VCU Coffee BikeHere in Richmond Virginia, there are a lot of folks who use biking as their main form of transportation. Sustainable Technology Institute (STI) loves opportunities where we can collaborate with like-minded people trying to add solar energy to unique projects. One such project came to us from a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) assistant professor, John Freyer, who works in VCU’s sustainability department. The concept involved the construction of a custom coffee delivery bike. The bike would deliver “recovery roast” coffee to local AA meetings. What a great idea! The “recovery roast” was actually a blend of coffee beans created by Lamplighter- a nice little coffee house down the street that our staff frequently visits. So given that our location in the fan isn’t too far from VCU, we had the VCU staff member stop in and inquire as to whether we could put together a solar energy system for this bike for less than $1000. And we were able to do this quite easily. Our design involved the use of one flexible 100 watt mono-crystalline solar module, a MPPT charge controller, a Xantrex Load Center, and a 1000 watt inverter. We also included a backup lithium battery that could be charged at night (as a backup for cloudy days and for when the solar couldn’t keep up).

Our staff performed a load assessment on the bike’s integral coffee pot, before completing our design. Although the total load of the coffee maker was rated at 750 watts, through using a kill-a-watt meter, we found that on average it only took around 58 watts to keep the coffee pot warm. Yeah that thing was insulated really well! It wasn’t going to be practical to get more than 100 watts of solar module on the bike, but 100 watts should suffice for the bike’s needs during most circumstances. As a backup, we furnished them a lithium backup battery that could be used during cloudy days or when the 100 watt module couldn’t quite keep up. What a great project with a noble cause and what great people to work. The folks at VCU are great and we are happy that we’re neighbors.

Our interests at STI go a lot further just residential and commercial PV Solar Installations that are grid tied. If you have battery-based system needs you can come to us. We design and install a lot of AC and DC coupled systems. Sonnen Battery Packs are also available now and can communicate with any grid tied inverter and provide reliable battery backup in power outages. The days of battery-based solar are upon us and the applications can vary, as you can see from the coffee bike idea. Whether its an off-grid tiny house, a solar powered coffee bike, or a grid-tied residential solar system, we are here to serve Virginia’s needs.