Rechargeable, Solar Battery

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About: Hey! We're Yasmine, Simon, Blaze, Nick, and Ben. We made a bunch of little guides for our engineering senior design project that we decided to share with you. Our aim is to encourage upcycling/recycling, hom...

A rechargeable, solar battery to power all of your projects away from the house and off the grid! This project is designed to work alongside an automated chicken coop but can be used to power any small or medium sized projects.

Step 1: Gather the Materials

This is a very simple circuit that only needs 3 components:

  • Solar panel(s). Any work but this project uses 20 Watt BP Solar SX20u.
  • A large battery. Something like a car, motorcycle, or golf cart battery would work. This project uses a 12V Odyssey motorcycle battery.
  • A solar controller. There are many brands and models for solar controllers which are specialized for different voltages for batteries and solar panels. This project uses an Anself 20A 12V/24V solar controller.
  • Wire. Please refer to this wire chart to find the gauge of wire your project needs. With the power and voltages of this circuit, we use 12 gauge wire.

All of these components can be purchased online or at most electronics stores. However, this project encourages the use of old batteries which can get an extended life with the help of a solar panel.

Step 2: Put It Together

Once you have the materials, the rest of the project is easy!

  1. Find the positive flow of electricity for the solar panel by placing it out in some sunlight and measuring the voltage across the terminals with a multimeter. If you have multiple panels you can boost their voltage by connecting them in series or boost their amperage by connecting them in parallel. A good description of this can be found on BatteryStuff.com.
  2. With the solar panel shaded, connect it to the marked terminals on the solar controller. Shading the solar panel is for safety to ensure that electricity isn't running through the wires while connecting them.
  3. Find the positive flow of electricity from the battery. Often this will be marked, but if not, use a multimeter on the battery similar to the solar panel in step 1.
  4. Connect the batter to the marked terminals on the solar controller.
  5. The solar battery is complete! To use it, connect whatever you want to power to the battery. The solar panels will now recharge your battery when they receive sunlight.

Note that you may also connect a circuit to the remaining terminals on the solar controller marked load (the light bulb icon in the bottom right). However these terminals will not provide power if the battery ever drops below around 12V. Because of this, it is more reliable to simply connect your circuit to the nodes on your battery.

Step 3: Secure Electronics

  1. Evaluate your specific application and ensure that exposed electronics will not be damaged. Based on your application develop and implement enclosures to prevent water damage, or physical damage
    • Our device was used in a chicken coop, and so there was risk of wires being pecked by chickens. We enclosed our electronics by adding a hinged wooden box around our battery. We also enclosed wires in rigid tubes and secured the tubes near the roof as shown

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    3 Discussions

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    gibmarkney

    5 months ago

    Also, don't forget to vent your battery if it's in an enclosed space. Don't want an explosion...

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    MikB

    5 months ago

    Also: The whole point of the terminals marked "load" cutting off your power when the battery goes too low is to protect the battery from damage. Any load connected to the battery directly that can drain it lower than this point will do further damage to your already tired/recycled battery.

    This goes extra for car batteries, which as @memjr73 below, are not meant to be deep discharged at all.

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    memjr73

    5 months ago

    This is a fantastic idea.

    But you shouldn't use a car/motorcycle battery for it. Use a deep discharge battery such as the ones used in boats, even electric wheel chair batteries.

    Car/motorcycle batteries are made to deliver very large amounts of current for a very short time, such as when you start the engine. Discharging them over a long period of time and recharging them will eventually ruin them. While you have it connected to a solar panel for recharge, if you use this project in a way that it uses more power than the panel can provide, you end up with the ruined battery.

    So if you want a long life out of your batteries, use the deep discharge ones.