Bummed. Had this big idea to do solar-powered, Mac-based web hosting. On first conversation with an employee at Sun Light and Power, it had sounded like I could power a G4 with a single 120W panel, a $50 RV battery, and a $60 RV inverter. I borrowed the Watts Up to measure actual consumption and went back to Solar Dude with my numbers today.
The server, with LCD monitor, DSL modem and router draws 162 watts constant (8.67 kwh in 57.5 hrs). Assuming fixed-position panels on a South-facing roof in the East Bay, figure around 4.5 hours/day of usable sunlight. So I would need six 160w panels to keep the batteries charged day and night, not one. The panels run $500-$600 each. Comparing against our electric bill, it turns out that if the system had required one panel, it would have paid for itself in four years (tax rebates don’t apply unless you do grid-tie (sell your electricity back to the utility)). I was willing to bite off four years in exchange for the customer draw of solar-powered web hosting. But unless solar panels start falling from the sky (gently), it’s not going to happen. Panels make electricity out of thin air and are therefore pure gold. That’s also why there is virtually no used market for them.
Turns out you can get up and running with wind energy for about half the price of solar, although I’m not going to try and do that in a rental. And those stories about windmills killing so many birds on the Altamont Pass? Wives’ tales, apparently. Solar Dude says there have only been two confirmed bird kills there.
Question for the electrical geniuses — Solar Dude said it seemed like my server was drawing a lot of power. For comparison, we plugged his 1.8 GHz Pentium into the Watts Up and it drew 80w. So if the PowerPC is so energy efficient, why is my single PPC 867MHz drawing nearly twice what a Pentium draws (albeit with LCD in sleep mode, modem and router)? Of course the setup cost would still be huge even if I went x86.
Anyway, fossil-fueled birdhouse hosting is now up and running with a small handful of customers. Bring it on. Not giving up on the idea… maybe I need to write a grant for free panels or something.