Having a solar powered generator can be functional, economical and fun. There are many different practical uses depending on the size of generator you decide to build.
12v Solar Panel
A solar panel converts the sun’s energy into Direct Current, or DC electricity. Solar panels come in a variety of different sizes and shapes. You can get a 10watt solar panel for around $35. You can get a 100w panel for about $100 more. However, the 10w panel weighs around 2lbs. and the 100w weighs around 20lbs.
Batteries are used to store the power from a solar panel so that power can be used in the future. The battery in your car is designed for short periods of high energy output. For this project you need a battery that is designed for continuous power output. The battery below will cost around $40.
12v Cigarette Lighter/USB Adapter
This allows you to recharge any battery-operated item that has a cigarette lighter adapter or a USB. You can get one for around $15.
This will convert the stored DC power in the battery into AC power. Lower quality inverters provide intermittent power and are not recommended. Also, better inverters usually include a voltage meter which will monitor the charge in your battery.
I recommend getting an inverter that is between 500-1500W. Many of these also have USB ports built in for direct charging for things like phones. A 500w will cost around $35 but will not include a voltage meter; a 1500w will cost a little over $130.
This is needed to prevent damage to the 12-volt battery, primarily through overcharging. The prices range from $13-$35.
Once you begin building, you may find that you need basic wires or connectors. You can search for “solar wires and cables” on the Internet if you need connecting wires. What you need will depend on what parts you decide to buy. Some items come with connecting wires and some do not. Also, many people like to put this in a container. I have seen everything from a 4 pistol case to a homemade built box used.
As you can see, building a portable solar power generator is quite simple. These can be great devices that are fun to build. They are, however, limited in their practical uses. Using a full size solar power generator is just like using a gas generator and can provide any range of either backup power or main power source.
There are many reasons for wanting or needing a generator including normal electrical failures, natural disasters, and power grid failure, etc. If the loss of electricity becomes long term, gas generators will eventually become useless. Solar generators are silent which eliminates the high theft rates of gas powered generators during natural disasters and other times of need.
Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at FreePlants.com and read his blog at MikeBackYardNursery.com.
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