By Jared Friesen, Nebraskans for Solar President, NABCEP Solar Designer
Nebraskans for Solar is always looking for ways to bring clean and reliable solar energy to events and to those interested in learning more about renewable energy in general. With special support from the Omaha Venture Group, we now have tools to store solar energy in a battery and convert it back to standard plug power to provide usable solar energy day or night, indoors or out.
A battery-generator is similar to a “powerbank” that provides USB power for charging a cell phone. However, these battery-generators provide 120 AC volts capable of powering almost all household appliances such as coffee makers, refrigerators, TV’s, fans, or power tools (up to 1500 watts!). The length of time the connected devices can run can be calculated based on the battery-generator’s 640 watt-hour usable energy rating. The batteries supporting these systems are in the Lithium Ion family used in cell phones, drones, and electric vehicles, but are of a Lithium Iron Phosphate sub-category which provides the highest levels of safety while still providing significant size, weight, and charge cycle advantages over lead-acid based batteries often used to start internal combustion engine vehicles.
Paired with the two new Humless Go Mini battery-generators are two foldable 130-watt portable solar panels. These solar panels have integral stands, latches, and carrying handles and come with soft cases to simplify transport. A full battery-generator charge from empty can be completed in 2.5-4 hours with these solar panels, or charging can be done with wall outlet 120 AC volt power in a pinch (of course charging during the day from a home or business with grid-connected solar panels is preferred in this case!).
One way this device can be used for educational purposes is to combine with a Kill-A-Watt electricity usage monitor to see how much power different devices use and what effects they have on the run time of the battery-generator. Other electricity monitoring devices can be used to test estimates of DC voltage and current generation by the solar panels if set up outdoors (estimating output based on ambient air temperature, estimated solar irradiance, panel voltage-current curves, etc.).
The battery-generators will also be made available for events where a modest amount of solar-derived power is desired for tasks like running public address speakers or powering a video monitor.
If you could use a solar battery-generator for an educational session, are interested in using a solar battery-generator at a sustainability-related event, or have other questions – we want to hear from you! Please contact us today for more information, or donate here if you would like to support our efforts to promote the use of solar power in Nebraska.