It is a solar-powered data collector that records sunlight exposure. This RCM3400-based device is the perfect tool to have on hand when scouting out sites for solar panel installation.
Designing a solar-powered project can be a challenge. The objective is to collect enough solar power to power the device. Approximately 1 kW of solar power irradiates each square meter of earth when the sun is directly overhead on a clear day. This is a lot of power. Harnessing it, however, turns out to be tricky.
The best photovoltaic solar panels can convert approximately 20% of solar power into electrical power. These are expensive panels used in applications where efficiency is more important than cost. Satellites and space probes are one example.
Affordable panels can convert at less than 10% efficiency. The flexible solar panels I used (made by Iowa Thin Film) come in a variety of sizes and configurations. I chose a 74 mm × 150 mm panel that has an operating current of 100 mA and an operating voltage of 3.6 V. I made this decision because I needed a panel that outputs 3.6 V (you’ll learn why later) and fits in the clear enclosure without wasting too much unused area. Photo 1b shows what this looks like.
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