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Author Topic: Do you own a Solar Panel for QRP or Prepping?  (Read 17333 times)
N2RRA
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« on: December 03, 2012, 12:04:18 PM »

I'm curious to hear from owners than actually own solar panels and put them to use. My thread is focused specially on foldable compact solar panels and not stationary solar panels to narrow down the topic.

All though I appreciate suggestions those with out experience in the field of actually putting to use these types of products really are going by hypotheticals and technical data that I can figure for myself which is not the issue. I really would like to hear real world claims of worthy products that actually work well and last the rugged abuse that comes along with traveling and putting to use these folding panels in the field.

The solar panels focus is to charge SLA and LifePo battery's even while still operating a device like a transceiver, laptop, or any other device like them.

I'd like to hear about charge rate times with and without operating the devices to the type of solar cels used and how each type seems to react to different levels of sun light exposure. Of course as I said before the durability of the solar panels casing, connections and panels themselves.

Thank you for reading and hope to get some good feed back.

73!
N2RRA

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KB1GMX
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2012, 04:55:59 PM »

I have no use for those very expensive folding panels.  They may work well but you want watts
and those folding panels are in the far greater than $10/watt range.  For example I did a quick
search for a 75W foldable panel and it was listed as $895.  At the current prices I can buy
eight 80W panels maybe more as at 10 I can get the buy a pallet price.  That's 640W for
the price of 75W.  Portability is very costly.

Standard aluminum framed panels seem to be in the under $3/watt range and some
places far lower so for the dollars you get more watts which is what you need.

I might add most of the panels I bought new I paid less than $2 watt for the older ones
(new but bought years ago) and the latest buy got me two more 80watt panels for less
than $0.86 (eighty six cents) per watt shipping included.

For other this to charge a SLA you need to be more clear, a little one like a 7AH size or
a 100AH? makes a difference as to how much solar power you will need to do the job
and how fast you want the battery to recover to a full or nearly full charge.  For example
the little 7AH battery does fine with a 3W volkswagon surplus panel to charge it, where
the 100AH that panel its only good for keeping it topped... barely.

What I do.  I have two 80W 12v panels and a 50W in parallel (230W total) that's about
15A of charge current and enough to usefully charge my 150AH NiCds (large ALCD units).
I use a MPPT controller to maximize the power out and also protect the battery and radios
on it.  It runs all the 12V powered solid state radios, a small ITX computer, and amps
(to 100W) all the time (effectively off grid). 

FYI the high power amps and older tube radios eat far too much power for battery ops
(My Tempo-one wants 5A to light the tubes @12V and 4A for the RX high volts and 27A
on TX) so I run them off the mains or genset.  Their demands would suck down the 150AH
batteries fast where the solid state gear can go for days (and have for field day) for the
same power out.

For portable ops I use one or more (I have 3) smaller 20W panels good for about 1.25A
each in good sun and 4 of the surplus Volkswagon panels (about 3W each).  For small
batteries like my 2200mAH NiMh and Gell-cells the smaller surplus Volkswagon panels
are big enough and I have 4 of them (they can be in parallel for about 12W).  I've done
various combinations of this for field day weekend.  This year a QRP field day was done
with battery and solar with better than average success.

Yes, you have to size to the task or larger.  If you carry more than you need you need a
charge regulator is a must to protect the radios/gear and the battery. But if your serious
about doing work with solar panels a few watts may keep your Iphone or Android happy
 but a 100W panel can keep the battery running your 100W radio operational and maybe
even run a few LED lights.

If your prepping...  You need enough battery to run what you think you require for at
least 3 days and in some parts a week or more as the solar system is useless without
sun and at least here in New England I've seen 10 days in a row with the solar panels
barely putting out power due to overcast skys.  The in the winter you only get maybe 4-5
hours of useful sun due to the low angle and shading where in the summer it might be
as high as 8 hours.  And for really big battery arrays (200AH and up) you need a
DC genset to occasionally top off the batteries and equalize them (for best life).

So yes, I own small panels for mixed uses like portable ops and a small fixed array for power.
When the small 20W panels are idle I can also connect them into the main system for an
additional 60W (they are all the same voltage at max power).


Allison
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K8AG
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2012, 03:58:38 PM »

Also note that many of the cheap charge controllers are NOT without their RFI.  They usually switch voltages to regulate and limit.  This wastes less watts to heat.  But it can be very bad for reception.

I designed and built my own linear logic controller.  Seems to do the job so far.

73, JP, K8AG
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WA2TPU
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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2012, 06:32:21 PM »

To Eric, Allison and JP.....
   
Very nice posts on solar panels. Thanks. Allison I had the same problem here at my Qth...I had a run of 9 days with no sun plus my solar panels were ruined in a bad hail event. Yep JP......had the same RFI problems too.Also I found that the 2 different controllers I used were NOT very efficient either. So I went with a 12 volt PMA home-brewed wind generator and rather large battery bank. Eric I think the folding types are way too expensive but if you're doing remote mountain-top trekking then probably a small folding type would work best since its so portable.
I'm glad to see there is an interest in alternate energy sources to help power one's station/qth here on this site.
My BEST regards and many 72/73.
Don sr. --WA2TPU -- A TRUE 5 WATT QRP GREEN STATION.
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KQ6Q
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2012, 07:22:05 PM »

I went with the GoalZero panels available at Sport Chalet and online through Radio Shack. got the 27W folding model, and a regulator, and use it with a 4Ah gel cell for my portable adventure radio setup. Of course it could also charge HT's for ARES support if I needed it. I use Powerpoles for the interconnections, including a 4-way junction unit.
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AA4GA
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2012, 08:59:11 PM »

I went with the GoalZero panels available at Sport Chalet and online through Radio Shack. got the 27W folding model, and a regulator

Is that the Nomad 27M?  What charge controller did you get?  Does it generate any HF noise?

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N2RRA
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 06:52:26 AM »

Also note that many of the cheap charge controllers are NOT without their RFI.  They usually switch voltages to regulate and limit.  This wastes less watts to heat.  But it can be very bad for reception.

I designed and built my own linear logic controller.  Seems to do the job so far.

73, JP, K8AG


Kb1GMX,

Clearly you are the man I want to take a page out of your book when I'm ready to place solar panels on my cabin and home, but as the others caught on I looking for folding panels for travel. We'll talk soon!

K8AG,

Like to know if you can school me a bit how that works and if you can email a schematic in case I have an issue with paticular choice of panel?

Thanks!
N2RRA

« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 07:06:05 AM by N2RRA » Logged
N2RRA
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 07:05:10 AM »

I went with the GoalZero panels available at Sport Chalet and online through Radio Shack. got the 27W folding model, and a regulator, and use it with a 4Ah gel cell for my portable adventure radio setup. Of course it could also charge HT's for ARES support if I needed it. I use Powerpoles for the interconnections, including a 4-way junction unit.


WA2TPU,

The panels are expensive but as you well know they are for traveling with. If anything were to happen it's a must to have in your "go bag". Can't take panels like the one KB1GMX has on his home. The focus is all though on travel QRP.


KQ6Q,

Looked up the panels you purchased! I was looking at the Sunlinq 4 folding panels which is only a 12watt. 1000ma.

I know more wattage and that extra amp helps but isn't wattage based on charge time?

Basically I'm looking for a folding panel proven to charge in the lowest sunlight possible and not only charge the internal W4RT battery constantly at a rate of speed that it would be all I need. Not excluding if I use the 12v 7ah LiFe Po battery it charges also at a rate of speed to keep operational.

Does anyone know of any U.S.A. solar power company that make folding panels?

Thanks!
N2RRA


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KB1GMX
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 04:59:20 PM »

This old XYL learned from others, that and been in engineering for bunch of decades.

As to charge controllers I use Morningstar Sunguard for small stuff (its quiet) and a MicroM+
as that is also known quiet.  When I need to maximize power transfer I use a design I
cooked for MPPT  and it's a little noisey for lower HF use but for 10M and VHF its unheard.

Watts, the product of current times voltage.  If you add time to that you get watthours
which is current * voltage * time.

The ability to do work is watts, for charging batteries its Ampere-hours.  If you work in
watt hours you been converting units.

For charging batteries its all about current. 

To run things its about capacity ( in amp hours or watthours).  You must know what your
running and size things accordingly. 

FYI the 80W panels are fixed home use, though dismountable if need be for special events.
The 20W units are all loose for grab and go wit connector and matching long cables so they
can be in the sun when I'd rather not be.

Now I use non folding panels and the smaller 3W and 20W ones are not on the house and
smaller than the spread out folders.  You need about the same total area for the same
power and efficiency is roughly the same these days.  If you need to pack small the folders
work but the weight is not that far apart.  They are 18.72 x 14.04 x 0.975 (5 pounds) in
size for the 20W and the Volkswagon surplus are 13x10x.400.  Most of the weight is the
glass covering the cells.  My form of portable is get to a spot and work from there for
hours then pack out if the truck didn't follow me in.  Typically I go somewhere and the
distances are more like a few hundreds of feet and several trips.  But I pack a 3element
6M beam and mast!  I don't want to spend $80 for a 12W panel when for that I can get
three 20W panels.  Also I don't worry the HT as alkaline AAs do that work easier and
faster.  When I'm portable I'm running an HF or VHF (tentec 6n2 or HB 6M) and between
the radio, cable, antenna, guy ropes, mast and all it's not a backpack trip.  For a backpack
a radio (817, KX3,KNQ7A), and a PAR(LNR) EF40/20/10, 25ft of cable, 100ft of paracord,
and power (battery and ??charger).  Or a Alice pack with a PRC1099.  For overnight or
longer water, food, and all that are the priority unless I'm packing into a fixed location.


As to "Basically I'm looking for a folding panel proven to charge in the lowest sunlight possible"
keep in mind the sun is the fuel and less sun means larger collector and weight or lower output. 
So charging in low light generally means more solar cells in series and larger to get small amounts
of power from a weak sun..  The gotcha is in full sun the voltage will be excessive and could lead to
other problems (failed battery or radios) a charge controller is a must.  One last thing there is a
threshold that you need enough to excite the photovoltic process and more to get current.
most panels also require uniform light to get power, a dark corner may me NO SIGNIFICANT
output. That means partial shading of the panel is not good.

Lipo and Life have specific charge requirements.  Do it wrong and the battery dies or worse.
To charge them fast required lots of current and a very smart controller that is specific to the
battery.   They do last longer (charge/discharge cycle life) and are far lighter than gell cells.

NOTE: a 7Ah battery is not enough to run a K2, 817, KX3 for an entire field day alone and
there is no guraentee the sun will be there to charge it.  (a portable hand crank generator?)

Another solution for ARES/emergency work is disposable batteries.  My HT uses 3 AA alkaline
cells and gets twice the life of NiMh and those batteries are widely avaliable, have better shelf
life than any rechargeable and easy to keep a fresh set or three in my pocket or bag.  Those
radios with lithium types are a good choice but buy/carry multiple batteries and charge them
later (at camp).  Generally unless you're on a mountain or near repeaters HTs are mostly
short range. Most HF Emcom is done from fixed sites that need bodies with resources to
keep themselves going and man the station more than another HF go kit. 

Also use standard connectors (power poles), and plenty of adaptor cables with power poles.


Allison

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K5LXP
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2012, 07:43:17 AM »

My input to this thread is that for portable solar power operation, a charge controller is superfluous.  You're either operating with deployed panels and using up all the power, or the stuff is packed away.  If you've got power to burn while operating, you're carrying too much panel around.  A small amount of capacity overhead can be good though, so if on occasion it's a bit too much it's a simple matter to tilt the panel to reduce output.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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KU7PDX
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« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 09:24:46 AM »

My input to this thread is that for portable solar power operation, a charge controller is superfluous.  You're either operating with deployed panels and using up all the power, or the stuff is packed away.  If you've got power to burn while operating, you're carrying too much panel around.  A small amount of capacity overhead can be good though, so if on occasion it's a bit too much it's a simple matter to tilt the panel to reduce output.

Because you don't operate at night? Wink

For those looking for an awesome, customizable solar charge controller, with no RFI, check out the CirKits SCC3 (http://www.cirkits.com/scc3/). I love that I can fine-tune the charging voltage for a wide range of battery types.
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73,
Chris - KU7PDX
KB1GMX
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« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2012, 03:31:53 PM »

Mark K5XLP hit the nail on the head.

You need excess for less than optimum sun, high trees, or terrain features
that limit the window for good sun.  The goal is to keep as much charge in the
battery for night ops and the sunless days.

In the end its what do you want to run? 
What is its power budget? 
What is your weight limit?


Allison
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WA6MJE
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« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2012, 05:16:52 PM »

Some time ago I purchased the Brunton Solaris 52 - 52 watt foldable panel and think I paid around $800 for it.  It is the second most expensive item in my bug out bag, next to the hand water purifier. The Brunton worked well the one time I took it out camping, but does not supply much power.  I see it as the last resort power source. If all else fails, over time I can store up some power with it. 

I have a number of storage methods, starting with 100 ah deep cycle, down to 20 ah gell cells and then many 2 and 3 ah lipos I use for flying model aircraft.  Depending on what I plan on doing, I can run my bigger rigs, (Icom 7000), smaller rigs (KX3) and even a 500 watt 12v linear if I had to.  Other than the KX3, they would take a big hit off my storage that I could replace a number of ways, including just using the alternator and engine in my car. 

The Brunton is just icing on the cake.  If I have to carry, and go it on foot without fuel, I would take it, the water purifier, shelter, the KX3, probably one or two lipos, and other necessities, and just wait out the recharge time.  Sooner or later, the Brunton would give me enough to communicate emergency needs. I hated what it cost, but am happy now that it is tucked in my garage.

I have been looking into a portable wind generator of some kind. What I have seen so far is not really that portable by foot, but perhaps by car.  I also looked into a human powered generator, but really a human (at least an old one like me) cannot generate much power.  I am worse than the Brunton on a rainy day Smiley

Rene - WA6MJE
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LA9XSA
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« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2012, 03:24:47 AM »

We should get K0MOS in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsvPOyn0LeQ
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N2RRA
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« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2012, 02:25:55 PM »

We should get K0MOS in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsvPOyn0LeQ

Thanks for that link!

That's what I'm trying to build as well. Still good to pick everyone's brain cause there's so many different companies making folding panels that maybe there's a difference in performance and quality.

Gonna email him!
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