One of Ivan Loesch’s favorite things to do on a nice day is to ride from his residence at Beechwood NeuroRehab into Langhorne Borough. He will often stop to chat with friends along the way as he pops into the Tiger Mart, Luk-Oil gas station, and Dollar General. Thanks to Ivan’s research and ingenuity and help from Woods’ Maintenance Department, those trips into town are now being made in an electric wheelchair that is run on solar-powered batteries.
“I first got the idea from Super Storm Sandy, which was a major influence for this project. We were without power for about a week and I knew from my research that solar power does not go down during weather anomalies,” said Ivan.
Ivan has always been an idea man so once he got the notion in his head to make his wheelchair solar-powered, there was no stopping him. He devoted himself to researching and learning everything he could about solar energy before diving into what is now known as “The Ivan Project”.
After reading numerous articles and guides on solar power, Ivan reached out to Tyler Doan, Mechanical Lead in the Woods’ Maintenance Department, for assistance. Tyler then enlisted the help of other department members, including electrician Frank Britsch and HVAC technician Tony Daniels. Despite the research, preparation and technical expertise of those working on the project, solar energy wasn’t exactly in Frank and Tony’s wheelhouse.
“We hooked everything up and everything was working and we come back the next day and the battery is drained and his wheelchair is not charged,” said Tony, who has worked at Woods for three years. “We thought the manual was really going to tell us everything we needed but it didn’t.”
Though the project required some additional research and ended up taking longer than expected, the group did not give up and the system is now up and running. Ivan has a routine that he follows each day in order to ensure that his arsenal of batteries stay charged so he is able to make his trips into Langhorne Borough and joyride around the Beechwood NeuroRehab grounds. Ivan is very thankful to Frank and Tony for their willingness to participate in his project and bring his vision to life, but he says he’s just getting started with his solar power plans.
“I would like to expand my solar apparatus. It would be great to power a tower at Woods. I know it’s a big undertaking but I think it could be feasible,” said Ivan, who will turn 40 in June and celebrate 20 years at Beechwood in July. “I want to do the tower because I think it could be symbolic, like a monument or a legacy.”
Beechwood NeuroRehab Executive Director, Dr. Drew Nagele, served as the mediator for “The Ivan Project” and set all of the necessary wheels into motion after hearing about the idea from Ivan himself. Nagele even arranged for a video to be shot (coming soon!) to document the process.
“Ivan’s determination to explore and experiment with alternative energies has now paid off,” said Nagele. “I’m extremely proud of Ivan’s accomplishment of creating a solar-powered wheelchair.
As for Frank and Tony, though “The Ivan Project” was frustrating at times, the pair was happy to help Ivan’s dream become a reality.
“I happened to be in Beechwood Manor when he was talking to Drew (Nagele) and I heard him telling people that he loved it and that he would like to do more stuff with (solar
energy),” said Frank. “Anytime you see our individuals and you know they are happy because of something you did, it’s rewarding.”
So how does it work?
The solar panels are on a 45-degree angle in the back of (Ivan’s residence) facing Southwest, where we can get the most sunlight. There are two wires on the back that absorb and transfer the energy into the basement. Once in the basement it goes to a control panel, from the control panel it goes to a battery. The battery absorbs the electricity from the solar panel. From the battery it goes to an inverter. The inverter changes the power from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is then fed into a receptacle that is connected to a wire that goes through the basement up a half-wall that is connected to the other end of an outlet, which is where Ivan plugs his battery in for his wheelchair.