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I need more power Scotty!
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

So apparently last night somebody spilled some Pepsi on a control panel or something and blacked out half of Southern California. My daughter, who lives in San Diego was telling me how dark it was. Awesome! Break out the telescopes!

"We can't cook anything", she complained. They drove for two hours to find a Denny's that was open, had power, and wasn't crowded with a million other people who couldn't figure out how to make food without electricity. Kids these days ;-)

So, this brings to mind my recent quest to cut the cord. At least the umbilical that is, to AC power when I'm imaging. I started hauling a Paramount ME with me to star parties last year and of course, "Do you have Power?" kept coming up. There are a lot of very dark places to sneak off to in Florida, and none of them have power. I'm also rather fond of one or two spots up in North Carolina and will drive up there to do imaging when I can get away with it. The problem with my NC spots is power can be hard to come by. One spot, I've yet to image from has no power, and I'm determined to do a night long run there soon. There's a sweet very dark sky spot in Florida I've heard about through the grape vine too, in a state park… no power.

So, I need portable power for my laptop, my camera, my dew control system, and finally the mount.

Well, it appears the world has standardized on 12V for most portable electronics, and portable 12V power is pretty easy to come by. Problem solved… well, almost. It appears the Paramounts run on 48V, not 12V like everyone else. Why? Well, because it's "better". There are all manner of electrical challenges and problems that just go away when you stop trying to make it all work on only 12V. I've found this to be true with at least two other 12V scopes I've used in the past. Both, from two major brands, seem to pretty much stop working reliably at all on battery power after they get a few years old. On AC, everything is peachy king. On battery… well, one of them acted like it was demon possessed. I've taken note that many mounts run better on 18v rather than 12v it appears too. Yeah, physics is physics, and no amount of wishful thinking or market demand is going to make 12V work for everything.

Well, back to my power problem. Four 12v batteries in series should do the trick. That, and a wheelbarrow. There's also the generator option. I live in Florida… I have TWO generators. So, there's the generator…. a wheelbarrow… then a couple of gallons of gas, some two stroke engine oil, and one of those big heavy computer UPS things for when the gas runs out or the generator just catches cold. Let's not forget the constant brgrgrgrgrgrgrg sound all night long, and the lovely smell of gas fumes and exhaust. That stuff gives me a headache.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a terrible solution? Sure, you and your buddies out camping, power to spare. You can even run a TV to watch the game, and run a coffee maker. Heck, why not put an air conditioner in your tent. Well, if I'm going to do that, I might as well have an RV (which I would not complain if someone would like to donate one!). I'm more of the…um… Toyota Corolla camper type camper, and I'm often by myself. Which means _I_ have to do and move everything, and I don't have a lot of room to spare. Given the option of NOT having power, it sounds great. But only great in the way that having your infected leg amputated rather than dying from septic sounds great.

When I got my prototype MX for testing, Steve also sent me one of our 5ah 48v batteries for evaluation (this was before we announced them). I call it the "blue battery" because inside that little black baggy thing, it's actually blue. It's an amazing battery, and it's based on some new battery technology, not the old school lithium ion stuff. At 5.5 lbs, it weighs less than the carrying case that has my eyepieces (yes, I do still occasionally use them). My son calls it a ZPM after a science fiction show we used to watch together. You could power a city with a ZPM for 100 years, and it would fit in your back pack.

My ZPM can power my Paramount MX or my Paramount ME for three nights worth of imaging. That's almost as impressive. I don't have anything that's battery powered that will run for three days. The technology is also very resistant to cold, but I haven't had a chance to put that to the test myself yet. I will soon though. 

Now, when I think about it… I have spare batteries for my laptop. I have a heavy duty battery to run my dew heater (or jump start my car if the need arises - LOL), and now I have a small battery to run the mount. I can even run my DLSR off the mount's 12V supply up on the versa plate, which is also being powered my ZPM. All together these batteries take up less space and weigh less than the gas to run a generator would. They smell better too.

Yeah… I'm thinking not. Read my lips…. 5.5 pounds. The size of my shaving case. Three nights power. Costs less than my best eye piece.

I'll take two please.

See you at PATS! Got some new hotness running on an iPad to show off!


Posted 09-09-2011 4:28 PM by Richard Wright


Ernie wrote re: I need more power Scotty!
on 09-09-2011 3:25 PM

By comparison I solved the power efficiency problem by using a 12V to 48V DC-DC converter.  When used with the 12V battery of my choice, it has better than 90% of the efficiency of a 48V battery and a much lower more palatable short term cost.  Long term I have no doubt the Software Bisque LiFePO4 battery wins hands down.

Richard Wright wrote re: I need more power Scotty!
on 09-09-2011 4:15 PM

Oh certainly a 12v to 48v converter is an option. Bear in mind that a 5ah 48v battery is like a 20ah 12v battery though. It's also much much lighter ;-)

If you only need to run for a couple of hours, your solution could work just fine. I suppose it depends on the size of your 12v power supply and how much your willing to carry around. I've seen a monster supply from Kendric that comes with wheels... it's also $900.00.


Ernie wrote re: I need more power Scotty!
on 09-09-2011 8:27 PM

Well, the batteries I'm using are 220AH and last for about three nights powering everything (including mount, camera, my power hungry laptop and my dew headers on full blast) when discharged to the 50% recommended depth of discharge level.  Three nights is about my grunge/comfort limit when camping, so that works out fairly well.  They were $75/each at the local Costco superstore with $30/each of that being a refundable core charge that I get back when I eventually return/exchange them.  In other words, very cheap, at least in the short term.  Yes, they are also most unfortunately quite heavy.  I'd would never buy that wonky Kendrick stuff.  For one thing, he uses cigar lighter sockets.  How lame is that?  For that price I'd buy the far superior Software Bisque power pack.  In a heartbeat.

Richard Wright wrote re: I need more power Scotty!
on 09-12-2011 8:09 AM

Sounds like your set then. Weight is an important factor for me. For what they can do at under 6 pounds... it's amazing. If not for our battery, I'd have probably went for the 4x 12v system. I don't want to think about how heavy that would have been to lug around. :-)



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