Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Super Solar Man Rides Again!

By Cam Mather

Our local village celebrated Canada Day in the usual ways, beginning with a parade through town.  Super Solar Man made an appearance too. It seemed more important than ever for Super Solar Man to show that he still has a sense of humour, especially after the local paper published a 1/2 page article about his recent presentation to our township council about peak oil. Man … what a downer. So once again, to prove that even those who are aware of peak oil don’t have to all be “doomers,” I decided to resurrect Super Solar Man.

Thanks to my friend Bill Kemp, author of our book “The Renewable Energy Handbook,” I even had a great idea to use in this year’s parade. Years ago, around the time that we published the first edition of the book; Bill organized “The Art of Being Green” festival in Lanark. Bill wasn’t satisfied to just organize the day and promote it and speak at the event, he also set up some neat solar stuff that day. One of the items that he displayed was a gizmo that used the 12V DC output from a solar panel to run a fan as well as a rotating wheel rimmed with bubble wands. As the wheel turned the bubble wands they were dipped through a small tub of bubble mixture and as the bubbles were formed, the fan blew them around. Voila … a solar-powered bubble machine.

Super Solar Man drags the solar-powered bubble machine behind him

I borrowed his equipment and decided to make it mobile for the parade. This was no small feat for a non-engineer-type like me. It was a challenge to keep the bubble liquid in the container because it kept sloshing out. I used the Red Green approach and just used duct tape to cover as much of the container as I could.

Super Solar Man tops up the bubble solution

The other issue was the orientation of the panels. As I made my way along the parade route, I was worried that the panels wouldn’t be in the sun all of the time. There are a number of spots on the parade where the route is under trees. So I removed that variable by putting a battery on board. Also, the weather on Canada can run the gamut from being cold and rainy to being brutally hot, so I decided to have a Plan “B”. I was pretty sure that I had thought of everything until I got it all set up and ready to join the parade and suddenly realized that I hadn’t checked the air in the wagon’s wheels and unfortunately the front tire was flat! Luckily, by moving the heavy battery to the back of the wagon, I shifted the weight and was able to drag the wagon along the route, flat tire and all.

Now I’m not one to overstate things, but the Mobile Solar Powered Bubble Machine was without a doubt the hit of the parade. People were “over the moon” to see this machine. Well, the kids were anyway. Most of the adults were too busy laughing at me. Or hopefully they were laughing with me, because you gotta laugh about a stunt like this. While I’ve never had any formal clown training, I seem to be picking it up pretty well in later life. I guess what concerns me is that I was the only clown in the parade. In fact, other than the marching band at the start of the parade, I think that I was the only person on foot. Our parades seem to be as much about worshipping petroleum as celebrating Canada Day. The parade is just an endless stream of cars and trucks and ATVs.

Thankfully part of the parade includes a whole lot of kids on bikes. They compete by decorating their bikes for Canada Day and then ride the parade route to show off their decorated bikes. I’m hoping that in future years, more and more of the parade participants will get out of their vehicles and walk the parade route. Lots of the cars in the parade are antique cars. One guy in an old car told me that he’d love to put up solar panels but couldn’t afford to. I suggested that it was a good time for him to sell his car while he could still get a good price for it, and put the proceeds into photovoltaic panels. An antique car won’t keep the lights and the fridge running during a black out but solar panels will. I’m not sure he was convinced.

Another guy watching the parade said that he thought I should appear on the TV show “The Dragon’s Den” to ask for financing to make the Mobile Solar Powered Bubble commercially. I liked the idea but I’ll have to ask Bill what he thinks. I kind of wonder though if there is much of a market for Solar Powered Bubble Machines.

Note: OK, I hear you asking … why does Super Solar Man need to wear a bicycle helmet if he’s just pulling a wagon? Well, as I told the children who asked me that question, Super Solar Man follows the rules of safety, and you never know, a stray satellite could fall from the sky at any minute. Actually, I am pretty proud of the bike helmet that I made for last year’s parade, and decided I wanted to get more use out of it. You know what it’s like when you put a lot of work into a Halloween costume and you can only wear it for one night? Same thing. And besides, I think a bike helmet is appropriate for a float like this.

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  1. Doone

    Ahhh Cam, I’m speechless!!!!!


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