As part of the I-CHANGE Dublin Living Lab, we are currently investigating using portable solar panels to power the Smartcitizen Air Quality Monitor.
In the past, Smartcitizen have tested running the Smart Citizen Kit 2.1 monitor with 5W and 6W solar panels in Barcelona. However, since Dublin is at a higher latitude (i.e. further North), and typically has more cloud cover than Barcelona, we expected that a larger solar panel would be required. We decided to test a 28W solar panel and purchased a portable 28W (5V/4.8A) solar charger manufactured by BigBlue.
The photo below shows the set up at our test site, with the Air Quality Monitor connected to the solar panel via USB, and the solar panel facing South-South-West.
Our test site has been running for more than 3 weeks now, and the data we have collected looks very promising. To date there has been no power outage of the Air Quality Monitor, i.e. it has operated continuously using only solar power and its backup battery.
Figure below shows the solar radiation measured by the Air Quality Monitor itself and the battery charge levels. At night there is no solar radiation, therefore the Air Quality Monitor must operate from battery power only. Since we are currently close to the summer solstice the sun rises early and sets late. It can be seen that on the example day selected (14th June 2022) the battery re-charged to 100% within 3 hours.
These are only preliminary findings, and we are planning to continue this test for some time. We are also looking into historical data for Dublin on solar radiation and cloud cover, to determine if the solar panel will still be sufficient during the autumn, winter, and spring months. However, so far, this type of solar panel looks like a viable alternative to mains power!
Author: Anna Mölter, University College Dublin