Mallee Solar Tree Project

I’m not sure sometimes how I end up getting involved with community projects and this one is no exception. This one started as a three way trade involving my ex-wife, her neighbour and a knee operation which of course all sounds very suspect. However the crux of the problem was a community group had acquired an art sculpture through the usual mate of a mate kind of thing. However as this sculpture was passed along bits were lost, forgotten, used for other things and/or misplaced. In a nutshell it wasn’t complete and no one knew if it even worked, or how. Well my ex-wife knew that I’d worked professionally on lighting control systems in a past life, so could I take a look at it. So here we go !

Image copyright Natasha Stewart
https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/103314/

So what were we dealing with ? It turns out the art sculpture in question was the “Solar Mallee Trees” that were designed by MPH architects and were previously installed just outside the Festival Theatre in the Adelaide CBD. They were recently removed as part of a “refresh” of the entire site.

These “trees” were made from curved steel structures, had solar panels mounted to the top of them and a Color Kinetics lighting system. It uses LED RGB spot lights to wash the colour under the solar panels. However while the spotlights were present, there was no sign of any Solar Inverters, power supplies or controllers. This was suddenly not going to be easy.

Looking closely at what was present I found the LED spotlights were Color Kinetics Colorburst 4 (TM) and they appeared in good shape. These lamps require three wires so there is more to them than just applying power. Ok time to go and call a few people I know still work in the lighting industry.

Thankfully this was a fairly common lighting control system used in the Noughties and Color Kinetics (CK) still have much of the data, manuals and software available online.

My lighting industries contacts had advised me that I was up for a few thousand dollars to replace lamps, drivers and power supplies. So rebuilding what I had in hand was beginning to look promising.

To drive the Colorburst 4″ spot lights what we needed was a custom PSU that included driver and smarts, called a CK PDS-150e. What I really liked was this PSU/Driver had a separate DMX input and Ethernet programming ports; making it fairly easy to control once configured. Generating DMX information is fairly easy now days with software being available for windows and linux PC’s with the right RS485 serial interface. I’d certainly been there and done that many times in the past, so bringing up this system by rights shouldn’t be hard.

So finding a CK PDS-150e driver turned out to really easy, there were a number of them on eBay for just a few hundred dollars. It was worth the risk to see if I could get this working, if not I could always drop it back onto eBay and pass it on. So a CK PDS-150e was duly ordered and now it was time to read the manual a few times, download some software while the unit was shipped from Greece to Australia.

More to come.

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