A Look Inside John Well’s Field Lab

A Look Inside John Well’s Field Lab

John Wells is an interesting guy; he’s a neighbor of my father out there in the Terlingua Ranch area.

His project, the Field Lab, is a fun and whimsical experiment in renewable energy. The following videos are taken from his youtube channel.

A recent NYT article describes his mission thus:

Despite those coordinates, which might suggest a kinship with the art-world pilgrims in Marfa, more than 100 miles away — a distance that counts as “nearby” in Texas terms — Mr. Wells is not here to make art, exactly, though his photographs of his new home are exquisite. Nor did he arrive with a book deal or an end date.

Following a long tradition of solitary back-to-the-landers, Mr. Wells came here to hash life out on his own terms. His focus is on taming this rough environment to his own frugal needs, and delighting in the mental and physical puzzles it presents. Wind power or solar? What’s it like to hand-mix cement? How much water can you snatch in a half-hour of rain? Can you dam a gully? How do you build a swamp cooler, or an icebox? How long does it take to cook chicken cutlets in a solar oven? What’s the best Spam flavor? (Hickory-smoked, as it happens.)

“Anyway, if it didn’t work out,” he said, “the investment was so cheap, I’d be able to walk away.”


“At the Field Lab, the sun powers blog mission control. The initial system I have been testing consists of 225 watts of solar panels (seven 15 watt panels charge two 6 volt golf cart batteries, eight 15 watt panels charge two 12 volt AGM batteries). The amp/hr capacity of the two battery banks is approximately the same. Both banks have performed flawlessly for 2 1/2 years. The cheap Harbor Freight meters by the computer station help me keep tabs on the approximate battery voltage throughout the day. Normally for about 12 hours per day, I power just the laptop from this system (as well as the DSL modem, webcam, weather station, and fans and pump for my Pepino swamp cooler). For this video, I fired up all three of my HP computers….all powered by the sun.”

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