Best way to integrate solar power into my portable set-up

Discussion in 'Mobile Radio Systems' started by KD2TTM, Jun 23, 2020.

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  1. KD2TTM

    KD2TTM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have two of what I assume are the necessary three parts of a portable station: A portable transceiver (Xiegu G90) and a lightweight battery (Bioenno 12V 9ah). I'm trying to choose the most practical solar power component to be the third part.

    I'm leaning toward the PowerFilm Lightsaver Max battery/charger. This would give me more battery capability along with charging and operating power under ideal conditions, but I don't think I'd be able to use it to charge my Bioenno battery without also purchasing a solar charge controller.

    Is this a good choice, or am I better off with a second LiFePo battery and a solar charger and controller for the LiFePo batteries?

    Thanks for any insights, advice, shared experience, etc.

    KL7KN likes this.
  2. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Folks might be afraid to give any advice in this arena for a few different reasons: 1. Almost all solar chargers / controllers have a system similar to pulse-width modulation where a feedback loop determines how much of the incoming energy goes to storage. As such, each produces a certain amount of noise ( yet often at different frequencies and harmonics ). Some are better shielded than others- however- shielding is at odds in many enclosures ( avoided the word cases ) with cooling. No one wants to produce a product with poor efficiency. 2. Most amateur radio operators do not want to endorse a particular maker, because it is difficult to be aware of every possible brand. 3. Lithium batteries are known to be incompatible with aviation, due to certain accidents. This applies to mailing them to that remote field-day operation.
    The only other insight that I have today is that Northern Tools seems to have a deal on a 7W solar array. I have not purchased one at the reduced price of around $20.00 compared to $39.00 ( I think that is what their ad said ). I have no financial interest in Northern Tools, and tend to purchase most of my tools based upon the durability required for the specific work that I imagine performing in the future. Some tools only need to be used once or twice, others need to stand up to repeated tests.
    KD2TTM likes this.
  3. AJ4WC

    AJ4WC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I’m not familiar with that charger, but I do have some experience with solar for changing batteries.

    I typically run the radio directly off battery with the solar panel charging in parallel across the battery. You can then supplement the solar with any power supply. Size the PS so it can also double as a battery charger for times when the solar isn’t enough.

    Always get the largest solar panel you can. A small panel will take a long time to charge even the smallest battery.

    Most panels are over rated, especially the small cheap ones, so if it claims x number of Watts, it’s probably 80% of that, maybe less.

    And, that rating is peak Watts. It’s hard to achieve peak, even harder to maintain it for more than a couple hours.

    You can get small charge controllers on Amazon for under $20. I have several, but I like the one that displays amperage so I can monitor the charging.

    So hook the radio to the battery on one side, then the solar panel on the other thru a charger controller.

    A charger controller is only required to keep the panel from overcharging the battery. You can hook the panel straight to the battery, but you have to monitor the voltage and disconnect the panel manually to keep it from cooking the battery. But, all you need to get on the air is radio, battery and solar panel.
    KL7KN and KD2TTM like this.
  4. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    (deleted - I just realized your battery wasn't SLA)
  5. KD2TTM

    KD2TTM Ham Member QRZ Page

  6. AJ4WC

    AJ4WC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think that’s too expensive. I just bought a 1A wall wart Charger on Amazon for $27 that I use to charge 7AH SLA batteries for a non-radio project.
  7. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I looked up the battery I think you have.

    The Bioenno Power Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) Battery Model BLF-1209A is a state of the art 12V 9Ah battery. Featuring the smallest form factor Bioenno Power has to offer, this unit is ideal for portable electronics applications where your device has low power consumption and requires a battery which like your device is small, light weight and extremely compact. The battery has an integrated PCM (protection circuit module) which provides complete internal cell balancing, complete integrated protection along with integrated charge circuitry and boasts no EMI/RFI (Electromagnetic Interference/Radio-Frequency Interference) and is absolutely quiet! This unit has available a 110VAC/220 VAC AC-to-DC charger, that provides 2A with a DC Plug. Please note that this battery should be charged using a LiFePO4 compatible charger, and not a charger for SLA batteries.

    From this - you will need a comparable controller.

    In looking further, I see where the radio draws more than 4.5 amps @ 20 watts output.

    My question back to you, even with a better power cord (heavier wire for lower voltage drop) - can this battery keep up with the rig?
  8. KD2TTM

    KD2TTM Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's the one. It's rated for a maximum of 12 amps continuous discharge. My G90 shouldn't draw more than 6 or 7 amps max on transmitting; probably more like the 4.5 amps you mentioned. And I did make up a heavier power cord for the G90 immediately after I received it. I can hardly believe they chose to use mini-Tamiya connectors and 18ga wire. Those connectors are pretty lame and I intend to modify the radio to accept Anderson Powerpoles.

    I'm leaning toward a thin film roll-up solar charger due to their ability to make juice even in overcast conditions. I also like their durability and portability.

    The reason I'm considering the very expensive LightSaver Max is that it also includes an 18ah battery with 12V and 5V outlets, so it will become my primary power supply with the Bioenno LiFePO4 battery then becoming a back-up.

    I could operate the radio with the LightSaver while the solar panel was deployed and really get a lot of operating time out of the the LightSaver's battery (and I think it will already provide more than I need for playing radio on a hike).
  9. KL7KN

    KL7KN Ham Member QRZ Page

    With the right controller, a lower wattage/higher voltage (24 or 48 VDC panel) may be something to look at.

    The LightSaver roll up - again, I assume you are referring to this one
    is at $400USD mindbendingly expensive.

    In further research, I find very few 'rollup' solar panels with much over 20 watts peak output/

    Perhaps a 'folding' panel might serve your needs?

    Living in Alaska, I can only use solar in the summer, which is fine, as I 'camp' in a VW Eurovan Camper.
    Folding panels offer me the best of low light (oddly living on the edge of a rain-forest, it rains a lot) power. If you look at my QRZ page, you'll see the setup used to power my FT747. and my FT817 (bicycle portable)

    this panel produces 18VDC /100 watts and at $149 falls into a more (IMO) agreeable price point.

    Tine spent in shopping is normally repaid with lower prices in the long run.

    Back when I lived in SoNv, and on active duty, I used these roll up kind of panels.
    they worked the treat, but spec, are expensive.

    Good luck on your search. Having solar does add a way to work longer on limited battery size.
    KD2TTM likes this.

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