Solar Charger

Old 10-13-07, 12:51 PM
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Solar Charger

I saw an article in Popular Science (as in the magazine) a few months ago on building a solar charge which charges a battery which in turn supplies power to a pair of DC outlets. I am going to be going on a trip with school at the end of November, and I would like to build a more portable version of this for use on the bus for charging my Zune, etc. (including, hopefully, my laptop). I had a couple questions, though:

1. Does anyone have any general thoughts on that design? Would there be an easier/cheaper/smaller way to to basically the same thing? I know I won't get much in the way of power output, but as long as it will power my cell phone, zune, and hopefully laptop (with an inverter) (not simultaneously) i'll be happy.

2. Going off of what I just said, in the article it mentioned connecting more solar panels and/or a higher capacity battery for increased power output. What would be the best way to go about doing this, remembering that I have limited space on the bus.

3. Something that occurred to me is that it would be nice to have some way to charge the battery from the mains at the hotel when we get there. With my space requirements, is there some relatively easy, inexpensive way to do this? It is not by any means a requirement, I just thought it might be nice to have that ability.

4. Finally, this is kind of a given, but I need a smaller way of carrying all of this. Does anyone have any thoughts?

Thanks for bearing with me on this. This is the first time I've really attempted something like this, and I'm hoping it will work right. Also, if it isn't already obvious, I know very little about this kind of thing, and part of doing this is in hopes that I can learn a little more about it.
Old 10-13-07, 03:40 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Not having seen the article you are talking about I cannot comment much about it. I can, however, tell you this.

The reason that you do not see solar power used in more places is because of the problems with it, and the expense. Solar panels are expensive, and you need lots of them to generate power. Further, the panels must be aligned with the sun fairly accurately to get the most power out of the panels.

The simple fact is that unless you live in the right area of the country or are quite a distance from available commercial power, it is cost prohibitive to generate and use solar power.

Now you are, of course, talking about a much smaller scale. That's good. But you are also talking about less than ideal setup. You may not be able to position your panels to catch the sun, but more importantly the bus windows are designed (tinted) to cut down on the sun to help keep the bus cooler. These are not good when it comes to trying to generate solar power.

My suggestions is to experiment all you want at home and see what you can do. You will learn quite bit and may even be able to save yourself some money. But as for your bus trip, I suggest that you invest in additional batteries and charge them at night.

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