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How to build a Solar Power Station


by DIY Dave on October 19, 2009 Table of Contents License: Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Intro: How to build a Solar Power Station . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 1: Wiring Diagram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 2: The Parts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 3: Battery Mount . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 4: Pre-Wiring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 5: Installing power input plug . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 6: Hole for battery wires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 7: Preparing the wires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 8: Soldering . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . step 9: Installing the power output jack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 2 3 4 6 6 7 7 8 9

step 10: Wiring for the inverter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 step 11: Finishing up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Advertisements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

License: Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa) Intro: How to build a Solar Power Station
This Instructable is on how to build a battery power pack that charges from the sun. I built it this past summer to have a portable device that I could run and charge my gadgets on.

step 1: Wiring Diagram


The first thing I did was draw a wiring diagram.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

step 2: The Parts


Next I shopped around and purchased my parts. Below is a list of the parts I used. Solar Panel - - - - - - - - - - - - $68.95 12 volt battery - - - - - - - - - - $58.00 400 watt inverter - - - - - - - - $21.99 rolling toolbox - - - - - - - - - - $22.88 auxiliary 12 volt plug - - - - - $4.87 auxiliary 12 volt plug - - - - - $4.87 14 gauge wire (red) - - - - - $2.48 14 gauge wire (black) - - - $2.48 heat shrink ring conectors- $2.45 3/16'' heat shrink tube - - - $1.99 bridge rectifier - - - - - - - - $1.99 SPST switch - - - - - - - - - - $2.99 utility - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $.54 solder - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $1.49 total - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - $197.97 My battery is a 12 volt deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries are made to be fully charged and discharged; unlike car batteries which are not supposed to be fully discharged. The battery is rated 75 amp hours. The inverter converts the battery power (DC) into regular AC power. The inverter is rated 400 watts. I bought the solar panel at a farm supply store. The Solar Panel is rated 5 Watts. I bought this toolbox because I thought everything would fit in it well, and it had wheels which would make it easier to transport.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

step 3: Battery Mount


I built a battery mount out of 2X4's to hold the battery in place in the toolbox.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

Image Notes 1. The top 2X4 is 17'' long and the bottom one is 14'' long.

Image Notes 1. This is the finished battery mounts inside the bottom part of the toolbox.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

step 4: Pre-Wiring
Before I started wiring I had to put in a utility box for all the connections. I removed three of the punch outs on the utility box; the middle bottom one, the middle side one, and the one end one. I screwed on and tightened a compression fitting on one end. That is where the wires going to the 12 volt plug will go through.

step 5: Installing power input plug


Next I cut a hole for the input power plug. I mounted it so that the connection end of the input plug would go directly into the utility box.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

Image Notes 1. Power input plug, on the outside of the toolbox

step 6: Hole for battery wires


Then I cut a hole under the utility box for the wires going to the battery.

Image Notes 1. I used the hole in the utility box as a template.

Image Notes 1. I also put a compression fitting through that hole from the bottom.

step 7: Preparing the wires


In preparation for soldering, I crimped ring conectors on one end of both the positive and negative battery wires. Once they were on, I used a lighter to shrink the heat shrink tube on the ring conector. The 12 volt plug I bought came with the 2 wires I needed, but because the power input plug went right into the utility box I didnt need the wires to be so long, so I cut them really short and stripped them off.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

Image Notes 1. These are the shortened wires.

step 8: Soldering
I ran the battery wires up though the hole in the bottom of the utility box and soldered everything together. To keep them from shorting out I put heat shrink tube on all the connections. Next I tightened the compression fittings to prevent the wires from being pulled out. Since all the connections in the utility box had been made, I screwed the lid on.

Image Notes

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

1. This compression fitting is inside the battery compartment. The wires go to the battery.

step 9: Installing the power output jack


I found where I wanted to mount the 12 volt power plug, drilled holes and bolted it on.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

step 10: Wiring for the inverter


First I drilled holes and ran the two wires through. Then I cut and stripped the wires just long enough to reach to the battery from the inverter. After that I crimped small ring connectors on the inverter ends of the wires and large ones on the battery ends. Once both ends of both wires had ring connectors, I shrunk the heat shrink with a lighter.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

step 11: Finishing up


When you are finished, plug it into the solar panel and charge it. Once it's charged you'll be able to use free power from the sun. If you have any questions I would be glad to answer them. Also feel free to post pictures of your own creations.

Image Notes 1. AC output 2. 12 volt output

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

3. This is where all the connections are. 4. Solar panel input jack (to outside of toolbox)

Image Notes 1. Solar panel on top of the toolbox. 2. Stereo that's being powered by the sun.

Related Instructables

S.P.R.E.E. (Solar Photovoltaic Renewable Electron Encapsulator), a Compact, Durable, and Portable Solar Energy Generator by charlitron

PORTABLE SOLAR AC POWER by jackson88

Solar Power (guide) by Plasmana

12Volt IN, Adjustable output power source! by GreenD

Solar Car Battery Charger DIY by TimAnderson

How To Make a Simple Wall Power Unit. by Nicker987

Build your own DIY solar powered mobile phone by The Corrugator

Battery Powered Emergency USB Charger by jbyrns1993

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

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Comments
44 comments Add Comment

rpvanpatt says:
So this 12v plug is just running straight of the solar panel and not the battery correct?

Feb 5, 2010. 10:59 AM REPLY

DIY Dave says:

Feb 5, 2010. 6:32 PM REPLY This is the power output plug to plug in things such as a cell phone car charger. The plug in step 5 is the input plug for the solar panel. Both the output and input plugs are connected to the battery.

rpvanpatt says:
oo ok, doesn't your diagram show an output car 12v plug? I thought that was what this was

Feb 5, 2010. 8:38 PM REPLY

DIY Dave says:


Yes, this one is the output plug.

Feb 6, 2010. 2:06 PM REPLY

patlaceusa says:

Oct 21, 2009. 10:54 PM REPLY What size of a panel and an inverter would you need to run a hot plate and an small electric room size heater? Does anyone know and would be able to help me? Can I do that? Thanks, Patricia

DIY Dave says:


Patricia, As Spanbox and isacco have said this setup is too small for running heaters and hotplates.

Jan 24, 2010. 7:21 PM REPLY

What I would suggest for a heater (if you're wanting something portable) is that you should get a small propane heater such as this one. http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_200362083_200362083

spanbox says:

Jan 11, 2010. 11:51 AM REPLY A solar system would be very expensive to do what you want. Generating heat from electricity requires a lot of electricity. Solar systems, batteries and inverters are never 100% efficient either, so, to use a 1000W heater or hotplate for 1 hour you would need about 1200W/h of stored energy. At 12V, 1200W will draw 100amps. So, if you have a fully charged 100A/h battery it would be dead after 1 hour, but draining any battery is bad for the battery. Better would be to have 5 x 100A/h so that each one only uses 20% after 1 hour, and stays 80% charged. A 100A/h deep cyle leisure/solar battery does not come cheap, let alone 5 of them. Then you need an expensive inverter capable of the high load, and then enough solar panels to charge the batteries again. I would think about trying to use a different method for generating heat e.g. a gas fire or a gas hotplate. Wood is also carbon neutral and a good source of renewable energy. Hope this helps.

isacco says:

Oct 22, 2009. 1:51 AM REPLY Usually, a hot plate or an electric heater has between 500 and 1000 watts of power consumption. A Silicium mono-chrystal panel delivers a nominal (maximum) power of about 100W per square meter. The battery and inverter should be sized on this power. It would not be a portable system. Isacco

patlaceusa says:

Oct 22, 2009. 9:58 AM REPLY I could purchase enough panels and an inverter I saw from Coleman was rated at 100o W. But, I don't know what I would need in batteries. Can you help? Thanks

isacco says:

Oct 23, 2009. 1:56 AM REPLY I know some basic info because I am exploring the market for a photovoltaic systems for my house. From my market investigation (I am in Italy) the cost of 1 Kw nominal power (panels + inverter) is between 4000 and 5000 Euros. I cannot give you more technical details because I am not an expert. May be you can post your questions in forums devoted to photovoltaic energy. Isacco Jan 15, 2010. 9:34 PM REPLY

shinjikun34 says:
Great idea for camping or emergencies (or when you want to be cool and tote it around with you for max battery life)

but a lot of the build pictures didn't give a relative view of where you put everything inside. I know the battery was in the bottom and braced with wood - but besides that I have no idea of where anything else was at. Would you go back and take some zoomed out shots of everything to help me understand placement so I can build one myself (maybe even a better one)

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

also some more info on why you did what you did - what was the reasoning for using the 12v plug instead of a standard wall plug for power from the solar panel to the battery. just touch up and such like that would be appreciated. Awesome build!

DIY Dave says:


I just posted a new picture of the inside of the toolbox. I hope that makes it clear where everything is inside.

Jan 16, 2010. 7:42 PM REPLY

The reason I used a 12 volt plug for the solar panel input is because the solar panel came with a 12 volt plug on it (because its made to be plugged into a car cigarette lighter plug). If you have any more questions feel free to ask.

GreenD says:

Dec 25, 2009. 4:22 PM REPLY Yeah, good work! I plan to make my own - but with a bit modification: I won't have your bridge rectifier - just a diode (still don't know how I choose which type) Is your SPST switch for the solar panel charging the battery? Why? I was going to have the solar panel always connected to the battery - with a trickle charge indicator that will shut off current into the battery. Then, for outputs I'm going to also add a USB port along with standard wall plug. Have fun with your project, it's the best damn idea people don't have yet!

DIY Dave says:

Dec 28, 2009. 5:12 PM REPLY Yes, the SPST is for the solar panel charging the battery. The reason why is because I didn't install a charge controller that prevents overcharging and so I put a switch to control charging manually. Also mine does have a 2 standard wall plugs and a USB port; that is what the inverter is for.

GreenD says:

Dec 25, 2009. 4:08 PM REPLY I'm just learning electrical systems and engineering - If I wanted to bypass the rectifier (I don't have any plans with wind turbines!) what type of diode would I use & rating, and how would that change this layout? I've been planning on making this for a long time and I thank you for your effort on this DIY!

DIY Dave says:


If you use the solar panel I use, you won't actually need to install a diode because the solar panel has one built in.

Dec 28, 2009. 4:48 PM REPLY

glasscutr says:

Nov 28, 2009. 5:04 PM REPLY Step two says the total cost is $197 for a solar project that uses a 5 watt panel. That's $39.40 / watt; which is about five times more than systems commercially available on the market. I would hardly say this is an economical project and you're better off looking for other alternatives. Even though it's a GREEN project and gives you a warm feeling of doing something good for the planet, you'll run yourself bankrupt doing something on a larger scale. Suggest waiting until the solar technologies can be better developed by manufactures and their associated costs come down to a more realistic price range.

crazypoop says:

Dec 18, 2009. 4:10 AM REPLY it IS economical, as you only can use the one Watt that you get from the electricity company once, however the cost of the solar panel and such dissipates the cost over the amount of Watts used. So the more you use your solar power station, the cheaper and cheaper the Watts become, until you reach a point upon whence you find yourself following in the footsteps of Xeno (Zeno), and asking yourself how small you can divide the cost of a Watt, until the Watt is worth nothing... Nov 2, 2009. 7:24 AM REPLY

mhkabir says:
I do not understand why the bridge rectifier is needed. The solar panel produces DC, not AC Kabir

braydensucks says:
IF you read what he said ,he braught a inverter converts dc to ac so it can power house hold objects

Nov 5, 2009. 2:21 AM REPLY

its confusing i know but if you read it, and you dont know the words type it in google and see what the word is say a inverter you find what it is and what it can be used for. hack the plannet(clean the world)

DIY Dave says:

Nov 2, 2009. 6:33 PM REPLY I used a bridge rectifier instead of a diode to keep the current from flowing back out of the batteries. I wouldn't have needed to put one in (because the solar panel has one built in) but I'm planning to build a few other things to charge it also.

mhkabir says:

Nov 3, 2009. 4:49 AM REPLY The idea is good, but for the moment an utter waste of energy. Schottky diodes have a lower voltage drop on them, thus are more efficient.SO, If you use a rectifier AND a diode it would be a better setup if you would add a windmill.The diode, then may OR may not be used.I have considerable experience in this matter. My profile COULD interest you.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

theshades says:
Where did you get the rolling toolbox?

Oct 31, 2009. 2:34 PM REPLY

DIY Dave says:


I bought mine at Walmart, but I've also seen them at Lowes.

Nov 1, 2009. 11:38 AM REPLY

astrong0 says:
its cool, but sorry i'm not going to pay $68.95 for a solar pannel

Oct 29, 2009. 5:01 PM REPLY

KD7CAO says:

Oct 29, 2009. 8:24 AM REPLY Nice idea to the author, I would like to recommend using one of the many free schematic applications or even a trial version and taking a screen shot so that the drawing is more accurate. Also, instead of running your input current through the SPST switch go directly to the battery through an appropriate fuse. Run your Inverter and output currents through switches and through appropriate fuses as well. You want to be able to charge at any time, however you want to limit when your loads are connected. It is imperative that you add fuses to your layout, any connections to the battery need to be fused. At this time you could source a lot of current from the battery and risk a fire or explosion.

DIY Dave says:

Oct 29, 2009. 3:13 PM REPLY I was just thinking about adding a fuse a few days ago. I think I might just cut the wire that goes to the + side of the battery and put a fuse there.

ex92 says:
this is fricken awesome dude!!!

Oct 29, 2009. 8:39 AM REPLY

berational says:

Oct 20, 2009. 11:15 PM REPLY Your Diagram references a bridge rectifier, but I don't think it is mentioned in the description or pictures. Can you explain that a little?

KD7CAO says:

Oct 29, 2009. 8:23 AM REPLY There are two common Bridge Rectifiers, Half-Wave and Full-Wave. On a DC system the use of a Half-Wave Rectifier will prevent the current from flowing back out of the batteries through the charge port. A Full-Wave Rectifier (Graetz) is used in AC-DC power supplies. This allows the full wavelength of AC to be converted to DC. For instance if you were to use a Full-Wave Rectifier on an AC mains of 120V you would receive approximately 240V of DC or Direct Current minus any loss that occurs across the diodes. At any given time on either side of the rectifier you would have a loss across the two diodes. On a Hal-Wave rectifier this loss would be minimized, however if it was an AC input then you would receive a pulsed DC output with highs and lows in reference to 0 Volts but not negative to 0. I would recommend that instead of using a rectifier circuit such as shown in the picture, to switch and use a charge controller, there are several very inexpensive units for use in solar and wind applications where the input is a DC source. This will provide a small step-up in voltage that will allow the batteries to be charged at their ideal voltages and reach near 100% charge, and also prevent the loss of voltage due to diode and resistor drop.

DonQuijote says:

Oct 21, 2009. 5:39 AM REPLY techincally, a bridge rectifier in itself is not needed, since the voltage coming from the solar panel is one-way-only. it does not oscillate back and forth for it to need rectification. however, that bridge rectifier is made out of four diodes, out of which two would be used, in this configuration. one diode on one wire, and the other diode on the other wire, in order to prevent the battery discharging through the solar panel when the sun is not shining enough, and the panel is a t a lower voltage than the battery. so, tu sum it up, the bridge rectifier is there for protection, but is not used for its rectifying proprety

DIY Dave says:

Oct 21, 2009. 6:59 PM REPLY I know I don't really need a bridge rectifier for this, but I just decided to use it instead of a diode. In fact, I wouldn't even need a diode if I were just using this solar panel, because it has one built in. However I plan to build a 12 volt wind turbine that will also power it, and so I put in a rectifier.

DonQuijote says:
sounds good. g'luck with your setup, and don;t forget to have fun building it.

Oct 22, 2009. 2:16 AM REPLY

fearghus says:

Oct 23, 2009. 1:42 PM REPLY Bwuh, am I wrong in assuming that putting a lead-acid battery in a _black_ airtight (mostly) container and leaving it in the sun is a bad idea? How does it not get uber-hot?

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/

wperry1 says:

Oct 29, 2009. 8:20 AM REPLY The risk of hydrogen gas leaking form most modern batteries is small though it should still be considered. That said, the solar panel is putting out 5w presumably at 12v which only works out to a charge rate of just over 400ma which should not cause the battery to heat up much. Oct 23, 2009. 5:31 PM REPLY I had never really thought about that, but I never noticed it getting hot. I guess I should probably leave the battery compartment open when it's out in the sun.

DIY Dave says:

longestname says:

Oct 29, 2009. 4:42 AM REPLY Hi All. I work in an electronics store. If you wish to run a mains powered item, please be aware it will seriously suck the power from any battery. I am based in the UK, so there is a calculation difference. These values may flesh out some ideas for you all: Say I have a laptop with a flat battery that I need to use now. The mains power adapter says 1.8 Amps (UK) = 432 Watts (UK), that is if you run everything on the laptop. This circuit above ^^^ will cope with that... but and it is a BIG 'BUT' it pulls 43.2 Amps (UK) at 12 Volts. Basically 1/10th of the mains wattage (UK). So, use 12 Volts input into your devices if possible. Or if it is a laptop buy a car to laptop adapter which only pulls about 11 Amps. All the Amp figures X how many hours of use = one dead battery...

jimmy dean says:

Oct 21, 2009. 7:58 PM REPLY I'm planning on building something like this and I have a few questions. How long does it take to charge the battery? How much power can it put out?

DIY Dave says:

Oct 26, 2009. 8:28 PM REPLY I don't really know how long it takes to fully charge the battery because I usual charge it up before it gets very low. I would guess it would take about 15 hours to fully charge it with the small solar panel I have. It only takes a few hours to charge it when the battery is only a little low. The inverter I have puts out 400 watts.

mackjr says:
Im going to put solar panels on my camper roof this will help with wiring

Oct 24, 2009. 7:40 AM REPLY

johnnyknob says:
Looks like it should have Captain Pike sitting in it.

Oct 22, 2009. 10:01 AM REPLY

VagsmaCutter says:
Beeeeeep (yes)

Oct 22, 2009. 10:55 AM REPLY

PKM says:
The shape of the toolbox in step 2 reminds me of the tweenbot:

Oct 21, 2009. 6:59 AM REPLY

A couple of googly eyes on those yellow clamps would finish the look :) Apart from that, this looks like a straightforward build and your diagram and wiring details make it easily understandable.

grybaz says:

Oct 21, 2009. 12:00 AM REPLY I had similar setup, but without rolling box; And I can tell you one thing, you definitely need bigger solar panel. I had one twice as big attached (15W), from size in your picz I can say you have 5-7W. The inverter draws too much power from battery for solar panel to keep up with it.

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-Solar-Power-Station/