Friends with fresh inspiration
Apart from the great show, great Barndoor buses and great people I met at last years Ben Pon show in the Netherlands, I was also inspired by seeing a very neat solar power panel system in action. I already have an intelligent split charge relay system with a leisure battery, so adding solar power to the set-up is the next logical step for more off-grid camping and road trips. Hence the third mysterious fragile box delivered from Germany!
Maiks (and his cool 1956 Panel van) was one of the great guys I met and camped with at the show. He introduced me to the solar charging set-up he was using when camping out and about in Europe and the UK. This was something I’d like to look at more seriously moving forward. Off-grid, free renewable electricity – perfect solution for wild camping, what’s not to like!
Flexibility and electrical freedom
I really like the flexibility that the foldable system offered. You can move and position it to follow the direction of the sun and thus ensure maximum efficiency and power generated. I contacted the company that Maik got his system through after he had done all of his research. There are lots of choices and prices with solar systems, so gaining from his experience was a massive help. Thanks, Maik! 🙂
The company SolarSwiss develop and improve with each year as solar technology becomes more efficient. Their new 100w foldable Solar Panel set up now consists of two instead of three solar parts, which makes it lighter but not less sturdy. They have also improved the wiring and/or exclusion corrosion of the contacts or short-circuit due to water damage. Nothing is as practical as a foldable solar panel. Its 6-meter cable allows you to set up the panel where and how you want. With this, you can leave your camper in the shade and place the solar panel in the sun. With the solar panels, you are ready to camp wherever you want and never have to worry about electrical power.
The brains connecting the solar power to your leisure battery
Again thanks to Maiks experience from using two different types of solar charge controllers, he recommended the Victron Blue Solar 75/10 MPPT solar charge controller. A solar charger gathers energy from your solar panels, and stores it in your batteries. Using the latest, fastest technology, BlueSolar maximises this energy-harvest, driving it intelligently to achieve a full charge in the shortest possible time. BlueSolar maintains leisure battery health and helps extend its life.
The Victron Bluesolar Smart charge controller is the brains of the solar set up. By constantly monitoring the voltage and current output of your solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) technology ensures that every drop of available power is rinsed out of your panels, and harvested for storage.
The advantage of this is most noticeable when the sky is partially clouded, and light intensity is constantly changing. So as a quick test, I hooked it up on a totally overcast, 100% grey day to see if it would still produce anything? Happy days, yep it still does! 🙂 Another cool feature is I opted for Victron Bluesolar Smart charge controller which has a built-in Bluetooth module. This can then connect up to a Victron app on a smart phone which you can use to monitor the leisure battery health, charge status and of course the solar voltage/current being generated by the panels. For a geeky nerd like me, that’s ace!
This makes it perfect for use in the often cloudy skies of the UK or the woods of Europe. Still, roll on the summer, bring on the sun! 🙂