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#239192 - 01/13/12 12:45 AM Getting Started with Portable Solar Power
buckeye Offline
life is about the journey

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 153
Loc: Ohio

One of my goals this year is to continue my research and perhaps take the plunge in getting some type of solar generated electricity capability to add to my supplies.

I've considered it for several year, but the price point always seemed too high (and it's still high, but is coming down a little).

As to what my priorities are, I would list them as follows:

  • Something to charge AA and AAA rechargeable batteries
  • Something that could actually supply DC power to a radio, cell phone, GPS or other such small item(s) (Perhaps up to 14 Volts and 20 Watts)
  • What would make me really happy would be able to run a laptop (that needs 90 Watts) but from what I've seen, these are what I consider "Big Bucks"

Are there options or products that would allow me to build upon an approach in stages? For example, are there products that would allow me to take care of recharging batteries first at a relatively reasonable cost, that I could just add-on to, that if I added a couple modules later, could eventually get me up to the 90 Watt goal?

I've looked at some of the GoalZero products but haven't been able to find anyone locally that can attest to their reliability (nor their field reliability) or their suitability to purpose.

So, given the idea of portability and my goals above:

  • If you've gotten started, where did you start at?
  • Did it end up being a good path?
  • What would you recommend now as a way to get started, based on your experience?
  • What compaines are some of the design leaders with reliable products.

Would appreciate the guidance of the group on this.

Education is the best provision for old age.

I have no interest in or affiliation to any of the products or services I may mention. Should I ever, I will clearly state so.

#239194 - 01/13/12 01:31 AM Re: Getting Started with Portable Solar Power [Re: buckeye]
fooman Offline

Registered: 05/15/08
Posts: 78
I've been using the solar bulbs from Nokero www.nokero.com which run 1 AA battery internally. They're fairly simple, affordable and do what they're supposed to do. Nokero also has a small USB panel but I haven't tried those.

and the Joos Orange panel/battery from http://solarjoos.com/ which is a USB charger. I use it to charge my iPhone, 2AA Eneloop charger, and SW radio receiver. Looking for a compact camera that charges via USB.

No issues with either so far and they work as advertised. Of course there's plenty of sunshine out here in Borneo. Unless it rains.

I can't charge my video camera or a laptop, so that's something I'll work on when the need arises.

#239200 - 01/13/12 04:03 AM Re: Getting Started with Portable Solar Power [Re: fooman]
Andy Offline

Registered: 09/13/07
Posts: 378
Loc: SE PA
I've been happy wih this retailer who's currently offering some good discounts on Brunton portbale solar gear. Just a customer.

Botach Tactical

#239202 - 01/13/12 04:44 AM Re: Getting Started with Portable Solar Power [Re: buckeye]
LesSnyder Offline

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1541
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
I got the Goal Zero 7w panel for the same purpose as you described...get my feet wet with solar, but living in Florida had a practical side to it to provide a minimum recharging capability for hurricane season...

my weather radio uses AA NiMH batteries so decided that was a starting place to attemp to standardize batteries to AAs,(the standardization is a work in progress as I still have Ds and CR123s for the weapons lights)...this summer purchased a AA Black Diamond headlight to add to the LED mini Mag lights for illumination...

my original charger was a 120v/12v controlled charger suggested by AFLM and works with an 8 pack of Sanyo Eneloop rechargables... original trials using the 12v tubular plug with the 7w panel, charged 4 Eneloops in under 4 hours (they come partially charged, and the other 4 were fully charged with 120v in about 2 hours)

then added the Goal10 battery pack and cable to give me portable charging capability for my cell phone which uses a mini USB connector...haven't used it to charge as yet (Eneloops are still charged) but should charge quicker as it is lower voltage and should produce a higher current flow

to connect with the 7w panel's tubular 12v connector, I have a male cigarette plug terminating with a pair of battery clips to charge a pair of 12 auto batteries as well as the reverse cable ..a 12v tubular female to battery clips to work with a pair of 12v batteries I run my ventilation fans off

luckily did not need anything this hurricane season...I did pick up a 3500w alternator from a friend so have additional options...in previous posts did a little research into solar water heating options field expedient showers

Edited by LesSnyder (01/13/12 01:47 PM)

#239216 - 01/13/12 04:19 PM Re: Getting Started with Portable Solar Power [Re: buckeye]
wileycoyote Offline

Registered: 03/01/11
Posts: 276
Loc: eastern oregon
if charging a few small items is the end goal, what about forgetting PV and just using a 12V battery charger off vehicle batteries?

that way you can even charge items at night and on overcast days. a large car battery can recharge lots of cell phones, radio batteries, yet still start the vehicle later.

pick your items carefully: we live on solar-only so have always purchased battery-run items with low wattage to get the most out of the system (ie: our older laptops used 1.2 mA/hr but current macbooks uses 1/4th that).

and for back-up and travel, we always carry small inverters in each vehicle to recharge cell phones (should the DC charger die), small batteries, or run electronics directly. we've never had a problem starting vehicles after running a laptop for a couple of hours, which should be more than enough time to tell relatives/friends that you're ok during a crisis.

and if you're still interested in having PV, just get a panel to lay on the dashboard for topping off the car's battery.

as an added bonus, a car-based system allows you to easily bug-out with all this stuff, if necessary.

just a thought...

#239219 - 01/13/12 04:46 PM Re: Getting Started with Portable Solar Power [Re: buckeye]
LCranston Offline

Registered: 08/31/09
Posts: 172
Loc: Nebraska
3 solutions

Not a current user of ANY of these, but interested.....

Solution # 1




Both are aa battery chargers, both under 15.00- the ebay one is 12.99 shipped.

Solution # 2

MOST Interesting


5 watt amorphous panel
2 lights
7AH 12 Volt battery (84 Watts)
2 12 V DC plugs
1 USB plug

shipping weight ~14.5 pounds

sale price this week 59.00, regular 99.00

Solution # 3

Lets think out of the Box.....

Buy a UPS (Uninterpretable Power Supply) on clearance from Best Buy/Staples/Office Max.
You now have a charger, a 7AH,12 Volt 96 watts) battery, and a cheap inverter, all in one box. New, with a warranty.
NOT on sale ~ 50.00

Bring it home, plug it in. Congratulations, you now have a working back up power supply!

2) buy a standard boring AA/AAA charger. you can buy this anywhere, and plug it in anywhere.

In an outage, plug it in to the UPS, it will charge your AA/AAA about 100 times.

3) Buy a small panel- 5 watt/10 watt- Google shopping, lowest price. (Sears has a 6 watt for 22.00 today. )
To use, take the battery out of the UPS, hook up the panel.

In above example we have a 96 watt battery. With the 6 watt panel- you will put in 6 watts + or -, for each hour of really good sun. If panel is facing south, you will get 4-6 hours of really good sun per day, depending on location/latitude/season/weather. SO 6 watts times 5 hours = 30 WATTS recharge per day.

with a small panel as listed above, you dont need to worry about a charge control.


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