How to Build a Solar Power Station

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Introduction: How to Build a Solar Power Station

About: "CAN'T can't do anything until TRY comes along and does it" -Grandpa

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.

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.



 

Step 3: Battery Mount

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

 

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.

Step 6: Hole for Battery Wires

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

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 didn’t need the wires to be so long, so I cut them really short and stripped them off.

 

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.

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.

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.


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.
 

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    82 Discussions

    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

    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!

    1 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.

    Where did you find your solar panel? I work on a golf course and need to supply a small solar station to run an irrigation panel. It's a small system that will only run 10 heads and the output from the box to the heads is only 24 volt. It will cost us thousands if we have to hard wire it from a pole to our practice tee. I like your project. Thanks Perry King

    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!

    3 replies

    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.

    Can you send me a proper diagram or advise to build a system for my power chair. Im a vet and like to spend time outdoors but cant in most cases because of rechargeable sources. My chair has 2 gell cell batteries with a regular charger. Wonder if I could go direct panel to my batteries.

    Please, please advise. Thanks

    You have several good options to charge your scooter. You can charge your scooter from your car using an inverter you plug into your car's lighter outlet. You can charge your scooter from an extra car battery you take with you (you'll still need an inverter for that). You can use a solar panel and run that into a Duracell power pack, thereby removing the need for any wiring. Duracell, for example makes a backup power pack that will charge with a (external) solar panel. Cheapest option is to use an inverter from your car lighter, because your car is already a generator. For a hundred bucks you can get an inverter that will not only charge your scooter, but run your fridge in the event of a power outage, turning your car into a backup generator on wheels.

    Now if you want solar power for camping, I would go with the largest solar panel you can carry safely, and a Wagan or Duracell power pack (or two as you can link them). a 100 watt panel can be had for about a hundred dollars, and a Duracell power pack can be had for about 120. but with those two, These powerpacks come with built in USB and built in 110V output. Make sure the scooter AC power draw in wattage is less than the max wattage of the power pack. Small solar panels (<15 w) would take days to fully charge a depleted scooter. The bigger the wattage of the solar panel the faster it will charge your backup battery. I would not recommend hooking up your scooter to a solar panel, unless you have a voltage regulator made for the exact volts of your scooter system.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for your military service!

    (also a veteran)

    v

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    pjcrux

    2 years ago

    Do you plan to plug into AC power to charge before heading out? Any plans to retrofit?

    1 reply

    Yes I do often charge it before taking it out. You can use a standard battery charger or maintainer

    Why is the bridge rectifier needed, as I thought the solar panel's output is DC?

    1 reply

    It's not actually needed. I was confused on the purpose of a bridge rectifier vs a diode which should have been used. In fact, the panel I used has a built in diode so wouldn't have needed to install one at all

    How many AmpHours is the battery? I have a 17Ah, what output could i get from this?
    Great instructo!

    1 reply

    Mine is rated 75 amp/hr (I tell about it in detail in step 2)

    A 12 volt 17Ah battery would equal out to about 200 watt hours. That means, for example, you could run something with a 50 watt draw for 4 hours

    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