Solar power for observatory

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Mike Q Online United States of America
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Solar power for observatory

#1

Post by Mike Q »

So has anyone tried plumbing in solar power to run their observatory? I would be interested in seeing what you did. I am thinking about putting up a shed to hold my scopes and get them away from all the sawdust in my garage/wood shop. While running some 8 gauge wire in a trench from the mains wouldnt be bad, i dont really feel like trenching that far and solar seems to be a viable option. I dont need tons of power, just enough to run a couple LED shop lights, a couple of exhaust fans and maybe a couple of outlets.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#2

Post by Bigzmey »

Here in SoCal it is no brainer, but you should consider snow and ice in winter. Also, if you need power at night you would need to install a battery.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#3

Post by AntennaGuy »

You might want to consider adapting a camping/emergency style solar energy system. These range from very small (a few hundred watt hours) to quite sizable (many kilowatt hours). If you plan to leave the panels out in the rain, get one with rain-rated solar panels. There are a number of companies that offer such portable systems, including (among others, and without any intention to play favorites):
https://www.jackery.com
https://goalzero.com
https://www.bluettipower.com
https://www.ecoflow.com/us
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#4

Post by Mike Q »

AntennaGuy wrote: ↑Mon Jul 08, 2024 8:09 pm You might want to consider adapting a camping/emergency style solar energy system. These range from very small (a few hundred watt hours) to quite sizable (many kilowatt hours). If you plan to leave the panels out in the rain, get one with rain-rated solar panels. There are a number of companies that offer such portable systems, including (among others, and without any intention to play favorites):
https://www.jackery.com
https://goalzero.com
https://www.bluettipower.com
https://www.ecoflow.com/us
I was looking at those earlier today
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Re: Solar power for observatory

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Post by JayTee »

I found an apprentice electrician who trenched my power 150' out to my obsy for less than those solar-powered units. I have all the power I need 24/7 365.25 sun, rain, or snow. I even run full-time ceramic heaters all winter long to keep the temp above freezing in the observing room and a coil heater at my feet for the warm room when in use.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

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Post by jrkirkham »

I will be interested in reading how it turns out. I do not use solar power, but I do use Jackery batteries. It wouldn't take much to add solar chargers. My observatory and warm room are in a dark site quite removed from any electrical source. I had the option of running a whole new electrical service, running off a generator, or using a battery system. It is easy to expand the system as needed. I use propane for heat.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#7

Post by Lady Fraktor »

I have my motocycle trailer with solar power, 4- 175w panels on the roof and a battery bank of 3- 200Ah LiFe batteries with a 3000w 12-230v rectifier.
The package was put together by Renogy in Germany but they also have office in Canada so may have a USA office as well.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#8

Post by Mike Q »

jrkirkham wrote: ↑Tue Jul 09, 2024 12:28 am I will be interested in reading how it turns out. I do not use solar power, but I do use Jackery batteries. It wouldn't take much to add solar chargers. My observatory and warm room are in a dark site quite removed from any electrical source. I had the option of running a whole new electrical service, running off a generator, or using a battery system. It is easy to expand the system as needed. I use propane for heat.
Just getting some ideas at the moment. I have a rough idea of where i want the shed to sit. I would set it back in the trees to give it some shade and help with cooling. The drawback is then getting the panels to the sun. I can get them to the morning light but will lose it around noon. I have looked at solar powered fans that have a small capacitor for running at night and the same for lights, but until i decide to actually do the building its all just ideas
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#9

Post by Graeme1858 »

I found a Grandson who helped me dig a trench from the garage to the observatory! 😁

If you can find a way of feeding mains power to your observatory then you save on having to mess about with a lot of expensive, high maintenance equipment and you future proof the electrical installation.

Having said that I did install a solar powered extractor fan. It auto extracts air from the roof area when the sun shines.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#10

Post by Mike Q »

Graeme1858 wrote: ↑Wed Jul 10, 2024 8:41 am I found a Grandson who helped me dig a trench from the garage to the observatory! 😁

If you can find a way of feeding mains power to your observatory then you save on having to mess about with a lot of expensive, high maintenance equipment and you future proof the electrical installation.

Having said that I did install a solar powered extractor fan. It auto extracts air from the roof area when the sun shines.
I have looked at fans and found one that i like. Fairly high volumn, has a storage capacitor so it can run at night, now if it just has thermostatic control.....lol.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

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Post by OzEclipse »

Hi Mike,
I installed a plug and play solar power system in the back of my Isuzu 4wd DMAX that is removable and can serve multiple uses. It could easily be mounted to a shed to provide observatory power. Prices in USD but converted from Australian retail prices.

1. There is a 160W solar panel on the roof that can easily generate >12v @ 10A of power or charging. $60

2. This is connected to a 40A battery charge controller compatible with both AGM and Lithium batteries. Some cheaper controllers are compatible with only one battery type. $240

3. I purchased a 120AH Lithium battery that is connected to the charge controller. Different battery types need different voltages so you have to identify the battery type to the charge controller so it charges correctly. AGM Deep cycle batteries are much cheaper but also much heavier to lift. I opted to pay the extra for the light weight. Lithium $400. AGM $160

4. Excess power from the solar panel not used for charging goes to a distribution panel which has multiple Anderson connectors, 12V cigarette lighter plugs and USB outlets. $60

5. I have a 6m 12V cable that can take 12v away from the vehicle, a 40L (10 GAL) fridge @ (4oC)is run from the battery at night and runs off the excess panel power during the day. Cable $35, Fridge $270

6. I also have a 300W pure sine wave inverter to generate mains. $60. I deliberately chose a low power unit so that I can't run the battery down. Low power only.

When doing remote travel this setup powers / recharges my laptop, camera batteries, car fridge, phone, satellite emergency communicator + + +

On my rural dark sky property, the backyard is quite large and I can turn the vehicle around easily. So if I want to power my scope, I just park the vehicle nearby, and run a 12v cable to the scope.

This type of setup could easily be installed in a shed to power a scope. For a permanent setup, battery weight is less important. I would install at least 2 x 115AH batteries, two 160W panels and a 50 A charge controller. This should give you plenty of power for multiple nights if you have an extended period of bad daytime weather. I'd also install a weather proof battery box near but outside and slightly separated from the observatory. If the batteries ever explode or catch fire, you don't it want the to take out the observatory contents. You should be able to do all of that for about $1000-$1200.

On cloudy days, my panel still generates about 50-66% of full power, more than enough to power the fridge all day, recharge the battery and charge up devices.

The electrical connection is all quite simple. plug and play and a few screw terminals. The mechanical mounting of the fridge slide was the most difficult job. You don't need to worry about that or even a fridge unless you want a beer fridge? :lol: :lol:

I'm not sure what the "high maintenance" some posters are referring to. Mine needs no maintenance. AGM batteries are also maintenance free.

cheers
Joe Cali

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Re: Solar power for observatory

#12

Post by Mike Q »

OzEclipse wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 6:39 am Hi Mike,
I installed a plug and play solar power system in the back of my Isuzu 4wd DMAX that is removable and can serve multiple uses. It could easily be mounted to a shed to provide observatory power. Prices in USD but converted from Australian retail prices.

1. There is a 160W solar panel on the roof that can easily generate >12v @ 10A of power or charging. $60

2. This is connected to a 40A battery charge controller compatible with both AGM and Lithium batteries. Some cheaper controllers are compatible with only one battery type. $240

3. I purchased a 120AH Lithium battery that is connected to the charge controller. Different battery types need different voltages so you have to identify the battery type to the charge controller so it charges correctly. AGM Deep cycle batteries are much cheaper but also much heavier to lift. I opted to pay the extra for the light weight. Lithium $400. AGM $160

4. Excess power from the solar panel not used for charging goes to a distribution panel which has multiple Anderson connectors, 12V cigarette lighter plugs and USB outlets. $60

5. I have a 6m 12V cable that can take 12v away from the vehicle, a 40L (10 GAL) fridge @ (4oC)is run from the battery at night and runs off the excess panel power during the day. Cable $35, Fridge $270

6. I also have a 300W pure sine wave inverter to generate mains. $60. I deliberately chose a low power unit so that I can't run the battery down. Low power only.

When doing remote travel this setup powers / recharges my laptop, camera batteries, car fridge, phone, satellite emergency communicator + + +

On my rural dark sky property, the backyard is quite large and I can turn the vehicle around easily. So if I want to power my scope, I just park the vehicle nearby, and run a 12v cable to the scope.

This type of setup could easily be installed in a shed to power a scope. For a permanent setup, battery weight is less important. I would install at least 2 x 115AH batteries, two 160W panels and a 50 A charge controller. This should give you plenty of power for multiple nights if you have an extended period of bad daytime weather. I'd also install a weather proof battery box near but outside and slightly separated from the observatory. If the batteries ever explode or catch fire, you don't it want the to take out the observatory contents. You should be able to do all of that for about $1000-$1200.

On cloudy days, my panel still generates about 50-66% of full power, more than enough to power the fridge all day, recharge the battery and charge up devices.

The electrical connection is all quite simple. plug and play and a few screw terminals. The mechanical mounting of the fridge slide was the most difficult job. You don't need to worry about that or even a fridge unless you want a beer fridge? :lol: :lol:

I'm not sure what the "high maintenance" some posters are referring to. Mine needs no maintenance. AGM batteries are also maintenance free.

cheers
That is way more system then i need lol, but that would definitely cover me and then some.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#13

Post by Richard »

If you dont need heating in your observatory , it can be done quite cheap and no inverter (sometimes called rectifier in other countries)
pannels are cheap so get 2, 200w 18v (under load)
A solar charge controller that can charge LIpo4 batteries
12v light (LED) as many as you need)
12v extractor fans max 100w for all (they may run a long time)
and the most costly a battery say a 100amph Lipo4
The panels will charge the battery during the day (if you have sun ) and when you use the observatory at night the battery will supply the power
This is the most efficient way as little energy is wasted
If it was me I would dig a trench
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#14

Post by Mike Q »

Richard wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 3:03 pm If you dont need heating in your observatory , it can be done quite cheap and no inverter (sometimes called rectifier in other countries)
pannels are cheap so get 2, 200w 18v (under load)
A solar charge controller that can charge LIpo4 batteries
12v light (LED) as many as you need)
12v extractor fans max 100w for all (they may run a long time)
and the most costly a battery say a 100amph Lipo4
The panels will charge the battery during the day (if you have sun ) and when you use the observatory at night the battery will supply the power
This is the most efficient way as little energy is wasted
If it was me I would dig a trench
What you are specing is more in line with what i am wanting. There will be no heat, only a couple fans and a couple of lights. All this will be is a place to store the scopes closer to my observing area. Thanks sir, this is exactly what i was looking for.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#15

Post by OzEclipse »

Mike Q wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 8:44 pm
Richard wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 3:03 pm If you dont need heating in your observatory , it can be done quite cheap and no inverter (sometimes called rectifier in other countries)
pannels are cheap so get 2, 200w 18v (under load)
A solar charge controller that can charge LIpo4 batteries
12v light (LED) as many as you need)
12v extractor fans max 100w for all (they may run a long time)
and the most costly a battery say a 100amph Lipo4
The panels will charge the battery during the day (if you have sun ) and when you use the observatory at night the battery will supply the power
This is the most efficient way as little energy is wasted
If it was me I would dig a trench
What you are specing is more in line with what i am wanting. There will be no heat, only a couple fans and a couple of lights. All this will be is a place to store the scopes closer to my observing area. Thanks sir, this is exactly what i was looking for.
Your post title is, "Solar power for observatory," hence I assumed that you are running an observatory and in addition to the lights and fans, you would also be running the scopes listed in your signatiure off the 12V and possibly an astrocamera. You also mentioned "a couple of outlets." I was thinking possibly a desktop computer consuming up to 200W. So I allowed for plenty of capacity.

If you are really just running some lights and fans, you could get the solar fans with the inbuilt power storage for night time use. And run the lights off a small 7AH AGM battery that you recharge in the house. The big unknown in your questions, is what you want to plug into those outlets?

You definitely don't want to run batteries down low in the cycle. If you could be more specific what you will be running off those inverter outlets, and any definite future plans, then we can give you a better idea of what spec to use. I would definitely suggest you buy an upmarket high current charge controller. Then you can start with just one solar panel and one battery. In the future if your power needs increase, then you can simply add another solar panel and another battery as required.

cheers
Joe Cali

34 South - The Hilltops Observatory
Hilltops region, Young, New South Wales, Australia. [148E, 34S]


Amateur astronomer since 1978.........Web site : http://joe-cali.com/.........Total & Annular Eclipses Observed : 18
Scopes: ATM 18" Dob, Vixen VC200L, Hand Made 6"f7, Stellarvue 102ED, Saxon ED80, WO M70 ED, Orion 102 Maksutov.
Mounts: Takahashi EM-200, iOptron iEQ45, Push dobsonian with Nexus DSC, three homemade EQ mounts. Losmandy, Vixen and Skywatcher compact trackers.
Eyepieces: TV Naglers 31, 17, 12, 7; Denkmeier D21 & D14; Pentax XW10, XW5.
Cameras : ZWO ASI2600MC, Pentax K1, K5, K01, K10D / VIDEO CAMS : TacosBD, Lihmsec.
Cam/guider/controllers: Lacerta MGEN 3, SW Synguider, Simulation Curriculum SkyFi 3+Sky safari
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#16

Post by Mike Q »

OzEclipse wrote: ↑Fri Jul 12, 2024 12:35 am
Mike Q wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 8:44 pm
Richard wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 3:03 pm If you dont need heating in your observatory , it can be done quite cheap and no inverter (sometimes called rectifier in other countries)
pannels are cheap so get 2, 200w 18v (under load)
A solar charge controller that can charge LIpo4 batteries
12v light (LED) as many as you need)
12v extractor fans max 100w for all (they may run a long time)
and the most costly a battery say a 100amph Lipo4
The panels will charge the battery during the day (if you have sun ) and when you use the observatory at night the battery will supply the power
This is the most efficient way as little energy is wasted
If it was me I would dig a trench
What you are specing is more in line with what i am wanting. There will be no heat, only a couple fans and a couple of lights. All this will be is a place to store the scopes closer to my observing area. Thanks sir, this is exactly what i was looking for.
Your post title is, "Solar power for observatory," hence I assumed that you are running an observatory and in addition to the lights and fans, you would also be running the scopes listed in your signatiure off the 12V and possibly an astrocamera. You also mentioned "a couple of outlets." I was thinking possibly a desktop computer consuming up to 200W. So I allowed for plenty of capacity.

If you are really just running some lights and fans, you could get the solar fans with the inbuilt power storage for night time use. And run the lights off a small 7AH AGM battery that you recharge in the house. The big unknown in your questions, is what you want to plug into those outlets?

You definitely don't want to run batteries down low in the cycle. If you could be more specific what you will be running off those inverter outlets, and any definite future plans, then we can give you a better idea of what spec to use. I would definitely suggest you buy an upmarket high current charge controller. Then you can start with just one solar panel and one battery. In the future if your power needs increase, then you can simply add another solar panel and another battery as required.

cheers

Yeah i probably should have worded it differently. So i will take the hit for that, but my intentions seemed clear enough. Get the scopes out of the garage which doubles as my wood shop. Saw dust and telescopes don't go together. So minimal power is all i need. Just enough to run a couple of lights and one or two exhaust fans. The extra outlets, maybe 2, would be used maybe charge a power pack or two that runs my scopes. No cameras, no computers, just a shed with a bit of lighting and a couple of fans to keep air moving.
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#17

Post by OzEclipse »

Mike Q wrote: ↑Fri Jul 12, 2024 12:48 am
OzEclipse wrote: ↑Fri Jul 12, 2024 12:35 am
Mike Q wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 8:44 pm

What you are specing is more in line with what i am wanting. There will be no heat, only a couple fans and a couple of lights. All this will be is a place to store the scopes closer to my observing area. Thanks sir, this is exactly what i was looking for.
Your post title is, "Solar power for observatory," hence I assumed that you are running an observatory and in addition to the lights and fans, you would also be running the scopes listed in your signatiure off the 12V and possibly an astrocamera. You also mentioned "a couple of outlets." I was thinking possibly a desktop computer consuming up to 200W. So I allowed for plenty of capacity.

If you are really just running some lights and fans, you could get the solar fans with the inbuilt power storage for night time use. And run the lights off a small 7AH AGM battery that you recharge in the house. The big unknown in your questions, is what you want to plug into those outlets?

You definitely don't want to run batteries down low in the cycle. If you could be more specific what you will be running off those inverter outlets, and any definite future plans, then we can give you a better idea of what spec to use. I would definitely suggest you buy an upmarket high current charge controller. Then you can start with just one solar panel and one battery. In the future if your power needs increase, then you can simply add another solar panel and another battery as required.

cheers

Yeah i probably should have worded it differently. So i will take the hit for that, but my intentions seemed clear enough. Get the scopes out of the garage which doubles as my wood shop. Saw dust and telescopes don't go together. So minimal power is all i need. Just enough to run a couple of lights and one or two exhaust fans. The extra outlets, maybe 2, would be used maybe charge a power pack or two that runs my scopes. No cameras, no computers, just a shed with a bit of lighting and a couple of fans to keep air moving.
Ah ok. Inverting power up and transforming back down to charge is inefficient. Depending upon the power pack, you'd be better charging your power pack directly from the solar panel. You just have to be sure your battery type is compatible with the charge controller. Lead Acid, AGM, and LiPO4 batteries all need to be charged at slightly different voltages. You can get solar panel charge controllers that are compatible with AGM, and LiPO4 batteries. Most of those telescope power tanks have one or two small 7AH AGM batteries. Alternatively, take the portable tank to the wood shed and charge it there off your mains outlet.
Joe Cali

34 South - The Hilltops Observatory
Hilltops region, Young, New South Wales, Australia. [148E, 34S]


Amateur astronomer since 1978.........Web site : http://joe-cali.com/.........Total & Annular Eclipses Observed : 18
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#18

Post by Graeme1858 »

OzEclipse wrote: ↑Thu Jul 11, 2024 6:39 am I'm not sure what the "high maintenance" some posters are referring to. Mine needs no maintenance. AGM batteries are also maintenance free.

I was referring to the difference in simplicity of installation and operation between a set of batteries, the charging equipment and the control equipment compared to just a switch!
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Re: Solar power for observatory

#19

Post by Mike Q »

Thanks all for the imput on this. At this moment this is all pretty much just research and fact finding. Not that i cant afford to do this, but in these economic times, it might not be the wisest time to do it. I could cut the cost in half if I bought the timber and just did it myself. I figure three grand for everything vs 5 grand if i bought a prefabbed shed. Of course mine would be a lot stronger as i would over kill the structure and use 2x6s for the framing instead of 2x4s. Overkill..... Its what i do best lol. If i decide to move forward with this i will let you know. As far as electric out there. While solar is a logical step, digging a trench and tieing into the mains has a lot of merit as well.
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