This is a crash course in solar energy without all the marketing hype so settle in the latest. Data from the Australian Government’s Geoscience Department tells us that Australia has the highest solar radiation on average on earth.
That means we get the most sunlight per square metre looking at it. Another way before we had a single solar power station covering 50 by 50 kilometres, with an efficiency of just 10 % about half the current consumer grade efficiency.
It would be sufficient to meet all of Australia’s electricity needs. It’s for all these reasons that solar power makes so much sense for your camping or full driving setup. Plus, it’s easy to use and reliable.
It doesn’t require fuel, so it’s clean and quiet, and these days it’s relatively inexpensive. Okay, let’s get into the most commonly used solar panels for camping and for driving and their uses. First, there are permanent solar set ups.
That means that while you’re driving a vehicle or while you stopped at camp or even while, you’re parked you’re charging your auxiliary battery with the right setup, your solar is taking the load off your alternator and saving your fuel.
Even if it’s a minor improvement, it’s still an improvement. There are a couple of options: glass covered panels with alloy frames are common and they offer a good combination of strength and durability, and then there are semi flexible panels that are gaining popularity, they’re much lower profile.
Lighter weight and can be shaped to gentle curves, so they can fit almost anywhere next. There are your portable solar panels. These offer the benefit that you can choose when to pack them. So if your vehicle is a daily driver, you might need to keep the roof rack free or you don’t need to carry solar around all the time.
The most common types are folding solar panels and folding solar blankets and both have their pros and cons of solar panels. A more cost effective and offer more power for their size, plus most will come with folding legs.
That mean you can angle the panel towards the Sun, the higher efficiency, but solar blankets are much more portable, lightweight and easier to transport and store some solar. Blankets do offer fall out legs for the best of both worlds.
All solar panels are most effective when they’re pointed directly towards the Sun and they’re kept relatively cool, so whether you choose permanent solar or portable solar, keep those two things in mind: you’ll need to point them towards the Sun as best you can and keep them well.
Ventilated Plus think about the type of camping and four wheel, driving that you’re actually likely to do. If you spend most of your time sitting around at camp, then a couple of big portable panels or blankets might be the way to do it.
They’re easy to pack easy to set up and easy to connect. That means you got power running into your vehicle, while you’re sitting at camp. Otherwise, if you’re doing long drives throughout the day, permanent solar might make more sense, particularly if you pair it with the right DC to DC charger with solar priority charging.
That means that, while you’re driving your solar panel will be charging your auxiliary battery first and then your alternator will pick up any slack plus, it means your old 12-volt set up is running off the one system, a very basic way to think about how solar works Is that it’s two layers of silicon sandwiched together and different materials added to each layer, so there’s an excess of electrons on one and an excess of holes or free space on the other? Now, in this case, the top layer has an excess of electrons and the bottom layer has an excess of holes.
Those electrons want to travel through the cell to get to the holes when sunlight hits the solar cell, the light particles which are known as photons knock. The electrons out of those holes and back to the top layer where, instead of going back to the holes, they travel along these thin wires known as fingers, and then these thicker wires known as bus bars after that they go through your battery, delivering charge.
Then, back to the base layer where the process is repeated, each of these solar cells is only very low voltage and very low current, which is why connecting many of them together gives you enough usable output to charge your batteries generally more cells equals higher output.
Not only do you need to think about what type of solar panel best suits your setup, but you also need to think about the actual construction of the cell. The three most common consumer grade solar panels on the market will either be monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous silicon.
Each type has its own pros and cons so starting with amorphous thin film solar. Now they are slightly better in low light and cloudy conditions, they’re, thinner and more flexible, but that comes at a massive cost, they’re much more expensive to produce and buy and they’re much less efficient, you’d need about twice the surface area of a monocrystalline or polycrystalline.
To get the same energy output, the absolute top shelf amorphous solar cells are about 10 percent efficient, so they’re able to convert about 10 percent of sunlight into usable energy. Next up we’ve got polycrystalline solar.
These are the cheapest to produce, which means they’re the cheapest. For consumers to buy and they’re more efficient than amorphous panels, however, because of the way they’re produced, which is pouring molten silicon into a mold, they cool at different rates, so you’ll see fractures and cracks.
Now they lead to inefficiencies overall, they have a maximum efficiency of just over 22%. Finally, there’s monocrystalline solar yeah. This is the most efficient for its size and it performs slightly better than polycrystalline as it warms up and in low-light conditions, but it costs more to produce and that’s because it’s made from a single piece of silicon.
That means, though, there’s no cracking or fractures, and you do get an efficiency boost about 26.5% overall efficiency, that’s more than the polycrystalline and much more than the Amorphous. These figures are achieved in ideal conditions in the lab, with a single solar cell.
So in the real world, with real solar panels, those figures will vary, but it’s a good place to start when you’re thinking about what type of solar you need for your setup before choosing a solar panel, do your research and find out what cell technology the Panel is the next thing to look for on each cell is the number of bus bars? As I said earlier, when sunlight hits the solar cell, it knocks electrons free from the silicon.
They then travel along the fingers, which is the thin wires and then the thicker wires known as bus bars. If fingers are the back roads, then bus bars are the highways, and that means the more the better.
Not only do you get higher efficiency, but you get better durability and longevity as well early consumer grade solar cells had two bus bars. Then they evolved into three and more recently, four and five.
So that means, if you’re looking at a solar panel, make sure it’s got four or even better. Five bus bars any less than four and it can be sure that it’s old, outdated stuff, that’s probably being sold at a clearance price plus.
If you have an older panel, that seems to be underperforming and it’s got two or three bus bars. It might be the time to upgrade. Bus bars can appear silver like this, or they can be coated with black silicon, which might make them look nicer, but it actually leads to a tiny loss in efficiency.
There are some exceptions to the bus bar rule, though, because bus bars are on top of the cell, they create shade, which means a loss in efficiency. So new technology, like shingles cells, are shaking up the industry.
They have bus bars on each end of the cell, which overlap like a tiled roof of the house. That means even better efficiency, more power and longer life, but the trade-off is that they’re more expensive too.
Another thing to keep an eye out for when you’re shopping for a solar panel system is what grade or class the solar cells are, that make up the panel so a grade A or Class A means that there’s no visible defects there.
A uniform colour and the output is within specifications, grade B or Class B cells show minor defects, scratches yellowing or tiny parts of the busbar missing, but the electrical data is within specifications, Class C or grade C cells show visible defects, including chips or cracks large missing Sections of bus bars and the electrical data is not within spec.
Finally, plus D or grade D cells are essentially rubbish with major defects, breakages or damaged. Finally, it’s important and compare each solar panel you’re, looking at like the like solar manufacturers and retailers, use the same standard test conditions in the lab to rate their solar panel wattage.
They light up the panel with a thousand watts per square meter of light and then set the ambient temperature up to 25 degrees Celsius. Then they simulate the amount of atmosphere that the light needs to pass through.
That’s the am 1.5 figure here AM stands for air mass 1.5. Air mass is a good average for most areas as it represents the sun coming through the atmosphere on a slight angle, directly overhead. It have an air mass of 1 and, as the sun goes close to the sunrise or sunset, the number would increase has to go through more atmosphere.
The next thing you’ll see on your solar panel specifications is the normal operating cell temperature. Now, that’s the temperature that your solar panel will reach in normal operating real-world conditions, so 800 watts per square meter of light 20 degrees ambient and about a 3.
5 kilometre per hour wind. Now the back of the panel is elevated, so it’s ventilated as well a solar panels. Normal operating cell temperature might be listed as high as sixty degrees Celsius, but the lower the number the better because it means the panel is more efficient at dispelling Heat and that’s important because for every degree of solar panel reaches above 25 degrees, it could be losing Around half a percent efficiency, so here’s a hot tip the reason power decreases, while temperature increases is because each individual cells voltage drops as they heat up.
The good news, though, is that the current increases as the temperature increases. So if you have a DC DC charger with an MPPT regulator, it can take advantage of that extra current plus boost the voltage to the correct level that your battery requires.
Although you’re losing some power due to the heat of the panel, the MPPT is more capable of then outputting the correct power to correctly charge a battery. My last piece of advice is to go for a more powerful solar setup than you.
That means no matter. The conditions you can always keep your batteries charged up any campsite running smoothly. Now whether that means you opted for a bigger permanent solar panel or at a portable solar panel, tear setup which is easy to use whenever you need it.
Tricks and techniques cheers guys.