Renewable Energy Innovation

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These articles all relate to the open-source charge controller project. We cover the hardware and the software and give a full design for a 12/24V DC 20A charge controller which can be used for solar, wind, hydro or pedal power applications. Please start here to get a full overview of the project.
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We have been wanting to design, build and supply an open-design, relatively inexpensive but fully functioned charge regulator for solar PV, wind, pedal and small hydro systems for a while now.

The majority of off-grid renewable energy systems are based upon lead acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries need to be protected from over-charging by the renewable energy source and over-discharging from the loads. This can be one with a series regulator (in the case of solar PV) or a shunt regulator (for PV, hydro and wind).

The charge regulator pages here give the full design for a relatively simple but fully programmable and open-source charge regulator. Make one yourself or buy the kit.

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Here you can buy a kit of the open-source charge controller. This includes all parts and a pre-programmed microcontroller.

Full instructions for making your kit are available here.

If you would just like to see the design then please visit the hardware and software pages.

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These are the specifications for the open-source charge controller project. These will be used to produce the final design.

This is part of the open-source charge controller project.

 

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This is an overview of the hardware including the overall design and the specifications used to calculate every component.

We will also need to test all of the hardware to ensure it meets the specifications.

This is part of the open-source charge controller project.

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The open-source charge controller circuit contains a diode and a MOSFET, which could potentially have up to 20A flowing through them. In this case they will get hot and will eventually fail. We need to ensure that they will be kept within their specific working parameters by keeping them cool. This is done with a big lump of metal, usually called a heatsink.

Here are the basic theory and design calculations to design a heatsink for the charge controller.

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Measuring voltage is required for the open charge controller project, as we use the voltage to measure the charging of the battery.

Hence we need to be able to reliably and accurately measure voltage. I have written quite a bit before on voltage measurement.

Here are the details on measuring voltage specifically for the open charge regulator project.

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Here we discuss options for providing power to the circuit itself.

The input from the renewable energy source will be variable and the input voltage will vary. We need to provide power to the microcontroller 'brains' of the device. This requires 5V DC. Hence we need to efficiently step down the voltage from the input to 5V.

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Within the open charge regulator we must control power, either to limit the power flowing into the battery or to control the power flowing to the dump load.

This requires some kind of power switching. This article explains the different types o power switching available to us and the decision on which type of power switch to use.

It also covers testing the chosen device (a MOSFET) and explains how to correctly and efficiently switch the MOSFET.

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The open-source charge controller project will be based upon a microcontroller.

A micro-controller is basically a small computer. It can be programmed with code which will run when the device starts up.

The control program will be programmed onto the microcontroller. Using a re-programmable microcontroller means we can upload different code to perform different functions. We can also share and change the code as required for different applications.

This is a review of the microcontroller available and the reasons behind any choices made.

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We have been wanting to design and build an open-design, relatively inexpensive but fully functioned charge regulator for solar PV, wind, pedal and small hydro systems for a while now.

The majority of off-grid renewable energy systems are based upon lead acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries need to be protected from over-charging by the renewable energy source and over-discharging from the loads. This can be one with a series regulator (in the case of solar PV) or a shunt regulator (for PV, hydro and wind). Please check the web or my electrical design guide in the information section for more details.

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