Here’s the latest on the South Side webcam (I’ll cover the North Side next week):
The webcam has been intermittent at best, mostly because only one of its three solar panels is providing power. The other two solar panels are shot. According to SenaWave, our Internet service provider, someone destroyed one panel with a rock, and another panel simply died. During a string of cloudy days, the remaining panel is unable to power the camera and charge the back-up battery. Even on bright sunny days, a single solar panel would struggle to meet the demand; when an inversion layer darkens the skies for a week at a time, the system quickly runs out of juice and the camera dies.
When the camera has been working, it’s usually because SenaWave has been sending a crew up there with a generator to kick-start the system. But SenaWave has informed me they are no longer going to provide on-site service or replace damaged components.
What options do we have? You may have better ideas, but here are three possibilities:
Option One: UHGPGA can pay to replace two broken solar panels ($400 each), refurbish the switching system ($250), install a modern back-up battery ($150), and buy a more robust all-weather camera (under $1000). This is the least expensive option, and I believe we have club members with the expertise to carry out this improvement.
This still leaves us with a system largely dependent on the availability of sunlight. SenaWave also tells me that a low-power 12-volt system like this limits us to two or three webcam users at a time.
Option Two: PacifiCorp, which owns the power poles and wires at the back of the South Side camping area, can install a free-standing meter at the base of the terminal pole north of the restrooms. The club could then bury 82 yards of conduit and wire from the meter to a service panel on or near the restrooms, from which we could route 120v city power to our camera system, as well as to restroom lights and heaters, a Wifi hotspot…lots of possibilities open up here.
A webcam supplied with 120v city power would support many more simultaneous users, and be up and running 24/7 without the need for a backup power supply or finicky solar arrays.
PacifiCorps has submitted a proposal to UHGPGA for a stand-alone meter. The cost would be around $2800, and we would still need to purchase and bury the conduit and wire mentioned above. That’s another $1000, plus the cost of an interface and a better camera.
This is a more expensive option…or maybe not! The State Park has expressed interest in helping UHGPGA get this done because installing a free-standing meter would allow the Park to add hookups to campsites at the South Side. Discussions between UHGPGA and the Park are underway, and I should know more in a few weeks, but this is a promising development.
Option Three: We join the vast majority of clubs that have no webcams on their launch sites!
Personally, I like a real-time video depiction of the current conditions at launch. I come from the surfing world, where webcams at popular surf spots have radically changed the go-no-go decision-making process for surfers who live away from the coast. A reliable webcam does the same thing for those of us who live an hour’s drive from the Point. I welcome your thoughts.
In the mean time, we are doing everything we can to get the South Side webcam back online. So pray for sunny days…or the miracle of city power!