SOLAR POWER and Amateur Radio

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					                    What, me

The Solar Ham - VA3DDN         1
          - My Story -
          by Don Dorward

          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   2
This -- is me

  The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   3
             Don’s Mini - Biography
•   I am officially retired, a widower, have Ham licence Basic and
    Advanced, no code (never could get the hang of it...!)
•   Past business experience in Electronics R & D, Quality
    Assurance and Regulatory Affairs – in the fields of Medical
    Electronics, Power Audio, OEM Automotive Electronics, and
    Electronic Components Manufacture
•   Hobbies are Power Boating (…Stink pots – not sticks’n rags!),
    Ham Radio, digital photography, solar and wind energy.
•   I collect, buy and sell various “treasures”, and am an avid
    eBayer, & sometime Hamfest vendor.
•   Member of RAC, ARRL, SPARC, VHARC, Life Member IEEE
•   Main gear is my Kenwood TS-570S for HF, Yaesu FT-8800/7800
    for vhf/uhf, ADI AR-247 for the forgotten band, 706MKIIG for
    marine mobile, and of course various HT’s…
•   I have 3 Solar Ham Articles published in TCA 2004/2005

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN            4
        How it Started – The Big Power
    Blackout – Aug 14, 2003 – Where were you?
•    That day I was in relatively good shape – the ICOM 706 at that
     time was the base rig and was powered from a 12 volt Marine
     battery, so I was on the air right away.
•    With the shack in the basement of my house, the first thing I
     missed was ordinary lighting to see by. I dug out an old 12v,
     6 watt camping FL light, and later on a 15 watt CFL lamp,
     powered by a 150 watt 12 to 120vac inverter.
•    Second, I realized hat my lonely 12 volt storage battery had
     been charged only by a small 1.5 amp AC operated charger, so
     it would become a problem very soon.
•    Fortunately for me the black-out only lasted 24 hours.
•    Still I had retrieved my Honda generator from the boat up north
     to power the refrigerator, recharge the radio battery etc.
•    This started me thinking….., what if the power outage had
     lasted a lot longer ?? What would I do ??
                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              5
A First Solar Panel


    The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   6
                 A First Solar Panel
•   An ICT PRO15W, (15 watt rated) was purchased from the local
    Crappy Tire parts store on “special”
•   Wow, only 12” wide and 36” long, it was easy to mount up on a
    south-facing roof over my deck!!
•   Rated 15 watts at ~ 14 volts, I reasoned it should give me about
    1.1 amp of D.C. current to charge my radio battery. This would
    in theory remove my dependence on charging from the AC grid
•   On further thought, I began to worry about the possibility of
    Over-charging the poor battery, with this new and free source
    of 1.1 amp D.C. !!
•   So, some kind of charge control, would also be needed…..

                         The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             7
     A First Charge controller

Caution !

            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   8
               A First Charge controller
•   An ICT #10014 charge controller, rated to handle up to 7 amps, or
    100 watts of solar power was also purchased from the local Crappy
    Tire store, and it was also on “special” at the time.
•   The 7 amp rating sounded great and I reasoned it would allow me to
    later expand my system, by just adding more panels
•   Note that a solar charge controller is an essential item to protect
    the battery system from over-charging, by monitoring the battery
    voltage and switching off the solar charging current when the battery
    charge is complete.
•   The ICT #10014 is a simple on-off regulator with hysteresis,
    allowing battery charging at battery voltages less than ~13.0 volts,
    and stopping charging at battery voltages above ~14.5 volts
•   (…why this particular device is a really poor performing design, for later
    discussion )

                             The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                 9
•   Surprise ! I soon found out that solar panels are rated for basically
    “ideal “ conditions, conditions that that we never have, or rarely occur.
•   Panel ratings are based on full sun, always perpendicular to the
    panel, clean glass, etc.
•   Bottom line, you are not likely going to get 15 watts out of a 15 W
    rated panel, except maybe once, on your birthday, at high noon, in
    June or July, and with all other variables maxed out.
•   Variable 1 – Azimuth. The east/west angle of the sun relative to that
    new panel of yours. Unless you install expensive azimuth tracking,
    there is nothing else you can do, just make sure your panel faces true
    south. (not magnetic) Losses from azimuth alone can be 30 – 40 %

                               The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                   10
                   Reality                 (CONTINUED)

          FOR LATITUDE 43                       Variable 2 - Declination.
                                                The height in the sky where the sun is
            APPROX PANEL ANGLE                  relative to the horizon. This changes during
  MONTH        (Degrees from horizontal)
                                                the different seasons of the year. You can
                                                manually adjust the angle of your panel for
JANUARY                63
                                                each season, or just leave it at a fixed
                                                “default” declination angle, typically equal to
FEBRUARY               55                       your latitude. (approx. 43 degrees for
MARCH                  42                       Pickering area) Losses may be ~ 10%
APRIL                  31

MAY                    22

JUNE                   20

JULY                   22

AUGUST                 30

SEPTEMBER              42

OCTOBER                54

NOVEMBER               63

DECEMBER               66

                                   The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                                11
                     Guidance and Facts

•   Combined solar efficiency variances due to azimuth and
    declination settings of your panel can easily reduce your solar
    cell output by as much as 40%
•   Your 15 watt rated panel may only produce 9 watts at best, a
    100 watt panel only 60 watts.
•   Add in air-borne dust, bird sh_t, and solar panel aging effects,
    and you need to de-rate to about 50%, for real-life.
•   My personal measurements of performance were as follows;
     – Cloudy November day, 15 watt panel yielded 0.075 amps or 0.9
       watt !
     – Sunny November day, 15 watt panel yielded 0.58 amps or
       almost 9 watts !

                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             12
                      The 15 watt panel –
                         Is it useful ?
•   Lets not rush to “dump” the 15 watt panel as being totally
    useless, it is a convenient size !
•   We can agree that it won’t be of much use to charge and
    maintain a battery that may regularly have to supply 100 watts
    or more.
•   However, it is reasonably “portable”, and could be teamed up
    with a small gel-cell “brick’ or motorcycle battery and used for
    QRP operation, or powering 5 watt HT’s for ARES use etc.
•   Other uses could be charge maintenance of little used batteries
    for RV or boating, provided some charge control is present.

                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             13
The Basic Hook - Up

     The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   14
            Adding a 75 Watt Solar Panel

•   The photo shows the 75 watt Siemens SQ75 on the right
•   In parallel with the old 15 “watter”, I should now have 15 + 75 =
    90 potential solar watts available. (….maybe, see preceding
    discussion on reality)
•   Note that the new panel is 5 X the power rating of my original 15
    watt unit, but it is only 2.3 X larger in size (47” x 21”)

                             The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             15
                                    Panel connection
                                      and control

•   The panels can be connected in parallel providing they are of
    the same voltage rating and have series isolation diodes
•   Most panels come with the isolation diodes already included –
    check before using.
•   For larger installations individual power panels and terminal
    blocks would be used.
•   For my simple system I combined the panels in parallel in a
    fused, and weatherproof junction box with an on-off switch.
    See schematic to follow.
•   Note: professional panels come with UL approved junction boxes on the rear,
    to simplify series-parallel connections

                                 The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                 16
(Courtesy of VE1SOL,
                         Panel connection
Yarmouth N. S.)            and control

                       The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   17
                     Connecting & Paralleling

•   You can easily increase your stored ampere-hours by
    connecting more than 1 battery in parallel as shown, using
    suitably sized cables
•   Heavy duty cables with lugs for screw terminals can be found at
    various auto supply stores, or can be home-made.
•   Don’t mix different types, sizes, ratings or ages of batteries, for
    best results
•   Also, be well aware of the increased hazards, of paralleling
    large storage batteries, relative to gassing and fusing,
    discussed below

                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               18
                    or terminals
•   Marine batteries typically come with screw-terminal battery
    posts fitted with a wing nut as seen in the photo.
•   Ring type connectors , lugs or terminals can be purchased at
    automotive/electrical supply stores.
•   Be sure you use cable sized appropriately to the maximum
    expected amps you will draw
•   One good source of pre-lugged cable are auto battery cables,
    available in lengths from 18” to 36”.
•   I have often used the 18” long cable, cut it in 2 and added my
    own lug connector.
                        The Solar Ham - VA3DDN            19
                    Battery Selection
                   & Gassing Hazard 1
•   This a huge subject that we can only touch on here. My advice, is
    that where possible use low-gassing or recombinant battery
    types like Gel Cell, AGM*, or VRLA* that are available today.
•   These batteries may be sold as RV, Marine or deep-cycle types
    and are off-the-shelf at most large retailers.
•   In my case I wound up with marine batteries, as that relates to my
    boating hobby. The “Nautilus 1000” is rated at 80 AH, 115 reserve
    minutes. Manufactured by Exide as type XXHD-M-24. (group 24)
•   Be careful, the marine battery is a compromise between a true
    deep-cycle battery and an automotive starting battery.
•   These batteries are wet-cell, and as such, will emit Hydrogen gas
    during heavy charging.

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             20
                         & Gassing
                          Hazard 2
•   Hydrogen gas in concentrations of more than a few percent
    can be both flammable and explosive.
•   Keep battery installations away from ignition sources like
    furnaces, water heaters etc.
•   The photo shows one way of dealing with Hydrogen generation
    by venting to the outside.
•   I use a Rubbermaid 2156 “Totelocker” with a hinged lid to
    contain the batteries and to convection vent accumulated
    hydrogen to the outside via a 1.25” ABS pipe.
•   Note: one wet-cell battery being lightly charged by a small 1.5 amp
    charger over a few hours is not likely to present much risk.

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               21
                         Fusing, Circuit-Breakers,
                                 & wiring
•   There are 3 levels of fusing recommended, first at the panels,
    second following the batteries and finally preceding each DC load.
•   The most important fuse in the system is the “class-T” safety fuse
    which follows the storage batteries.
•   This is a special, very fast acting fuse designed specifically to
    interrupt a major DC short circuit, and acts similar to the “fusible
    link” present in all automobiles.
•   Even a single 80 AH storage battery is capable of delivering more
    than 1000 amps into a short, which can melt a screwdriver blade,
    or worse cause an explosion.
•   This fuse must be within 18” of the battery pack, and all loads
    follow it. Typical Class-T ratings may be 100 or 300 amps.

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              22
                                       The Class “T”

•   The need to have a class “T” fuse often seems to cause
•   This special fuse protects the battery bank from a dead short
•   Like a wrench or a screwdriver blade, or a catastrophic inverter
•   it will prevent fire, melted battery cables, or even explosive
    rupture of the batteries with acid spill…
•   I used an Xantrex TBF300C fuse block with a TF300 fuse

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              23
         DC Voltage Distribution
              in the Shack
•   Connecting and individually fusing your various DC loads can
    be challenging.
•   Both MFJ, Rigrunner and Marine suppliers can provide a
    variety of compact, fused distribution panels

                      The Solar Ham - VA3DDN            24
              Estimation of real loads
•   You can estimate your solar power needs as volt-amps, watts or
    amp-hours,….pick one that works for you and use it.!
•   The table following shows a sample estimated solar
    consumption load, as being 26.5 A-H each day.
•   In other words, to support this, it will require a minimum of 26.5
    A-H from the solar panels each day just to break even. Lets say
    30 A-H in round figures to cover losses etc.
•   This means, for only 2 hours of sun daily you would need 15
    amps from the panels, or for 4 hours of sun, you would need 7.5
    amps, or for 6 hours of sun you would need only 5 amps etc.

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               25
                   Sample Load Chart
          Load item             Amps @     x Usage     Effective
                                 12.5 V     Hours     Amp-Hours

Icom 706, receive only            1.2        3.5         4.2

Icom 706, transmit @ 50 W          10        .5           5

Icom 706, transmit @ 100 W         20        .25          5

Dial scale illumination of         .2       4.25         .85
SWR meters, etc.
120 V ac inverter, average        2.7       4.25         11.5
load with 2 CF 15 w lamps.
(=140w incand.)
                 Total Consumed Daily Ampere-Hours       26.5

                             The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             26
       System Cost Summary 2005
                     (for information only)

              Item                   Cdn $         US $
Siemens SQ75, 75 watt solar panel $376             $289

ICP PRO15W 15 watt solar panel       $160          $123
Mastercraft 11-1838-6, 700W          $99           $76
modified sine Inverter
Misc. cables, connectors etc         $75           $58
Class T fuse and holder              $68           $52
ICP 100147 amp charge controller     $40           $31
Battery enclosure and venting        $35           $27
                             Totals: $853          $656

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN          27
Solar Ham 2 Hook - Up

      The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   28
Adding a 3rd panel, 80 Watts

         The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   29
     Adding a 3rd Solar panel, 80 Watts

•   Improvements made here are first a 3rd solar panel, the same
    physical size, but now rated at 80 watts. ( a Shell Ultra 80p,
    cost was $317 US, or about $4.40/watt Cdn)
•   Total installed solar watts are now 15 + 75 + 80 = 170 !
•   A new solar charge controller, with PWM float point control, as
    well as the ability to “dump load” at full battery charge. (what do
    you do with excess power?)
•   Solar panel voltmeter monitor for state-of-charge
•   Battery system monitor with “Expanded Scale” voltmeter
•   Added marine batteries to the bank, now 5 x 80 AH (400 AH tot)

                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               30
Solar Charge Controller with PWM

           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   31
                             PV Panel Monitoring
                                 - Voltmeter

•   I find it useful to be able to monitor what the solar panels are
    doing. for example if they are covered in snow, there will be no
    charge current.
•   You could use a DVM, or an LED circuit, but I chose a simple
    approach using an old-fashioned 100 uA DC panel meter
•   The advantages are it consumes almost zero power, (~15mW),
    looks good and provides a dynamic display of solar panel
    voltage output.

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             32
                                   Snow on the
                                   darn panels !!
                                   @ #  %% !!

•   Obvious eh? – it happens, so BRUSH IT OFF
•   Otherwise the result is zero solar panel output
•   Light snow will usually melt off the panels, as they do get warm
    when charging.
•   Charles, VE1SOL in Yarmouth, suggests waxing the panel
    faces, or spraying with a silicone lubricant to encourage the
    snow to just slide off.
•   This does work some of the time …. , but look at the photo !!

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             33
                               Battery Monitoring
                                 …..the ESVM
                                 (expanded scale voltmeter)

•   You need a simple means to monitor the relative condition or
    state-of-charge of your batteries.
•   Measuring SG is messy and not really necessary.
•   The simplest method is to use battery bank terminal voltage to
    estimate the state-of-charge (see chart to follow)
•   Providing the battery has been at rest for several hours, (neither
    charging or discharging), full charge will be indicated by a
    terminal voltage of 12.6 to 13.0 volts.
•   The simplest means is to use an analog DC voltmeter, modified
    for expanded scale. (11 to 16 volts)

                           The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              34
  …..the ESVM
(expanded scale voltmeter)

                     (free meter scale
                     program by J.L.

The Solar Ham - VA3DDN           35
The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   36
                         Battery types
•    Many hams have use an old lead-acid car battery with some left-
     over 120vac charger to power their 12 v rig, mainly because it was
•    There is nothing wrong with that, especially where the power
     needs are modest, like 5 watts, or occasionally 50 watts for short
•    However, there are better types of batteries available:
    1.   Deep-cycle batteries marked as AGM or VRLA (best choice)
    2.   Marine/RV batteries, which tend to be a compromise between the
         automotive staring battery, and the deep cycle battery.
    3.   Electric fork-lift or Tow-motor batteries, are another example of
         deep cycle batteries that may prove useful and may be found as

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               37
    Lead-Acid Battery Sizes & Ratings
•    Battery manufacturers build batteries to an internationally
     adopted Battery Council group number, I call the Battery
     Confusion Index (or BCI group # 24, 27, 4D, 8D etc.)
•    This specification is based on physical case size, terminal
     location, polarity etc.
•    Rule-of-thumb - Larger and heavier, generally = more
     ampere-hours of capacity, and that’s a good thing
•    Series/parallel connect only batteries with similar types and
•    Ampere-hour (AH) or capacity ratings are not as readily
     available from manufacturers as they should be
•    Reserve Capacity = the # of minutes to discharge to 10.5 V
     @ 25 amperes continuous.

                        The Solar Ham - VA3DDN             38
   Lead-Acid Battery Sizes & Ratings
      (Typical AH ratings for some common battery types)

  USE         GROUP          AH        AH (@ 75% USEABLE
               SIZE        RATING       OF MAX)   Amps/Hr.
Passenger       24          40 - 85        64          2–4
   Car          27         85 - 105       80%          4-5
Heavy duty      4D        140 – 160       120          7–8
Commercial      8D        200 - 215       160         10 - 11

 Note: AH Capacity = the continuous # of amperes the battery can
 supply for a 20 hour period. ( the 20 hour rate)

                       The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              39
               Solar Battery Charging,
                  “Hum” concerns
•   Solar Battery charging generates no hum at all. PERIOD.
•   If you operate your rig direct from a 12 volt storage battery
    system, and are in the habit of charging the batteries from an
    old automotive battery charger that has no filtering ( pulsating DC
    at 120Hz), there could be an issue, but only if your batteries are in
    terrible shape and have developed high internal resistance.
•   A good storage battery acts like a huge filter capacitor, which
    tends to swamp-out any “Hum” issue.
•   In a somewhat related issue, problems with mobile installations
    with noise pick-up and alternator whine come from not
    powering the rig with a separate feed from the battery.

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                40
                                        Inverters, Types
                                        & Characteristics

•   Inverters, this is another very large subject in itself, that I will just
    touch on at this time.
•   Usually the need is to convert your 12 or 24 v battery power into
    120 Vac, to power your TV, computer, refrigerator etc.
•   The photo above supplied by VE1SOL, shows the “modified-
    sine-wave” wave-form produced by most lower cost inverters.
•   This is often not well tolerated by all AC loads, particularly some
    TV’s, VCR’s etc.
•   Advice – buy the highest power rating inverter you can afford, in a
    true-sine wave type, if you intend to seriously use AC power from
    your solar installation.

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN                41
    Wind Generators
     My experience

•    So far actually quite disappointing, But I did learn a few things !
•    Bottom line is that wind turbines need a steady wind that you
     can’t easily get in an urban built-up area. You need to get the
     turbine well above roofs and trees, for example at least 100 ft.
•    Consequently my horizontal wind turbine project was a failure
     from the start, at about 25 ft.
•    I do plan on experimenting with vertical wind turbines that are
     more tolerant of swirling wind currents. (e.g.; Savonnius etc.)

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               42
                Wind Turbines,
          More Commentary from Me..
•   Fact - There are more wind turbines installed in China
    (Mongolia) than in any other region of the world.
•   Over 140,000 turbines, mostly 100 – 400 watts, with low cost
    batteries, provide electricity to about 1/3 of the non-grid
    connected households.
•   In North America and in Europe, Wind turbines rated at less
    than 400 watts are almost non-existent, and what is available is
    too expensive.
•   I believe that we have become so wasteful of electric power in
    general, that turbine manufacturers and even importers, here in
    North America, believe that anything less than 400 watts is
    useless, and so they are not produced or imported..

                          The Solar Ham - VA3DDN              43
              Some Related Websites
                            for info etc.

•             •
•           •   http://www.
•             •
•            •
•   •

                            The Solar Ham - VA3DDN               44
That’s All Folks…..

     The Solar Ham - VA3DDN   45