The makerPower is a combination solar battery charger and 5V power supply for IOT-class devices designed for 24/7 operation off of solar power. It manages charging a 12V AGM lead acid battery from common 36-cell 12V solar panels. It provides 5V power output at up to 2A for systems that include sensors or communication radios. Optimal charging is provided through a dynamic perturb-and-observe maximum power-point transfer converter (MPPT) and a 3-stage (BULK, ABSORPTION, FLOAT) charging algorithm. A removable temperature sensor provides temperature compensation. Operation is plug & play although additional information and configuration may be obtained through a digital interface.
This MPPT Solar Charger stands out above all others thanks to the well documented example projects from the creator himself, Dan Julio: GitHub - Examples.
- esp8266 - Communicate with the cloud via WiFi and display charger data on an Adafruit IO dashboard.
- enclosure - Laser cut acrylic mounting plates to convert an off-the-shelf waterproof enclosure into a solar camera.
- motioneyeos - Incorporate the mpptChgD daemon into the motioneyeos distribution for a remotely monitored solar powered webcam.
- nightlighting - The "night-only" function can be used to automatically turn on LED lighting at night.
- pi_UPS - Use the charger as a long-lasting uninterruptable power supply with controlled shutdown for Raspberry Pi based systems.
- rad_sensor - Display information from a geiger counter remotely through the Blynk app on your phone.
- Optimized for commonly available batteries in the 7-18 Ah range and solar panels in the 10-35 Watt range
- Reverse Polarity protected solar panel input with press-to-open terminal block
- Fused battery input with press-to-open terminal block
- Maximum 2A at 5V output on USB Type A power output jack and solder header
- Automatic low-battery disconnect and auto-restart on recharged battery
- Temperature compensation sensor with internal sensor fallback
- Status LED indicating charge and power conditions, fault information
- I2C interface for detailed operation condition readout and configuration parameter access
- Configurable battery charge parameters
- Status signals for Night detection and pre-power-down alert
- Night-only operating mode (switch 5V output on only at night)
- Watchdog functionality to power-cycle connected device if it crashes or for timed power-off control
- Remote control and sense applications
- Solar powered web or timelapse camera
- Night-time “critter cam"
- Solar powered LED night lighting controller
- 85 x 56 mm (same size as Raspberry Pi 3)
- Mounting holes align with Raspberry Pi boards (including Pi Zero)
12 V Operation
- Designed for 36-cell solar panels (typ. 25-40 W)
- Works with sealed AGM lead-acid batteries (typ. 7-18 Ah)
35 W MPPT Charger
- Dynamic Perturb & Observe algorithm
- Three state charge: BULK, ABSORPTION, FLOAT
- Temperature compensation
- 5 V 2 A (10 W) managed output available from USB Type A socket for plug & play with many devices or from a 0.1” header for direct connection
- Fused and current monitored 12 V (3 A maximum) battery output available from a header
- I²C slave interface
- Alert logic signal to notify of impending power-down
- Night logic signal asserted when solar panel is dark
- Detachable temperature sensor for battery temperature monitoring
Compatible Solar Panels and Batteries
The makerPower is designed to use standard 25- or 35-Watt 12V solar panels with AGM type 7-Ah to 18-Ah 12V lead acid batteries. It has a maximum charge capacity of about 35-38 watts. A detailed sizing method is described in the user manual but it is possible to use smaller or larger panels and batteries depending on the application.
Typically a 25-Watt panel is paired with a 7-Ah battery for small systems (Arduino-type up to Raspberry Pi Zero type). A 35-Watt panel is paired with 9-Ah to 18-Ah batteries for larger systems. Larger batteries provide longer run-time during poor (lower light) charging conditions. A larger panel can provide more charge current during poor charging conditions.
Solar panels should be a 36-cell type with a typical maximum power-point of around 18V and maximum open-circuit voltage of 23V (typically around 21-22V).
I have used the Carlon E989N enclosure found at a Home Depot home improvement store to hold the battery, charger, and single-board computer. It is a good size providing room for a 7- or 9-Ah battery as well as room for heat dissipation from both the charger and computer. Note that the charger can dissipate upwards of 5W when running at full capacity.
Other possible enclosures include the following: