Solar Power for Amateur Radio
Powering radio communications equipment using solar energy.
1. Are there any special considerations when using amateur radio gear on solar power?
Yes, there are some issues. Many solar charger controllers actually will generate RF noise when charging. This is most common with pulse width modulated (microprocessor controlled) charge controllers. Sometimes this can be controlled with wire shielding and/or good grounding/DC filtering. RF noise output may vary depending upon battery state of charge (usually less when batteries are near full, depending upon the charger PWM protocol).
2. What are the advantages of solar power for radio communications?
Solar power is ideal for radio communications as the DC power does not introduce line noise or 60 cycle hum. Isolation from the grid (in most installations) also will assure relative immunity from grid power surges. Using solar energy as a power source actually fulfills a prime mission of amateur radio: reliable emergency communications. Solar powered communications will function when everything else is off[line. Solar power can also keep a standby battery bank constantly topped-off and ready to use in the event of a power failure. UPS inverters are also available that switch power over to solar power upon a quarter-cycle failure of the 110VAC grid.
3. What kind of installation will I need to power my home amateur radio station using solar power?
This certainly depends upon the loads you intend to support. Most radio communications needs are used for a limited timeframe daily and the duty cycle (time in transmit) is usually low. Therefore a solar installation with around 200W of panels and 300 to 500 Amp-hours of battery capacity will usually be sufficient (your mileage may vary).
4.How about remote base or repeater operations?
We can set you up with the right panel sizing as well as the charge controller, metering and advice on setting your system up for long reliable service. The average amateur or commercial remote base will do fine with between 100 and 300 watts of panels and around 200 to 400AH of batteries. Actual sizing depends upon the duty cycle of use and load sizing. Any remote base needs low voltage disconnect and temperature compensation at a minimum. Good grounding and lightning suppression is also important.