FLAGSTAFF, AZ – How do you power a film production in the Grand Canyon, where there aren’t any power outlets? The conventional answer may be to use a generator, but generators are loud and require fuel and other care to keep them happy. So instead of dealing with all of that noise, we opted to make a smaller version of the ‘Cleopatra,’ the solar production boat that was used on the 21-day BBC operation Grand Canyon project. For this trip, I designed and built a frame that would mount on the back of a J rig and hold a bunch of Goal Zero Rigid Solar Panels. After determining what our power needs would be, Harlan and I decided on a frame that would hold six solar Goal Zero Boulder 90-watt panels. I hopped into Solidworks and came up with this:
Solidworks model of the solar panel frame to check for fitment and clearance of the panels.
Once the design was finalized, the real work began. We ordered over 125 feet of aluminum extrusions to make the frame, supports, and mounting brackets. After cutting, and machining all of the parts for the actual frame, I started sticking things together. My friend Kenny came over to help me out, and to play with the TIG welder – a second set of hands is invaluable when it comes to getting something square.
Checking the fit of a single Boulder 90 solar panel after tack-welding the frame.
My good friend Kenny came over to play with the TIG welder and help me stick this thing together.
Arc time. TIG welding is an art and a science, and something I really enjoy doing.
Weld detail. Not bad for not having struck a TIG arc in 5 years.
Gusseting the mounting socket for the frame supports.
The finished frame. Ready for installation on the AzRA J rig.
The completed solar frame and Lil’cleo ready to head up to Lee’s Ferry.
The four solar panels installed on the frame fed two Goal Zero Yeti 1250 solar generators, that each had an expanded deep cycle battery tied into them. We also had two of Goal Zero’s 100 watt Nomad Panels that we could unfold to supplement our charging capacity.
Lil’cleo in the water at Lee’s Ferry, all ready to go.
All in all, the system worked brilliantly, we had power for days, and were able to run absolutely everything that we needed. A huge thanks to Goal Zero, Harlan Taney, Fred Thevenin, Jason Nackard, Kenny Schipper, Bethany de Alva, and Justin Clifton for making this project come together.