When the second world war ended a race to get hold of all the scientists and hardware involved with the V2 and rocket technology ensued with the USA getting hold of most of the personnel and the Russians some of the hardware as I understand it. The Americans then sat on what they had until the Russians got ahead of them, this isn’t anything to do with solar power I know but the method by which the Russians went at this I identify with.
At the time the Russians kept throwing together rockets, building them lighting them up and if they failed built another with updates until it worked, the Americans would labour over plans, the paperwork, and then build. I got all this from a rocket history TV program and as a experimenter I describe myself as someone who throws something together to see if it works, in my case with no semblance of academia, just an inquisitive mind.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of imagination going into the solar power scene, I mean its being promoted but the only thing that sticks in my mind is water heating and lighting maybe, all this is to the good with grants and such but I haven’t heard or read anyone making a connection with our ever increasing amount of gadgets and the fact that their size (the smaller of them) also means they need less power to run. Before I go on I concede that the normal household electrical appliances eat electricity like its going out of fashion , kettles, washing machines, central heating, need heft, to give an example I hooked up my home TV and digital box to a fully charged 12v DC battery, it lasted 2 hours, the trickle chargers I talk about here wouldn’t even make them burp but what I hope to pass on is the notion of harvest and experimentation, getting something over an over for free (with a bit of start-up money) while we still can, as I have said before the moment a good few million of us get into solar panel power is the moment some kind of tax will rear its head, be assured though I would love to be wrong about this.
So the day came when interested in said solar power that I went to a hardware, tool shop and got hold of a couple of solar panels, first mistake was they where trickle chargers designed to keep a car battery at its current level. My thinking at the time was that as I was only wanting to power portable low voltage type devices and although they are of some use I now know in hindsight that for real variety and a bit of heft you need a panel capable of charging a 12v DC battery be it car or camping type.
The trickle chargers aren’t a complete waste of time they power a radio direct no problem and will charge
rechargeable batteries for your small devices, a little off shoot I discovered here is that a portable TV of the soon to be extinct analogue variety can act very nicely as a battery charge holder, as they are portable, they will have battery compartments and usually come with an adapter to recharge (rechargeable batteries) when fitted into the TV. The model I have has a switch for normal batteries and rechargeable. So I plug the output of the trickle panels into the power input of the portable TV and it charges said batteries, which gives the thing a new lease of life as soon there wont be any analogue TV signal , I’ll bet there will be a good few of these at garage sales and the like now and in the future, nice and cheap.
With a 12v battery and same rated solar panels however you come into the realm of power converters (DC to AC), which will give you your familiar AC power socket which will run anything you care to plug in, bigger TV, laptop, lighting etc all dependant of course on how well the battery is charged and its still not going to run that washing machine. All this stuff of course is aimed at the camping/caravan market but you can get a good 12v panel for about £100 (UK) now just make sure it will charge a 12v battery and please note that with a 12v battery a short circuit means a fire so keep safety in mind I always think of 12v DC in the same vain as mains supply, treat it with the same respect.