There's a lot of small detailed steps to this setup, but most are common things you'd be doing with each component individually.. ie: setting up Linux on the beaglebone.. connecting solar to batteries, through the charge controller. This is all basic 101 stuff with these components. The real unique aspect of all this is the combination of these elements. We'll try to describe some of the nuance here. 


Solar Setup

There's an amazing application called, "‚ÄčThe Photographers Ephemeris". If your project requires sunlight, this app is a must. Its free for desktop download. Basically, it combines sun and moon position, with a calendar, and google maps. You search an address, then slide the controls to the time of year, and time of day. For this project, what we discovered is there's a tall building that will cast a shadow on the panels for certain crucial parts of the year. To accomodate this, the solar panels were doubled in size, batteries too. This allows us to get through the tough times of year, where there's little sunlight. 

There's also lots of solar calculators out there for figuring out panel/battery sizes. I called Mikey Skylar, a homesteading friend who walked me through buying the right gear from BackWoods Solar. The staff at Backwoods was great, easy to work with. 

One thing we learned: be absolutely sure you've got fuses between the battery and the electronics. Right away we were blowing fuses; we think peak-power on startup for some of the components wasn't properly rated. Pop goes another fuse.. But, upping' the amp on the blade-fuses fixed this. 


Measuring Power

The setup has a small form factor computer, ‚ÄčBeaglebone, which polls the batteries, and uploads the data periodically, giving us a nice little chart. For this, we used a site called xively.com. The Beaglebone is wired up to the batteries, using a small voltage controller to step down the power. This has allowed 


Camera

This is a weak point of this setup. The camera is an IP network camera, not a true photography camera. The iQeye's we use are actually pretty awesome for a security camera, but nothing special when compared to a photography camera. I'm much more used to the quality of the Powershots, using CHDK. The problem with these is that, if you loose power, the camera isn't going to come back on without touching it. And, to save power, this setup runs with a digital timer, cutting the power every night, flipping it back on every morning. So a Powershot wasn't going to work. The iQeye's have an easy to use setup, better than most network cameras I've tried. And, with two years' worth of images captured, there's a lot of recombining of frames to increase the quality (frame blending). 


All together now

The cheapest, easiest way to store batteries outdoors is with a cooler. This allows them to stay running through cold weather, and keeps them insulated. The cooler isn't necessarily waterproof though, so be sure to run a bead of silicon sealant along the edge of the lid. This setup has weathered at least one hurricane. The only time it died was when the power during hurricane Sandy was cut, as the 4G towers died. OUR setup actually kept going for almost two days in the powerless lower Manhattan area! It would have KEPT going if the Clear towers' batteries had solar power on them. But, their UPS's died after a couple days.