Instructables
Picture of 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.


 
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Step 1: Wiring Diagram

Picture of Wiring Diagram

The first thing I did was draw a wiring diagram.

Step 2: The Parts

Picture of The Parts
inverter.JPG
solar panel.JPG
toolbox.JPG

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.



 

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K!LL!4N4 years ago
Where did you buy your inverter?
DIY Dave (author)  K!LL!4N4 years ago
I bought it at meijer for $21.99.There are also many other places you can get them from. If you don't have a meijer near your house, you could get one from a hardware store or from Northerntools.com
ok, thank you. I am planing on building 1 for myself
DIY Dave (author)  K!LL!4N4 years ago
Cool; post pictures when you are done.
ok
GreenD4 years ago
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 (author)  GreenD4 years ago

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.

BrianR11 month ago

I would really like to build one of these for myself. Could you use a automotive style voltage regulator to keep from over charging your battery? Or is that completely different from something you would use with a solar panel? Any info is appreciated Thanks

DIY Dave (author)  BrianR11 month ago

I'm not sure what type of regulator you are referring to. With a panel as small as I used, you wouldn't have to worry about over charging the battery. Many larger solar panel set ups come with a charge controller, or you can buy one for a reasonable price online; just search "solar charge controller"

lcaswell8 months ago
have you thought about using two batteries and a charger controller with a 15 watt solar cell then yo could in stall a larger inverter and use it as a full generator for work applications and possibly even build them to sell and make a business I use similar setups for long camping trips wish I would have thought about a rolling tool box though
DIY Dave (author)  lcaswell8 months ago
Thanks for the suggestion. Since I made this instructable I have made a couple more and sold. The one had a larger 101 Amp/hr battery with a 15 Watt panel. The last one I built had a 101 amp/hr battery, three 15 watt solar panels, and a 900 Watt inverter
mo'mania1 year ago
I'm curious about whether this will function as both powering something (like the stereo in the picture) while still charging from the solar panel, all at the same time. Or is it a choice of one or the other?
DIY Dave (author)  mo'mania1 year ago
You can plug into the panels to charge and power a stereo or whatever else you want at the same time
That's awesome, thanks for everything!
Dave, great project. Can you provide more information on the bridge rectifier? Brand / Nomenclature? Where did you install it in your toolbox? Thanks.
john178313 years ago
I think it would be a good idea to also add some ventilation to this just to help with efficiency in a situation where you would want the lid down. it looks like you have the lid closed with the Solar panel on top for support. If there are no vent ports, the inverter will heat up. Without a charge controller this could be even more important for your battery. Your solar array probably isn't large enough to cause a major problem, but on a small scale, heat reduces your efficiency.
kwxj61b3 years ago
If I have 2 40watt 20volt solar panels that is connected to two CSB gp12650 12V 65Ah batteries, how much watt of inverter do I need? If I fully charged the batteries (includes the solar is still running) and connect to a window unit air condition that sucks up 900 watt, how long will the A/C last?
DIY Dave (author)  kwxj61b3 years ago
2 X 40 Watts = 80 Watts
12 hrs. of sunlight everyday X 80 Watts = 960 Watts

Every day you could use the air conditioning for only 1 hour. If you are running the air conditioner on the inverter you would need an inverter that was at least 900 Watts. In my opinion if you want some kind of air conditioning I would suggest making one of these-http://www.instructables.com/id/Portable-12V-Air-Conditioner---Cheap-and-easy!/ -This one even runs on 12 volt so you wouldn't even need an inverter.
What is the Wattage on your solar panel?
DIY Dave (author)  Electronics Man3 years ago
The one shown is a 5 Watt panel, but since then I have bought a 15 Watt panel which is what I now use.
devilmaycry3 years ago
Instead of using a big inventer! can you use a small in-car inventer.
DIY Dave (author)  devilmaycry3 years ago
Yes, actually that is what I originally planned to use but I found the 400 Watt inverter on sale so I decided to use it instead.
devilmaycry3 years ago
can i use a 1000 watt inventer instead of 400 watt one?
DIY Dave (author)  devilmaycry3 years ago
Yes
theone573 years ago
where did you get the solar panel and what voltage and amperage is it?
DIY Dave (author)  theone573 years ago
I bought mine at Tractor Supply Co.( http://www.tractorsupply.com) But since then I have found them for cheaper at menards and Northern Tools (http://www.northerntool.com) The one shown is ~15 Volt and only 1/3 Amp, but I now usually use a 15volt 1 Amp panel.
This generator is a big help to some home owners. This is a plus factor that can
save energy as well as money. Solar energy is an advantage to those who wants
to save energy and won't spend much money.

Great post. Keep sharing.
mtman113 years ago
were did u buy the tool box for 22.50 at. what store
DIY Dave (author)  mtman113 years ago
I bought it at walmart
thanks alot for info
rpvanpatt4 years ago
 So this 12v plug is just running straight of the solar panel and not the battery correct?
DIY Dave (author)  rpvanpatt4 years ago
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.
 oo ok, doesn't your diagram show an output car 12v plug?  I thought that was what this was
DIY Dave (author)  rpvanpatt4 years ago
Yes, this one is the output plug.
patlaceusa4 years ago
 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 (author)  patlaceusa4 years ago

Patricia,

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

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

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.
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
 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
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
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