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Fence power – personal power picogrids

The growth of onsite power systems, flavour-of-month battery packs, EVs, interconnectability to the outside poles and wires plus kilowatt hour exchange apps have changed the underlying energy in microgrids, their takeup and the associated technologies.

For people sharing fences with the neighbours, often on three sides of a property, the idea of investing in a big, roof-mounted solar system, with inverters, wiring and not being paid the same as it costs to buy the same electricity, does seem like a renewable bridge too far for some to cross. Then there is the issue of climbing onto the roof to clean the collectors so the efficiency doesn’t drop.

The Columbus Group has a power solution that it calls the Neighbourly Fence Power system. It’s a solar array with a built-in battery pack and the ability to accommodate different priorities. One of the key features of the system is that it is expandable to meet varying power needs. To add more capacity, consumers can click in another array. They are narrow enough to sit on top of almost any fence, with angle support brackets that double as power take-off points.

A key element of the system is that it is not normally connected to the big grids. It is mounted on top of fences between neighbours, so it is easy to clean, which is necessary if users wish to keep the output strong. The cost of adding new capacity is usually shared or balanced up depending on the number of takeoff brackets and their priorities.
With safety and usefulness in mind, the system (on each side of the fence), can be connected to a neighbourly local inductive power system (LIPS) solution at a nearby window.

LIPS allows the transfer of energy through a glass window at around 5.8GHz to a collector on the other side where appropriate conversion from 12V DC to 250V AC, so it can run lights, recharge phones or power laptops.

While not suggesting that personal power picogrids should be connected to the external networks, the Columbus Group says there is value for local governments to transfer the responsibility for footpath lighting to such systems, provided there is identified priority power capacity to run nearby street footpath lighting, usually one or two lamps, to say, a minimum five Lux, which is aligned with the AS1158 standard.
There are many other uses for picogrids – from high-priority security CCTV that can be monitored by smart phones to horticulture LEDS that stimulate plant growth such as kitchen vegetables. While there might be sun on the fence top, quite often the sun does not reach the narrow pathways between fences and walls. Horticulture LEDS of ultra blue, hyper red and far red for flowering, can make a world of a difference to stimulate healthy plant growth.

It is well known that there are many stand-alone solar power systems – from street lights to traffic control warning signs outside schools and remote sensor packages – but they are usually of a set capacity and purpose.

The Neighbourly Fence Power modules and applications go the next step by having smarts for the system to be expanded easily. Users click in another module with a built-in battery, without any additional wiring or configurations.

There is also a  range of power take-off mounting brackets where different brackets have the software to automatically prioritise the purpose for the power package. This balances up short high demands like opening vehicle gates with long-term, low-drain energy needs, such as CCTV.

The system design allows different power take-off mounting brackets, from high demand to low drain, to be clicked together side by side, between solar collecting modules, or at the end of a string.

There is a new range of mounting brackets being developed that can collect energy and share the recharging of the batteries in each of the solar array modules. Small wind turbines, scavenging heat from dishwasher and shower waste water, and even energy collectors on playground equipment  like swings in the backyard, are prime candidates in the expanding range of options in support of the personal power picogrids.

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