Archive for Wednesday, March 4, 2009

City rolls out solar panels on ambulance in order to save a few bucks

Terry Eaton installs a new solar panel on a Lawrence city ambulance. The solar panel will allow the ambulance's electronic systems to receive power without the engine running, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Terry Eaton installs a new solar panel on a Lawrence city ambulance. The solar panel will allow the ambulance's electronic systems to receive power without the engine running, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

March 4, 2009

Advertisement

City installing solar panels on emergency vehicles

The City of Lawrence is installing solar panels on some emergency vehicles. Enlarge video

Lawrence is trying to make emergency-response vehicles a bit more green.

“Citywide we’re trying to save money,” said Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Division Chief Bill Stark.

After analyzing costs, city officials decided solar panels would reduce expenses. Stark said emergency vehicles use a lot of energy because they must idle at the scene of incidents.

Two ambulances and two fire trucks will get the panels. The first kit was installed on an ambulance Wednesday morning. The city purchased an 80-watt solar panel for each vehicle for $500 each.

Steve Stewart, the city's fleet manager, said he hopes the panels pay for themselves in 24 months.

“Right now if we have a vehicle that’s, say, out on inspection, if you leave the turn signals on or the radios going, it will run the battery down pretty quickly.” Stewart said. “That puts a lot of extra load on the alternator to recharge the batteries and, consequently, uses more fuel.”

Other communities have tried putting solar panels on emergency vehicles — with inconclusive results.

“We decided we would go ahead and start our own database,” Stewart said. “We could determine quicker whether or not this was going to be something we wanted to expand and do on more vehicles.”

Comments

imastinker 6 years, 1 month ago

You have got to be kidding me!

1) 12v electrical loads on emergency vehicles are a lot more than 80 watts. More like 800 watts, maybe more.

2) What happens when the sun isn't out (like at night)?

3) They spent money on this, with at best a two year payback, when the budget is already stressed? They shouldn't be looking at things that take more than about a year to pay back. After things get better, a two year payback isn't too bad.

LogicMan 6 years, 1 month ago

"What happens when the sun isn't out (like at night)?"

Or the many hours sitting-at-wait in the garages.

It shall be interesting to hear their experiences with these items.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 1 month ago

Solar panels on a vehicle can trickle-charge the battery, that's about it.

Bud Stagg 6 years, 1 month ago

That is about as smart as putting a wind turbine on it so they can generate electricity when speeding through the streets.

thebigspoon 6 years, 1 month ago

Well here we go again.... The city of Lawrence should not be wasting time on solar panel installed vehicles! That's what the private sector is for, after they get a huge gov. grant in order to do the study correctly.

Newell_Post 6 years, 1 month ago

80 watts is a joke. That is a trickle charger, at best. Not something to keep lights and radios running with the engine off. They wasted money, not saved it.

spankyandcranky 6 years, 1 month ago

They wouldn't be doing this if they thought it wouldn't save money. The article, as usual, isn't very informative. There is probably some substantial information left out of the article that brought them to the conclusion that the panels would pay for themselves in two years. And the cost of gas will most likely rise over that time period, wheras the already installed panels do not incur any further cost. I'm glad they took the initiative to try to do something positive that wasn't very costly -- compared to other city projects we've been reading about recently. But I would like more specific information about the eficiency of the solar panels.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

Come on, spanky, you're spoiling a perfectly good chance for pointless and uninformed whining.

Mike Blur 6 years, 1 month ago

Jeez, do right wingers ever have any fun? I just came in from a walk. It's a nice day outside, pry yourselves away from ljworld.com, go get some fresh air (a little breezy out there) and try to smile for once!

Right-wingers can be such a drag.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 1 month ago

Pointing out the foibles of the greenies is fun.

imastinker 6 years, 1 month ago

I'd like for mike Blur or bozo to tell me why I'm wrong. 80 watts is less than 6 amps at 13.8 volts. Most truck alternators can put out at least 40 amps at idle, and emergency vehicles often have to take steps to increase even that number, like raising the idle.

So they won't idle the trucks with them, they won't do anything on cloudy days or nights, and they won't charge when sitting in the barn. Theoretically, they will assist the alternator, easing the fuel useage under normal conditions, but I'd expect that even with the emergency vehicles fuel use, it will be a negligible amount.

It's another case of useless spending to save the environment (which it won't do).

Danimal 6 years, 1 month ago

Dumbest thing ever, can you even power a toaster with 80 watts? Not only nighttime, but we get a lot of rain here, and have quite a few cloudy days. That money would have been better spent so many other places.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"I'd like for mike Blur or bozo to tell me why I'm wrong."

I don't know if you're right or wrong. As has already been pointed out, there isn't enough information in the article to make that determination.

But to be useful, the solar panels don't need to have the same output as the alternator. All they need to do is supply enough power to extend the life of the batteries enough that idling the engine isn't necessary. I would assume that in some circumstances in which the electrically powered equipment is used for extended periods of time, the solar panels will not be fully adequate, and the diesel or gasoline engines will still need to be restarted and run for a while to recharge the batteries, but not continuously as is now the case.

imastinker 6 years, 1 month ago

I actually do think there is enough information there - but for someone who doesn't, you had no trouble forming an opinion that we are uninformed and cranky!

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

It would be cheaper and easier and more reliable to mount a secondary alternator on the vehicle with a second deep cycle battery. This is the setup used in RVs and boats.

The maximum angle above the horizon right now occurs at local noon. This angle is about 45 degrees. Cosine of 45 degrees is about .71. Thus, the 80 watt panel will supply about 57 watts of power to the battery at local noon. All other times of the day are less. In December, the angle is less than 30 degrees and the available power is less than 40 watts. This is true unless the solar panels track the sun. Roof mounted solar panels that track the sun are expensive and large, negating any green benefit.

However, if you see an ambulance traveling down the road, tilted at 45 degree angle, you'll know that a "green" engineer designed it for the sensitive types* in Lawrence.

  • People who confuse thought and feelings. Example is a person who feels good about solar panels on trucks, but doesn't know a watt from a joule from a jewel.

FreshAirFanatic 6 years, 1 month ago

imastinker...

I'm curious. What types of improvements should they be making that only take a year to payoff?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"* People who confuse thought and feelings."

Another example is any poster who immediately has a negative reaction upon encountering "solar" or "wind" in connection with "energy."

Of which there are numerous examples on this thread.

Chris Ogle 6 years, 1 month ago

Watts the big deal.... it's only money By the way, DC is a little different than AC. Also, voltage matters, and that wasn't mentioned. Too many variables leads to confusion on wattage. Storage devices vary too. Hell, just plug the damn things in and forget it. .

compmd 6 years, 1 month ago

80 watts is plenty of power for what they said they wanted. It is more than sufficient to run a VHF radio, and the lights that the ambulances are equipped with.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence never fails to bring the lolz. Seriously, is there a pseudo-progressive project on which the city won't spend money?

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

headlamps: 50 watts Flashing spinning blue and red lamps: 100 watts VHF radio: 40 watts Interior lights: 75 watts

"80 watts is plenty of power for what they said they wanted. It is more than sufficient to run a VHF radio, and the lights that the ambulances are equipped with."

Priceless

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 1 month ago

"Other communities have tried putting solar panels on emergency vehicles — with inconclusive results."

Translation: They probably just wasted $500 per vehicle. I cannot believe our city leaders. They spent $500 per vehicle so they can appear green. All for show. What an embarrassment.

I challenge ANY tree-hugger to justify with numbers why it made sense to spend this money! Oh, and don't forget the environmental impact of making those silicon and plastic panels. Smoke and mirrors. What an embarrassment.

Sigmund 6 years, 1 month ago

Totally useless or they would have published the specific assumptions and efficiencies. It's the hopey changey visiony thingy. To add insult to injure the solar panels were probably made in China.

Newell_Post 6 years, 1 month ago

The only way these things will save a few bucks is if they frighten off large deer.

compmd 6 years, 1 month ago

headlamps: 50 watts Flashing spinning blue and red lamps: 100 watts VHF radio: 40 watts Interior lights: 75 watts

Lawrence isn't big enough to need 40W radios. That's WAY more power than is necessary to cover the city. It doesn't take much effort to get over a mile range with just 1W, even at higher frequencies.

Nowhere in the article does it say anything about headlamps, "Flashing spinning blue and red lamps," or interior lights. Thanks for adding something that had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Also, I'm pretty sure Lawrence is using LEDs now for the turnsignals, which consume considerably less power per candela than their incandescent brethren.

RedwoodCoast 6 years, 1 month ago

I worked all summer using a small solar panel to run the laptop computer and total station for an archaeological project. We had a marine battery for back-up, but the solar panel was sufficient to keep us going.

I'm with bozo here; any time the words wind or solar are used to describe a source of electrical energy, people tend to "mistake feelings for thoughts"--meaning that the ill will that they have towards "sensitive types in Lawrence" becomes the primary determinant in their opinion on the issue. Even if the panel produced 800W in optimal conditions, I'm sure people on here would be talking about how dumb those "sensitive people" must be for acting upon the feel-good effect.

"Feelings, nothing more than feelings..."

igby 6 years, 1 month ago

But these units are parked inside all the time. What are they thinking with?

Chris Ogle 6 years, 1 month ago

To the Ambulance people: If I ever need a ride, please leave it running.... I will pay extra

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 1 month ago

"I worked all summer using a small solar panel to run the laptop computer and total station for an archaeological project."

You're comparing a LAPTOP's power drain to the power needs of an ambulance? Your laptop required about as much power as a couple of flashlights. Apples and oranges. You should hold your "feelings for thoughts" comments until your "thoughts" make more sense.

I reiterate: what is the carbon footprint of manufacturing one such panel? You probably don't want to know.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm not what you'd call a "tree hugger". But that doesn't mean I lack sense. If someone could prove the benefits of this, I'd say "Hooray for the smart people in city hall!" But right now, this looks like a lot of lame political correctness that's costing money at a time when commission candidates are pretty much telling us "I'll raise your sales taxes".

To all special interest people: Special interests always carry a cost. We are freaking BROKE! Put aside your zeal for [INSERT PET INTEREST HERE] for a year or two so we can restore some sanity. This is not just being directed at the green crowd, this is for everyone.

What are willing to pay for empty buses, unfunded social programs and a $12 minimum wage? 14% sales taxes and retail prices so high we all have to drive to Topeka to buy socks?

Andrew Boyd 6 years, 1 month ago

It is funny to me. In this town people throw a fit when the earth is not being treated in the correct way. Then when the city trys a way to help the earth and try and cut down the coast of replacing a battery (which by the way i looked up is over 150 dollars per battery and that is a cheap one) all you you yocals throw an even bigger fit. get over it and do you job instead of spending your time on here. Mabey the fact that you are spending so much time on here i because you are in a position at your job that dosen't keep you busy, and mabey that position should be eliminated and cosolidated in this rough market.

gphawk89 6 years, 1 month ago

$500 worth of gasoline, at today’s prices, should produce about 32 billion Joules of energy. These solar panels would have to sit in direct sunlight 24 hours per day for over 10 years to produce that much energy. They should have just bought more gas.

imastinker 6 years, 1 month ago

gphawk - these are all diesel which have more btu's per gallon (130k vs 90k). They are also about 25% efficient at best when idling. Not sure if you included that in your calculations, but I don't disagree with your conclusion.

gphawk89 6 years, 1 month ago

No, I didn't include efficiencies in my calculations. Or the diesel factor. Both are good points. But if you factor in a 25% "efficiency" for the sun, which is pretty generous considering angles of incidence, clouds, seasons, etc, you still get the 10 year minimum figure. All I'm really trying to say is that the money would probably be better spend elsewhere.

Newell_Post 6 years, 1 month ago

Solar panels are good for many things, but this is not one of them. I used to have solar panels on my sailboat. They did a great job of trickle-charging the deep-cycle marine battery while sitting at the dock all day. With the battery unhooked, they could run the radio and the fan, but that was about it. Fan and running lights at the same time? Nope.

This is a good technology mis-applied in the case of these ambulances.

LA_Ex 6 years, 1 month ago

Kudos to the fire department. Better to at least try something. I'm all for any opportunity to reduce the emissions from idling trucks, I understand the fact that there will be limited times for the panels to really be useful, but still, when they are it will be worth it. Some people will complain about anything, these are also usually the people that know the least about the subject for which they are complaining. The fact remains, the city is trying to do something to reduce the amount of fuel used and to reduce the amount of CO emissions. That is more than can be said about the bulk of the people posting in this thread.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

It should also be repeated that this is a trial run. The city didn't equip every fire truck and ambulance with these solar panels. They did it to three.

And while there are many self-proclaimed experts here, there must be some indication that this may be effective. Devobrun, in particular, should be applauding, because they aren't doing computer simulations-- they're doing tests that will give results even he can believe.

kansasfire911 6 years, 1 month ago

I swear some of you people would win 1 million in the lottery and gripe and complain that its not 2 million. First off most firetrucks have goten away from rotorays and rotating lights and went to LED which does not suck that much energy. Second, at least for the department I'm on, we do not shut down the lights, or the apparatus on an emergency scene. Third, when the rig is in the "barn" or station, it is pluged into a shore line to keep the battery charged. When you shut off an apparatus your turning the battery off. Fourth, the solar panals will act as a shore line when the apparatus is either at an inspection or on the training ground so that they don't keep them idleing or the FAO (fire apparatus operator) doesn't have to run out every thiry minutes to start the rig.

matix 6 years, 1 month ago

Come on ya big meanies. It doesn't have to work or even be necessary. It just has to FEEL good :)

RedwoodCoast 6 years, 1 month ago

Hey, I was only saying that solar panels are not worthless as some on here have asserted. And with that feelings and thoughts comment, I was being dialectic with devobrun's comment. Basically, my post has more to do with hippie-haters posing as objective observers than it does anything else I may have said. And I'm really not sure why some people feel the need for nasty behavior on these threads.

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

LA-Ex: "The fact remains, the city is trying to do something to reduce the amount of fuel used and to reduce the amount of CO emissions."

Wrong. The city is trying to appease people who haven't a clue regarding physics, but care deeply about the physical world.

If you care deeply about the physical world, learn physics. Short of that, shut up. Not mathematically inclined? Look up: http://muller.lbl.gov/teaching/Physics10/PffP_textbook_F08/PffP-01-energy-F08.htm and read it.

Now, look up : http://www.sunforceproducts.com/popup.asp?image=%2Fprodinfo%2Fimages%2F80wchart.jpg

This is the specification page for our panels. First note the spec of watts per hour and the spec for watts per week. They have confused watts in these specs for joules! A watt is a joule per second. A watt per second is nonsense.
They say that peak power occurs at a 15 volt output and 4.67 amperes of load. 15 times 4.67 is 70 watts, not 80 watts.

You know, I could address each of the other specs in the data sheet, but ......what the heck, this isn't engineering. This is all about LA-Ex feeling good about himself (herself).

Flimflam and specmanship and your feelings don't count in engineering.

Note to newspaper people: Learn a little physics, especially about energy. Track down the specs on the units mounted to our vehicles and ask pertinent questions. You can't just interview firefighters anymore about their views regarding "green" technology or their views on the performance of the solar panels they are installing. They fight fires. They don't know anything about joules of solar energy. They shouldn't have to, but you should.

Indeed, I challenge all of you who browse these boards regarding energy to read the link above carefully. Commit to understanding all of the material regarding energy from Dr. Muller, or your favorite other physicist.

I am pretty confident that you will feel better about yourself and your opinions and you will become more (appropriately) skeptical of non-experts espousing technology they don't understand.

In summary, this is an article about people who don't understand the technology they are using. It is written by a person who cannot ask the pertinent questions or cannot evaluate the answers to those questions. The answers about the technology are available online, but are nonsense from the manufacturer. Proud of yourself LJW and the city of Lawrence?

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

yes bozo, but only to those who feel patronized.

justaverage 6 years, 1 month ago

Plug the ambulance into some of the losers posting on this thread and run it on hot air and BS! It is nice outside, time to turn off this freaking computer and enjoy the nice day! Peace...

gphawk89 6 years, 1 month ago

"Kudos to the fire department. Better to at least try something."

Even better to put five minutes of thought into it before wasting a couple thousand dollars of taxpayer's money.

james bush 6 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like we're paying $500 for a back-up battery.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"yes bozo, but only to those who feel patronized."

Which in your mind appears to mean anybody who ever disagrees with you.

kansasfire911 6 years, 1 month ago

etfrfgvrfbvgbvrqriofhdn;v <<<beating head on the keyboard to stop the pain. Glad I moved out of Larryville the land of I'm right and your wrong.

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

kansasfire911: To what planet did you move where "I'm right and you're wrong" isn't the reason to write into a blog?

Furthermore, who writes into the blogs on your planet, and what do they say and why do they say it?

Please answer, I'm politely curious.

kansasfire911 6 years, 1 month ago

Devo- It just seems that most people on these blogs are right and have the right decision for the city. If that was the case then why don't some of these people that have all the answers run for city council. My advise is start with a little game called Sim City. Now I don't doubt your expertise in the electrical engineering field and I'm sure that the equipment that draws power you mentioned in one of your previous post is correct, however the solar panels are not going to run the equipment. My department is also looking into solar panels for our rigs and I have mixed feelings. Mainly because the money could be used for other things like better equipment for us.

I think I do have the answer: We can have carts that have a steamer on it, pulled by horses, a bell and a spotted dog to clear the path. Oh wait the horse poop will have to be taxed.

devobrun 6 years, 1 month ago

kansasfire911: Clearly, I am not a politician. Politicians run for office. Here is a pertinent request which is way short of being a politician:

Green, alternative,and new technology should be evaluated on the basis of energy (measure in joules). If the energy expected from the item does not exceed the energy used to build, install, and operate the item, quit. Don't do it.

This is a simple idea. You require more out than you have to put in. Not in $. In joules, the measurement of work, the measurement of energy. Energy companies could be set up whose job, on a contract basis, is to evaluate the technology on the basis of an energy budget.

There you have it. I am a 56 y.o. PhD electrical engineer. Open for suggestions. Got some money? Got some political clout? Want to buck the prevailing orthodoxy? Want the city and the county and the state, and the feds to start requiring energy budgets of new technologies?

I know a bunch of engineers and physicists who think that climate science is crap. They're looking for a real job. Is there a payback? Who benefits and how do they benefit? I need a business plan with marketing, sales, engineering, finance, monetary budgeting and a lot of guts. Wanna take on Al Gore? Wanna take on all the lockstep liberals that haunt these blogs? Wanna take on the messiah his own seff, the anointed one?

Show me the money. I don't do politics.

I need the Donald Trump of energy, and it ain't T. Boone. My guess is that there really isn't any money in any of this. The smart money knows this and wouldn't want to be associated with real energy for any reason. All the alternatives are presently bogus. Everybody who knows stuff about the physics knows this. Wishful thinking is all we have. Will any of the alternatives pan out? Maybe, but not right now. None of them work. Should we continue to do research on these alternatives? Yes. But be honest about their performance.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.