*Solar Power In The Field*
By: Pointman
24 December 2003

Having a means to power your electronic and electrical devices while in the field can be of much use. While there are any number of ways to power or recharge your equipment in remote locations, most have serious drawbacks. Generators, while able to produce a large amount of electricity, are plagued by several serious problems-namely, fuel, weight, maintenance, and noise. A much better option for most applications is to go solar. Small solar panels will not give you near the amount of short term energy that a genny will, but they are much more "stealthy" and the sun provides the fuel, not 5 gallon jerry cans!

Below is a few examples of field portable solar systems.


Above is a pair of "AA" Solar battery chargers.For the ultralight backpacking types, this may be all you could carry. These devices are SLOOOOW to recharge batteries, but they do work, and for extended periods in the bush, these could keep your flashlight’s, AM/FM radio, and portable UHF/VHF two way radio up and running.


Next we have a step up in power producing capability. This is a folding 20 watt "Expedition" solar panel connected to a 5AH Sealed Lead Acid battery AKA "Gel Cell". This system is still manpackable, but now we have the capability to run a "QRP" (low power) HF radio, charge many more batteries with a fast charger,charge your cell phone, etc. If more capacity is needed, multiple panels could be carried, spread loaded, by a group and used together to charge a larger SLA battery.


For a vehicle portable system, the possibilities are endless, above is a simple system we use while car camping and with our pop up camper ,comprising one 75 watt panel charging a 170 AH DeepCycle battery in what I call a "Portable Power Center", which is the battery inside a plastic battery box available everywhere. Mounted to the box is a 3 way DC outlet (lets you connect any 12v "cigarette plug" equipped accessory, and a 350 watt continuous rated inverter for running small power tools, lights etc. I use a SunGuard 4.5amp charge controller with this setup, just to be safe.

Hope this gives you some ideas for powering your gear in the field, just because you are "remote" does not mean you have to go without some modern conveniences

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