Portable solar panels

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 14:27
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Hi fellow travellers
I need a portable solar panel to power my 60 litre Engel.
Would love some comments for and against different brands of portable panels.
Thanks Bob
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Reply By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 14:49

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 14:49
Buy the best quality "products" you can afford :-))

panels AND regulators

So what is your budget ???

Mainey . . .
AnswerID: 359310

Reply By: Mandrake - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:07

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:07
Bob S ,

For anyone to give you a really good answer we need some info on

how long you intend to be away from MAINS power and where you intend to be - A system that needs to run in 48 degrees will need more power than one that runs in a 30 degree climate -
Your budget as Mainey suggests -
Amps that the Engel draws when running flat out ..

Too many variables at the moment - But you will require A Battery a Solar Regulator and Solar Panel / panels

Rgds

Mandrake
AnswerID: 359311

Follow Up By: oldtrack123 - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:43

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:43
Hi All
Here we go again plenty of advise " I have so &so never any problems etc'
BUT NO REAL DETAILS , UNLESS the specifics of use are stated ,as suggested by Mandrake, the information is USELESS.
All the relevant information re panel size ,battery size, fridge size expected ambient temp @ the fridge, frequency of door opening, fridge temp setting, warm loading/ how often/ how much, period without out charging by driving etc , plays a major part in determining what is required
Now saying "I have X panels" without qualifying with details of use really means nothing.
PLEASE to ALL you do have good info on personal use On this & many subjects , SO make it really useful put that extra info in.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:29

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:29
Not into the technicalities Bob , only what works for us. We run an 80 w panel on the F250 roof. It powers one 100 a/h deep cycle battery, and we have a controller (digital readout gizmo). This is enough to run a 40 litre Engel and a couple of reading lights. We are trying it next time with two batteries to see how it goes. With a 60 litre Engel, you may need at least a 100 w panel (any good brand).

Motherhen
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AnswerID: 359313

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:46

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 15:46
PS: Ours is a standard panel - not a specifically portable one, but we used to use it with a camper as a portable by mounting it on a frame with stand. It used to charge the one battery for an upright caravan fridge and two lights, just putting it out when were stopped.

Mh
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Reply By: Rolly - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 17:39

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 17:39
There must have been a million posts on this subject shared amongst the plethora of fora that have interest in it.

I've done a whack of research into alternative power sources that are available to a non technical person like my self.

I've come to the conclusion that , for my needs, a couple of UniSolar 64 watt panels, hinged together with dismountable hinges, connected in parallel electrically, with a quality controller big enough to accept further panels, will be the way to go.

I will choose amorphous cell panel for their ability:

a. to operate well when they are partly shaded (by a tree branch or whatever,)
b. to operate better in high temperatures,
c. to be less critical in relation to the angle of the sun,
d. to produce well in light overcast,

They are larger in surface area than others for the same nominal out put but this is compensated for by their lighter weight.

They are made of bonded materials with a strong resin "glass" which is more resistant to damage by hail, flying stones etc. and is quite simple to repair if it should get chipped.

The Australian military use them almost exclusively for portable use and remote location applications.

They are not often advertised because the production facility has difficulty keeping up with forward orders.

It is rumoured that their next "release to the public" will be continuous roll panel printed on flexible substrate to be manufactured at a new factory.

I am not aware of their present availability nor prices but a 'google' search will find their distribution.


AnswerID: 359320

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 23:49

Sunday, Apr 12, 2009 at 23:49
One way of figuring which solar panel has better *performance* than another is to check out all the solar panels used out in the bush by the big companies where money is no object, but the panels performance is, there are none to my knowledge using amorphous cell panels, they are ALL Multi-crystalline panels.

Remembering the author is asking about "portable" solar panels the idea that an amorphous panel is in any way at all superior to *same capacity* Mono, Multi or even Poly-crystalline panels is not what I could concur with.

No vehicle in the "Solar challenge" car race from Darwin to Adelaide uses amorphous panels, they are ALL 'crystalline' panels !!

I still use one of the 'original' Multi-crystalline panels from the 1996 race.

Mainey . . .
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Follow Up By: Boobook2 - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 07:19

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 07:19
Mainey surely you can't be serious.

To say the above you assume that absolutely all applications are the same criterea.

For example. Large instalations are not concerned with shading, mounting issues, or possibly sun angles.

Solar Challange is only concerned with efiency per sq meter and who the sponser is. ( eg BP probably wouldn't use Sharp panels).

RV applications are a mixture of size, weight, price, shade capability, angle tolerance and other requirements.

Things are not that simple and broad statements are generaly not good advice.

I would have thought that if you had an ex race car's solar panels it would be single crystal based which can be more efficient than Multi Crystaline, and if you do what large installations do, you would have to have a MPPT regulator.






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Follow Up By: blue one - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 07:30

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 07:30
Rolly,
I have 2 UniSolar 64 watt panels which support a 40 ltr fridge and a 32 ltr freezer. The panels are very robust and have performed well in some very ordinary conditions.

As you say they are well suited for remote travel in Australia.

Cheers

Steve
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Follow Up By: RV Powerstream P/L - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:05

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:05
Most of the above is broad statements based on individual preferences and a whack of information is changing on a dayly basis like a swiss institute has released a study on amorphous panels that the expected life of the panels is now considered to be reduced by half as the sun that makes them work is also deteriorating them faster than expected.
The technology on amorphous is limited in its capacity to improve efficiency and the original patent has expired and every man and his dog produce it because it cheap and you have to be very careful what you buy.
Australia is backward to the point that there may only be two experimental developers left in Australia both in thin film technology and in general manufacturing no one with BP going offshore.
The CIGS panels are available here and that is a technology developed for NASA and Global Solar was the leader in that field but at around $20 a watt hardly viable.
An amorphous panel by its size and light consruction if mounted flat can sag and then hold dust and water which greatly reduces its efficiency.
Nothing is perfect so whatever you have if it works for you then thats all that matters.
Ian
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:43

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:43
I believe it's no good comparing one type of panel structure against another if they are NOT done under exactly the exact same criteria

Unisolar
per sq Mtr: 64 Watts
per sq Mtr: 16.5 Volts
per sq Mtr: 3.9 Amps

Sharp
per sq Mtr: 122 Watts
per sq Mtr: 16.8 Volts
per sq Mtr: 7.1 Amps

*the price & weight of the Unisolar is also a lot less than the Sharp*


I was intrigued to find this 'message' while doing "research"
"Uni-Solar 64 Watt, this product has now been discontinued by the manufacturer"
(www.solarpanelxpress.com.au/panels)

Mainey . . .



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Follow Up By: paulnsw - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:01

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:01
"The Australian military use them almost exclusively for portable use and remote location applications."
hate to tell you we dont have an amorphous panel in our electrical section. All the solar panels we use are crystalline panels. Amorphous panels fail and dont produce the power when cold. if you listen to all the advertising diatribe then so be it. When it is so hot you dont need the extra power it is when the weather is lousy and cold. Amorphous start dropping power output at 25C and badly from 15C. Amorphous panels have a diode on each cell so you cannot tell when the individual cells fail. To reliably power 60L fridge you will need 2 x 80w panels. In ideal conditions a 120w will make the grade.
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Reply By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:23

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 08:23
Can't tell you the tech's of solar panels at all Bob, but I can tell you this;

A) When I decided to buy a solar panel, I spoke/emailed Derek Bester who advertises on this site. We discussed my requirements and he advised me on a panel. For my 70L Trailblaza fridge to keep running on the aux battery, I use a 100 watt Bi-Fold Panel and regulator. The GP-100 bi fold. You can view the panel here

B) It works and it works well!

C) No association with the company blah blah blah..... just a VERY satisfied customer.


Cheers and good luck,

Brian
AnswerID: 359347

Follow Up By: paulnsw - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:05

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:05
we have some 70L Trailblaza fridges and 100w solar would no way keep them going and keep the battery charged to fulll capacity every day. You will be running your battery down every day and limited to the amount of time you can stay out camped.
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Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 12:10

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 12:10
"paulnsw posted:
we have some 70L Trailblaza fridges and 100w solar would no way keep them going and keep the battery charged to fulll capacity every day. You will be running your battery down every day and limited to the amount of time you can stay out camped.
FollowUp 1 of 1"

I mean no disrespect when I say that this is NOT the case. Firstly, I have had the panel for 18 months and we tested this system first in my back yard where I ran the Trailblaza in the truck for 3 days and nights without once turning the engine on. On the 4th day, when we had to drive the truck, I measured the aux battery volts at 12.9 volts and the fridge temperature at 3 deg C.... that's product temp not air temp (I am a fridgie and have the necessary cal tested thermometers...).
Camping for a week or more away in the bush with nowhere to plug into, so relying on the panel to keep us with a cold fridge and lighting for the evenings so far hasn't been a problem either.

If your system is letting you down, perhaps you need to look into why yours doesn't work.

Mine does work and it does work well!

Cheers

Brian

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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 13:04

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 13:04
Your battery Voltage measurement of 12.9v is obviously just 'surface' Voltage, as the battery would have just come off the Solar panel charge. What I'm suggesting is the battery Voltage was not measured the usual 3 plus hours after the charge device was disconnected, but I don't actually expect you to remember how long you waited before you did the test 18 months ago.

Mainey . . .
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Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 14:49

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 14:49
The OP posted;
"Would love some comments for and against different brands of portable panels."

I have given my response to what he asked...... my comments are based on what happens in my set up in the real world. Doesn't mean that my word is law!

I am not interested in how anyone else interprets it.

End of discussion AFAIC.


Brian
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Reply By: Silkwood - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:48

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:48
Bob, lots of fun raising this topic! If anyone had THE right answer everyone would be using their suggestions.

I've had a 64w Unisolar for 8 years, bought it for some of the reasons raised here. It IS large for its output, it does work really well when it gets really hot (when you really need it, quite the opposite to that which was stated earlier, that is you need it most when it gets cold and wet?!!). I also chose it because it is light and less prone to damage that other options. There have been suggestions that the life span MAY not be as long as predicted, but still long term propositions and possibly no different to the rest.

I'm about to get more panels and will be asking advice on this forum because the participants usually provide useful information (though some get a little over excited when doing so!). My next panels will probably be poly or mono, simply because I feel having the mix will give me more opportunities to get it right :-) .

Be wary of listening to outright statements on this or any other internet forum, with Google anyone can find arguments to support their particular viewpoint. If you can afford a little extra room and will not be mounting the panels permanently on your roof I think the Amorphous are a good choice. If you want more efficiency for the space taken and want more "Bang For Your Buck" Poly or Mono may be a better choice.

The bottom line is: if you have enough panel to provide for your needs and they are connected to a decent controller you'll have made a good choice.

Cheers,

Mark
AnswerID: 359358

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 14:24

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 14:24
Mark
Yes, I use the system I suggest is the better system for the long term camping I do.

I've noticed the 'performance numbers' posted above have not been challenged so far, maybe because they are direct from the two relevant manufacturers web sites?


* Sharp supplies 91% more Watts per sq mtr than Unisolar

* Sharp supplies 82% more Amps per sq mtr than Unisolar


Does this indicate one technology is superior to the other ?

If not, I would like to be advised the reason why the huge difference in current exists .. please :-)

Remember these numbers are not my 'opinions' but the Solar manufacturers own specifications, lets stick with some provable facts

Unisolar:
per sq Mtr: 64 Watts
per sq Mtr: 16.5 Volts
per sq Mtr: 3.9 Amps
(64/16.5= 3.8)

Sharp:
per sq Mtr: 122 Watts
per sq Mtr: 16.8 Volts
per sq Mtr: 7.1 Amps
(122/16.8= 7.2)

Mainey . . .
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Follow Up By: Silkwood - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:30

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:30
Mainey, I have to say you're one of the people I'll listen to when I'm looking for my next panels but, on the other hand, you're also one of the ones I mentioned who "gets a little excited" when this topic comes up. If you read what I wrote I actually said "they are a little large for their output". This means they put less out per m2 than other panels. Guess what? I'm agreeing with you!

This doesn't mean watts pert m2 are the be all and end all of performance ( the fastest car isn't always the best, the most wine for your dollar isn't always good drinking!)

At what temperature does the performance of the Sharp panels decrease? At what percentage of shading does the performance fall off? Not disputing you have a good set up, just noting others are happy with theirs. Some provable "facts" often prove irrelevant in differing contexts.

I'm simply saying if Bob, or anyone else chooses a system with adequate output through a good controller they have found a good system.

Happy you are satisfied with YOUR set up. Facts aren't always facts (in fact they rarely are :-) ). Sometimes they're perspectives.

Cheers,

Mark
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:47

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:47
Mark, in all honesty I was not having a go at you in any way at all.

Just presenting some facts about Solar that are readily available from the relevant manufacturers, how they are used is totally up to the reader.

However, Yes I fully agree with you in your thought that if some-one uses a system that is doing the job for them, and they are happy, then all is well.
Using your analogy of the fastest car, I also agree with that too!

Mainey . . .



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Reply By: rayj - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:58

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:58
I use a 130w Kyocera panel with a Plasmatronics PL20 controller and a 130 amphour battery. Seems to work fine for me. My fridge is a "Cole Cool" 50lt now sold as Koolmen. I swear these things are indestructable. Made in Bibra Lake (Perth)
AnswerID: 359390

Reply By: blue one - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:59

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 16:59
Bob,
Watch the glass ones as they break when they fall over. I have seen it happen twice. End of the line for those puppies.

Cheers

Steve
AnswerID: 359391

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:57

Monday, Apr 13, 2009 at 19:57
I was going to suggest a beer glass will break too if some-one is stupid enough to drop it, but no-one would drop a beer glass, well not a full one any way, so why would they be stupid enough to allow an expensive solar panel to "fall over"
If I said one of mine had fell from a bench with-out breaking it would not be believed by some and just cause an argument, so I won't admit it here.

Mainey . . .
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FollowupID: 627399

Follow Up By: blue one - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 05:24

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 05:24
So you are trying to say you don't spend too much time in pubs.

LOL

Cheers

Steve
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FollowupID: 627417

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 12:27

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 12:27
Steve,
Yes, I live near Margaret River and spend more time there than in the local pubs, I find the wineries have much nicer food :-)

Mainey . . .
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Reply By: Mandrake - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 09:04

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 09:04
I find it odd that the originator of this post has said "nothing" since starting it ?

wonder why ?

Rgds

Mandrake
AnswerID: 359460

Follow Up By: Rolly - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 11:51

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 11:51
Probly doesn't want to wade into all the BS with out his gumboots 8D.
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Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 12:23

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 12:23
Rolly,
No, I think it's because Bob is watching and learning !

After all he asked the question: "Would love some comments for and against different brands of portable panels"
unfortunately he's getting some comments proven to be total 'BS'

The reason the Watts, Amp & Voltage *COMPARISON* numbers I've posted have not been contested is because they are factual and can't be refuted !
It's much easier to attack the person than the facts presented !!

Mainey . . .
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FollowupID: 627442

Follow Up By: Rolly - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 15:54

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 15:54
Maîneÿ,

You take things far too seriously, including yourself.

I was not referring to you when I mentioned BS and I was commenting in a tongue-in-cheek fashion intending to be mildly humorous.

Your reference to output performance is accurate; as far as it goes.

You have not made reference to the many other criteria that a potential user might take into consideration so, in isolation, those figures have only partial relevance.

I do not intend to enter into a technical discussion with you on any matter as you appear to quite convinced that your, and only your, opinion is of value.

My son, an Electrical Engineer who has considerable expertise in this and other fields, is by far a more reliable and unbiased source of information.




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FollowupID: 627462

Follow Up By: Maîneÿ [wa] - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 16:43

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 16:43
Rolly,
I believe Bob is taking the replies he reads here "seriously" and to that point I'm aware you were not referring to me.
I'm sure Bob just wants to read the relevant differences and benefits between the various types of solar panels available.

I've asked if the max current supplied by the two different types of solar systems nominated can be contradicted in any way at all, to this point they have not been, now with your vast knowledge you state the "output performance is accurate" so I believe we can agree the manufacturers figures are correct and the matter is now closed for further discussion?

Mainey . . .
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Reply By: Member - Bob S (VIC) - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 17:43

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 17:43
I apologize if I have offended anyone by not placing any replies in this thread that I originated.

I have been quietly observing the information being exchanged in what appears to be a controversial topic.

Some of the replies supplied have been relevant to my original question which was inviting " .... comments for and against different brands of portable (solar) panels". Some have not been relevant and others are beyond my current level of understanding.

But I am sure that those that are not relevant to my question may be helpful to others reading this thread both now and in the future - including myself.

Thanks to all contributors - you have helped me make a more informed choice.

Bob
AnswerID: 359537

Follow Up By: Member Brian (Gold Coast) - Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 18:55

Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009 at 18:55
No need to apologize IMO Bob...... you asked a question, you got some answers! And, if it helps you make a decision, then all is good.

That's what the forum is all about....... well, that's how I like to think of it anyway!... LOL..

Cheers

Brian
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