Solar cells, sunny buddies, and basic electrical circuits
Our first experimental session
On March 10, 2022, our group was finally able to get together in person at Milieux’s maker space to experiment with some solar equipment.
This first inaugural session was, in many of our minds, going to involve several comparative tests of different solar panels and configurations, measuring output capacity in various locations and finding optimum assemblages for our anticipated solar server launch. As luck would have it, Lee, one of our team’s hands-on technical experts, knew a little better and set us up for success by taking a step back and reviewing the fundamental concepts of electrical engineering (a much needed refresher of physics classes long ago!).
We started with learning the difference between energy and power; exploring the components of a circuit, such as a lead and a load; reviewing the meaning of watts and amps and voltages; and coming to understand the fundamental role of a controller board in mediating between our electronic devices and the solar cells we use to power them (and which, left unmediated, may well destroy them through energy fluctuations).
The session was a first step in building up our competencies and capacities before moving on to our core project of installing a solar-powered web server. We got familiar with multimeters for measuring amps and wattage at both the input and output ends of our circuits, looked at ways of powering old Gameboy consoles with solar cells, gained hands-on experience soldering together different components of electrical circuits and solar cells, and connected small solar panels to mini wind turbines (who does not want to power wind with solar?!) in order to visualize solar potential in action – which subsequently energized our imaginations as we dreamt up our various solar projects.
Text by Robert Marinov, photos by Isabelle Boucher and Malte Leander.