Six Questions To Ask Before Designing A Solar Solution

Posted on 02/09/2021 at 09:06 by Seth Hansen

Six Questions To Ask Yourself Before Designing A Solar Solution Blog Post Title Graphic

 

To many, solar is a fascinating but confusing technology. 

 

There are so many factors to think through and variables to consider. 

 

It would be enough to make anyone’s head spin.

 

That’s where we come in!

 

Take this blog post with you!

 

In today’s post, we break down the main aspects of developing a solar solution making the prospect more approachable (Want to learn more about our specific custom solar design process? Read this post on that exact topic).

 

Nearly every solar solution contains six main components. 

 

1. Load (How much energy will it take to power my device/system?)

 

2. Environment (Where will the device be operating?)

 

3. Technology (What solar technology provides what I need for my application?)

 

4. Sizing (How much solar is necessary?)

 

5. Charge controller (What means of charging protection/optimization is best?)

 

6. Battery (What battery size/chemistry makes the most sense for my application?)

 

Load

 

While it might seem simple to determine how much power your device consumes, after a little research, it can be dizzying and frustrating. 

 

To tackle this difficult problem, take a look at two previous posts dedicated to learning about your power budget and calculating your exact power budget.

 

After reading through these posts and taking careful notes, you learned how much power your device uses, and you’re ready to move forward. 

 

Environment

 

When determining what type of solar is best suited for your application, the particular environment plays a key role. 

 

There are two primary environments where a solar solution can function.

 

Below are the main considerations looking at outdoor and indoor solar panels.

 

Outdoors

 

Shading vs. direct sunlight

 

Where is the exact location that you will deploy your solar solution? Will there be obstructions for large portions of the day? (Check out this blog post, which dives into how shading can affect solar output and inform what solar technology to use).

 

How much sunlight is available per day?

 

Where are you located? How much sun can you expect to receive on an average day? (Calculate how much solar you can expect in your location using NREL’s PVWatts Calculator).

 

Weatherproofing

 

Will your solar panel be in a wet environment? Does it need to be IP67 rated? If so, you will want a fully encapsulated solution designed for exposure to water. (Check out our Rollable Solar Panels designed for use in the marine environment. For smaller or more custom applications, check out our WeatherPro Series Electronic Component Solar Panels).

 

If the solution is used for short periods and then packed up, a solution that isn’t wholly encapsulated will work. (Check out of Foldable Solar Panels designed for rapid deployment For smaller or more custom applications, check out our Classic Application Series Electronic Component Solar Panels).

 

Indoors

 

Did you know solar panels can function indoors? They can! (Check out this post comparing Outdoor and Indoor Solar Panels to learn more).

 

Do all solar technologies work indoors? 

 

All solar panels do not function the same when used in an indoor environment. To learn which solar technology will perform best indoors, check out this post comparing portable solar technologies, including their low-light performance.

 

Lux levels of typical locations

 

When you determine which solar technologies will work for your indoor application, it’s essential to determine how much light is available in your space. This will help refine the technology that is best suited for your specific spot.

 

power by lux graph for indoor environments

 

Technology

 

There are many different solar technologies available. Today, we will be focusing on three of the most popular, including Amorphous Silicon (a-Si), Crystalline Silicon (c-Si), and Gallium Arsenide (GaAs).

 

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)

 

Amorphous Silicon is ideal for low power indoor/outdoor IoT applications and where rugged portability is a critical requirement. a-Si is well suited for designs that take advantage of the thin, flexible, and lightweight nature of the material (Learn more about a-Si).

 

Crystalline Silicon (c-Si)

 

Like traditional rooftop solar, this technology is well suited for medium to high power applications where power density is critical. Using high-efficiency SunPower solar cells, this technology offers a cost-effective solution (Learn more about c-Si).

 

Gallium Arsenide (GaAs)

 

This technology features conversion efficiencies of over 30 percent. It is well suited for applications where power density and ruggedness are critical, and the cost is not a factor (Learn more about GaAs).

 

Want to learn more about these solar technologies? Visit our Technology page.

 

Sizing

 

Before digging too deeply into what panel size or technology to choose, it’s essential to know the difference between a conventional power supply (an outlet in your home, for instance) and a solar panel.

 

Additionally, you can see what’s possible by building your ideal Electronic Component Solar Panel using our Custom Solar Panel Design Tool.

 

For space-constrained applications, c-Si or GaAs can provide more power in a smaller area than thin-film PV (a-Si).  

 

Now that you know how much power you need, we can determine how much solar it will take to satisfy your power demands.

 

Don’t stress. We are here to ensure you get the perfect sized panel for your needs. 

 

Learn more about the differences between crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon (Both technologies we can offer for your solution).

 

Charge Controller

 

You might think you can connect a solar panel to your device, and you’ll be okay. While that can be true, the majority of the time, it’s a bit more complicated. 

 

For indoor and low power IoT applications, an energy harvesting PMIC is an effective solution. Check out our development kits, which make prototyping simple. 

 

For medium to high power outdoor applications, there are many excellent charge controller options. 

 

The first step is determining when you need to use a charge controller.

 

Next, learn how they maximize the energy your solar solution collects.

 

Finally, select the controller that will work best for your specific application. 

 

Battery

 

You’ve determined your power budget, selected the right solar technology, and know which charge controller will work best for you. 

 

Now what?

 

The last step is to determine which battery will act as an intermediary between the solar panel and your electronics. 

 

Batteries are almost always necessary because whether we like it or not, the sun doesn’t shine 24 hours/day. 

 

There are different battery chemistry options to choose from, and selecting the proper battery is crucial in creating a solution that will perform at a peak level. 

 

How do you determine which battery and what size will be best for you? Take a look at our post covering this exact topic to start.

 

With this knowledge in hand, we’ll talk through the various options allowing you to make an informed decision.

 

There you have it. You’ve worked through the six questions!

 

Designing a solar solution from the ground up can be daunting.

 

We get it. 

 

We’re here to help.

 

We’ll walk through the six questions above, help you every step of the way, and ensure you have the best possible solution. (Want to learn more about our specific custom solar design process? Read this post on that exact topic).

 

Do you want to learn more about what we offer and how we can simplify the process? 

 

Contact us today! 

 

We look forward to working with you!

 

Take this blog post with you!

 

 

Categories: Solar Education

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