Simple Off-Both-Grids Solar Computing Solution with the Viliv S10

I’ve just done an interview with the  HomeofSolarEnergy website which I guess will be posted soon. The best thing about it was that it got me unpacking my solar panel and thinking about a simple solar powered computing solution again.

Update: The Interview on Home Of Solar Energy is available here.

I mentioned the Viliv S10 in an article about solar-powered computers for 2010 and it turns out that it has the same 9.5v input as the Viliv X70 tablet. Having an input voltage below 12V is always an advantage and it’s even better when the X70 car adaptor works on the S10. I threw out the panel, connected it to the car adaptor and S10 and we’re away. I now have a 3G-capable, Windows 7 convertible netbook running directly from the sun.

S10-solar

I’ve added an extension cable and the S10 is now sitting on my desk with the solar panel outside. I’ll be giving this a long-term test to see how much sun is needed to get by when using 3G. I’m estimating that 5 sun hours will give me 10 hours of usage which means that, given we only have 4 full-sun hours per day and that cloud cover is guaranteed for 50% of the year, I will get about 4 hours per day out of the solution. It’s terribly inefficient to charge like this though. The S10 sucks just 2-3 7-10W when charging. The rest of the power produced by the panel is being wasted so I’ll put my lead-acid battery in-line to suck up the rest of the juice.

Advantages of the S10:

  • Built-in 3G, Wifi, Bluetooth
  • SSD (fast, silent, no spinning hard disk)
  • Convertible Touchscreen (for flexibility)
  • Ultra low power (10 hours on a 47wh battery that should charge in one sunny day)
  • Great keyboard, SD card slot
  • At 1.2KG, lightweight for a netbook
  • Because of car adaptor, doesn’t require intermediate regulator or battery.

Disadvantages

  • Hinge could be a weak point
  • No daylight screen (as on virtually every other device)
  • Relatively expensive compared to netbooks (Total solution, including solar panel, would cost about $1000)

I’m off on holiday next week but will do some testing when I get back in the first week of August. Note: Direct charging of PCs from solar panels without a regulator and buffer battery can damage your PC if not set-up and tested correctly.

  • turn.self.off

    cant wait for those ultra-capacitors, so that one can get rid of that lead-acid boat anchor.

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  • focus

    Mising the Pixel Qi display :)

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  • Claudia

    It occurred to me recently to see if I could use my powermonkey-eXplorer to recharge my Viliv S5. None of the adapters included with the kit fit the Viliv S5, but Powertraveller sells connector tips separately. They sent me a DC3.5 tip and it works!

    In preliminary testing, when the powermonkey is full charged, it can top up the S5 by about 30%. As you know, the battery meter on the S5 is a bit wonky — I’ve installed BatteryBar but it’s no more accurate; it could be that I’m missing the necessary .NET install but I don’t want to mess up my TIP install trying to solve the problem — but it looks like that gives me about an hour to an hour and a half of extra runtime.

    Now, I happen to have a spare battery for the S5 so that’s a more practical solution for day-to-day computing or long flights. But I already owned the powermonkey-eXplorer to use for my phone and MP3 player, so this is a nice bonus for camping trips when I’m well and truly off the grid — even a small top-up like this allows me to watch a couple of sitcoms or read half an ebook per charge, which is pretty cool :-)

  • Claudia

    Okay, I forgot to mention — and I’m sure you immediately thought of this — is that I’m guessing this solution might also work for the N5. Windows 7 doesn’t manage battery life as well as XP, but it’s still worth looking into for someone who occasionally goes totally off-the-grid and doesn’t have any sort of solar system and/or, like me, already owns a powermonkey-eXplorer.