Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Goin' Mobile

We anchored Thursday night on the Tensaw River, near some rough-hewn fish camps, and early Friday morning we set out on the last leg of our journey down the Tombigbee River.  

We were a mere 12 miles north of Mobile Bay and we marveled at the mostly unspoiled landscape: a bald eagle perched at the top of a cypress snag, a raft of pelicans foraging in a little cove bordered by palmettos.

Mirage? No, Mobile.
We started to see evidence of civilization:  dumpsters, one, then another, then another, mangled and mashed and shoved into the mud on shore.  After days of anchoring out, we joked about how convenient this was for boaters with a boatload o' trash.  But we held on to our Glad bags. (We figure the dumpsters were carried up river during a storm or hurricane and never retrieved.)

Then we spotted an incongruous sight:  an elegant spire, rearing above the marsh grass.  It was the top of a skyscraper.  The city of Mobile was just ahead.

Passing under the Route 90 bridge, we also spotted power line transmission towers sporting solar panels.  The towers had flashing aircraft lights, and we figured the solar panels were to power the lights in the event of a power failure.  

Solar panels in the foreground, solar panels in the background!
A little research revealed a number of other cool applications these panels might be supporting.  Some power-line towers have security webcams powered by solar panels--to monitor for vandals stealing copper, steel, or other metals, or to alert the substation operator to downed lines or other problems.  Solar panels can power other kinds of monitoring equipment as well: sensors that detect icing on the lines, current leakage, wind speed, and so on.

We couldn't help but smile at the thought that these enormous towers--carrying the megawatts of juice that makes the busy city run--stay safe thanks to the power of the sun.

Lots more photos showing this stage of the trip on Facebook!


  1. Cynthia, have a nice holiday break. I do think the shrink-wrapped "sausages" really were heat exchangers. The turbine guess wasn't bad either, and maybe 2nd runner up might be engines for the new Aries rocket headed up to Huntsville.

    (from Scott B using Ally's laptop)

  2. Stay tuned, the answer WILL be revealed soon!