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Solarmate solar lighting installation

When website-visitor Anne-Marie asked us how suitable one of our SolarMate lighting kits would be for a playshed in her local community playground, we decided it was high time to test out one of our SolarMate kits in a real life situation.
 play shed 
This large wooden shed is part of a South London adventure playground, set up to give local kids somewhere to go after school. Aside from giant swings and a fantastic pulley cable run, a playshed was recently built to provide somewhere for the kids to use when it rains. But it has no mains power and gets dark early in the winter months, so is a perfect candidate for a solar lighting kit. The shed is quite big so we decided that our SolarMate 3 kit (18W), would be about right to run two lights and hopefully the kids will never have to play in the dark again...

Facing the solar panel due south

The first task was to work out how to face the solar panel south (to capture the maximum light) when the roof was rather inconveniently facing east-west. Meanwhile the kids in the playground were getting quite excited, one asking us when we were going to plug the panel into the electricity. After a bit of a think we came up with a sturdy little frame from some scrap wood we had lying around, and climbed up on the shed roof to mount the solar panel.

Finding the best spot on the roof

Shoko Solar panel installationNext it was time to figure out the best spot on the roof so the panel would be free of shadows from nearby trees and the local tower blocks. Suddenly the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down, but we carried on regardless and managed to screw the panel securely onto the roof.


Connecting the pv controller

With the panel mounted, we fed the wire through a hole in the wall and into the shed's interior. Now we could get out of the rain to begin setting up the wiring, following the easy circuit diagram supplied as part of the kit.

PV controllerThe SolarMate 3 kit comes with a small controller box, which amongst other things regulates the voltage to prevent overcharging the battery. The wires from the solar panel are fixed to the left terminals, and we fixed the controller box to the wall out of the way in the corner of the shed. At this stage we tested the panel was working with a basic voltmeter - happily it read more than 12V across the solar panel terminals! Electricity is generated even in the rain (though a lot more on a sunny day of course).

Connecting the battery

battery for solar panelFor this installation, we had bought a standard 75 amp hour leisure battery (designed for caravans), which cost 60 from our local branch of Halfords.  Leisure batteries like this aren't as good as proper renewable energy batteries , but they are cheaper and much more readily available so are a good compromise for a small system like this. The battery was connected to the middle two terminals of the controller (as shown above).


Connecting the bulbs

Finally, it was time to connect the light bulbs into the circuit to complete the job. The circuit is protected with a fuse (also supplied) so if anything goes wrong the equipment won't get damaged. By this time it was getting pretty dark in the play shed, so Toby connected up a temporary light to the battery so that we could see what we were doing. Next was to decide where our solar lights would have maximum effect. The shed has two small rooms to it, so we wired in two lights connected in parallel to light both areas, with a master switch by the door.

And then there was light!

Solar light After all the wiring up was complete it was pretty dark - we would recommend starting your installation a bit earlier in the day than we did! But time for the moment of truth. Shoko flipped the switch and, hey presto, the shed was lit up!


In summary...

It took a bit longer that we expected to extended the wires via the switch, but we were pleased with the result - a pretty well lit shed for the kids to play inside on rainy or dark evenings. The two lights are only equivalent to 40W bulbs, so aren't amazing bright - but there may be scope for adding more depending on how the system performs.

As with our wind turbine case study, we'll be monitoring the setup over the next few months to monitor its performance - we'll keep you posted.

comments (9)add comment

Joe Zayas said:

I am interested in your product to sell in Central Florida. Can you direct me to information concerning this.

Thanks Joe Zayas
October 22, 2008

moses ogar said:

please sir, do your conpany have dealers in nigeria?. IF YES OR NO .YOUR REPLY ,will determine our next line of action.
June 11, 2008

wal begga said:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Looking to buy or Intrested in buying Power Generators,Inverters and 75Watts,12Volts Solar modules 50pcs,

Let me know you current price on such hereafter shall confirm order and send payments.

Would also appreciate to know your current stock on any of the above items for ordering.

Wal Begga.

Daaz Associates.
Plot 2/4 Wangi Street,
Wakiso District,
Uganda East Africa.
Tel:256 752 697671.
Fax:256 414 345227
May 27, 2008

deo mukasa said:

dear sir do you have the panels in stock pliz let me if you have the panels in stock and we start the business.
deo mukasa
April 26, 2008

GILLY said:

Better to have power from the sun wich is sustainable, rather than paying the same for a nuclear ,fossil,unsustainable source .i know where i want my money to have gone in 22 years time,look where weve got looking for short term gain!
January 07, 2008

Andy T said:

Well done, im looking into the probability of installing soler powered lights similar to these for the spare bedroom. Light power isn't important and I dont have any eco morals for doing this, I find it more interesting and a challenge to do besides saving a bit of hard earned cash. Just out of interest I'm also wondering about the possibility of running a computer from solar power for about 8 hrs a day, or running my server permanently.
October 14, 2007

Toby @ better generation said:

In response to the previous poster - I think you are rather missing the point of this project. There is no mains electricity at this site whatsoever. The solar lighting setup at 230 is considerably cheaper than the cost of getting a mains connection installed. And in addition there are strong educational benefits for doing this too.
September 04, 2007

C Milburn said:

What a lot of eco-twaddle, the cost of this kit plus the battery would pay for enough electricity to run these bulbs for 22 years and 356 days, and thats without the nasty chemicals needed to make the solar panel and battery.
September 03, 2007

Lee Branch said:

Very interesting and inspirational....
July 04, 2007

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