Solar Powering My Telescope

When I purchased my telecope back in March, I found that the telescope needed 8 AA batteries to run the go-to motor on the telescope. This was fine and initially I saw no problems. But then after a few months I had to take the telescope to pieces to locate a wire deep inside which had come loose.  This happened twice in the space of two days so I decided to find an alternative source of power other than 8 AA batteries.

So I switched to a 7.2 Amp 12 Volt Sealed Lead Acid Battery and with some help from a member of the Northern Sydney Astronomical Society, I was able to get my telescope running on the 12 volt battery block. Now there was an immediate advantage to doing this. The 8 AA batteries were normally depleted with one night of good solid observing…… roughly 5 or 6 hours. With the 12 volt battery, my telescope was able to power my telescope for 20 hours of operation.

I picked up a battery charger for the 12 volt battery and an additional battery so I had a backup power supply. This worked great and I was able to trickle the charge to the battery and normally charge them very quickly.

Bad News. Low Power. (Click to Enlarge)

However I had then started having problems with the battery charger , including a smell of burning recently , and it was not charging the batteries properly. So I looked at another means of charging the batteries.

With the expected price rises in electicity, I have been converting my house to solar power where possible. So solar power was my option when I looked at a recharger for the batteries.

The first picture in this post shows one of my 12 volt batteries with the bottom light on the battery tester showing red….. bad news….. the battery was very low on power and my scope will not run on that.

I had picked up a solar panel as shown in the second picture and placed this outside my front door along with my other solar panel. The new solar panel is the larger one on the right.Using a portable DC system tester which I had purchased for about $15, I connected the postive and negative probes of the tester to the respective leads from the solar panel. All lights on the tester lit up brightly which

The Solar Panel (Click to Enlarge)

showed that the solar panel was converting sunlight into electric power as it should be. So I reconnected the solar panel back to the 12 volt battery.

After  45 minutes I used the DC system tester on the 12 volt battery and the LED indicator now showed 50% power in the battery instead of low. This proved the solar panel was charging my 12 volt battery nicely.

At the end of the day my battery was fully charged and this is shown in the third picture. Both the first and third pictures show the DC system checker indicating the current status of the battery. The third picture shows all lights lit which indicates a 100% charge.

There were various solar panels to choose from and I was deciding between a 2.88 watt panel or a 4.5 watt solar panel. I purchased the 4.5 watt version as it would charge the battery a lot quicker.

So in theory my telescope is now powered by the Sun. As I have two batteries I can use one battery on the scope while the other one

Full Power (Click to Enlarge)

is being charged by the Sun. I have to see how the solar panel works in cloudy conditions as you would expect a drop in power going to the battery with less sunlight…. if any power.

I will test the solar panel later this afternoon to see what the charge is like once the Sun disappears behind trees and is closer to the horizon.

Overall I am happy with the results of the solar panel and I can use it to power any other devices I have running on 12 volt power.I will be buying a few new 12 volt batteries over the next few days and each of these can be charged by the solar panel and provide backup if needed…. in case I have several days or even a week of no sunlight.

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~ by sydneystargazers on December 22, 2009.

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