DIY Solar Generator For Emergency Field Communications

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by OH8STN, Dec 17, 2018.

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  1. OH8STN

    OH8STN Ham Member QRZ Page

    AC2YL likes this.
  2. OH8STN

    OH8STN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hello Operators
    Portable 12 volt power is critical to the field radio operator. Normally we use small lightweight battery packs to power our HF Radios for a few hours at a time, during field day, SOTA, POTA, .. When we are faced with a Grid Down emergencies, brown outs, black outs, portable emergency power becomes much more complicated. Not only do we need to ration the power we have, we also need to come up with ways of recharging our battery storage, when it's depleted. Some operators use combustion generators, some power communications gear from their vehicles. others deploy solar generators for emergency power, when it is most practical to do so.

    In todays video we go through my concept for a man/woman portable, 576 watt hour 12 volt solar generator, to power our field stations, lighting and other essential devices, for a maximum of 24 hours before ever plugging in a solar panel. This DIY Solar Generator concept could be applied to a variety of field communications scenarios, where grid power is lost or not available. Most importantly, this concept could be applied as an Emergency Communications Go Box "Power Module", providing clean efficient power for extended field communications.

    I'm not saying this is a perfect alternative to commercial solar generators, Atleast this one meets the needs of the field radio operator for cost and capabilities.

    Julian oh8stn
  3. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    What a great video. These just keep getting better and better and I always look forward in anticipation for the "next" episode.

    I once constructed a similar "solar generator" but I used a marine battery storage box instead of an ammo can. So maybe I can share some more ideas for your own. One thing I did was made it easier to carry around by attaching a wide carry strap similar to a seat belt around the battery box. The carry strap was designed so you could throw it over your shoulder and carry the solar generator around. You would be surprised how such a simple thing like a carry strap can add an entirely new level of added portable convenience.

    I think it's a good idea to have a portable power source available for off grid operating, but to maximize it's capabilities you could make it entirely universal to power everything and anything.

    In my situation, I decided to include one of these DC converters which has a variable voltage operating range from 1.5 volts all the way up to 11.5 volts which made it possible to plug in / operate or even charge all kinds of different portable electronics in the field. Some items you could power may include things such as a portable voice recorder, a rechargeable flashlight, a camera, a portable shortwave radio and many other things that typically operate on their own batteries.


    Fuses are often required for the solar generator but you always have to carry spare fuses around. I thought about replacing them with resettable breakers instead as a matter of reducing any "replacement parts" which may be required in the field.

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
    OH8STN likes this.
  4. KC8VWM

    KC8VWM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not directly related to radio communication but another thing I should mention a portable solar generator like the one you are building can do is power a portable 12 volt thermoelectric refrigerator for preserving things like certain medications that require refrigeration while in transport, or during a power crisis.

    They can typically cool up to 40°F below the ambient temperature and they can be switched over to actually provide heat up to 135°F to keep items inside warm too.

    The energy required for this off grid refrigeration to compliment any portable solar generator is around 3.5 amps max to achieve maximum cooling range. It's well insulated and many portable solar panels are quite sufficient to operate this, even if it's just for limited periods throughout the day.


    As you can see, this demonstrates a portable solar generator is very useful and is not only limited to powering radio gear, but it can serve in many different capacities as an ongoing portable energy source you can take with you anywhere to supply your energy needs, in any kind of off grid situation.

    I am looking forward to hearing about other users ideas and suggestions for constructing and building this solar generator as you have requested in the video too.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
    OH8STN likes this.
  5. OH8STN

    OH8STN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow. That is an awful lot of kindness, thanks for that.
    The first suggestion standing out was the breakers instead of fuses. Done! Such a simple change, but removes the need for carrying fuse spares. Outstanding.

    The variable voltage output is another great idea. I considered it, but was worried about space inside the ammo can. I need to solve the space problem, before adding extras. One of the things I have done with portable power is change my equipment strategy. I gave away anything which would not run on USB or 11-15 volts. It is kind of a standaization strategy to simplify my portable power requirements, and remove the need for "special" voltages. Still it is nice to use a full size laptop (without an inverter) sometimes.

    On the variable voltage topic, I'm just about to integrate the adjustable volt amp buck converter, using it as a wide voltage input to change the generator from any DC power source from 13.5-36 volts. hen I want to charge from the grid, I connect that to a 18 volt 8A laptop charger, giving the project capabilities of recharging on whatever it can find.

    That DC fridge is awesome.
    I have a similar one we use for my eye meds, on long journeys. I'm a big advocate of using portable power in this way, and hope others catch on. Puerto Rico was a good example of people dying because they could not keep meds cold.

    Anyway, there are so many of the very expensive solar gens on YouTube these days. It's like people are just throwing money away instead of building themselves. Hopefully the series will bring diy portable power into their "comfort zone". Knowing what is inside, how it works, and how to repair it. That's what I love.

    One other thing I forget to mention in this video is energy rationing. Hopefully I can get back to that in another video.

    Thanks again for the kindness. Your feedback is increadibly helpful.
    Julian oh8stn
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