The vast majority of video security projects we do are going to be in urban or suburban settings, usually hanging cameras off of the side of a building or on a pole in a parking lot. Pretty standard stuff. But what happens when the project isn’t standard? What happens when your customer throws you a curveball?
Let’s take a look at an unusual application and some technologies we can use to ensure our projects’ success.
Off the Beaten Path Projects
Depending on where you live in the country, you might run into this more than others, but what can you do when you have a project out in the middle of nowhere or an installation far from any real infrastructure like power or communications?
I’m thinking of applications such as agriculture or farming, or critical infrastructure such as water storage. These types of sites can be located in the middle of mountain ranges, miles from any size town and far from the power grid or telephone lines. Often, these projects are designed to protect a specific object, like a water tank, or they are needed to protect a large open space, like a perimeter fence on a government installation.
So what are some of the things we need to look at for a remote installation to ensure success?
Obviously power is the fundamental element of any project. Of course, it would be best if there were some sort of hardwire power available. Whether it’s DC or AC, or even ‘dirty’ power, there are ways to make it all work. Transformers and power conditioning UPS devices can resolve just about any issue. But what about those few situations where no power infrastructure is available?
Letting the Sunshine In
If absolutely no outside source of power is available, there really aren’t too many options. One that is becoming increasingly popular, if out of a desire to be ‘green’ as much as sheer necessity in some places, is solar. Solar power for CCTV installations has allowed coverage of places unheard of just a few years ago. A big reason for this is the improvement of solar technology itself.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that solar cells (or photovoltaic “PV” cells) turn sunlight into electricity (for more info, go to Web sites such as Wikipedia or howstuffworks.com). The efficiency of a solar array is a measurement of the percentage of electricity we can get from that solar conversion process.
Older arrays were only able to reach an efficiency rating of between 6-9 percent. Newer commercially available panels can reach efficiencies of between 15-20 percent, or greater in some cases. There is also a theoretical limit of 29 percent for crystalline silicon (the most cost-effective material currently), although there are technologies that can boost that number.
Basically, what this all means is that now, as opposed to a few years ago, we can use a much smaller array to generate the same amount of power. This has made solar CCTV installations much more cost effective and practical.
Yes, I can hear you. I know there’s no place on earth with 100-percent sunlight. What happens at night or in inclement weather, etc.? Here’s the deal: solar is a last resort technology. Any solar installation relies on storage batteries to hold the electrical charge when the array isn’t able to generate power. Once again, though, improvements in battery technology are still enabling wider use of solar power as a viable CCTV tool.
Here’s one more thing to keep in mind: When planning a solar installation, aside from making sure your array is in a shade-free spot, the orientation of the solar array is very important to maximize the amount of sunlight that reaches your panel.
While some solar power systems are able to track and follow the movement of the earth and sun, these are generally not practical for smaller CCTV applications. Nontracking systems in the Northern Hemisphere should be installed so they point due South. Obviously this is a general statement and your particular need or area may dictate other orientations.
Also, the inclination (angle) of the array should be such that it also helps maximize the amount of exposure to the sun. There are many steps and calculations that go into a successful solar installation, but at the very least a study of and familiarity with the area and it’s exposure to sunlight is required. The Internet can also be used to find sun position calculators.
As a side note, solar arrays for CCTV are frequently being used for portable, temporary installations at locations such as construction sites.
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