Pie Camping

Every year I take my wind and solar powered sound system to a camping expedition called the Pie Camp (don’t ask why).

It’s always fun and a challenge, making sure that the pie campers have music for the whole bank holiday weekend, relying only on the wind and the sun for power. But this weekend had more challenges in store even than usual!

The first night a friend of mine who makes his own music decided he was going to play it over the sound system. I run my laptop with a voltage stepper which converts the 12v supply from the battery to 19v for the laptop directly, without having to go through an inverter and a transformer, which is incredibly inefficient. Anyway, this friend of mine had to use the latter arrangement because my adapter wouldn’t fit his laptop, and he also turned up the volume on the system, which meant that the following day we had a complaint from an adjacent camping field, and the batteries were almost completely drained. Nightmare!! What was I going to do for power? I needed wind or sun, or preferably both!

The following day was predictably still and wet, no wind but lots of rain – grim, and no power into the bargain. One of the people at the camp started to play some music over their car stereo, with the engine running – so I hooked up a couple of jump leads to my batteries from the car, to give them a bit of a charge, which helped a bit. We managed to get through the second night with music, albeit very quiet and finishing early.

I was completely unprepared for what the third day brought. Gale force winds during the night had destroyed two gazebos, and the sound system gazebo was similarly destroyed not long after I had got up. A huge gust of wind just ripped all of the cloth off it, and bent it over leaving it a mangled mess of scrap metal. Nightmare!! I just had to hope that it didn’t rain.

But another effect of the gale force winds was that the wind turbine was going absolutely full tilt, along with the solar panel, as it was really sunny too!! So the batteries were overflowing and I was connecting up people’s car batteries, ‘phone chargers and iPods to get rid of some of the excess electricity!! Crazy stuff!! A mangled gazebo but lots of nice loud pumpin’ sound!!

The last day was quite calm so I finished off with some folk music.

Of course I could just take a small petrol generator to run this small system, but that would defeat the point. We are going to have to rely on renewable energy in the future – less reliable than fossil energy, but if you respect it and don’t abuse it, it is completely possible to make it work. And it was quite ironic that the same weather which was driving the sounds also destroyed much of our accommodating infrastructure. These are the kinds of issues we are going to have to get used to dealing with!!

A friend suggested getting a geodesic dome as a replacement gazebo – apparently they don’t suffer in high winds because of their shape. And they look pretty cool too, so I might just go down that route.

Crazy weather at the minute though!!


Freezing Theory

Having a great time at Bearded Theory festival, or as Justin Sullivan, frontman for New Model Army had it last night, the “extreme weather festival”.

Last year the main stage was completely destroyed, and technicians hospitalised, by a freak tornado. And last night rumour has it that the temperature got down to -4 centigrade!!