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




For under $160 you can construct a S.P.R.E.E. to harness clean carbon-free solar electricity to power your portable electronic devices.

Project: S.P.R.E.E. (Solar Photovoltaic Renewable Electron Encapsulator), is an experiment in alternative energy and solar generated electricty.The impetus for construction was the desire to have my cellular phone and other small electronics run entirely from free* renewable solar energy.

The goal was to spend the least amount of money possible to design, construct, and maintain a portable, weather-proof, small-scale solar powered battery charger to re-charge any small electronics. Since I live in Southern California, with plenty of sun, the plan is to leave it charging on my balcony during the day, then charge my cellular phone at night. Note: Do not place on a balcony rail like I did, that was just for the picture.

My design was inspired from a do-it-yourself section I saw in Popular Science. The DIY section in Popular Science was a good start, but it lacked complete directions. I did like how article listed how much and where to purchase components.

After reading that article, I searched other corners of the internet and developed my own design. I then researched the project, and gathered the parts for about $160, including taxes and shipping costs. I have friends that own an auto shop, RPM Brakes who let me use their multimeter, soldering iron, and they had plenty of extra connectors around.

I have added several optional modifications in Step 5.

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Step 1: Gather Components for S.P.R.E.E.

The components are very basic, involving a photovoltaic panel, a rechargeable battery, a charge controller, and the sun. You should not spend more that $160, unless money is no object to you. Not the case for me.

5-watt, 12-volt photovoltaic panel, $36, eBay, Solar Cynergy: PV-SC005J17
1/4" mono plug (2), $1, allelectronics.com, SPH
DC solar charge controller, $28, allelectronics.com, SCN-2
12-volt 12-AH rechargeable battery, $40, allelectronics.com, GC-1214
10-feet of 18-gauge wire, $3, allelectronics.com, WRB-18
cigarette lighter "Y" adapter, $4, allelectronics.com, CLP-Y
200-watt power inverter, $17, walmart.com, 001088173
plastic box with split folding lids, $5, target medium bin
wood/hardware for mounting, $4, lowe's, 1x3x4, screws

This leaves about $22 for random parts, upgrades, accessories, shipping fees and taxes.

Necessary tools: Power drill and creativity.

Step 2: Construct a Box for S.P.R.E.E.

I selected a plastic bin with a split opening lid worth $5 at Target. I picked it because it was cheap, durable, easy to modify, and relatively weather-proof. Drill plenty of holes in it to provide airflow. I also drilled holes to add bungee cords to hold the battery secure. And, I drilled a hole for the mono jack to go into the box, leaving the cigarette socket outside of the box.

Be creative. Hollow out an old TV or CRT monitor and use that as your box. Or you can make it out of bamboo flooring scraps like they did in Popular Science.

Step 3: Wire S.P.R.E.E.

The wiring is very simple and intuitive. Basically, the photovoltaic panel and the battery are connected to the charge controller.

The charge controller has a 12 volt output. This output is in the form of a 1/4 inch mono jack. The first step involves cutting off the cigarette lighter plug from the Y-adapter and soldering the mono plug to the cigarette lighter socket. (Since it was a Y adapter, and there was 2 sockets, I made 2 mono-plug-to cigarette-socket "connectors", one as a backup) Make sure to test your connections.

Connect the photovoltaic panel to the charge controller. Insert the 1/4 inch mono jack into the 12 volt output of the charge controller. Check your connections again.

I drilled a hole in the plastic box top, and then attached 2 wooden boards to the top of the box. I then attached the photovoltaic panel to 1/2 inch square wooden dowels. I then created a hinge using speaker wire and screws, which holds the photovolatic panel secure yet allows tilt from 90 to 180 degrees. Then I drilled another hole and inserted the mono jack and left the 12 volt cigarette lighter outside of the housing, but made a holster for it by using a zip-tie.

More about modifications in step 5.

Step 4: Energize S.P.R.E.E.

After all connections have been made ,double check them and test them with a multimeter before connecting to the battery.

Connect the red wire to the positive (+) terminal of the battery, then connect the black wire to the negative (-) terminal of the battery.

Note: The photovoltaic panel will charge the battery even when the charge controller is OFF. The charge controller has to be in the ON position to power 12-volt cigarette lighter socket.

Step 5: Utilize S.P.R.E.E. Then Rejoice in Clean Renewable Energy

Place S.P.R.E.E. in the sunshine to charge the battery.

Adjust the photovoltaic panel at an angle roughly equal to your latitude for optimum electron encapsulation. Check out U.S. Gazetteer to find your latitude and check your angle with a protractor.

At night, bring it inside, and plug your 12 volt electronics into the cigarette lighter socket to charge. OR, get an DC to AC inverter. It will use some of the electricity to convert the energy, but you will be able to charge AC electronics. Although, it would be more efficient to use DC electronics with this small scale system.

Smile and know that you are using only clean carbon free energy when you talk on your cell phone, take photos with your digital camera, or play PSP.

I have added several inexpensive modifications my S.P.R.E.E.

1. M.A.H.S. (Multi-Angle Height Selector): I sawed up the remaining wood that used mount the photovoltaic panel into 4 different lengths. Then I drilled a hole through each one and attached them all with twine. I also sawed a groove into them which makes the support more secure. Now, I can fan them out and select the right one, depending on where the sun is.

2. L.E.D.P.A.I. (LED Photovoltaic Activity Indicator): I purchased a green LED (with housing) from Radio Shack for $2. I drilled a hole in the top lid and wired the LED in parallet circut with the photovoltaic panel. Now, depending on how much or how little light the photovoltaic panel is receiving, the LED will respond by either glowing bright or becoming dim.

Be creative and be safe, don't zap yourself.

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    127 Discussions


    3 years ago

    This is quite amazing.

    You are cordially invited to check my indestructible as well


    6 years ago on Step 5

    For your adding a activity LED. You should of added a current limiting resistor in ine to your LED to prevent it from burning out from over current. Some simple calculations would show a 470 ohm resistor should be fine. As for your last comment about not zapping yourself.... This is a 12VDC system and they should be no electrical shock, but it is a good thing to remember to not directly short out the battery as it will draw maximum amperage and would indeed burn up the wiring and anything else it maybe touching. A really good idea would be to place a fuse in the circuit as close to the battery positive terminal as possible. It this case a 10 amp fuse should be fine. This would let you draw up to 120 watts of power from the system and would prevent a short circuit from burning up the wiring or causing a fire. Think safety first and foremost!

    If I used this along with a car battery or motorcycle battery then I have free power for all of my gadgets.

    This plus a small cheap $5 inverter (with usb output) nets me FREE clean power.


    I would not need a solar charge controller with this unit either.

    Can someone please confirm my thoughts here.

    1 reply

    If you hook any solar panel without a charge controller you run the risk of ruining your battery(s) in a short time due to overcharging. This is just a plain bad practice. Always use a charge controller with solar or wind powered systems. Also not that it is NOT a good idea to use a automotive type of battery or motorcycle battery. They are not designed to hand the charge/discharge that happens with a solar/wind system and will not last long. Use a deep cycle battery which can handle such charge/discharge cycles. For example a marine or RV battery etc.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    Don't you need around 14.8 volts to charge a 12 volt battery? Usually the voltage of the panels are higher than the voltage of the battery. I looked at the specs for the charge controller. It says it works with an open panel voltage of 21 to 24 volts. Your panel is 12 volts.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Most panels have an open charge/panel voltage of 18 VDC. (meaning no load) so there is no problem using it with the controller.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good job! How big would things have to be to run a shop of house on this? Or maybe just a heater or fan/air conditioner for a shop?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Heating with electricity is the most wasteful way to heat. Every KwH of electricity you pump in gets you the same amount of heat out, so it's 100% efficient. HOWEVER, it's described as cutting butter with a chainsaw: you're using a high grade of energy for such a low grade job. Look into a solar air heater, which instead of using electricity to power a heater, sucks in air inside a big box on the roof outside which the sun heats. The warm air then goes back inside. It is much more efficient and actually makes sense.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    One of these would be good for several fans, assuming under 100W per fan:


    This without running the fan during nights. If you need excess energy to be released during the night, then the panel obviously needs to be putting out more wattage (plus a proper battery bank).

    But for a AC you would need several more. If an ac-unit is around 1500W (approx, here close to the polar circle we do not have need for AC :), then the panels need to put out more than 1500W, especially if you intend to run the AC after the sun has set (or is too low for effective production of electricity). and then you need a decent set of batteries (€€€) to storage the energy, and a charge controller (€€€) to cope with the currents.

    1500W in those panels above is over 3000USD. And 1,5kWh costs here 15 eurocents. The electricity coming out from the wall outlet is still so cheap there is relly no way to produce it cheply yourself... Altohought I'm still looking for some panels myself, to make a waterheater, but then I need to scavenge the panels from somewhere cheap :).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    to make a simple sun tracker, you can take an old clock and go to a clock store or somewhere and ask to switch the gears to metal, then attach the panelto the hour hand/ pivot so that it turns a little as the hours move


    8 years ago on Introduction

    You may or may not be interested but "Spraoi" is Gaelic for Fun, and is pronounced the same as spree!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I want to know how silicon solar cells are manufactured

    Ole bally

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Charlitron, I live in a country where we can't just transfer funds and so I'm doomed to not be able to become a Pro Member!
    Have you or any of the other members ever looked at the 'Henry Moray' website or the Tesla site? This is about FREE electricity using 'cosmic energy'! You Pro members on this site are jut the people to give this thing a proper try and tell us all if it really works! Tesla and Moray were pioneers in the energy field! Please have a look and give me yr comments!


    11 years ago on Step 3

    I am new to this: How do you know which wire is positive and which is neutral? I know the mono jack terminals are marked but I don't see any markings on the cigarette adaptor.

    5 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I was also new to this a few months ago. For the mono jack, the tip is the + and the sleeve is the -.
    For the cigarette adapter, there is also a similar 'tip' (which looks like a little button on the end of the cigarette adapter), and a similar "sleeve" (which are the side metal contacts of the cigarette lighter). Before I snipped the cable, I stripped the cable right next to the cigarette adapter and traced the wires and marked the tip (+) with tape. Then it was easy soldering, which I was self taught with the help of some youtube guy


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I bought the 15-amp DC panel meter ($12), but then returned it to save costs. I decided it was not necessary and not a vital component to the system.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Try investing like a volt meter but in this case since you have a charge controller it's unnecessary. I would carry one in case if there's any problems with it

    I'm planning a large scale for backup


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    Volt meters can be purchased at hardware stores for under 15$ I found one at Home depot for 9.99. Everyone who works with power should have this basic tool. It can tell you if you really turned off the power to a wall socket.