The purchase price of your electric motor only accounts for a small percentage of the total lifetime investment. Energy consumption accounts for up to 97% of the total lifetime cost – ouch. You can improve your operation's energy efficiency by purchasing premium efficient electric motors, or you can seek out alternative energy sources, like solar panels.
Whether you're looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint or are looking to go "off-grid," solar panels are a great alternative energy source for your electric motors. However, the setup is not as simple as connecting your motor to the panel.Keep reading for our guide on how to run a DC Motor using a solar panel.
DC electric motors are powered by direct current (DC), a consistent and unidirectional voltage flow. DC power is the power available from batteries, through a DC control module, or by pushing AC power through a commutator or rectifier. This current is passed through a coil within a magnetic field (the armature placed within the permanent magnets), producing a rotational force that turns the motor's shaft.
A DC Motor's speed is directly related to the input voltage. The higher the input voltage, the faster the output speed. The lower the input voltage, the slower the output speed. As such, DC motors require a stable source of power to run consistently and efficiently.
While solar panels are a source of DC power, the power available from the panel is inconsistent. The amount of power produced at any given moment depends on how much sunlight is hitting the panel and how efficient the panel is at converting sunlight into electricity. To run your DC motor on power from your solar panel, there are a few components you'll need to add to the system to create a more consistent source of power.
Maximum Power Point Trackers
Maximum power point trackers are electronic devices that convert an inconsistent DC power into voltage-adjusted (more consistent) DC power, maximizing the flow to the motor. These trackers help regulate the power flowing from the panel into the battery system. Without a maximum power point tracker, you can expect to see poor performance from your motor, especially when sunlight is interrupted.
Without a maximum power point tracker, the motor is subject to the fluctuating rate of current from the solar panel. When the sun's rays directly hit the panel, the voltage will be higher and could put the motor into an overload situation.
While you don't need a battery system, it would be to your advantage to have one. The battery is a backup power system, helping to provide stable power to the motor when sunlight is intermittent or missing altogether. Once you connect the solar panels, the power produced by the solar panel reaches the battery system first, charging the batteries for later use, and then the motor runs on the power from the battery or batteries.
Without a battery system, the motor is subject to the fluctuating rate of current from the solar panel. If the panel output is less than what the motor is attempting to draw, you risk putting the motor in an overload situation that can cause critical damage to the motor and the entire circuit.
Your typical DC motor controller allows you to turn your motor on and off, control the speed, and even reverse the direction of your motor. But did you know that it can help regulate the current going into the motor too? A DC motor controller is a critical component for running your DC motor on solar panel power. A controller helps smooth the current and regulates and conditions the power delivered to the motor to maximize energy efficiency.
Choosing to run your electric motor on solar power can help to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions significantly. However, the flow of voltage is not as consistent as what is required by your DC electric motor. As such, a few additional components need to be added to the system for your electric motor to work consistently and efficiently.