Boondocking in Quartzsite Solar Notes

It’s the middle of January 2019, the sun is low on the horizon and we are dry camping about 10 miles north of Quartzsite, AZ on BLM land off Plumosa Rd.  We camped with quite a few others, hooking up with David Botts’ group.   Tuesday, the afternoon we arrived, was pouring down rain and the dips on Highway 95 were running rivers of muddy water.  When we saw that, I  knew we would be in for some fun pulling out into the muddy desert, and suspected the two washes we had to cross would be flowing pretty good.  You always have to wonder how deep they will be when they are full of water.   They weren’t too bad, but the next day I must admit, I had never seen the coach so dirty.   The skies cleared within a couple hours of us getting there and deploying the slides, carpet and chairs. 

The following morning turned out to be a gorgeous day, and amazingly each day afterward was very nice too.   Warm and sunny till we headed back to San Diego. 

On our first full day here, the panels put out a respectable 160 amp hours of power,  2.15KW.  Pretty phenomenal for 640W of panels lying flat on the roof of our RV in mid-January.   But as it turns out, only about 80 amp hours made it back into the batteries, and the other 80 or so amp hours produced were consumed real-time by the loads running in the coach during those 9+ hours of daylight.   We did get the batteries juiced back up to 87% SOC, so that was pretty decent, although not what I was looking for.    So It was time to set up the solar suitcase I built last spring to provide those extra 8 amps every hour the coach consumed during those 9+ hours.  Hopefully that will allow all the power being generated by the roof panels to go into the batteries. 

After building that solar suitcase last spring, I returned the small 15 amp controller and purchased a larger 50 amp model that would handle the load from 640 watts of panels.  Fast forward to now and I did not have a controller to use with those 200 watts of panels.   They run at a different voltage from the roof panels, precluding me from hooking them into that controller, meaning I had to go out and buy one before I could hook them up.   So that afternoon,  Friday, I drove around Quartzsite looking for a 15 amp controller that could handle the 44 volts my suitcase was wired to produce.   Discount Solar had nothing to work with that voltage, and Bill’s Solar had something they said would work for about $300.  I decided to wait till the show that was to start the next morning to search for a solution there. 

We hit the big show tent early Saturday morning, trying to get in and out prior to the crowds.   Parking there can be a real pain, but someone was pulling out of a spot as we were about to pass them, and we pulled right into that spot!  We wandered all around the tent and spotted a booth from which had a  Victron SmartSolar 75/15 controller on their table, and the cost was within a buck of what they cost on Amazon.   I bought that one.  And while I was paying for it, Chris’s girlfriend’s parents greeted us and we snapped this picture!!

Afterward we headed back to the coach to install it.  Turns out I didn’t have enough wire with me to complete the install, so I had to head back in to Quartzsite to a hardware store I had noticed on the way back to the coach that afternoon,  picked up a couple lengths of 10 gauge red-and-black wire.   

That allowed me to complete a temporary setup at around 4pm Saturday afternoon, a couple hours prior to sunset.   I could see that it would really help the situation tomorrow, our last full day prior to heading back to San Diego.   

Saturday night was the potluck dinner, and the band showed up before 7pm and started a few-hour gig.  They were fabulous as they had been last year.  The band is Notes from Neptune,.  They play the clubs in Phoenix. 

Sunday, our last day in the desert, was hazy with high clouds most of the day, lowering the amount of solar irradiation.  Thankfully the suitcase helped by adding another 5-8 amps of power all day long.   One note about using a suitcase is you need to remember to reposition them about every couple hours to point toward the sun as it moves across the sky.  It makes a fairly large difference in watt output each time you move it.  

Now we will need to wait till our dry camping adventure in Tucson during March to test again.  Should be a lot more solar power available by then. 

We saw this little fireplace while we were there.  It’s a wood burner and had a small adjustable blower fan in the orange box on the side to adjust the amount of heat being produced.   It was kind of clever.    This other device was hooked to David’s Komodo Joe cooker.   It was a temperature and WiFi enabled air blower that will keep the temperature you program for cooking in your KJ.  David was using it to smoke some ribs at right around 200 degrees.   Now that’s some slow cooking  🙂  

It’s now the middle of February and I finished the permanent controller installation for the suitcase this week.