Solar generators are finally a commercially viable alternative to the traditional gas guzzlers that have been fueling industry and personal survival since the 1800s.
What’s more, the solar generator market is getting more competitive by the month, with technology improving by leaps and bounds, so it’s understandable that you’ve been hearing about these eco generators as of late.
As for what they are, in simple terms, they’re generators that draw power from the sun rather than gas, propane, or diesel, but I’m sure this explanation raises more questions than it answers, so let’s dig a little deeper.
So, What Are Solar Generators?
Without getting into any esoteric electrical engineering talk, solar generators are essentially just large rechargeable batteries in robust enclosures fitted out with charge controllers and DC charging ports for solar panel hook-up.
How Do Solar Generators Work?
As you can imagine, the process of solar generation is pretty complex, so let’s break it down into digestible chunks.
At the start of the chain, we have your solar panels. They soak up energy from the sun as they normally would, but rather than passing it through a system that enables immediate use of the energy, an adapter cable ferries it to the DC charging port of the solar generator.
Solar Charge Controller
Charge controllers are basically regulators that protect the batteries in solar generators from dangers such as overcharge and overvoltage, so it has to come before the battery in the pipeline.
While it is steadily becoming the norm, not all solar generators arrive with an integrated solar charge controller. If this is the case, a discrete charge controller must be purchased separately and worked into the solar pipeline.
Much like any product, solar chargers vary in quality, but I’d recommend allocating a decent budget for this purchase, as they perform a very important task.
After the charge controller has done its intermediary duties, the energy finally reaches the battery, which serves as the generator’s storage system — You can think of batteries as the fuel tanks of solar generators.
The batteries in solar generators almost always run on lithium-ion technology, as it makes them lighter, more efficient, and more energy dense than competing technologies such as SLA.
When the outputs of a solar generator are activated by the user, the power makes its way through an inverter. Much like the solar charge controller, it’s a modulator, but where the charge controller modulates voltage and amperage, inverters modulate current signal.
Remember when I said that solar panels hook up to a DC charging port in the control panel of a solar generator? Well, this is because solar panels produce a DC current, but almost all household electronics use AC current.
This is why all wall outlets in our homes are AC rather than DC. So, before the power can be used, it needs to have something of a makeover, and in this case, the inverter is the beautician!
Inverters are essentially little computers that reshape the current signal, thus changing the behavior of electrons.
The power is then directed to the output panel so it can be used to power all manner of electronics, much like any other generator. Users will link electronics to the appropriate output on the generator, and voilà; we have power!
Solar Generators Vs Traditional Generators
Solar generators offer up a number of advantages over traditional generators, but there are still some areas that could be improved upon.
As they don’t burn fossil fuels, solar generators are far better for the environment than traditional generators. So, if you fancy yourself a bit of an eco-warrior, a solar generator is the one for you.
Solar generators are basically silent, meaning you can work close by them without getting a splitting headache, and they’ll never stir up tension with your neighbors… unless you use them to power a music center at full volume, of course.
Traditional generators, by contrast, are incredibly noisy. Granted, some modern inverter generators have made significant improvements in the noise department, but any machine with a motor will never be as quiet as a battery generator.
If you need power on the go, solar generators are a much better option, often weighing less than small inverter generators.
Here’s the one area that solar generators are lagging behind in, as they’re not very beefy compared to the larger traditional generators on the market. For instance, if you need a power source for a construction site, a solar generator likely isn’t going to have enough juice.
Furthermore, many of the most popular solar generators on the market can be expanded with additional batteries, meaning you can increase capacity much in the same way you can when chaining inverter generators in parallel.
Solar generators are basically maintenance-free devices, whereas traditional generators need semi-constant TLC to keep them working to spec.
Uses only lean, green energy from the sun, a solar generator can save you quite a bit of money over time, and the fact you won’t have to deal with combustible, toxic compounds is a bonus in of itself.
Unfortunately, as a relatively new technology, solar generators are much more expensive than traditional generators on a dollar-per-watt basis, so you have to have a pretty decent budget to get in on the eco action.
Solar generator is technically a bit of a misnomer, as they don’t actually generate the power, rather, they store it for use at a later date. It’s the solar panels that do all the energy harvesting!
That said, no other technology is capable of doing what they do, and as they provide portable power just like any other non-static generator, it makes sense to equate them in some way, if only to help people understand what they are.
Speaking of… you now know what solar generators are. What do you think; would you prefer one of these to a traditional generator?