Solar System in an Oil Barrel? Reimagining Solar Harvesting
Solar harvesting takes many forms, but Italian company Barrel’s solution is truly unique. This article will examine the need for portable solar and how Barrel poses a solution.
For many, going 100% green means eliminating all dependencies on fossil fuels – not just some. While options exist for enabling green energy residentially, there is still a need for green energy in remote and isolated locations considered off-grid.
A rendering of the Barrel solution plus solar panel. Image used courtesy of Barrel
To this end, there is a growing need for portable solar solutions that can be transported and installed wherever needed. Specifically, there is a need for portable energy storage solutions which can store charge from solar panels for long-term use in such locations.
To solve this problem, the company Barrel has developed a unique solution.
The Need for Portable Solar
While solar is mostly deployed sedentarily (such as on roofs or in large farms), there is a growing need for portable solar solutions.
In isolated regions, for example, the infrastructure for conventional power sources like the electricity grids often doesn't exist. This lack of access leaves these regions underdeveloped and negatively impacts the quality of life for inhabitants. Portable solar solutions can fill this gap, providing power for essential needs like lighting, communication devices, and basic appliances.
The existing power infrastructure can be severely damaged during emergencies, such as natural disasters or humanitarian crises. In these situations, people in crisis are left without power, limiting their options for help and safety. Here, portable solar solutions can be a lifeline for enabling emergency lighting, communication devices, medical equipment, and other essential services.
Recreationally, locations like beaches and campsites stand to benefit from portable solar solutions as well.
Barrel: High-Level Concept
When it comes to achieving portable solar, the real challenge isn’t necessarily the panels themselves but more so, how to store their output. To address the need for portable solar solutions and specifically solar storage, Barrel has come up with a solution.
Their solution is a portable energy storage solution that lives inside of a barrel. Essentially, the company has found a way to retrofit oil barrels to contain an array of batteries that can be hooked up directly to solar panels. The barrel is a portable unit and can be moved easily to any location that requires off-grid energy.
Barrel can be charged by solar panels or from the grid. Image used courtesy of Barrel
According to the company, the system can be charged by solar panels or a conventional grid interface. Once charged, users can tap the energy from Barrel through an EPS interface to power a microgrid.
Barrel: Tech Specs
Notable about the Barrel solution is the technical specs it can offer users.
The device works with a 5.6 kW inverter and 3.55 kWh LiFePO4 batteries, which has a usable DoD of 80%. The system takes input from either a grid network or up to 6 kWp installable photovoltaic cells and provides an output voltage of 230 VAC. The device supports an output surge power of 5600 VA, a 91-94% peak efficiency, and a no-load power consumption of < 40 W.
The battery system consists of 48 V batteries, an integrated BMS system, a peak discharge of 100 A (15 seconds), a reserve capacity of 120 min at 25 A, and a design life of 10 years. The system also notably comes with Bluetooth monitoring for tracking system performance, such as state of charge, voltage, current, and temperature.
From a physical design perspective, the Barrel weighs 48 kg, comes in a 590 mm x 590 mm x 590 mm form factor, is designed to operate in temperatures from -10 degrees C to 50 degrees C, and can withstand relative humidity up to 95%.
Ironically, the Barrel storage system is not meant to be exposed to direct sunlight.