Posted on 4th July 2019

Charging equipment in remote locations

Presenter Jon Gupta and crew visited India’s Garhwal Himalayas for ‘India’s Natural Wonders, broadcast on BBC2 on 1 and 7 September 2015. Filming in beautiful and remote places like this (Chandrasilla, a sacred mountain in Uttarakhand) requires significant technical planning to keep cameras and other kit rolling when power is limited. Leah Arnold-Redman, researcher on the series, sourced a high-output solar PV backpack to provide extra renewable energy. It proved its worth in a number of ways, as Leah explains below:

“In April, we filmed for 4 days week in the foothills of the Himalayas in an area called the Dev Bhoomi or Land of the Gods. In this isolated region, our hotel was only allowed to run its diesel generator for three hours a day. I was concerned that this would not be enough time to charge our Macbook Pro as well as all of the sound and camera kits, let alone smart phones and ipads.

The Production Services (DVS) store at BBC Bristol had a slightly older model solar PV backpack that could charge phones but not the Macbook. So, in a belt and braces approach we splashed out the £247 for this sleek and stylish Voltaic Array charger back pack which could cope with charging the Macbook’s pretty hefty power requirements. It had the added benefit of being quite a nice piece of luggage too, with a padded hidden pocked for the laptop and ample room for other bits. The solar panel and the battery can be zipped off and transported separately or left in a sunny window to charge while the back pack is off being a backpack.

The specifications state that it takes 11 hours in the sun to charge a laptop and this seemed like more than enough time. The backpack spent a lot of its charging time in the back of the van positioned to make the most of the sun and seemed to cope well with this. We had great weather so I don’t know how well it would have charge on a cloudy day but it does seem super-efficient. The crew especially liked it for charging their smartphones up and when the battery was fully charged it could power up two smart phones with some juice to spare.

The pack also came with us on the next leg of the shoot to Odisha on India’s east coast where we were filming turtles hatching. We were not anticipating power issues at our hotel but there were strong storms every night which regularly knocked out the mains power. The back pack would charge all day in the window of my hotel room and then I would plug it into the laptop at night during the power cuts. A great back up which just took the stress out of the power cuts.

One added bonus was that the solar PV backpack was a good ambassador for the BBC. EVERYONE wanted to know how to get one, especially airport security!”

The Array solar PV back pack is now with BBC Bristol Production Services (DVS) for other productions to hire.