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A renewable energy powered Storj farm

In this guide we will briefly explore the various ways one can build a Storj farm powered with renewable energy. Furthermore we will walk through the process of setting up a single node Storj farm powered by a solar panel.

1. Introduction

We will start this text with some environmental and natural history. Mankind has been burning fossil fuels since long before the industrial revolution, which could easily be re-equilibrated by the Earth’s natural carbon cycle. Although the start of the industrial revolutions during the 1760’s allowed the modernization of humanity, it also brought a large number of problems which are still present today and have only gotten worse. Coal, Gas and Oil have brought us this far but it will not bring us any further, in contrary to what large fossil fuel companies want you to believe. As a byproducts of fossil fuel burning and human activity in general the Earth’s natural cycles have been thrown off-balance and their buffering effects are starting to fail. The enhanced greenhouse effect caused by fossil fuel burring has promoted a runaway greenhouse effect that causes something that is called a climate tipping point (CPT). Tipping points are moments in time where a specific disturbance in Earth’s climate will be irreversible and will set-off a chain of reactions with catastrophic consequences for our planet and the life on it. Although the debate on when exactly the tipping point will occur (some believe we already passed the tipping point) is subject to debate, the trajectory is clear. As the long-wave infrared radiation is trapped by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, not only does the surface of the earth and the atmosphere increase in temperature, the temperature of the oceans also increases. This is causing acidification of the oceans which will lead to massive coral extinction and weakening of the thermohaline circulation which causes ocean currents to weaken or even stop. The direct consequence of this is the shift and destruction of the climates which is already causing droughts across the world, leading to extensive loss of human life mainly in the African continent. Our greed for electrical power is destroying the planet we live on, killing not only human but also countless other biological life.
Fossil fuels have taken us this far but will not take us any further.
In this technological age we have the resources and means to revert the degradation of our planet and ensure a sustainable future for new generations. This is the moral responsibility of every human being on this planet.
You might ask yourself what this has to do with Storj, it has everything to do with Storj. The business model of Storj is not increasing pollution, it’s optimizing our energy expenses so that every bit of energy is utilized and not wasted, essentially making us more energy efficient. But what does it really mean to have a distributed network? , it allows us to decide our own footprint on the world and puts the responsibility of ensuring a sustainable future in our hands and not in those of a company. We will only be able to blame ourselves.

2. The road to sustainable Storj farming

With renewable energy hardware costs falling very rapidly, the entry barrier to becoming a sustainable farmer is very low. Even in metropolitan areas it should be easy to become a sustainable farmer.
Hardware for Solar, Hydroelectric, Wind, and Thermoelectric energy can be bought online very easily at low costs. With an extensive number of DIY guides and tutorials on the internet concerning setting up theses small-scale renewable systems, the knowledge barriers is completely non-existent.

  • Renting out hard-drive space is extremely efficient in the sense that not much energy is wasted by say electrical conversion into heat.

Most renewable systems involve the following components:

  1. Solar: Solar panel -> fuse and breaker -> shunt -> change controller -> fuse -> Battery -> fuse -> under voltage protector -> inverter or stepdown + voltage regulator/filter -> Storj farm.

  2. Hydro: hydroelectric generator -> Fuse, Stop switch and breaker -> Shunt -> PWN charge controller and dump-load -> Battery-> fuse -> under-voltage protector -> inverter or stepdown + voltage regulator/filter -> Storj farm.

  3. Wind: Wind turbine > Fuse, Stop switch and breaker -> Shunt -> PWN charge controller and dump-load -> Battery-> fuse -> under-voltage protector ->inverter or stepdown + voltage regulator/filter -> Storj farm.

  4. Thermoelectric: Thermoelectric seebeck modules -> step-up voltage regulator -> Fuse -> Shunt -> charge controller -> Battery-> fuse -> under-voltage protector ->inverter or stepdown + voltage regulator/filter -> Storj farm.

2.1 Power consumption

First let’s look at some power consumption numbers for hardware a farmer would use:

Hardware
Continuous consumption
Peak consumption

Raspberry Pi 3

3.5-5W, 5V

2.5W, 5V

8TB HDD - 3.5” (e.g. WD Red or Seagate IronWolf)

7-9W, 12V

24W (startup)

Table 1. Power consumption for basic farmer hardware.

There are a few important things to consider here, namely:

  • A 3.5” HDD consumes most power at startup to start the spinning of the drive, this peak power quickly falls down to 7-9W once the drives is up to speed.

  • Although the continuous power consumption of running a node on a Pi3 hovers around 3.5-5W, the HDD also consumes about 1-3W of power from the USB.

We should now sum-up the usage for both devices to get an estimate total power consumption. For margin purposes it is wise to sum the upper limits of the continuous consumption.

  • Pi (5W) + HDD USB power consumption (3W) + 3.5” HDD (9W) = 17W.

Note: we are not taking in account the loss of power by stepdown converters and inverters not being 100% energy efficient.

Note: We need both 5V (Pi and HDD) and a 12V (HDD) power supplies.

2.2. Battery size and selection

Now that we know that in order to run a Storj farm using a Raspberry Pi 3 with an 8TB 3.5” HDD the continuous power consumption will be around 17W we should find an appropriate battery size for our system. It is at this point that things begin to get a bit complicated, this is why:

  • Battery capacity necessary will depend on the average amount of sunlight per day through the entire year. These variables will depend on your geographical location and climate.

For example, in certain desert like regions it might only be completely cloudy for a few hours, while in northern Europe it might be completely cloud for an entire month during the winter. The following assumption is very important:

  • If for your geographical it can be completely cloudy for (x)-days, the battery should be big enough to support the Storj farm for those (x) days.

DOD: Stands for “Depth of discharge” in percentage (0-100%), the higher the DOD the more the battery is discharged and the shorter its lifespan will be. Having a DOD of 20-30% would be ideal for maximum battery lifespan.

We will now have to do the following math to calculate the size of the battery:

  • 17W x ((x) continues hours of no sunlight) = (y) W

    (e.g. 17 W * 48h = 816W)

We now have to choose the appropriate battery size, we will be using a 12V battery as it is closest to the nominal voltage we will need.

  • ( ()y) W / 12V) = (z) Ah battery

    (e.g. (816W / 12V) = 68Ah battery.)

So if for your specific geographical location it can be continuously cloudy for 2x consecutive days, you will need at least a 68Ah battery at 12V, for comparison, a 12V car Lead-acid battery is about 40-60Ah.

Please note: If you were to run the node on this 68Ah battery for 48 hours, the DOD would be 100% and the battery would be completely flat, which is something you would never want to do. This also means that if there is no sun for 12h the DOD will be 50% as it will use up 50% of the battery’s charge, which is acceptable.

2.2.1. My required battery size would be huge and super expensive!

In the case that the battery size required would be very large, which would make the investment very large you have the following options:

  1. During long periods with no or little sun, charge the battery with a grid-tied (AC – 12V inverter).

  2. If you are in (1) A region where a water stream is present with a head of at least a few meters or (2) You have allot of wind during the cloudy days, a small-scale wind or hydroelectric turbine might be a viable option.

  3. If you have a wood/gas stove, building a small thermoelectric generator with seebeck modules might be a very viable option.

Note: If you go the wind/hydro generator direction you will need a bridge-rectifier right after the turbine (if the turbine does not already have one), this converts the 3-phase AC from the turbine into single phase DC. You will also require a separate PWM (pulse width modulation) charge controller (e.g. Xantrex C40) just for the turbine with a dump-load attached (normally a water heating resistor that can handle 50% more power than the turbine can produce).

All of the points above allow you to reduce the size of the battery, so say you have enough wind for a wind-turbine to function continuously you might only need a battery that can support the load of the farmer for 24 hours. If you don’t have any possibilities to install a wind or hydroelectric generator using a simple AC to 12V DC inverter to charge the battery during long periods of cloudiness would be the best and cheapest option, then during the summer you wouldn’t need to charge the battery at all due to the long periods of Sun. These inverters can be bought very cheaply online (e.g. 120-220V AC - 12V DC).

Alternatively there are hybrid charge controller available that have two power input sources, Solar and utility (e.g. MPP Solar). These charge controllers allows one to set priority charging during day/night. So for example during the day it uses the energy from the solar panels to charge the battery and during the night it uses energy from the grid. This system is only applicable if one wants to setup large scale power systems.

Please note that if one decides to go the route described in the points above it is still advisable to be able to run the farm just on the battery for 24 hours. This would require at least a 34Ah battery (e.g. Deep Cycle UPS battery).

2.2.2. Which battery to buy

This decision purely depends on your budget.

  • As cheap as possible -> buy a (x)/Ah Lead-acid battery like the one in your car (starter battery).

  • I have a little bit of money -> buy a (x)/Ah “Deep Cycle AGM” or UPS lead-acid battery like the one they have in golf cars.

  • I have all the money in the world -> either buy a ready-made LiFePO4 (Lithium Phosphor) system or build a DIY style Powerwall using 18650 cells (e.g. Panasonic NCR18650B 3350mAh - 6.7A). Both require an expensive BMS (battery monitoring system) and under voltage/overvoltage cutoff protectors.

Warning: If you go beyond the ‘Low Budget’ system Lead-acid batteries described this guide or want to scale the system, ALWAYS do your research and preferentially seek help and guidance from an electrical engineer. Lithium batteries are especially sensitive and are a fire hazard if treated the wrong way.

Warning: If you go beyond small (>200Ah) Lead-acid battery systems or want to scale, always do your research and preferentially seek help and guidance from an electrical engineer. Lithium batteries are especially sensitive and are a fire hazard if treated the wrong way.

2.3. Charge controller

To be able to charge the batteries it is necessary to use a charge controller which regulates the electrical flow from the power source (e.g. solar panel) to the battery. The main purpose of a charge controller is to regulate the charge rate (C) and max, bulk and float voltages. There exist two main charge controller categories on the market, namely Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and pulse-width modulation (PWM). MPPT charges are more efficient but also more expensive. Lithium battery systems require a more in depth tracking and balancing across the cells, requiring a BMS (Battery monitoring system).

2.3.1. Solar power charge controller

Low budget
Medium Budget
High budget

Battery type

Starter Lead-acid battery

Deep-cycle lead-acid battery

Lithium Battery’s

Charge controller
For solar system only

PWN charge controller,
e.g. Charger Controller

PWM/MPPT charge controller,
e.g. Charge controller

BMS (includes over-and-under voltage protector),
e.g. SBMS120

Estimate charge controller price

6-7$

20-300$

300- 1000$

Table 2. Solar charge controller budget.

Note: It is also advisable to add some fuses and disconnect switches to the system, mainly between the power source (e.g. Solar panel) and the charge controller and between the load and the battery. The fuse rating should be just below the maximum capacity the charge controller can handle and below the maximum acceptable battery load.

Note: You always want the charge controller to be able to handle at least 30-40% more voltage and current than the solar panel can provide.

2.3.2. Solar and Hydroelectric/Wind-turbine charge controller

In the case you want to add a Wind/hydro turbine you will need a new extra PWM charge controller with dump-load functionality, e.g. the Xantrex C40. The charge controller and dump-load selection will depend on the current and voltage the turbine can provide. You always want the charge controller to be able to handle at least 30-50% more current and voltage than the turbine provides, this because wind and hydro systems can provide peak current during startup. As in figure 2.1 a dump-load should be attached to the charge controller at all time to be able to divert the excess electricity and thus prevent overcharging the battery. The dump-load should consume at least 40-50% more than that turbine can provide. Also vital is a circuit breaker and a fuse for both the positive and ground wires. The fuse should always get triggered once the current and voltage reaches the limit the charge controller can handle. A “Disconnect switch” should also be added for safety reasons. Also vital is a stop switch which shorts the positive and negative terminals to stop the turbine from spinning.

Warning: If a fuse blows while a wind or hydro turbine is running it can spin out of control which can completely destroy the turbine. Although most small-scale wind-turbines have a limiter in the form of an internal resistor, self-made hydroelectric systems for example do not have this system. I have seen spoons fly off-of a hydro-turbine a pierce through a concrete wall as a ballistic object. In the case the turbine does not regulate itself adding a resistor directly on the main power line coming from turbine is the best option. Most turbines specify an operation RPM which can be used to calculate the size of the resistor.

2.4. Solar Panel

  • The Solar panel should be big enough to be able to charge the battery within a single day of sunshine, this means that for a 34Ah battery we need at least a 100W solar panel, here is how you do the math:

    ((battery Ah) (voltage))/ (Solar panel power) = hours of sun needed.*

  • Hours of sun needed to fully charge the batteries should be below 3-4 hours.

Luckily Solar panels are very cheap if you buy them in the right place, in country’s such as China solar panels can be bought for a mere 0.2-0.3$/W. In Europe and the US a good buying price of a solar panel lies around 0.5-0.7$/W.

  • This would put a 100W solar panel at around 20-70$

The larger the battery bank, the larger the solar panel should be. You could also consider putting multiple identical solar panels in parallel (sums the current but the voltage remains the same).

2.5. Hydroelectric/Wind-turbines

Hydroelectric and wind turbines are the ideal way to buffer the renewable energy system when there is no sun. These systems scale from something that fits in your hand and can produce 5-10W to something that can power and entire city. Small hydropower systems such as illustrated in the image below allows one to start small and test the functionality of these type of systems before scaling to something bigger (Figure 2.3).

*Figure 2.2. 10W 12V micro-hydro turbine.*

Figure 2.2. 10W 12V micro-hydro turbine.

*Figure 2.3. 1Kw Powerspout Pelton turbine.*

Figure 2.3. 1Kw Powerspout Pelton turbine.

In places where there is no source of water and an elevation difference, a wind-turbine will be a good option. Wind-turbines can be installed practically everywhere, from a roof-top to a back-yard or even outside of a window. As with Hydroelectric systems wind-turbines vary in scale and output power. I always suggest to start small (50-200W) turbine and scale up later when one acquired the necessary knowledge for running and maintaining a wind-turbine. Places such as ebay sell extensive amounts of these hardware systems.

2.6. Thermoelectric generator

Thermoelectric generators work by creating a current from a difference in temperature. This can be accomplished by using thermocouples in a components called a seebeck module. Basically it functions by heating one face of the module and cooling the opposite face. This temperature difference allows and promotes electrons to migrate from the hot-side to (high energy and unstable) to the cold side (low energy and stable). This electron migration creates a difference in potential and electrical current that can be harnessed.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of thermoelectric modules.

Advantages Disadvantages
Small and quiet Expensive (1-5$/W)
Almost no maintenance Fragile
Easy to setup Requires a temperature difference

Table 3. Advantages and disadvantages of a thermoelectric generator.

The main problem is the heat-source. During the day this can be the sun by for example focusing the sunlight into one spot with mirrors and then cooling the opposite side with a heat-sink or preferentially with water. This system is also ideal for people that have either wood or gas stoves (not renewable). These modules can also cool hot electrical systems and thus convert some of the thermal dissipated energy back into electrical energy.

Figure 2.1. Simplified diagram of a renewable energy system.

Figure 2.1. Simplified diagram of a renewable energy system.

3. Shopping and assembly

In the sections above you should have obtained a general understanding on the possibilities renewable systems can offer to become a sustainable and energy efficient farmer and the basic things one has to understand about these type of systems. At this point there are two ways to go, if you want to start right from the get-go with a large system make an appointment with an electrical engineer and discuss your plans so that a system design can be made. If you want to start out small and do things yourself it is time to start shopping!
In this chapter we will only look at the basic setup for those who want to setup everything themselves for experimentation purposes.

3.1. Getting all the required components

3.1.1. Battery

You have followed the previous chapters, you know how large your 12V lead-acid battery (deep cycle or not) should be. The battery and the Solar panel are the two thigs you have to get right, the rest are only peripherals.

Say you want to buy a 120Ah deep-cycle Lead-acid battery, the best way is just to do a quick ebay search.

This battery would allow us to run a Storj farm with a Pi and an 8TB disk for 3.5 days continuously without needing to recharge the battery. This is long enough to compensate for some cloudy days.

3.1.2. Battery charge controller and Backup AC charger

Now we have to buy the charge controller and a backup charger.

  • The backup charger can be bought here for 20$.
  • The main charger can be bought here for 22$.
*Figure 3.2.Solar Charge controller.*

Figure 3.2.Solar Charge controller.

This charge controller allows us to directly power the raspberry Pi and HDD by using both USB and DC outputs. Please do not use only 1x of the USB outputs, this will not be enough, it should be 2x USB -> 1x micro USB.

3.1.3. Cables

We need the following cables:

  1. 2x 2.1x5.5mm Male to Female DC cable, which can be bought here and a 2.1x5.5mm Male-Male adapter which can be bought here.

    • Internal diameter of the connector: 2.1--2.5mm (0.1 inch) -> positive
    • External diameter of the connector: 5.5mm (0.21 inch) -> negative
  2. 2x USB male to 1x micro-USB to power the Pi, which can be bought here.

  3. Solar extension cable, see chapter 4.2.
  4. 2-3m standard 110-220V electrical cable with 2-3 internal wires.
  5. USB 3.0 - SATA, which can be bought here.
  6. Network/LAN cable to connect to the router (x m)
  7. Battery Charger Crocodile Clips, which can be bought here.

3.1.4. Raspberry Pi and HDD

You are going to need a Raspberry Pi 3 and a 3.5” HDD, these can be bought practically everywhere.

3.1.5. Solar Panel

The best place to buy a solar panels is different for everyone. The rule of thumb is usually to purchase the panel as closet to your location as possible as shipping costs for solar panels can be very expensive. For people living in Europe you might want to check out ev-power.eu.

3.1.6. Optional

It will be handy to mount all the electronics to the wall by screwing each of the electronic components (except battery) to a wooden square board. This board can then be mounted to the wall or placed flat on a table. This way everything will be neatly organized.

3.1.7. Extra hardware and tools

  • Screw-drivers
  • knife
  • Electrical cable cutter
  • Electrical cable stripper
  • Heat shrink
  • Electrical tape (liquid electrical tape is awesome).
  • Multi-meter.
  • Soldering iron (optional).
  • pliers

4. Logistics and planning

We can now assemble our very own renewable energy Storj farming system. The first thing that we have to do is spatial planning.

4.1. Spatial Planning

This is the most important step of all. Depending on your location, you have to ensure the following:

  1. The battery and other electronics like the charge controller are stored in a cool ambient temperature environment with low humidity.
  2. These electronics are stored in a place where they are not a fire-hazard, for example on a concrete floor without any flammable materials close-by.

Now that you know where you are going to place the electronics you will have to determine the location of the solar panel. Preferentially the Solar panel should catch as much sunlight as possible during the day, which means that is some places you might have to incline the solar panel or even place it a bit outside of the house to prevent any shading. If you live in say an apartment in the city, placing the solar panel in a window where you get the most sunlight during the day is the best option.
Note that if you if the solar panel is exposed to the elements care should be taken to not allow water to come between two terminals.

4.2. Cable length between solar panel and charge controller

You can now measure how much electrical cable you need to have in order to connect the solar panel to the charge controller. After measuring the length you need you can order the electrical cables, e.g. here.

Note that that you (1) will need a positive and negative cable and (2) you should always buy 2-3m extra cable.

5. Building the Solar farming system

Now that you have all the components and know where you want to place everything you can start assembly.

We can now do the following steps in order:

5.1. Battery – charge controller

  1. Place a piece of cardboard as big as the base of the battery on the floor and place the battery on top of this.

  2. Mount the charge controller to a fixed position close to the battery (1-2m away), preferentially mount it at viewing-height to the wall above the battery.

  3. Now take the standard electrical cable (not the solar extension cable) and strip the outer enclosure off with a knife or cable stripper on one end for 15 cm. This will expose the inner wires which are also covered with a plastic enclosure.

  4. Now strip two of these wires (preferentially red (positive) and black (negative)) to 0.5 -1 cm to expose the metal cores. This is necessary to ensure electrical contact between the charge controller terminals and the cable.

  5. If the electrical cable has 3x cores be sure to cut one of the wires off close to the external insulation enclosure so that it won’t be a short circuit hazard.

  6. Now gently unscrew the “battery terminals” on the charge controller (central two screws, see schematic below) so that the metal section of the electrical cable fits inside of the charge controller terminal. Do this for both the (+) and (-).

  7. Now introduce the red cable with the stripped core into the (+) battery terminal of the charge controller and tighten the screw so that the positive wire is help firmly in place by the charge controller’s terminal. Do the same thing for the negative (-) terminal.

  8. Now the electrical cable should be connected to the charge controller from one end.

  9. Next we have to strip the outer insulation enclosure from the other end of this cable. This time strip away 50-60 cm (careful not to accidently cut into the inner wires). Use a knife for this.

  10. Now cut-off the same wire you removed in step (5) so that only 2x wires remain (positive and negative).

  11. Stripe-off the enclosure of the two remaining wires for 1-2 cm to expose the metal core of the wires.

  12. Now get the “Battery Charger Crocodile Clips”, sort them by the correct color for the correct wire and remove the rubber material from one of the handles of both Clips.

  13. Place the rubber part from the handle over the positive and negative wires, slide them upwards a 20 centimeter.

  14. You will see that you can fit each of the stripped metal wire cores inside of the hole of each of the handles, now take some pliers and compress the ring of the handle so that it traps the metal wire inside. Make sure there is no movement of the cable possible within the handle and that there is a good metal-metal connection between the metal core of the electrical cable and the crocodile clip. Do this for the positive and negative cores.

  15. Slide the rubber part of the handle back on.

  16. If you have a multimeter at hand measure the sound-mode resistance between the alligator clip and the charge controller terminal. So (+) to (+), (-) to (-). If both cables have a good contact the resistance should be almost none and the multimeter should beep.

  17. Also measure the resistance between the positive and negative crocodile clips, the multimeter should not beep (no contact).

  18. Now comes the moment of truth, clip the positive crocodile clip to the positive battery terminal and the negative clip to the negative terminal.

  19. If all goes well there should be no sparks and the charge controller should get power, click on the “orange power button” on the charge controller to turn it ON. It should now turn on and display the current voltage information of the battery.

At this point we have to charge controller connected to the battery.

5.2. Solar Panel – Charge controller

  1. Place the solar panel(s) on the desired location, and if necessary attach the solar extension cables to extend the cable range so that it reach the charge controller.

  2. After you placed the solar panel bring the positive and negative cables from the solar panel to the charge controller.

  3. Now cover the solar panel with a blanked so that it does not get any sun, this is done for safety reasons.

  4. Next cut-off the connectors from the solar panel cables at the charge controller end one at a time and strip the wires 1-2 cm so that the metal core is exposed.

  5. Now mount the positive (+) and negative (-) cables in the “solar panel terminals” of the charge controller (two most left terminals), see schematic below. Be sure not to mix the positive with the negative wires!

  6. Once you screw the cables in place be sure to not let them touch any other of the terminals,also be careful with your screw-driver, it can easily act as a shorting instrument.

  7. Watch what the charge controller does, if nothing happens (no sparks), you should be good. To be sure you can measure the voltage and resistance between the terminals so that you can get a good idea if you didn’t reverse-polarize any of the wires.

  8. Now slowly take off the blanked from the solar panel a few centimeter and watch what happens, if everything is ok the charge controller should say it is charging (input current) and the battery voltage should slowly rise. There should be no sparks or burned smell. If a spark occurs make sure to immediately cover the solar panel again.

Now you are all done with the difficult electronics!

You can also hook-up the backup charger already if you want to charge the battery to full capacity before you apply a load to it, which is healthy for the battery.

5.3. Farming Hardware setup

  1. You can now connect the dual-USB to micro-USB cable from the charge controller to the Raspberry Pi.

  2. Next connect the SATA-USB 3.0 adapter to the HDD and plug the USB 3.0 cable into the Pi 3.

  3. Now taken the (2x) 2.1x5.5mm Male to Female DC cable and plug the 2.1x5.5mm Male-Male adapter into the female dual cable. So it will be 2x male -> 1x male.

  4. Plug the dual male cables into the charge controller and the single male connector into the SATA-USB adapter, this will power the 3.5” HDD.

  5. Now attach a LAN cable to the Pi and boot it!

You are all done on the hardware side, your solar panel should now charge the battery during day-time and the Pi will run off-of this renewable electricity.

If you have any doubts about any of the steps above please join our community, we will help you to solve and issues you are having.

5.4. Software setup

Please have a look at the following links which explain how to setup the raspberry Pi 3 to run a single Storj Share node:

If you have any software setup questions please join our community where we will answer any of your questions.

5.5. A few tips

  1. Monitor the voltage of the battery within the first few hours-days to check if the voltage stays above 12.0-12.2V, if it drops below this even when there is lots of sun either the battery or the solar panel isn’t big enough or there are allot of overcast days, in that case attach the backup charger to charge the battery to full capacity once it starts reaching the 12.2V mark.

  2. You can always add more solar panels and batteries later and place them in parallel, however note that the charge controller has a maximum current rating so you also have to scale the charge controller.

  3. Always keep a fire extinguisher at hand and a smoke alarm in the room is always handy.

  4. The solar panel can get covered by dust after a while, be sure to clean it with a cloth every once in a while.

  5. Look-out for corrosion/oxidation, after a certain amount of time the battery terminals can start to corrode, polishing the terminals with some sand-paper when extensive oxidation starts to occur is the best way to retain maximum electrical contact.

  6. Do regular inspections on your hardware, both for security and monitoring purposes.

  7. Track the life-span of your battery, once the battery starts getting old it won’t be able to hold a charge for very long and you will see it becoming empty more often than normal. The life-span of the battery largely depends on the depth of discharge (DOD) and the number of cycles. The life-span of Lead-acid batteries is usually around 3-6 years.

  8. Make sure all cables in the system are correctly fixated so that they don’t disconnect accidently.

  9. Never power-ON the Pi when the HDD doesn’t have 12V power.

  10. You can always add a few small fuses to the system to make it more safe, this is especially vital if you want to scale the system to a higher capacity (e.g. to run more nodes).

  11. If you are very keep you can also power your router using this setup, most routers require between 5-12V and thus can be powered directly from the battery using a simple DC-DC variable stepdown.

*Figure 5.1. Schematic diagram of a single-node solar farming setup.*

Figure 5.1. Schematic diagram of a single-node solar farming setup.

6. Grid-tied systems

The systems described in the previous chapters are intended to be self-sufficient. The disadvantage of these self-sufficient systems is that the hardware investment required is more extensive due to the necessity for batteries to store the electricity. Generally attaching solar panels to the grid through a grid-inverter can be considering as cheating because during the electrical deficit periods at night the energy is produced mostly from non-renewable sources (e.g. gas, coal and nuclear). Tesla for example neatly solved this problem by allowing users with solar panels to install a Powerwall in their homes which is attached to the grid and only uses the grid when really necessary (same principle as the backup charger discussed earlier). Although not cheap, this solution is very attractive due to its simplicity and relatively low cost. Although overall grid-tied systems are less expensive in the short term, they might be expensive in the long term because (1) The grid inverters are expensive, (2) you never get back the same amount of free electricity as you pump into the grid during the day. The utilities company has to make a profit from your electricity. Many utility providers have different electricity prices through the day. It is highly advisable to consult on you utility’s company policy on adding solar panels to compile an overview on feasibility. Also very important to note is that if one decides to buy the solar panels directly from the utilities company, the panels can be much overpriced.
One can also build a hybrid system using the Powerwall principle, a charge controller only charges the battery using the grid when there is no solar energy input. There are a variety of charge controllers than combine solar and utility that allow to set priority charge modes. These smart systems are for example a must if one wants to run an entire house on this system, which otherwise would require investments of tens of thousands of dollars on batteries. The options are endless!

7. Conclusion

We looked at the global environmental problems we are faced with, we then briefly discussed the consequences of these problems to biological life in the present and in the future. We then looked at how to counteract the degradation of our planet by constructing renewable energy systems to be become a sustainable Storj farmer. We analyzed the different type of green energy systems and how to implement them. Finally we used the knowledge obtained to construct out very own sustainable solar Storj farm step by step. The possibilities are endless, we all have the power and moral obligation to move towards a better future.

We would love to hear from you, all suggestions, comments, questions or criticisms are welcome! The Storj network only exists thanks to people like you and we are very grateful for that.

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A renewable energy powered Storj farm

In this guide we will briefly explore the various ways one can build a Storj farm powered with renewable energy. Furthermore we will walk through the process of setting up a single node Storj farm powered by a solar panel.