Over the past three years, my friend and I developed a renewable energy system designed to provide power for the lights and devices to our Burning Man village, which typically has over a hundred people. We had several design requirements that makes this system unique.
First, it had to be modular. We had this requirement because we ship all of our things in 55 foot shipping containers that are equipped with scaffolding shelves, and our system standardized the bins to a 27 gallon black and yellow HDX bin. This makes it very easy to load and unload the container, and have space in the middle for non standard things, like bicycles, art projects, etc. So, to conform to that standard, and to make transport easy, we set up the energy system to work in a Lego© brick fashion using BRUTE© white bins, which are sturdy, the lid snaps on creating a weatherproof top and seal, and it can hold up to 170 pounds internally without cracking.
Because the system was put into bins, we made each component of the system a standalone "power brick" with just one function that we interconnect using Andersen connectors. This greatly simplified the system assembly and integration process. Instead of getting to the desert and attempting to deploy a random assortment of parts, we instead stacked the bricks on top of each other, and plugged in the Andersen connectors to connect the system.
This allowed for rapid debugging of the system while working in hazardous and less than ideal conditions. One thing we're always cognizant of is that our conditions are extreme. Whether it's heat, cold, or the numerous blinding dust storms that eat everything mechanical and electrical, or even personnel issues, the system is designed to endure and function through those conditions. The system, by virtue of the bin design, is also water proof and weather resistant.
The modular design also confers another characteristic, which is this system can take a hell of a physical beating. When we've received our shipping containers after their 3000 mile journey, we've often found things that fell off or down during the process, which means the container items are subject to multiple G's of force during the transport. Not once did this system come apart during shipping, either to or back from the desert.
The system is plug and play which makes it easier to train other people to deploy and use the system. They don't have to deal with a messy tangle of cables and parts. They just have to deal with the connectors and the front panel switches.
And finally, the system outputs AC. Our village covers at least a large area, so we need to transport electricity across large distances with minimal voltage drop.
After designing and testing this system for four years, with many iterations in between, we realized that we developed, for the budget, a rugged, reliable, fault tolerant, mobile, and modular energy system that can be used for emergency services for lights and devices for groups of people between 5 to 150, and possibly more.