When I started thinking about my capstone last summer I knew I wanted to do something with solar power. After that I had to think about what I could do with solar power that could help the school. With this I decided to make a solar powered charging station. This was a much bigger task than I first anticipated it to be, after doing some research on making solar panels I realized that this could be a huge undertaking. After that I talked to Miles about joining me on my capstone and splitting it into multiple parts, we started working together on wednesdays in Mr. Kamal’s room. We started off just doing research and got in contact with Stephen Pisklak, who works on solar panels at DOW. We reached out to him to figure out if making our own solar cells was a viable project. He told us that it would not be possible to make our own solar cells but that we could buy solar cells and build a charge controller. We started researching and ordering parts, we eventually accumulated enough parts to be able to start working on the panels. Attaching the cells together proved to be very difficult because the cells were very delicate. They are so delicate that when miles picked one up it snapped in his hand.
At this point in time we have everything assembled and we just have to connect a couple pieces together and mount the solar panel.
Below is an album highlighting the process of our capstone and what we have now:
Byers, TJ. "Build a Solar Charge Controller." Mother Earth News. Mother Earth News, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/solar-charge-controller-zmaz84mazale.aspx?PageId=1>.
This source is where I found the best schematics for a charge controller. This source was very helpful because it gave me a layout for the charge controller and the exact specifications on all the parts I needed for it. It gives in-depth descriptions on how to assemble it, and where to get certain components. One of the drawbacks of this source are how old it is, it was published as an article in 1984. I have checked it against other sources and it looks reliable, the reason I chose it over the other sources is that it is a lot more detailed.
Davis, Michael. "A New Solar / Wind Charge Controller Based on the 555 Chip." A New Solar / Wind Charge Controller Based on the 555 Chip. Michael David, 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.mdpub.com/555Controller/>.
Dell. "Dell Slim Power Adapter - 65 Watt." Dell. Dell, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=bsd&cs=04&sku=332-1831>.
For the charging station I am including chromebook chargers because all of the students will have chromebooks and it will be helpful to have that hardwired into the station. I needed to know how much power is needed to charge the laptops so that the solar panel produces enough energy. It is also important to know how much energy the charger accepts and how it converts the energy. If I give it too much, it will blow out and will not work. If I do not give it enough, it will not do it’s job.
Dhar, Michael. "How Do Solar Panels Work?" Live Science. Live Science, 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/41995-how-do-solar-panels-work.html>.
This source was very helpful because from it I were able to learn the basics of photovoltaic solar panels. This helps me to be more knowledgeable about my capstone. One of the drawbacks to this source is that it does not actually tell me anything about building a solar panel. I chose this source because it is useful to know the background information about what you are working on even if it is not actually pertinent to what you are doing. This information could help me work through problems I might have while building my panel.
DIY Projects. “Solar Cell Tabbing - the EASY RIGHT WAY to do it.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 23 January 2010. Web. 2 February 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDlcaILWP54>.
This is one of the sources to I used to learn how to tab solar panels. This one was really helpful for me because it showed me how to do complete tabbing of solar panels. The process is very difficult and without this source I would not have been able to accomplish it. One of the drawbacks of this source is the lack of explanation on some of the procedures to tab the panels. The video helps us find out how to connect the solar cells together to create a solar panel.
Dow Corning. "Solar Energy Basics." Energy for a Sustainable World From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future (2010): 155-65. The Science of Solar: Solar Energy - The Basics. Dow Corning, 2009. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <https://www.dowcorning.com/content/publishedlit/06-10028_solar-energy-the-basics.pdf>.
Everbright Solar. "500 Watt High Power Mono Crystalline Solar Cells for DIY Solar Panel." Everbright Solar. Everbright Solar, 2009. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. <http://www.everbrightsolar.net/500-watt-high-power-mono-crystalline-solar-cells-for-diy-solar-pa500.html>.
This is the company I bought my solar cells from so they have the specs for the cells I bought. I need the specs to figure out how big I want to make the panel and the specifications for resistors. It is also useful to know the specs for the cells so we could find the right materials to use with the cells to build the solar panel. This source also gave us the weight of the cells which will help build our support structure for our panels. One of the things that I would have liked this source to include is how fragile the cells are, when we first opened the box we took one out and it snapped in our hands.
kurtscottage. “Homemade Solar Panels Diy tutorial, complete build.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 12 August 2012. Web. 2 February 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouLa4Ftu3O8>.
This has been my main source for the complete build of the solar panel. Shows how to build a large panel from beginning to end with plenty of explanation and instruction. The one issue that I have had with it so far is that he has some slightly different materials. His solar cells for example are already tabbed, but mine are not so I had to find another more detailed source to learn how to do that part. This source is credible because it is simply and instructional video, it does not make and scientific claims that require citing. This source has been essential for step by step instructions on the creation of a solar panel.
Mik. "Overcharged Lead-Acid Battery - What to Do?" V Is for Voltage Forums. V Is for Voltage Forums, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 2 Feb. 2016. <http://visforvoltage.org/forum/13446-overcharged-lead-acid-battery-what-do>.
This is an important source because I am doing something that could potentially be dangerous. I found this source when trying to research on the dangers of charging a battery of this size incorrectly. The source describes a man who over charged his battery, something that may happen if I do things incorrectly, and I now understand more fully what will happen to the battery. This source confirms my suspicion that not only will the battery be ruined, but it will need to be properly disposed of. This means that I need to check up on my battery periodically to make sure it is ok.
Schwartz, Drew. "Polycarbonate (Lexan) vs. Acrylic (Lucite)." Colorado Plastic Products. Colorado Plastic, 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 5 Feb. 2016. <http://www.coloradoplastics.com/blog-0/bid/42625/Polycarbonate-Lexan-vs-Acrylic-Lucite>.
I needed to figure out what I was going to cover my solar panel with, glass is expensive so I wanted to use some sort of plexiglass. The question was polycarbonate or acrylic and this source helped me know the difference. The source explains the impact strength of the polycarb (most notably by demonstrating in the video), and lead me to the decision to use polycarb instead of glass or acrylic. This option is cheaper but still has the strength that I need for an indoor solar panel.
SFUPTOWNMAKER. "PCB Basics." Sparkfun. Sparkfun, n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.
This site helped me learn how about PCB’s or Printed Circuit Boards. We are going to be making our own Printed Circuit Board for our charge controller. We decided that a printed circuit board would be the easiest way to make our charge controller (opposed to a breadboard or wiring the components together manually). A printed circuit board will allow us to assemble our charge controller very easily and make it more reliable and more durable.
Solar America Cities. "Solar Installation Guidebook." Mayor's Office of Sustainability. City of Philadelphia, n.d. Web. 05 Feb. 2016. <http://www.phila.gov/green/solarGuidebook.html>.
wtam69. “Diy automatic 12 volt charge controller.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 16 January 2014. Web. 2 February 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C-Q76y3wy8>.This source on charge controllers was very helpful because it helped to verify our first charge controller source so we could know it was accurate. This is important to know because if your sources give different information you won’t know how to proceed correctly. This source also showed the actual construction of the charge controller instead of just showing diagrams like the other source. One of the good things about this source is that it outlines how to test your charge controller safely to make sure it works. This is very important because we are going to be using a large amount of current that could be deadly.