A BBC NHU crew were filming bears for four weeks in Halo Bay, Alaska. Working within a US national park meant that the use of diesel generators was not permitted. In search of an alternative source the production team came across solar PV (photovoltaic) panels from a local Alaskan supplier for their rig. This resulted in a cost and carbon saving as they didn’t need to have them shipped from the UK.
The main power source throughout the shoot was 8 to 10 Marine deep cycle batteries (equivalent to big car batteries). The crew only used 4 at a time to ensure that they always had power left for emergencies.
The solar rig was used to top up the batteries when they lost charge. The solar panels had a digital display included which could tell you the amount of charge at any time so there was no risk of a sudden power drop off. For extra back up they also had a 12volt DC to mains converter which allowed for the batteries to be charged from the mains if necessary (or possible). Impressively, the solar PV panels were sufficient to power the whole filming kit over the four weeks.
“The huge advantage of this technology for us was the silent power which is essential when staking out wild animals”, Sam Taylor, BBC Assistant Producers. The solar rig was so successful that it was brought back to the BBC Bristol and has now been sent back out to Myanmar on another wildlife shoot.
Working with Sun Store, the team used a 85w Solar Battery Charger Briefcases and a battery monitor (designed and built in house specifically for this project). Using an additional connectivity adapter, the panels were sufficient to keep the following juiced-up.
- P2 Varicam camera kit (with Anton Bauer batteries, 6 to 8 total but 3 to 4 used per day)
- Arri Alexa camera kit (very power hungry – new camera – heavy duty batteries of which 3 to 4 used per day).
- Canon 305 camera and batteries
- 3 x Mac laptops
- Hard drives – used with Macs for all footage downloads
- Mobile phones
- VHF comms kit
- Satellite phone kit
- UPS unit (uninterrupted power supply – stops power surges, keeps it stable for filming)