Western University Professor’s Book Teaches DIY Solar Power Projects


Middlesex County, Ont. –

Aren Page lives enough.

“My van is actually a complete integrated off-grid system,” says Page, whose journey can be seen @ArenPage on Instagram.

“Essentially it’s an apartment on wheels and it’s all solar powered. Everything comes from my solar panel on the roof, three 100 watt solar panels and it powers my whole system. I filter water, fans, LED lights , a fridge-freezer combo and outlets to plug in and charge.”

As an engineer working remotely in California, Page was able to complete the van himself using the Appropedia website and a DIY book called To Catch the Sun.

The book was co-authored by Professor Joshua Pearce of Western University, who partnered with Lonny Grafman.

“It’s a book that teaches people how to build solar photovoltaic systems themselves,” says Pearce, a professor at the Ivey Business School and Western Engineering.Aren Page from California built a solar-powered van as a DIY project. (Source: Aren Page)Pearce says that in a single afternoon, you could acquire enough knowledge to build your own starter solar system.

“If you’ve never worked with electricity before, you might want to start with something really small, like charging your iPhone with solar power,” says Pearce, who believes it can be done for less. a few hundred dollars.

“After you sort of figure it out, you can start doing bigger and bigger projects and eventually buildings, houses, farms.”

Pearce says solar power prices are falling and now is the best time in decades to act.

“For example, a business might need 10 kilowatts,” Pearce explains. “The list price is around $3 per watt, which is a $30,000 investment. Many small businesses just don’t have that kind of capital, so what the book shows you is how you can drastically reduce that capital by installing the system in pieces, sort of like little building blocks and doing much of the work yourself to eliminate more than half the cost.”

Using Kickstarter for this project, they managed to get 440 backers, which doubled their fundraising goal.

The $20,376 allowed them to offer a digital version for free on their website.

“You can have an unlimited resource at your fingertips,” says Page. “So if you don’t have a lot of capital, you can start there.”

To Catch the Sun offers the design and construction of dozens of DIY photovoltaic systems, including:

  • small house in a financially rich country
  • few households in a financially poor country
  • classrooms and community spaces
  • ‘zombie apocalypse’ survival tools
  • laptop and mobile phone chargers
  • tiny house and van life
  • glamping and hiking gear
  • emergency supplies, such as powering an oxygen machine during a power outage
  • isolated loads, such as electric gates, pumps, greenhouse fans, backup generators, and telecommunications equipment


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