recommended a pair of the following systems to KDR to supply enough power for 12 persons. Two 75-watt solar panels, two 40 amp-hour lithium chemistry batteries, and the ability to deliver AC, DC, and USB power for all of the devices listed above made sense. Several small, lightweight, easily portable hydroelectric generators were added to the plan. On rainy and/or cloudy days when the solar contribution to power generation was minimal to nil, the hydroelectric products would continue to produce power 24/7 – enough to charge multiple small critical batteries. The systems are easy and quick to set up, efficient, lightweight enough to be carried easily from Point A to Point B, assembled using parts and components that are heavy duty and reliable, and are tolerant of water, snow, ice, bugs, and dust.
Powerenz scheduled a meeting with select members of the prepper group to provide education, instruction, and demonstration of how to use the systems. During the meeting, it was decided that it would be important to be able to troubleshoot the systems and perform repairs and/or replacement of critical components if necessary. To make that possible, a good electrical multimeter and rechargeable batteries would be provided with each system so that voltages, currents, and continuities could be measured as needed. A multimeter makes it possible to measure the performance of the solar panels and batteries at any time.
During a recent fall season get together, the group of 12 set up camp and tested the portable solar power systems and lightweight foldable solar panels. We were told that there was an excess of power, and that the systems performed extremely well.