Battery Box Final Roundup

Next Steps:

I’m planning on continuing with this project. Right now the most obvious thing to do is to design a new box that’s easier to assemble and more water resistant. I think that can be done by using vinyl or duct tape rather than traditional box-making methods.

Then writing and testing directions, both through direct user testing and submitting versions to instructables. I like the idea of putting together a PDF with directions and simple illustrations that can be printed out in color or in black and white. Eventually it would be great to make an instructional video.

Finally, thinking more about it something like a kit would probably be valuable as well I know that Window Farms started as a DIY project, but really gained traction when they Kickstarted a kit you could buy.

Battery Box

Photo Apr 12, 8 19 28 PMExternal

Case – Custom 3-ply corrugated cardboard box. Cardboard is strong, easy to use, and basically free. It’s something that can be scrounged easily and you only need a box cutter and PVA (Elmer’s) glue to work with it. It can also be sealed with polyurethane or any outdoor paint, if desired.

Solar Plugs – MC4 connectors. Instead of wiring the solar panel directly into the box, we’ll use standard MC4 connectors. Most 100W solar panels are sold with MC4’s attached. Including them complicates the build a little bit, but complies with industry standard.

Inverter – This is external to the box, but necessary. Inverters that would be appropriate for this build can range from $25-$400, depending on type and tolerances. It’s better to educate people about the different kinds of inverters and allow them to buy the one that meets their needs the best rather than recommend one and hard wire it into the system.

Solar Panel – I have a 25W panel for demonstration purposes, but this system can take up to a 200W solar system.

Misc – Velcro to keep the box closed, waterproofing if desired.


Battery – 2 12V 35Ah sealed Deep Cycle batteries. Wired in series this will produce 70Ah. This should be enough energy storage for running a small mini fridge, or something along the lines of a sleep apnea machine. Of course it is also suitable for phones, laptops, tablets, and other small electronics. Downside, it will be quite heavy. But, there’s no way around that with lead acid batteries.

Charge Controller – This keeps the batteries from damaging the solar panel when they’re full. The particular model also allows you to see how full the batteries are, when their charging, and you can program it with charge timing.

12V Cigarette Car Lighter Port – This is included instead of wiring the inverter into the box directly. Having a port allows more customization. Folks can buy an inverter that meets their needs without changing the project build. Also, allows access to direct DC power if needed.

Fuse & Fuse Holder – This protects the box’s electronics from a surge in the inverter, or whatever is plugged into it.

Misc – 10 Gauge wire for connecting everything up, round terminals for the wires, butt connectors to connect the fuse inline.


Xacto Knife or Box Cutter

Adjustable Wrench









These articles tickle me because I’ve spent a great deal of time this semester learning about the reaches and wonders of space. I’ve spent whole evenings in the Hayden Planetarium looking at visualizations of the known universe, but these articles about the bacteria living in my gut are what has made me feel small.

They really give me a sense of how little we know about the world we live in. For all the understanding we do have, there are millions upon millions of things that we don’t. Right now it seems like the best thing you can do, is just to do your best. Try to limit how many resources you consume and the amount of trash you produce. Encourage diversity in all areas of life. Be nice to people. Smile more. Because no matter what, there’s an entire world that we don’t even know about effecting our lives. The earth seems too complex for us to control, or to fix at all. Maybe all we can do is try our hardest, and let the rest sort itself out.


Energy Storage

It seems like energy storage, aka batteries, is the weakest link in large scale renewable energy adoption at the moment. Current solutions are expensive and dangerous. While there has been some exciting news recently with Arpa-E’s announcement about their research breakthroughs, it seems like there is still a long way to go.

My research has left me wondering:

What are the challenges facing large scale energy storage nationally? What about in NYC specifically

Is funding a main issue?

What are the challenges of energy infrastructure in NYC?

What are the pitfalls of current battery types and systems?

How is the NYC energy grid vulnerable to and resistant to disruptions?

I’m hoping that NYU professor Zivan Zabar of the Engineering Dept can help me answer these questions.


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Seeing is Forgetting

That’s the difference between being a West Coast artist and a European. A European artist really believed in himself as part of the historical tradition, that archive…Obviously, you think what you do is important, or you wouldn’t be pursuing it with the kind of intensity you do. But the minute I start thinking about making gestures about my historical role, I mean, I can’t do it, I have to start laughing, because there’s a certain humor in that.

It has taken me a long time to realize I don’t have to make art that engages with the artistic canon. Growing up it was natural to go to the museum and draw the statues. College was more of the same. Your work wasn’t anything if you didn’t know what came before you, if you didn’t know what everyone else was up to, if you weren’t reading the theory. That made a lot of sense to me, so I sunk into the history of art and writing about it. I engaged in ‘the discourse’. But, I think in the end it starved my projects of life. I made work that seemed ‘right’ and ‘good’, but burned out on it. I found that while I took great joy in fabricating the work, the pieces were somehow dead.

I stopped making things for a while after that. And I started to think that maybe I didn’t have it in me to be an artist, or a creator, or whatever it is that we do. That thought made me sad, but it passed. Eventually though, I realized that not making things was making me, not unhappy, but numb.
So now I try and make things again. But I try to keep a blind eye to ‘the discourse’ and ‘the canon’ (at least, compared to before, I can’t seem to stop loving to argue about art). I’m trying to focus on things that are fun, or funny. Things that will help people I can see around me in my neighborhood, or people I know. It feels so much better to think of every object as an iteration or experiment and to be free of any place in history or expectation of it.

Preliminary Short Project Proposal

A photo of mine of a solar charging system from Namibia.
A photo of mine of a solar charging system from Namibia.

There’s already a quick and, relatively, low cost way to setup a solar charging system in the home, but online step by step directions are fairly terrible:

I propose to build solar battery charging system, to write/record clear instructions, and to put them on instructables for people to find.

This would:

  1. Make existing information easier to find, so people can build their own and iterate on the idea.
  2. Make it easier to introduce energy diversity into a household.
  3. Provide the opportunity to create a new sexy gadget for consumers. (Assuming I can make my system super nice looking and cool)

I think that we are still in the ‘priming the market’ phase of consumer energy diversity. In addition to efforts to diversify city energy consumption, asking for solar and wind from ConEd for instance, I think that there is value to bringing the change into the home. Ideas and changes make more sense when people can see and touch them every day.

Temporary Expert – Week 3 Readings


A very prescient set of guidelines, but again, ideas spread better when people can understand wtf you are talking about. Also, perhaps limiting yourself to academics and industrialists made sense at the time but now it seems overly ivory tower or, I guess, modernist. Maybe that’s what makes this reading seem so old. The framework good, but it assumes a top down solution rather than a omnidirectional solution, bottom-up/side-to-side/top-down, which is how things work now.

Concept Maps

I like concept maps very much, and have been using them to organize my ideas before I really knew what they were. However, I think that it’s extremely important go into them will defined questions or parameters. Otherwise the map ends up very messy.

For example:


Now, I don’t mean to say that didn’t find this exercise useful, but that chart could definitely be easier to read if it were more focused.

The End of the Shale Gale

Is fracking a solved problem?

The price of Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, has been dropping for a year. This is largely the result of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, though OPEC, to kill competition from the US ‘Shale Gale’ on the global oil market (though lower demand from China is also a factor). OPEC has increased their production with the goal of driving US producers our out of business. At first US companies appeared to be weathering the rough market, but the sustained low prices are finally taking their toll. 60 oil companies have filed for bankruptcy and energy consultant IHS Inc suggests that there are up to 150 more that may follow suit. This doesn’t erase the existence of the wells are drilled already, but it does mean that pumping them and drilling new wells is not economically viable.

In order to make sure that US shale energy doesn’t strongly re-enter the market OPEC will have to keep the price of Brent crude at $50-70 a barrel, which they seem completely willing to do for the foreseeable future.

What’s next?

Petroleum products are going to be the main source of global energy for the foreseeable future (you can’t run a cargo ship on batteries), but consumer patterns are changing. Uber and Tesla are going a long way to change how people think about car ownership and fuel consumption. From what we can see now, we are a long way from the end of oil, but the conceptual groundwork is clearly being laid for consumers. We’ve gotten so used to our phones and computers running on batteries, it’s not a big conceptual leap to running our cars and homes from them as well. When the technology is ready, consumers will be ready too.

Right now, one of the most important things to do is to create demand. Look at Tesla, they are creating high end luxury cars both because the technology is still expensive and because the want to make a product that is exclusive and desirable. The more they can make people want the cars while they are rare the better. Electric cars have become the sexy alternative.

What other ways are there to introduce different energy products and energy diversity into the consumer mindset, if not the market?

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