A solar generator allows users to power numerous types of small appliances and recharge lithium-ion batteries using nothing more than energy generated from the sun. In order for the generator to gather enough energy to be useful, certain conditions must be met. Understanding how a solar generator works can help decide if this revolutionary tool is right for the types of uses users have in mind.
How Does a Solar Generator Work- The Basics
No matter what style or brand of solar generator you consider, they all share some basic features and functions. The basics are that a solar generator requires solar panels, a charge controller, a rechargeable battery, and an inverter to convert stored energy into usable energy. We will take a look at each of these components so that you know how they function and what key things to look for when purchasing.
It’s easy to think that all solar panels are the same. The reality is that there are several different designs of panels that can enhance their performance or reduce the cost to purchase panels. There are four types of solar panels in use these days that range in cost and power production capabilities.
This type of panel is made from layers of single silicon crystal sheets. The manufacturing of monocrystalline panels is the most expensive and results in a significant amount of waste. This panel type is also among the most efficient and will produce among the most solar energy of any panel design. They are identifiable by their dark black color.
Polycrystalline panels are made from multiple different silicone crystals that are melted and poured into a single panel. The process results in practically no waste, but also generates a panel that has more numerous impurities that result in lower power generation capabilities. These panels are square in shape.
Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell panels (PERC) are a modern method of building solar panels. In this design, a thin film backing allows light that would normally pass through the panel to be reflected back and collected, increasing the efficiency of the panel. These panels are the current leader for efficiency, but also carry the highest initial cost and can suffer from long-term durability issues as the thin film backing eventually breaks down.
These panels are made from a variety of different types of materials to create extremely low cost options that are also not very efficient. They tend to be most commonly used for low-demand applications like pocket calculators, but some designs are also out there for rechargeable batteries.
Most Common Design
The vast majority of panel sets for rechargeable batteries are of teh monocrystalline design. This is due to the ability of these solar panels to effectively and efficiently produce enough power to recharge a lithium-ion battery. If you are shopping for solar panels to use for most power generators, you’ll want to buy monocrystalline designs or splurge and purchase PERC panels.
Virtually all of the modern solar power generators today use a type of charge controller known as Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) design. This design allows the solar energy input to be regulated throughout the charging cycle to prevent over or under charging which shortens the life of the battery. It is common to find Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controllers for home arrays, but less common for solar power generators due to the less-than-ideal rate of control provided by this type of controller.
When purchasing a solar power generator, you’ll want to restrict your options to designs using MPPT controllers for efficiency and safety.
In virtually every solar generator on the market today, you’ll find a variation of a lithium-ion battery that is rechargeable using a variety of input sources.
The most common type of rechargeable battery is commonly called LiFePO4, which refers to the combination of lithium, iron, and phosphate. This is considered the safest and most reliable design on the market today. Some products also use standard lithium-ion batteries. It is very uncommon to find solar power generators using lead acid batteries, but the designs may be occasionally encountered.
You should always look for solar power generators using LiFePO4 batteries for long-term reliable performance.
Once the energy is generated by the panel, controlled by the controller, and stored by the battery, you’ll need an inverter to convert that energy into usable wavelengths. Typically, you’ll want to have AC and DC power available to give you the most options. Solar power generators also include USB outputs which use a modified form of AC power to provide low-amperage power to safely recharge small devices like cell phones.
Thee four elements are combined to produce a solar power generator. Various designs have numerous features, starting with size, battery capacity, and rate of recharge. Determining which design is best for you often will mean that you’ll want to figure how much power you need and how portable your generator must be. Then, you’ll want to figure out the maximum amount of input power the device can handle before purchasing appropriate solar panels to recharge your solar power generator.