The bare-root strawberry starts have taken root and are producing leaves. They have been doing well with a light watering or misting. Now that the plants are developing, they need nourishment in the form of a nutrient solution. A small pump distributes the solution, and I have been taking a small battery and inverter out to drive the pump.
The parts for setting up a solar power station arrived, so I built an addition to the hydroponic garden. The pump for dispensing the nutrients has a small power requirement, about 40 watts, and it will only run for a few minutes each day. Even that modest draw would need a large (and expensive) solar panel to power the pump directly- instead we chose to use a small panel and have a battery to store the power from the sun throughout the daylight hours.
I selected components that could support several pumps if we decide to expand beyond the two 20-pot setups we have now. The battery is a unit typical in small lawn tractors. I chose a 15 watt solar panel that is used to trickle charge car batteries. A charge controller manages the output from the solar panel to keep the battery safely charged. Finally, a device called an inverter takes the 12 volts direct current from the battery and puts out 120 volts alternating current that the pumps require. With a steady power supply we can have timers to control the pumps, making the routine operation automatic.
The cost of the system was about $200 dollars, which is less than what it would cost to run power out from the house. The system is also fairly easy to relocate, which will be handy if we do end up with a larger garden.