Solar generators are increasingly becoming common due to their environment-friendly nature and cost-effectiveness. Besides, with time they have proved to offer consistent, off-grid power, hence proving their reliability,
With that out of the way, how do these devices work?
We can answer that question by first looking at the components of a solar generator.
Solar generators use solar panels to absorb solar energy. The panel consists of photovoltaic cells, which take in the solar energy and convert it to electric current.
The solar panel produces a direct current. If you have a little physics background, you already know that most electric devices use the alternating current.
Consequently, a solar generator also has an inverter that takes in the direct current and converts it to alternating current compatible with the devices.
The inverter converts the DC to AC by changing the direction of the input back and forth at a fast speed. As a result, it generates a current that flows in both directions in the circuit, known as the alternating current.
As its name suggests, the charge controller basically controls the charge. Well, let me explain.
This component of a solar generator controls the power being directed to the battery bank for storage to prevent the battery from overcharging.
Similarly, it prevents the backward flow of current, especially at night, preventing the battery from draining its charge.
Lastly, the solar generator also consists of a battery that stores the power generated from the sun.
There are two commonly used batteries: lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are widely available and used because they are safer and more affordable in the long run. However, the initial price of lead-acid batteries is lower.
Having discussed the main components of solar generators, let’s further discuss how it works.
Solar generators work by first absorbing the solar energy through the photovoltaic cells in the solar panel. These cells convert the solar energy to a direct current. After, the current is directed to the battery bank for storage.
Before that, it passes through a charge controller, which regulates the voltage to prevent the batteries from overcharging or undercharging. When drawing the power from the battery, it is passed through the inverter, which converts it to alternating current, which is compatible with most electric devices.
The power stored in the batteries is drawn anytime you power the generator.
What are the pros and cons of a solar generator?
Now that you know how a solar generator works, you might be wondering if it is worth it. To avoid biasedness, we will draw our conclusions by first looking at the pros and cons of this powerful device.
What are the pros of a solar generator?
- Free source of power
Unlike gas-powered generators, you do not have to purchase fuel constantly. Solar generators use the energy from the freely available sun.
- Clean and renewable
Considering that the solar generators do not use fuel, they do not release pollutants into the environment.
Thus, even when going camping or on a boat trip, you can be at peace that you are using a clean source of energy that does not pollute the environment
- Quiet and low maintenance
Solar generators do not have moving parts which significantly reduces the noise produced in their operations. Thus, these generators are very quiet.
Additionally, due to the lack of moving parts, the components of this device rarely break, making its maintenance easy and cheap.
What are the cons of a solar generator?
- High initial cost
Indeed, in the long run, solar generators are cheap, but it is not the case in the beginning. Usually, the initial cost of solar generators is quite high.
- Slow recharging
This type of generator charges efficiently when the sun is out and may take up to 6 hours to charge fully, depending on the wavelength quality and battery size.
As a result, you cannot charge it any time you want, and also, it can charge slowly on a cloudy day.
- Limited power supply
The amount of power supplied by a solar generator highly depends on its size. Thus, these generators may fail to power your entire home in most cases. However, they are quite efficient in powering small devices.
- Big size for more power
As we earlier said, solar generators use solar panels to absorb solar energy. Typically, the bigger the solar panel size, the more power it can produce.
Consequently, if you want more power, you might have to purchase a bigger generator, which means a bigger storage space and less portability.
How long does a solar generator run?
The runtime of a solar generator highly depends on the power stored in the battery bank.
However, if you leave the generator in the sun to charge fully, it can last for about 1 to 10 hours, depending on its size
Do solar generators work at night and on cloudy days?
Technically, solar generators do not produce more power at night because they rely on solar energy. However, they can store power in the battery, which can be used at night.
Similarly, on an extremely cloudy day, they may fail to produce more energy by they can work by drawing the power stored in the battery.
Solar generators vs. gas generators
The first version of generators used gas hence the name gas generators. Later on, solar generators that use solar energy instead of gas were invented. What is the difference between these two types of generators? And more importantly, which of them is the best? Let’s find out.
What is a gas generator?
A gas generator is a power generating device that uses fuel. These devices are used in industries, hardware, or other places that require a huge supply of power.
A gas generator has the following components;
- Engine: The engine takes in the fuel and uses it to produce energy which powers the device to function.
- Fuel system: The fuel system consists of the fuel tanks and the components used to convert the fuel to power
- Alternator: it consists of the stationary and the moving parts which convert the mechanical input from the engine to generate electricity
- Voltage regulator: It regulates the output voltage
- Cooling system: Gas generators produce heat, leading to overheating or explosion. Consequently, it has a cooling system to regulate the internal temperatures of the device.
- Control panel: They also consist of a user-friendly control panel used to control the generator.
- Mainframe: refers to the outer casing that houses the entire generator
|SOLAR GENERATORS||GAS GENERATORS|
|Cost for 1,800W of Power||$1,000||$500|
|Ease of Use||You need to set it up||Quick no-charge application|
|Environmental Impact||Environmentally friendly||Produce high CO and CO2. Hence it is not environmentally friendly|
|Noise Level||7 dB||60 – 90 dB|
|Operating Costs||Uses free solar energy. Thus, No operating costs||It uses fuel which is a recurring expense. Hence, it is expensive in the long run.|
|Size||The bigger the power supply, the bigger the size||Their power supply levels don’t depend on the size|
|Maintenance||Require minimal cleaning for maintenance||Require extensive maintenance after use and storage|
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.