In this article you will learn to build your very own portable power packs that recharge via solar energy. We will review the components you can buy and how to assemble your own DIY system. These little portable generators are easy to build and are a must to have around for emergency situations such as blackouts, power outages, and natural disasters. You can also get even nerdier and create your very own "pwn pack" that consists of a rasberry pi, usb atheros wifi card (packet injects), etc.
The size of the items all depends on the size of the power pack you want to build. Since batteries are heavy, you may want to keep the system smaller for the added convenience of portability. While gathering your supplies you will want to keep note of the dimensions of the products so everything will fit when you are ready to assemble everything.
In this article I will be working with a smaller power pack the size of a medium sized gun case with a 10 watt solar panel and a 18 amp hour battery that totals 16 pounds of weight. You may build a smaller or larger system but like I mentioned earlier, remember to read the dimensions of the parts (Length x Width x Height) so they can fit in/on the case you're planning to use. I bought a gun case that was actually larger than I had anticipated but is being used to house a couple larger 35 amp hour batteries in my solar shed. I have it setup where my battery banks are modular and can easily disconnect and connect other power packs. This also makes the setup clean and organized!
You need a case that is a little bigger than the solar panel. You will also need to come up with a good rough estimate of what you want to power within reasons (portability). I had a spare gun case that protected my paintball gun. I've decided to get a smaller case for the paintball gun and use this one as my portable power pack. Earlier I mentioned buying a larger abs plastic gun case but that will be used for the 2 x 35ah batteries in my solar shed however that case will be HEAVY. I'm using this smaller gun case that is roughly 14x11x4 inches. It can hold 2 18ah batteries however I used only 1 to have space for other devices.
I'm using a 10 watt, 12v solar panel that I purchased off eBay for $45 which included a charge controller so it was worth getting both since usually they perform QA on both components and how they work together. They also surprised me with a couple alligator cables and longer wires. The solar panel is 13.267x8.03x0.70 inches so it fits perfectly on the top of the case. I could also have it fit inside the case if I wanted to but leaving the panel outside of the case will be more practical. You don't want the solar panel to be hanging off the case since you want to keep the carrying handle visible so remember the dimensions of the case should be an inch or more bigger than the panel you decide to buy.
I'm tempted to buy 2 more of these panels to fit inside a larger case. When opening the case it will expose both 10 watt panels on each side. The larger side will have a battery beneath the panel. This type of setup will help keep them protected. This could provide 20 watts and if you added another panel to the top of the case, you could detach it and it will serve an additional 10 watts providing 30 watts of portable solar energy.
I've probably mentioned this in another blog post but the UB / Universal Battery brand is by far the best value. I've purchased a few of these batteries and they have been excellent for my needs. I recommend buying them on Amazon. The seller I bought them from includes free shipping.
Earlier I mentioned that solar panels might come with a charge controller. Since it's a simple 10 watt panel, it will not need an expensive charge controller.