Most of our energy comes from dead algae or dead ferns right now, and we all know that can’t continue forever. The future is by definition sustainable, and if you’re looking for a project to change the world for this year’s Hackaday Prize, you can’t do better than something to get the world off carbon-based fuels.
The simplest solar builds can be as fun as a redneck hot tub – a solar thermal water heater repurposed into a heated swimming pool with the help of a pump and JB Weld. You can even build a hose-based version for $100. They can be as useful as a Maximum Power Point Tracking charger for a solar setup – a few bits of electronics that ensure you’re getting the most out of your solar cells. You can, of course, access solar power in a roundabout way with a wind generator built from a washing machine and a 555 timer.
Getting energy from the sun is one thing, and putting it to use is another thing entirely. We spend a lot of energy on transportation, and for that there’s a solar power bike, an electric scooter, or a completely open source electric car.
Building the machines that make sustainable energy possible or even just the tools that will let us use all that energy are just a few ideas that would make great entries for The Hackaday Prize. You could go another direction and build the tools that will build and maintain these devices, like figuring out a way to keep these batteries and generators out of the landfill. Any way you look at it, anything that actually matters would make a great entry to The Hackaday Prize.
Building a solar power installation isn’t as simple as buying a few panels, wiring them up to a battery, and putting an inverter in the mix. To get the most out of your pricey panels, you’ll want to look at something called Maximum Power Point tracking. Solar panels have an IV curve, and this changes with how much sunlight they’re getting. To get the most out of a set of cells, you need make sure you’re drawing the maximum amount of power out of your cells.
[Nathaniel]’s Solar Energy Generator does just that. It can handle up to 500 Watts, sucks power down from a bank of solar cells and spits that out to a battery. That’s not everything; the project also has a microcontroller for measuring and displaying all the pertinent info, and some terminals to plug in a few DC loads.
While the Solar Energy Generator is designed for off the grid applications, this could easily augment a home installation on the cheap. If you want more than 500 Watts or so, you’ll want to look at a larger controller, but for anything under that, [Nathan] has you covered.
The project featured in this post is a quarterfinalist in The Hackaday Prize.
Continue reading “THP Semifinalist: Solar Energy System”
Hurricane season in the US Atlantic region officially began on June 1st. While [mikesoniat] is hoping for a mild one in his Gulf Coast town, he’d like to be as prepared as possible in the event of a power outage. He’s been experimenting with solar power lately, and while he’d love to go all out with some hefty system that could keep all his appliances running, he’s not quite ready for that kind of investment. While thinking about this dream system, he noticed all the phone jacks around his house that he hasn’t used for several years. After consulting the phone company and researching the capabilities of 22-26AWG POTS copper lines, he devised a solar-powered system to provide enough power to run lights, fans, and a couple of phone chargers.
At the heart of this hack are two 12V solar panels, two 12V batteries in a weatherproof junction box, and a 100W solar charge controller. He started by re-wiring Ma Bell’s junction box up to the panels with thermostat wire. After prying out the RJ11 jack panels all over his house, he wired in regular outlets and marked them as 12V solar to avoid confusing his house guests. He was able to find 12V LED bulbs with standard bases, so all he has to do is screw in these bulbs and plug the lamps into his solar outlets. He also installed a floodlight outside and ran all of the wiring through the floodlight box.
To soak up more sun for this or any other solar hack, try a 2-axis solar tracker.
Yes, it’s a weather station, one of those things that records data from a suite of sensors for a compact and robust way of logging atmospheric conditions. We’ve seen a few of these built around Raspberry Pis and Arduinos, but not one built with a Phidget SBC, and rarely one that has this much thought put in to a weather logging station.
This weather station is designed to be autonomous, logging data for a week or so until the USB thumb drive containing all the data is taken back to the lab and replaced with a new one. It’s designed to operate in the middle of nowhere, and that means no power. Solar it is, but how big of a solar panel do you need?
That question must be answered by carefully calculating the power budget of the entire station and the battery, the size of the battery, and the worst case scenario for clouds and low light conditions. An amorphous solar cell was chosen for its ability to generate power from low and indirect light sources. This is connected to a 12 Volt, 110 amp hour battery. Heavy and expensive, but overkill is better than being unable to do the job.
Sensors, including temperature, humidity, and an IR temperature sensor were wired up to a Phidgets SBC3 and the coding began. The data are recorded onto a USB thumb drive plugged into the Phidgets board, and the station was visited once a week to retrieve data. This is a far, far simpler solution than figuring out a wireless networking solution, and much better on the power budget.
Via embedded lab
After the headlight on his bike died, [Patrick] decided this was the best time to hack the remains and solve a few problems: namely a constantly drained battery from accidentally forgetting to turn the light off. He opted for a solar solution, as he already had both an Adafruit solar lithium charger and a Seeed Li-po Rider. [Patrick] picks the Adafruit board for its extra safety features like temperature sensing to prevent the cell from overheating.
The build uses 9 eBay-sourced 2V mini solar panels attached neatly on the bike’s mudflaps. Three groups of 3 panels in series provide the needed 6V into the Adafruit lithium board which safely charges a spare 900mAh Nokia phone battery from the junk drawer. [Patrick] admits this solar setup may be overkill. He decided to include a USB jack to keep his phone charged for some Google maps navigation. The Adafruit board does not step up to 5V, however, so [Patrick] tacks on a Mintyboost kit to kick the Lipo’s output up high enough to charge the phone.
Solar’s not the only alternative way to power your bike’s lights. Check out the RattleGen from earlier this year if you missed it.
Despite 40-some years of product improvements, boomboxes today still require a half dozen D-cell batteries and measure their life in single digit hours. After this, the batteries get chucked in the trash. Tired of the absurd cost and quantity of batteries required in a typical boombox, reddit user [anders202] has whipped up a solution that will keep the party going and the landfills empty. Using some off-the-shelf components and some impressive woodworking skills, he created the “Boominator”.
Despite its environmentally-conscious design, this green machine packs a whallop. Using its dual 10W solar panels, it can drive four woofers and tweeters to produce an estimated 102dB of sound with power to spare. This extra juice can be used to charge its two internal 7.2Ah batteries or a cellphone using the integrated USB charging ports. Better still, Anders chose amorphous solar panels (as opposed to crystalline) which produce power even in cloudy weather as demonstrated during a cloudy day at the Roskilde festival in Denmark. For more information, check out the reddit comment thread.
Video demo after the jump
Continue reading “Boominator solar stereo keeps the music pumping even in cloudy weather”
If you have the space, and can build a tracking rig cheaply you’ll be able to get a lot more out of your solar panels. That’s because they work best when the sun’s rays are hitting them perpendicular to the surface and not at an angle. [Michael Davis] hit both of those stipulations with this mbed powered solar tracker.
At a garage sale he picked up an antenna motor for just $15. The thing was very old, but still wrapped in the original plastic. It’s beefy enough to move his panels, but he first needed a way to mount everything. After checking his angles he built a base out of wood and used galvanized water pipe as an axle. Cable clamps mate his aluminum angle bracket frame to the pipe. This frame holds the panels securely.
To track the sun he used two smaller cells which aren’t easy to pick out in this image. They are monitored by the mbed microcontroller which measures their output in order to point the assembly in the direction which has the most intense light. A couple of limit switches are included to stop the assembly when it reaches either side.
This technique of using small solar cells as the tracking sensors seems to work well. Here’s another project that took that approach.
Continue reading “Hardware store goods and an mbed combine help solar panels track the sun”