As the production of Green Energy has become increasingly significant, I decided to conduct an experiment determining a solar panel's efficiency during all four seasons.
This article examines how quickly a device can be charged by a solar panel powered by the weak winter sunlight of January. I will repeat this test in the spring, summer, and fall. The information obtained from these experiments should prove helpful for those considering the installation of solar panels to power their homes.
My test equipment consists of the highly regarded BLUETTI PV200 solar panel and a 268Wh portable power station manufactured by the same company.
The BLUETTI PV200 provides backup solar power for camping or during power interruptions. This 200-Watt monocrystalline solar panel boasts up to 23.4 percent conversion efficiency.
It consists of four sections occupying a space 23.2 inches high and 89.2 inches wide. The PV200 can be folded for transportation, reducing the solar panel's dimensions to 23.2 x 24.8 inches. A sturdy handle allows this 16.1-pound device to be easily carried.
The panels are coated with fluorine-based plastic (ETFE) that is durable and scratch-resistant. While this device should not be soaked with water, an IP65 waterproof rating ensures it can be used when camping, fishing, and hiking. The PV200's kickstands allow the positioning of the solar panel at a 45-degree angle.
This device is equipped with a standard MC4 connector and is compatible with many portable power stations.
The accompanying BLUETTI EB3A portable power station boasts a 268Wh capacity and can handle loads of up to 600 watts. Its built-in MPPT controller supports a peak of 200 watts of solar input. This power generator came packed with a charging cable compatible with my solar panel.
Solar Panel Specifications
Name: Solar Panel
Peak power: 200 watts
Conversion ratio: Up to 23.4 percent
Physical support: Three integrated kickstands
Folded dimensions: 59 x 63 centimeters (23.2 x 24.8 inches)
Unfolded dimensions: 59 x 227 centimeters (23.2 x 89.2 inches)
Weight: 7.3 kilograms (16.1 pounds)
Sunlight Output in the Winter
The axis of the earth's rotation is tilted 23.5 degrees in relation to its orbit around the sun. During winter, the northern hemisphere is slightly skewed away from the sun, positioning it lower in the sky where it provides less direct sunlight. As this light is projected at a low angle, it spreads across a greater area, producing less heat in each specific region.
Conversely, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun during the summer. More direct sunlight is provided because the sun is higher, resulting in a warmer climate.
This effect suggests that solar panels are more effective in the summer. How much? That's what my experiment is designed to determine.
Solar panels generate power utilizing solar cells that absorb energy from sunlight and, using semiconducting materials, transform it into electrical energy. These cells are small, typically producing one or two watts of power. They are then connected together, forming larger power-generating panels.
While my experiment was important, I also wanted to devise a practical and convenient method to recharge my portable power station during a blackout.
My front porch is covered in windows and positioned so that it faces the sun as it rises and sets. I'd initially planned to place the solar panel on the porch floor, using its three kickstands to aim it at a 45-degree angle. This system, however, did not work effectively within an enclosed space.
Instead, I leaned the solar panel against the back wall of the porch, facing the windows.
The final step was to connect a portable power station to the solar panel. I chose the EB3A because its display provides information regarding the input in watts, charge rate, and estimated time until the unit is charged.
Under ideal circumstances, the PV200 solar panel should recharge my portable power station within 2.3 hours.
My test conditions, however, were far from ideal. And as I bundled myself into a parka midway through the experiment and headed out to shovel the driveway, I found myself resenting those that live in sunny Texas. They receive a much greater share of the winter's frugal sunlight.
Aside from the sun's weak output, I also contended with problems associated with performing this test inside a building.
Three columns separate the large windows of my front porch, and throughout the entire test, one of them consistently blocked sunlight from one of the solar panels. Dirt clinging to the glass and the framing around the individual panes also obstructed sunlight. And unfortunately, the windows themselves have reflective qualities that redirect a portion of the light away.
Heat also proved to be a problem. At one point, the heat accumulating in the gradually warming sunporch, combined with that produced by the charging process, forced my portable power station's fan to turn on. To rectify the situation, I blocked direct sunlight from reaching the power station and opened the porch door.
After connecting the EB3A portable power station to the solar panel, I routinely monitored the device, checking its input and charging level.
At 9:00 AM, the EB3A was receiving 56 watts of power. As the sun rose, the input power gradually decreased, settling in at 30 watts by 10:00. When I checked again at 11:00, the power station was 30 percent charged and receiving 40 watts of power.
Power input continued to rise. It had increased to 55 watts by noon, and the EB3A was 45 percent charged. When I checked again at 13:00, the input had decreased slightly, but the power station's charge level had climbed to 58 percent. If all went as expected, I could fully charge the EB3A.
Unfortunately, thin hazy clouds arrived ten minutes later, and the power input dropped from 45 to 19 watts. At 14:00, however, enough sunshine pierced the cloud cover to provide a power input of 30 watts.
When I checked again at 15:00, the thickening haze and the weakening sun had dropped the power input to zero. At that point, the power station was 80 percent charged.
The BLUETTI PV200 is a durable and well-designed solar panel. It is relatively compact, considering its 200W peak power capability, and boasts up to 23.4 percent conversion efficiency. This device is compatible with numerous portable power stations.
The poor result of my winter solar charging experiment does not reflect the ability of this device. In fact, despite weak winter sunlight and inadequate placement, the solar panel performed well. I expect significantly better results during my spring test and look forward to discovering how fast it will charge my portable power station under more ideal conditions this summer. The BLUETTI PV200 Solar Panel is recommended.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 Walter Shillington