Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Project: Build a Solar Charger


Generating electricity from fossil fuels comes with many environmental and social problems related to pollution and climate change. But in order to have a high percentage of renewable sources in our electricity mix, we need an affordable way to store large quantities of energy so it is available when electricity demand surpasses generation from the sun. We are used to getting electricity whenever we want it—not waiting for the sun to shine if we want power!

In this project, you will design a solar-powered charging system for rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. You will build a small solar array, combining at least two solar panels, to charge your batteries. Your group will work together to design, test, and optimize your system for charging batteries.

You must be careful not to overcharge your batteries. As a general rule, it is safe to trickle charge at a 10% rate, meaning your input current can be up to 10% of the battery's rated capacity. This is called a C/10 rate. For example, if a battery is rated at 2100 mAh, the C/10 rate would be 210 mA.

A few important tips

  • Note the storage capacity of each battery you are using.
  • Determine the maximum current output of a single solar panel from your array. This is also known as the short-circuit current (ISC).
  • Arrange your solar panels in a circuit so that the maximum current does not exceed 10% of the rated capacity. The maximum voltage of your solar array can be slightly greater than the total voltage of your batteries.
  • You may need to use a Vernier Variable Load or a resistor in series with your solar panels to limit the current flowing from the panels into the batteries.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Renewable Energy with Vernier

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Renewable Energy: Why is it So Important?
2What is Energy?
3Project: Energy Audit
4Voltage and Circuits
5Current and Resistors
6Mechanical Power
8Exploring Wind Turbines
9Effect of Load on Wind Turbine Output
10Blade Variables and Power Output
12Turbine Efficiency
13Power Curves
14Power and Energy
15Project: Maximum Energy Output
16Project: Build a Wind Farm
17Exploring Solar Panels
18AEffect of Load on Solar Panel Output
18BFill Factor and IV Curve of a Solar Panel
19Variables Affecting Solar Panel Output
20Effect of Temperature on Solar Panel Output
21Project: Build a Solar Charger
22Exploring Passive Solar Heating
23Variables Affecting Passive Solar Heating
24Exploring Solar Collectors
25Variables Affecting Solar Collectors
26Project: Solar Cooker

Experiment 21 from Renewable Energy with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Renewable Energy with Vernier</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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