Ecopia Blog

September 1, 2013

by w4l3XzY3

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 11:47 am

Hello world!

March 13, 2013

Types of Solar Panels

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 12:09 pm

There is always a lot of confusion about the types of solar panels in use and the benefits of using one type over another.

Two types of solar panel

There are really just two types of solar panel in general use:

  1. Crystalline – made from silicon wafers cut from crystals
  2. Amorphous – made from silicon film deposited on a layer of glass, these are also thin film solar panels

Crystalline solar cells are made from large crystals of silicon which are sliced in thin wafers and treated with
Mono crystalline cells are  cut from a single large crystal.

Multi crystalline cells  (also called poly crystalline)  are cut from a block of many silicon crystals fused together, there is no difference between the mono crystalline or multi crystalline  both will give the same output for a similar sized solar panel and will perform identically.

Amorphous solar cells, also called thin film solar cells (although there are other types also called thin film),  are about half as  efficient and will require twice the area of solar cells to have the same power as a crystalline panel with the same power output.

They do have some advantage over crystalline solar panels;  producing relatively better levels of power in low light conditions than crystalline cells  and they also perform slightly better in hot weather.

Because of their cell layout they are not affected as much by shading issues,  losing less power when partially shaded than an equivalent crystalline module. Ecopia has done tests of amorphous  V crystalline solar panels that show power losses of 20-30%  if  10%  of  an A-Si  solar panel that is shaded , while C-Si  solar panels are much more sensitive to partial shade and will lose 50 – 80%  output when a similar area of the panel is shaded.

How to use Solar Panels for Charging Batteries

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 9:35 am

Solar chargers  used for charging mobile phones are becoming popular, they are small enough to carry around and versatile too because, apart from using solar power for charging they can also be recharged from a USB port.
But these solar chargers won’t recharge the larger batteries used in cordless tools and rechargeable torches because they don’t have enough power. That’s when you need a 12V solar panel.

Most people see solar panels as a high-tech gadget but really they are pretty simple to use. One of the easiest ways to use a solar panel is to connect it directly to a battery and place it outside in the sun.  But the battery voltage must be the same as the solar panel.

To make up a larger solar charger for charging large lead acid batteries you need a small solar panel and a solar regulator.

So essentially all you need to charge a battery is the right sized solar panel and a solar regulator  connected to the battery with suitable wiring.
Try it,  you will surprised how easy it is.



February 25, 2013

Solar power for renters

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 10:58 am

Many homeowners are installing solar panels  on their roofs for converting sunlight to electricity. This is a great way to harness free energy from the sun for homeowners.
But if you are renting a house or apartment then of course you cant just install a grid-tied solar panel system on the roof.

But there are ways to still take advantage of clean free energy from the sun by using 12V solar panels that can be temporarily installed.

Portable solar chargers and portable solar panels have been popular with  caravan users  as they do not require permanent installation.  The folding solar panel kits are self-standing units that can be used to provide power for lighting and appliances like TVs and radios.
Most renters would prefer a movable solar panel that can be packed away when not needed or semi-permanent installations like pole-mounted solar panels.
This is very useful as a solar power installation can be placed in a sunny back yard or even on a balcony that is north-facing. In a typical portable system a solar panel is used to charge up a 12 volt battery system. The output power can be used as 12 volt DC or  inverted to 240 volts AC for powering normal household appliances. The possibilities and applications are endless.

January 31, 2013

Choosing the right Solar Regulator

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 10:22 pm

One of the more complicated bits of any stand alone solar power setup is the solar regulator,  its primary function is to ensure the battery is properly charged but not overcharged.

It is connected between the solar panel and battery with one pair of leads bringing unregulated solar power from the solar panel and another pair supplying charging power to the battery.

Some of the better solar regulators have another pair of leads supplying battery power to the load (the device using the power). This is so it can monitor the battery power going to the load and shut of this power supply if the battery voltage drops too low,  thus preventing the battery from running  flat.  After the solar panels have recharged the battery the load supply is reconnected.

The types of batteries being charged by these systems are usually 12 volt lead acid types, either flooded (wet),  sealed GEL or sealed AGM. Most of the basic solar regulators are factory preset to charge either flooded or sealed Gel batteries. The difference is in the maximum voltage supplied,  flooded batteries have the capacity to take a higher voltage while Gel and AGMs need to restrict the maximum voltage during the later stages of charging.

The more advanced solar regulators  can be set to charge flooded, AGM or gel batteries and some with adjustable settings can be set to provide precise levels of voltage during the different stages of the charging cycle.

So when buying a solar regulator always check to see if it will be compatible with the type of battery you are using.

There are 3 main considerations when selecting a solar regulator:

  1. The regulator must be rated for the voltage supplied by the solar panel (12 Volts, 24 Volts, etc)
  2. The maximum amps (Imp) supplied by the solar panel  must not exceed the amps rating of the solar regulator.
  3. The regulator”s charging voltage should be compatible with the battery type. Ge batteriesl are most sensitive to excessive charge voltage, closely followed by AGM. Flooded (wet cell) batteries can be charged with any type. Try to find the battery manufacturer  specifications for charging voltages and compare with the solar regulators specifications.

Therefore a 12 volt, 20 watt solar panel with a maximum current of about 1A will need a 12V solar regulator with a maximum amps rating of 1 amp or greater such as the Morningstar Sunguard Solar Regulator .








July 24, 2010

Why a 50W solar panel only reaches 35 watts

Filed under: Recreation — Tags: , — JohnWM @ 3:19 am

A friend recently bought a 12 volt solar panel to use as a portable solar charger for 12 volt car batteries He wired up the solar panel to charge a battery. He placed the solar panel in full sunlight and measured the amps flowing in to the battery. He did a quick calculation using the commonly used electrical equation which states that Watts equals Volts times Amps  (W= I x V ) and saw that it was only generating about 35 watts. The specifications sticker on the back of the solar panel clearly stated it was a 50 watt solar panel, so he felt cheated by the supplier. But I explained that he was not conned, but just not fully informed. You see the solar panel salesmen often do not take the time to explain a few important facts, or worse still they try to avoid mentioning these vital facts about 12V solar panels.

A solar panel must be producing power at its MPP
The MPP is the maximum power point. This is where the voltage and current flow produce the most power. Most solar panels once connected up will be operating off their MPP depending on the system load resistance. The load is a technical term for the total power used. In an ideal system only the device that you want to power is the load, for instance a battery you want to recharge, but in practice all the components that make up the system, such as connections and wiring and voltage regulation devices, use some of that power and contribute to the total load on the system. When the system load moves away from the optimum load then the PV module’s voltage and amps will move away from the MPP and the solar module becomes less efficient, so it does not produce maximum power.
The solar panel must be fully bathed in direct sunlight
Most of the time the solar panel will not be facing directly into the sun, there may be clouds or shadows obscuring the sun and there may be debris on the solar panel obstructing the sunlight. In a 100% efficient solar module the sun falling on an area of one square meter of solar panel would produce 1000 watts but the average PV panel is about 15% efficient and produces about 150 watts per square meter of area.
The solar cells temperatures must not exceed 25°C
Excessive heat has the greatest effect on the voltage generated by the cells. Don’t be fooled by the ambient temperature, because when the air is about 10°C, the solar cell will be at about 40°C. Solar cells don’t like heat, when the temperature rises then the cell produces less voltage. At 40°C a cell is producing 10% less voltage than at 25°C so on a typical summer day the cell may be at 65°C. and producing 80 watts instead of 100 watts.

All of these factors add to the total energy loss of the solar generating system so when you measure the actual usable power it will be less than the panel’s rated output. For more details and diagrams see how to choose solar panels

February 19, 2010

Solar lights for bikes are great!

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 4:03 pm

Yesterday afternoon I was out riding and it took fairly long as usual for me, I don”t like to speed along especially as the dual-use cycle ways along the coast are very popular with the evening strollers.

As darkness fell fell I switched on my front and rear bike lights and continued riding. My ride is a basic down-the-coast-and-back trip and the section where I turn is a loop road that is rather rough and pebbly. After bumping along for about ten minutes I reached the main cycle way and needed to cross a busy road. I always check all lights before crossing any road after dark.  Feeling behind my saddle I couldn’t feel the solar powered bike tail light and to my alarm noticed it was missing. I turned back to look for it and noticed it from a few hundred meters away, flashing red in the darkness like a beacon beckoning me. To my joy it was still intact and only had a scuff mark in the front plastic lens. I also found the bracket screw that had worked out probably because I had not tightened it properly and after replacing it continued  my ride. I have since tested it and it still recharges and the solar panel is still perfect and working as before.

Ride carefully and wear a Helmet!


December 29, 2009

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Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 11:21 am
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June 28, 2009

How to cycle in comfort

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 10:32 am

This documentary film made in 2006 is probably an old story for a lot of you, but I had heard of the EV1 but didn’t know the full tale of its life and death.
The General Motors EV1 was produced in limited numbers in the late 1990’s, made available for lease in Southern California for a while, and then GM decided to recall and destroy all of them.
I won’t try to go into all the details, but the gist is that GM produced the car to comply with California’s zero emissions mandate Everything was cruising along nicely for a few years, a few thousand were produced, there was a long waiting list of orders and the folks who drove them were happy.
Then along came George W. Bush, the car manufacturers and big oil. They huffed and puffed and blew the mandate away. Gm stated that it could not sell enough of the cars to make them profitable, plus few other lame excuses.
There’s a lot more to the story, but I’m sure you get the point.
Another interesting point made in the documentary is how the hydrogen fuel cell technology now is being overly promoted. I’ve always maintained that this technology is still too experimental to be considered an alternative energy and the apparent facts bear this out.
This is another documentary in the vein of An Inconvenient Truth, because it will do a lot to motivate borderline environmentalists to take a stand, a good thing.

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June 24, 2009

Safe cycling rules

Filed under: Recreation — JohnWM @ 9:26 am
Hmmm..the umbrella didn't help!

Hmmm..the umbrella didn’t help!

Here in Western Australia we are blessed with a great network of cycle ways so I am always perturbed when I see recreational cyclist chancing their lives in the streets among the cars and jaywalking pedestrians.

Even when cycling along the cycle ways you have to be careful because they are usually dual-use pathways with dog-walkers and I-pod wearing joggers to negotiate.

I advocate wearing high visibility shirts and jackets like those worn by workers on industrial sites, also use lights at night and ring your bell whenever you approach other users of the cycle ways .

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