Fascinating blow-your-mind real life stories:

Minimal... These are photos and descriptions of my very minimal solar system. Low-cost and few parts. I encourage you to copy it and make one yourself. Related Spreadsheets These are design and comparison-shopping spreadsheets I've made. They mostly explore how to do solar as cheap as possible!

http://www.homepower.com This is a magazine filled with examples of people building solar-powered systems and homes. It's especially nice that they let you read every issue on the net for free! Some of the ads are even valuable and informative. They describe things like solar-powered air conditioners, 12VDC refridgerators, and more. Most articles include analysis describing how long before solar setups pay for themselves (typically 7 years for a ~20KW home system!). There's sometimes even a section by anonymous people who are using solar power *illegally*. heh heh heh

Good Places to Buy Solar Equipment

http://www.partsonsale.com Here are a lot of low-priced solar parts-panels (special now $3.30/W), inverters, charge controllers and batteries. Jennifer was very personable.

http://www.solarseller.com Owner John Drake very friendly. Talked to me for quite a while and gave me good information. Get a Steca 8 Amp charge controller there for $37.50 while he still has his surplus! I used one for a week in the desert at Burning Man and was satisfied (web page about that whole experience pending). His website also has a large number of DC appliances. You get more

Charge Controllers

http://www.stecasolar.com/englisch/steca.htm Fancy German consumer solar equipment- charge controllers with LCD displays- good instruction manuals, inexpensive. Also a portable integrated charge controller and battery.

http://www.cirkits.com/solar/spc2.html Kit for a solar charge controller (no low-volt disconnect, though, good for learning purposes, includes full schematic)

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2336394948&category=3240 minimal charge controller- includes low-volt disconnect.


http://www.concordebattery.com/products/psb_eleclspeifications.cfm These batteries have specs well suited for Photovoltaic charging. They can be recharged many, many times.

Price/Size Comparison Graph I used the current prices at www.partsonsale.com. You can see that the 84, 212 and 258 Amp hour batteries have the most bang for the buck. Avoid the 49 and 108!

You may also download the the spreadsheet if you like.

Design Rules of Thumb

Expect to pay $4 per watt for photovoltaic panels.

A human being can be reliably expected to generate 100-150W of power on a bicycle for several hours before exhaustion.


Supposedly top of the line pure sine wave inverters. Pricey, but in my experience, the engineers at customer service are sharp! http://www.samlexamerica.com/ Pure sine wave inverters, about half the price of exeltechs)

Preferred Links

http://www.electric-bikes.com/ Electric bicycles. A nicely laid out site you can really explore.

http://www.uuhome.de/william.darden/ Deep Cycle Battery FAQ. More than you want to know!!

Interactive Solar Radiation Map (sorry, US only...) Use these to estimate how much energy you can generate with solar electricity.

At-A-Glance Solar Radiation Map. Use these to estimate how much energy you can generate with solar electricity.

An unexpected discovery could yield a full spectrum solar cell This is REALLY good news. It means solar cell efficiency will soon DOUBLE...and to think they were just trying to design orange LED's....:)

Coming Eventually

Pictures and stories from the Burning Man solar experience.

Javascript-Powered Solar System Designer

Solar bicycle design info

back to shifty's homepage, "Transmissions From the Garage"