The Don Rowe Blog
Power Inverters—Helping To Study Elephants
Power inverters—they make the world go ‘round’ in so many ways! NASA uses power inverters on board their manned spacecraft so that complex, on-site equipment that is AC-dependent is fully functional for astronauts. Families on camping trips pack mobile power inverters in order to use coffee pots, DVD players and cell phones. Power inverters are a huge necessity for the U.S. Military, as well. One example involves vests and backpacks embedded with miniature power inverters that help supply AC energy—via small, implanted solar panels–so that portable electronics, designed for military reconnaissance, are operational anywhere. The potential for power inverter usage is virtually endless!
There is one application for power inverters that takes us to southern Africa. Here, scientists from Stanford University transformed a remote pocket of land in the Etosha National Park in Namibia into a high-tech research camp, run entirely by solar power. The electricity was made useable by none other than portable power inverters which allowed the DC energy from the solar panels to be changed into useable AC electricity. The staff’s videotaping and photography gear, heating equipment for meals, etc. were all AC-reliant; and the research camp ran seamlessly thanks to the predictably sunny days, mobile solar panels and power inverters which made it all happen!
Power Inverters Made It So Easy!
These American scientists were given a rare opportunity to observe, videotape and photograph the indigenous wild elephants, where their societal behaviors unfolded in the quiet of the surroundings—no generators, no other people, no interrupting noise, no nothing—just raw nature.
Lead researcher, Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell stated: “One of the really special aspects of solar energy is that is allows us to be in this incredibly remote area that is closed to tourists and is completely free of the electric grid. In addition to powering our basic equipment, our solar panels and power inverters work in tandem to provide enough electricity to successfully operate a powerful speaker system that delivers low-frequency sounds to elephants gathered at the main watering hole—these are sounds elephants can feel and even interpret via their sensitive trunks and feet. We were even able to run a makeshift elephant dung lab and power two 12-volt refrigerators stocked with fresh meat, dairy products and yes, even beer.”
Intruders Kept At Bay:
Again, thanks to the sun, solar panels and a couple power inverters, editing equipment for a documentary crew ran seamlessly. Perhaps even more importantly was the protective fence that was constructed around the perimeter of the campsite. Keep in mind, wild animals abound in the Etosha National Park, including lions and hyenas. On one occasion, a lion made an attempt to enter the encampment, but thanks to the electrified solar-powered fence, the lion’s touching the fence was a one-time attempt. A hyena had a similar experience and quickly left the area. Electricity was, no doubt, responsible for proactively avoiding any dangerous encroachment of unwanted ‘guests’.
Staying In Touch With Colleagues:
The Stanford team stayed connected with colleagues and the New York Times via the wonders of the Internet. At the end of the researchers’ 3-month stay, the electrical systems were dismantled and the crew left for home with plans to resume their elephant study again, pending an approved grant. “Basically”, continued researcher Caitlin, “all of our high-tech electronics were run off a couple of solar panels, a couple of batteries and a couple of inverters.”
Power inverters—oh the things we can accomplish because of them!