Given our growing network of remote monitoring systems the need for reliable portable power sources has never been greater. The ubiquitous nature of the sun makes portable solar chargers an obvious choice to provide power in areas where grid power is not available. Whether you are powering single sensors, or a complete environmental station your access to a reliable power source is critical to ensuring the data you are collecting is captured and saved.
Power management is an important component for prolonged scientific and environmental data collection activities. Quality sensor and equipment designs are focused as much on efficiency as accuracy. More efficient sensors allow for longer deployments in the field saving researchers time and money. Add properly sized solar chargers to remote systems, and field deployments can extend almost indefinitely. The question arises, what should you consider in a portable power device like a solar charger?
Look for units with a high efficiency rating and that provide enough output for your system. Then check to see if the units have been tested and certified to international standards like CE and RoHS. If the charger will be in a harsh weather environment, make sure it is designed for those conditions; such as Double 85 (high humidity/high temperature) tested. Quality portable solar panels will also have built in voltage regulators so they do not over charge and possibly damage the devices they are connected to.
You may also want to consider panel construction and what kind of solar cells are used. Laminate panels are weatherproof and lightweight. The most common cell types are made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells. Both contain silicon crystals and have their pros and cons depending on your need. CIGS Solar panels use Copper, Indium, Gallium and Selenide solar cells to provide lightweight charging options.
One thing is certain, cell efficiency and design are continually improving. Conduct your research, and reach out to vendors like Comptus to learn more.