Easy to Assemble “Plug and Play” Solar Power
The sun produces an enormous amount of energy and it will keep on doing so for the next 5 billion years. The best and most reliable way to harness this source of renewable energy is with a solar power system. Solar energy systems can be either grid (Grid Tied) connected or work completely independant of the grid (off grid), grid tied systems are the most common with consumers. Grid tied energy systems work together with the power that's supplied to your home from the power lines and hence, would often require the services of a professional (government accredited) contractor to install the whole sytem. Off grid energy systems are different in the way it does not need to be connected to the grid. Instead, any excess power that is generated by the solar panels, is stored in batteries. Hence, anyone with a little tech savvy can easily setup their own off grid energy system! We'll show you (below) how to setup your own basic off grid energy system and for those more tech savvy, you may want to read further down...
Working with solar energy can be safe, as long as the voltages and currents you are working with are well below 50 volts and 1 ma. But solar energy systems can contain high DC voltages within the networked solar panels and high AC voltages within the inverter - there is simply no room for mistakes when working with high voltages, especially where high currents are present. DON'T DO IT! If you have no idea about electricity, then consult with a professional!
Where some solar energy systems may contain batteries, this is especially dangerous, as high currents can burn wires and cause fires/hazards. Again, if you don't understand electricity, then consult a professional... It's NOT worth risking your and your family's life over!
Basic Quick Solar Setup and Tutorial Guide
AGM 260 AH, 12V Battery, 2000 watt inverter, 30 Amp solar charger and 3 x 12 Volt, 200 watts solar panels... 260 AH x 12 Volts = 3120 watts - 7 hours x 600 watts = 4200 Watt hours... A simple system, that's BETTER than a fuel powered generator of similar size!
Setting up a basic energy system is easy, as everything is modular; where everything basically just "snaps" together. The basic off grid system is comprised of: Solar panels, batteries, solar charger controller and inverter... The only tools you will need to setup your energy system, are: wire stripper and philips head screwdriver...
The first connections that are made in an off grid energy system, is the solar charger and batteries. Solar chargers can usually accept a multiple range of voltage inputs, the basic being 12-24 volt chargers. That's why the first connections has to be the charger to the battery. what happens is this: When the charger senses the batteries being connected, i.e. 12 or 24 volts, the charger automatically sets to the voltage of the batteries connected. When the solar panels are connected finally, the voltages being generated by the panels is regulated to the voltage of the batteries.
Setting up Your Basic Energy System? Start here...
For this system, we will be using a 12/24 volt charger that's rated at 30 amps... This system will be set at 12 volts.
#1. Connect your battery(s) to the solar charger... Solar chargers basically have 6 terminals; - and + for panel input, - and + for battery output and - and + for regulated output...
Solar Charger Terminals
The terminals are self explanatory... Solar, Battery, Output
Here is a side view of the terminals...
Locate the battery connections (Middle terminal) and start to connect the battery... To clamp the wires in place, first loosen the terminals with your screwdriver. Then simply push your stripped battery connector in and then tighten the clamp with your screwdriver. The wire should now be secured in place... Do the same for the other connector.
#2. Once the battery(s) has been connected, you are ready to connect the solar panels. Solar panels come as 12 or 24 volts. So if a 12 volt battery is connected to the system, you will need a solar panel(s) rated at 12 volts and vice versa...
First (battery) connection...
#3. Once your system is assembled, you can either use the power output from the charger to power small devices, or you can simply connect an inverter directly to the battery(s).
What can I power with this energy system?
With this basic energy system, you can operate TVs, small fridges, computer and a whole range of other appliances. Since this system contains a big, 260 AH battery, it can source 1000 watts for 1.5 hours or, 250 watts for 6 to 7 hours from the batteries...
Follow the 3 simple steps above and you should have your system setup in approximately 1 to 3 hours...
How much does it cost?
Solar panels x 1: $120.00AU (Later upgraded to 3 x 200 watt solar panels)
Solar charge controller: $56.00AU
AGM Deep Cycle battery x 1: $550.00AU
While our example solar system (above) is rather expensive, with time and effort you can really get much better prices. We know of a few environmental warriors who have built similar systems for as low $200 bucks! Their secret is simple: Build your own solar panels and recondition cheap old batteries!
A few example configurations...
12 Volt System
Charging system without inverter...
Charging system with inverter...
24 volt System
2 x 12 volt solar panels connected in series...
A single 24 volt solar panel...
Driving larger currents...
Using regulated charger output to control a relay, so that higher currents can be used to power devices directly off, of the battery. So if battery voltage falls too low, the relay switches off, in turn switching off the devices connected directly to the battery!
A typical MPPT (Multiple Power Point Tracking) controller setup...
Solar Panel Connectors/Connectors...
"Y" MC4 connector configuration for 3 parallel connected solar panels - "S" represents "Solar Panel" or an array of solar panels.
MC4 connector types
Connectors and cables makes solar installation like child's play!
MC4, "Y" Parallel Connector
MC4 Parallel branch Connector
2 x 120 watt solar panels are connected in parallel to double the power output of a 12 volt system -
Notice how easy connecting 2 solar panels in parallel is? Everything just plugs together easily!
Here are two 12 volt solar panels connected in series to double the volts...
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