BBC Two’s Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow, a series which retraces the first ever exploration of the mighty Colorado River, took a somewhat more modern approach to technology than the first trip in 1896. Working in a National Park with equipment that needed charging daily, the Grand Canyon team were keen to find a power source that would allow them to work remotely and with minimal environmental impact.
Chris O’Donnell, Assistant Producer, opted to work high spec rigid solar panels. These were welded onto two independent canopies above the rigged inflatable allowing the boat to flex as necessary when tackling the Canyon’s rapids whilst ensuring the maximum panel coverage possible. The 12 panel set up was sufficient to power 29 cameras, 24 microphones and 88 batteries over the 18 day shoot and was akin to the power demands on a residential property. In addition to providing power for the boat, the panels also much offered needed shade from the 130 degree sun shine, an additional bonus that was appreciated by all the crew, especially Series Producer Cameron Balbirnie.
The power output in full Arizona sun was impressive - well over 1500W on a 2k system. Even on the cloudiest evening just before sunset the 180W panels could kick out about 30W.
See more in this Power Behind The Scenes clip.
The 12 panels were split across 2 yeti 1250 units and 3 charge controllers, these fed into 10 AGM 110aH marine batteries. Battery charge went down to 40% of total power a couple of times which wasn’t ideal but the team largely managed to keep it above 60% after most nights of charging and downloading. The team were advised to try to keep around 50% in reserve as you need a much bigger input to get you back up to 100%.