One of the challenges people have when building their own solar panel, windmill, or hydroelectric generator, is understanding what it takes to connect that power to an end appliance or application.
You can’t just plug your laptop into a solar panel you built and expect everything to go smoothly.
In the interest of providing a basic step of understanding, I would like to provide this visual, as well as a quick explanation of what each part represents.
Please understand that this is just one possible configuration, and the possibilities are limitless with what you can do.
What I am giving you here is the simple basics to begin to understand how this works.
On the left you have a windmill, solar panel, or other method of generating electricity.
The electricity being generated is DC. DC stands for Direct Current.
There is much more to be said about direct current vs. alternating current. But for keeping this simple, understand that solar panels and windmills (generally) create electricity that is direct current.
The windmill, solar panel, or other generating device is connected to a charge controller.
The charge controller is connected to a battery.
The charge controller is in place to prevent overcharging of the battery.
If you over CHARGE a battery, you cause problems.
The charge controller makes sure your battery is not over charged.
Moving to the right from the battery is also another charge controller.
If you over DRAIN a battery, you can cause problems.
The charge controller makes sure your battery is not over drained.
From there, you can see that the battery can be used to directly power devices which are based on DC power. Many RV (Recreational Vehicle – motorhome) appliances are based on DC power, though it depends greatly on the RV.
However, most appliances we use today are based on AC (or Alternating Current). In order to power these appliances and devices, we need to change Direct Current to alternating current.
Changing direct current to alternating current requires a device called an inverter.
The inverter also uses power in the process of converting (inverting) electricity from DC to AC.
Once the power has been converted (inverted), you can use Alternating Current power your laptop, cell phone, microwave, or television.
That is the simple explanation of what you will need to use your home built solar panel or home made wind generator to power your laptop.
What questions do you have?
Or, if this is technology you are familiar with, what suggestions do you have?