Testing the Solar Setup

2016-10-23 written by: Brad

Solar Array leaning on picnic table

This weekend I went out to the cabin and I noticed there was no full sun in the area I planned to mount the solar panels. Now that winter is approaching and the sun is lower in the sky I may have to rethink how I set the panels up. I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and set up the array at my house where I can put it in a spot that will have similar amounts of sunlight to see how it will perform.

CADD drawing of wooden solar array mount designed to hold 4 100 watt panels

I went ahead and drew up a simple and affordable mount for my 4 100 watt solar panels. I designed it so it will be adjustable in one axis which will allow adjustments to be made monthly throughout the year to optimize the collection of sunlight. I originally figured out what angle I needed for each month and found the hole location for the drawing, but after thinking about it I realized that would make the array mount difficult to build due to tight measurement tolerances. Instead I plan to set the angle after it is mounted for each month, clamp it in place then drill the holes in the angle brace…much simpler plan I believe.

Inter-connection Diagram depicting solar power system connections

My power setup will consist of a charge controller, digital display for current voltage power and energy, 4 100 watt panels to create the array, 4 deep cycle batteries, a small harbor freight 800 watt generator, and a dumb battery charger.

  • Charge Controller: XCSOURCE® Intelligent 30A PWM Solar Panel Charge Controller 12V24V Battery Regulator LD296

  • Solar Panels: HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Polycrystalline Solar Panel

  • Digital Display: bayite DC 6.5-100V 0-100A LCD Display Digital Current Voltage Power Energy Meter Multimeter Ammeter Voltmeter with 100A Current Shunt

  • Harbor Freight Generator: 900 Peak/700 Running Watts, 2 HP (63cc) 2 Cycle Gas Generator EPA/CARB

image of the XCSOURCE® Intelligent 30A PWM Solar Panel Charge Controller 12V24V Battery Regulator LD296

Because I am new to this I decided it would be wise to start with a very affordable charge controller to experiment with. The LD296 charge controller was only around 15 bucks at amazon so I figured if I fried it during my experiments it wouldn’t be a total loss. The instruction manual for this thing is tiny and the english translation is terrible, but I managed to figure out what I needed to know from it. To make it easier to read and make it available online I snapped some photo’s of the manual and turned it into a downloadable pdf document. Feel free to click here to download it.

One of the key things I want to do is tie in my dumb battery charger to the charge controller in parralel with the solar array. The idea here is when the batteries die and there is no sun to charge them back up I would like to be able to turn on the generator in hopes I could charge the batteries and run the cabin at the same time. Running the dumb battery charger through the charge controller should make the cheap charger “smart”. I am not sure at this point if that is a bad idea or if it will cause any damage to either the charge controller or the solar panels. Worst case scenerio I will add a disconnect switch or A/B switch to select which power source feeds the charge controller. It would be cool if I could figure out a way to use some relays to make it autoswitch if I turned the generator on!

Under side of solar array illustrating temporary connections and mounting of the panels

In this photo you can see how the main portion of the solar array is built and the metal pipe I am using for a hinge point. I have the panels connected temporarily while I test different configurations of my equipment. I will be building a box to house the battery bank soon. It will be mounted outside of the cabin in a “bench”. Most of the electronic equipment I plan to mount inside the cabin mounted to the wall. Hopefully I can get everything setup here at the house where tools and supplies are handy, then bring everything out to the Cabin for the permanent installation.

Solar Panels
LD296 Charge Controller
100 watt solar panels
Solar array mount

Category: Cabin Project