GOING SOLAR: Fundamentals of solar power planning – solar charge controller – know-how Zimbabwe

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In our mission to understand GOING SOLAR, we started last week by looking at the main components of solar power systems. The four main components that we consider before designing a basic system are as follows:

  • Converter
  • battery
  • Charge regulator or regulator
  • Solar collector

We've already taken a closer look at the SOLAR PANEL and this week we're looking at the Solar Charge Controller.

The solar charge controller or regulator is located between the battery and the solar panel and, in DC systems, also between the load and the battery. This critical component can be defined as a device that prevents the solar panels from overcharging the battery when it is full and also serves to protect the battery from dangerous overdischarge by the connected loads.

The charge controller essentially takes in the irregular raw power generated by the solar panels and tries to smooth it out before transferring it to the battery for storage.

Solar charge controllers are available in different sizes with different functions. The most important and most common feature of 90% of the charge controllers is the "3-stage charging capability".

Let's try to simplify it.

"3-step loading"
The most efficient way to charge a solar battery is to flood it with as much power as possible first (we will discuss this in detail when we talk about batteries). This phase is called Bulk loading. During this phase, the battery is charged with the highest current (amperes) and volts that is permitted due to the structure and size of the battery. As soon as the battery is almost full, the second stage begins with a lower voltage and less current (amps). This stage is referred to as Absorption stage. During this phase the battery is slowly and further brought to its full state. As soon as the battery is fully charged, it is now held in this position in the so-called position Trickle charge level. During this last phase, the battery is kept at full voltage with an occasional small surge of current and voltage.

Regulators differ in how well they perform all of these charging stages. The cheapest regulators may not deliver at these levels and subsequently shorten the life of your batteries.

Now controller / controller size. The design of your system, including the size of the battery bank, the size of the solar panels to be used, and even the power to be used, will determine the size of your controller. Let's look at an example below.

Calculation of the controller / controller size

When calculating the controller size, you must consider the maximum system voltages as follows:

12 volt DC peaks at 15 volts

24 volt DC peaks at 30 volts

48 volt DC peaks at 60 volts

Just add the size of your solar panel and divide the number by the peak voltages of the system voltages. For example, a 12 volt system peaks around 15 volts DC. Assuming an overall system solar panel size of 200 watts, the size of the regulator / charge controller is as follows:

200 watts divided by 15 volts = 13.3 amps. Our recommended safe regulator / regulator size is 15 amps.

Let's go, not that complicated, right? When purchasing or selecting a regulator, take some time to learn about the types of regulator available and to fully understand their weaknesses and strengths before making your final decision.

The most common types of charge controllers available are:

  1. Switching regulators (the cheapest)
  2. Bypass charge controller
  3. PWM charge controller
  4. MPPT charge controller

As always, if something is lost while reading the information above, please reread. If this is still incomprehensible, send any questions that can be answered directly to you at tech@clamorepower.com. Believe me, even the simplest question is a joy. Your questions will also help me better communicate this science of power. You can also visit our FAQ page for more information.

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