A small gauge showing power generated by a house's solar panels.

Cute Solar Power Gauge Brightens The Day

What’s the first thing you want after installing solar? All the sunshine you can get, of course. Especially if you did it in the wintertime. And what would be more fun than monitoring your power generation, especially leading up to the equinox, or start of spring? Probably not much, especially if you built a cute solar power gauge like [Ben] did to keep him from obsessively checking his phone.

At the heart of this build is the affordable Seeed Xiao ESP32C3, which controls an equally cost-effective automotive stepper via an L293D H-bridge driver. Then it was just a matter of hooking it into Home Assistant. As power is generated by the solar system, the cute little sun on the gauge rises and shows the kilowattage gained.

Unfortunately there’s no real data sheet for the stepper, so [Ben] opted to use the 5 V from the USB that’s powering the ESP32. However, it seems like this might not be enough power because the gauge appears to drift a bit. To fix this, [Ben] runs the stepper_init script twice a day, which cranks the dials all the way forward then all the way backward before settling on the last known value.

Are you interested in solar? Here’s how you can build a small power system.

Run Linux By Emulating RISC-V On A RISC-V Microcontroller

For years it was a given that it was impossible to run a Linux based operating system on a less powerful computer whose architecture lacked a memory management unit. There were projects such as uCLinux which sought to provide some tidbits to low computing power Linux users, but ultimately they came to naught. It is achievable after a fashion though, by using the limited architecture to emulate a more powerful one. It’s been done on AVR chips emulating ARM, on ARM chips, and now someone’s done it on an ESP32-C3 microcontroller, a RISC-V part running a RISC-V emulator. What’s going on?

RISC-V is an architecture specification that can be implemented at many levels from a simple microcontroller or even a pile of 74 logic to a full-fat application processor. The ESP32-C3 lies towards the less complicated end of this curve, though that’s not the whole reason for the emulation. The PSRAM storage is used by the C3 as data storage and can’t be used to run software, so to access all that memory capacity an emulator is required that in turn can use the PSRAM as its program memory. It’s a necessary trick for Espressif’s implementation of the architecture.

Surprisingly it’s not as slow as might be expected, with a boot-up time under two minutes. It’s not what we’d expect from our desktop powerhouses, but it’s not so long ago that certain lower-power full-fat processors could be just as lethargic. For past glories, see the AVR running Linux, and the RP2040.

Low-Power Wi-Fi Includes E-Paper Display

Designing devices that can operate in remote environments on battery power is often challenging, especially if the devices need to last a long time between charges or battery swaps. Thankfully there are some things available that make these tasks a little easier, such as e-ink or e-paper displays which only use power when making changes to the display. That doesn’t solve all of the challenges of low-power devices, but [Albertas] shows us a few other tricks with this development board.

The platform is designed around an e-paper display and is meant to be used in places where something like sensor data needs to not only be collected, but also displayed. It also uses the ESP32C3 microcontroller as a platform which is well-known for its low power capabilities, and additionally has an on-board temperature and humidity sensor. With Bluetooth included as well, the tiny device can connect to plenty of wireless networks while consuming a remarkably low 34 µA in standby.

With a platform like this that can use extremely low power when not taking measurements, a battery charge can last a surprisingly long time. And, since it is based on common components, adding even a slightly larger battery would not be too difficult and could greatly extend this capability as well. But, we have seen similar builds running on nothing more than a coin cell, so doing so might only be necessary in the most extreme of situations.