Solar Power Project

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Solar is sustainable energy. People want to do art with sustainable resources. To  work with solar technology in a classroom, there need to be materials and example circuits to use as learning aids, teaching materials, and construction materials.

This solar project aims to create a basis for experimental materials and processes. It will also lay out some basic theory and a languge for communicating about desireable products and outcomes in a project that is ambitious, and at the same time has a large number of unknowns about the desired nature of the outcome.

Because of the necessarily ambiguous nature of the desired outcome, the project will model a system of qualitative and quantitative descriptors which can be used to characterize the success of a given approach. 

  • The project starts with a design spcification for a case study.
  • A bit of background on power supplies serves to frame the electrical context of the PV problem.
  • Environmental lighting data is gathered to help set baselines for combinations of loads and supplies operating in different lighting conditions.
  • For bench work, an illumination standard is constructed to allow reproducable measuements to be made on PV modules operating under different conditions.
  • Open-circuit voltage and short-circuit current measurements of different PV modules are made under 1,250 ft-candle and 10,000 ft-candle light intensity. These measurements provide relative power comparisons between different PV modules.
  • The PV modules were purchased locally where possible in order to make the data and conclusions practically applicable to students. The devices were disasembled and photographed to show the design context of the PV module.

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What remains to be done includes choosing two or three PV modules from the chart, and attempting to apply those directly to loads. Different combinations of regulators, loads and batteries will be evaluated with the I-V chart being the guide as to sensible combinations of componants. Load and charge testing of batteries will reveal the necessary charge-time vs operating time tradeoffs. This last comparison is the final piece of information needed to  build out example prototypes for field testing.

-Ed Bennett