Most emergency plans address food, water, communications, and the basic necessities. Often overlooked is a means to generate electricity every day. Creating electricity typically needs fuel of some sort. In long term emergencies fuel will run out and become scarce. So, let’s look to the sun to create energy because easy access to fuel may be difficult should we have a lengthy power outage.
The grid and infrastructure is extremely reliable and yet fragile at the moment the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) event occurs. Studies warn us that the electrical infrastructure and interconnections throughout the distribution systems will be compromised all over the county when a large earthquake hits. If we store food, water, have plans to handle waste, a temporary shelter and can generate electricity we are more resilient and can stay put. Using our own power to aid recovery operations, we can mitigate risks and threats to our survivability.
The SPARK-E system (sparkesolar.com) was designed to provide renewable carbon-free portable solar power generation for anyone. The system uses a solar panel, charge controller and any battery. With the simple instructions provided, the mystery of creating an alternate power source is within reach. Our dependence on the grid keeps us secure, but also blinds us to how necessary having a backup power plan can be. Picture night without light, imagine no refrigeration, no communications outside our neighborhood and no grid power for days or months. Life will be different.
We have seen the damage and how the long-term effects of hurricane Maria can completely upset the electrical infrastructure and totally disrupt life on a significant sized island. Let’s not wait for our disaster to hit before establishing a better plan to have power without the grid so we are able to function and be part of the solution not the problem.
DIY Solar Emergency System
What it is --
DIY Solar Power source for emergency or daily use
In the event of a power outage, a system this size can provide minimal lighting, and recharging of electronic devices. Adding the 110V Inverter can power low wattage chargers and small appliances.
For greater power needs, and larger appliances, capacity can be increased by adding more solar panals and more battery storage.
Skills needed --
Making simple electrical connections, stripping wire, and being careful.
Main Parts --
Solar Panel Charge Controller AGM Sealed Deep Cycle 12 Volt Battery Inverter
How it works --
The Solar Panel feeds electricity to a Charge Controller that charges the Battery, then the Charge Controller monitors the Load.
The Charge Controller is the real heart of this system. It controls the power from the solar panel into the battery so that the battery is not over-charged. Some controllers also control the power coming out of the battery to the Load, and can keep the battery safe from being depleted to the level of permanent damage.
It is important to have a display that lets you know how much is coming in and going out for your needs. Knowing the amount of amp hrs moving into and out of the battery helps you estimate how long the battery should last, with the load you have on it. Battery voltage is important, to know how much power remains in the battery. This Charge Controller also gives that information.
Illustration is not to scale, but shows the alignment of the system's parts --
The Load can be --12V lights, car chargers for phones, any 12V device
With an Inverter --110V AC battery chargers (think power tools), 110V low wattage appliances & LED lamps
How much power can you get out of a 100 watt solar panel? Not 100 watts! --
Things that can affect the output of the panel – solar access, angle of panel, shading, time of year, weather, length of cable to controller, efficency of battery.
If using an inverter, the inverter takes 15% extra power to make AC.
12V DC electricity is not enough to electrocute people. Cars and boats use 12V DC for that reason.
A short in the system can cause sparks, heat, and possibly fire. A short happens when the red and the black wires touch. Be safe, and keep the red and the black wires apart.
The inverter makes 12V DC into 110V AC, and is more dangerous. Treat the AC output as you do in the house.
Service Life --
Most solar panels are guaranteed for 20 years. Batteries can last for 10 years, or much less time, depending on how they are treated. The Charge Controller is the key, in extending battery life. I have a 10 yr old AGM deep cycle battery.
Available from Amazon --
NOCO – GC018 12V Plug Socket with Eyelet Terminal (might want 3 of these)
Note: or, get one NOCO to connect with the battery, and also get this...
Available at Harbor Freight –
Inverter 500W (or more watts, depending on your needs)
12 Volt 35 Amp Hr Universal Battery
Available at West Marine –
Total of Parts Listed
Contact Ray Brown with questions on this build: