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  1. #1
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    Solar Panels on touring Bikes ? ~o~

    check out this Solar Panel on Touring Bike

    has anyone got experience with these kind of set-ups ?

    what did you use ?

    was it worth it ?

    how much did it cost ?

    cheers

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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  4. #4
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    They sell some big rigid solar panels at Northern Tool. They are surprisingly heavy- not sure if it's the cells themselves or the frame that they go in. Hopefully, that one shown is lighter.

    Seems to me to actually do much with it, you'd need to set it up somewhere and leave it a few hours. Draped over the back like that, half of it's in shade at best.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Check out this backpack on ebay...Looks like you could use it as a trunk bag.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/Solar-Powered-Ba...QQcmdZViewItem

  6. #6
    Senior Member aRoudy1's Avatar
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    I don't know what you're going to use it for--I'm looking at getting a small one to recharge my cell phone; it also charges mp-3s. http://www.solarstyle.com/

  7. #7
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    I have no experience with solar panels, but Ken Kifer used one to power his laptop. I just kind of did a quick search on his site and didn't find what kind he used, but it sounds similar if not the same.
    http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/laptop.htm

  8. #8
    Long Live Long Rides
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    I've always thought solar was kind of cool, especially if the panel is small and lightweight. The only two things I personally would need it for would be the battery for my headlight and my cell phone.

    What I chose to do several years ago was to carry a battery charger for each of those. I also carry a small outlet tester (the cheap one with two leads and an LED). You would be surprised at how many parks and shelter houses have electricity.

    Is it ethical? Probably not. I've asked permission to plug in many times. No one has turned me down.

    I do like the solar panel idea alot. I may look into it this year again. I'm sure the technology has come a long way in the last few years.

    Jerry H
    Jharte
    Touring...therapy for the soul.

  9. #9
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
    I have no experience with solar panels, but Ken Kifer used one to power his laptop. I just kind of did a quick search on his site and didn't find what kind he used, but it sounds similar if not the same.
    http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/laptop.htm
    Here is a photo I took of Ken and his bike, complete with solar panel: http://www.mvermeulen.com/saltlake/big/may30_04.jpg

    Ken and I met in the Poudre Canyon in Colorado. He was on his tour headed west to Walden and I was cycling east from Salt Lake City to Fort Collins. This was the last summer before he was killed by a drunk driver.

  10. #10
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Here is picture of a solar rig that a world tourist is currently using. From what I gather his powering quite a few things with it. His total rig is something else. Somewhere in the early reports it gives the specs on it.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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  11. #11
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Brunton makes some light weight roll up solar panels that fit in a supplied storage tube and have a good reputation.
    http://www.brunton.com/product.php?id=256

    Sunlinq makes folding panels: http://www.21st-century-goods.com/pa...PROD/SPT/GSE12

    http://www.21st-century-goods.com/pa...PROD/SPT/GSE25

  12. #12
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    great feedback

    I forgot to mention that i'm a photographer ...

    I'll have to do some study on weather or not these little solar panels will charge a Digital SLR battery + MP3/40G storage Unit + Cell Phone + Electric Toothbrush

    hahahah, nah that last one was a joke


  13. #13
    Too old & too big
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    I have experience with solar panels ... here's the solar page on my personal website.

    http://homepage.mac.com/mdewalt/iWeb...ar%20Page.html

    While I haven't used solar on a bike, I can tell you they don't produce alot of power ... and they need direct sunlight ... they're little value in any shade, and don't do very well with clouds ... I suspect that on a flexy panel for your bike it would probably be a 5 or 10 watt panel at most. Think about it this way ... a 10 wat panel with 6 hours of bright direct sunlight would take 6 hours to produce enough power for a 60 watt bulb for an hour (actually 20% less with power loss from the charger).

  14. #14
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I was looking into solar systems to power a laptop at Christmas, not for a bike, but here at the house.

    I think I figured up that with the panel I was looking at, a workable system would cost maybe $150 and power the laptop for a half hour or so a day. This was using components from Northern Tool.

    One problem is that laptops don't run off 12v DC, so the simplest way to run it off solar or batteries is to convert the 12V DC to 110V Ac and then use the AC-DC adaptor that came with the laptop. That's an awkward way to do it.

    Another issue is that the panel I was looking at was a 5-watt panel. The bigger ones were about 1' x4' and were 15 watt panels. But neither of those was enough to run a laptop. So you'd have to charge a battery all day and then run the laptop a little bit. And the expense is more in the electrical doohingies than in the solar panel itself. The batteries are heavy as well.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  15. #15
    Senior Member Leon's Avatar
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    If you're just looking to recharge smaller items such as mobile phones, ipods, point-and-shoot digital cameras then check out Solio:
    http://www.solio.com/charger/

    I bought one of these a year ago but haven't had a chance to really use it yet apart from at home. It comes with a number of different power plug attachments for whatever phone you may have, ipod connection, etc. It saves carrying around all these power chargers.

    Basically it is a rechargeable battery with solar panels. You could charge the battery during the day while you are riding, and then power will be stored until you need it.

    Also looks quite good as well if you're into that sort of thing.

    Wish I'd had one on my long American tour, I can count the number of times I recharged my music player on two hands and hence was in a bit of a musical quiet zone for 8 months.

    Cheers
    Leon

  16. #16
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    I was looking into solar systems to power a laptop at Christmas, not for a bike, but here at the house.

    I think I figured up that with the panel I was looking at, a workable system would cost maybe $150 and power the laptop for a half hour or so a day. This was using components from Northern Tool.

    One problem is that laptops don't run off 12v DC, so the simplest way to run it off solar or batteries is to convert the 12V DC to 110V Ac and then use the AC-DC adaptor that came with the laptop. That's an awkward way to do it.

    Another issue is that the panel I was looking at was a 5-watt panel. The bigger ones were about 1' x4' and were 15 watt panels. But neither of those was enough to run a laptop. So you'd have to charge a battery all day and then run the laptop a little bit. And the expense is more in the electrical doohingies than in the solar panel itself. The batteries are heavy as well.
    For powering devices with solar the trick is to rig the panels to either charge batteries or use the power directly. Any time you convert power from DC/AC or AC/DC you have losses. My current laptop uses 19.5 volts. I believe it would be more efficient to convert from 12vDC to 19.5vDC than to try and go back and forth with the AC adapter. FWIW the laptop takes about 3-4 watts at 19.5.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

    "Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
    RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
    _Nicodemus

    "Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred
    Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
    _krazygluon

  17. #17
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    If you have some skills with electronics check these out: http://www.siliconsolar.com/flexible-solar-panels.php

    Way cheaper than the pre-made stuff out there, and they claim they're weatherproof. I figure if you just take care of it, it'll do you good. Who's gonna try to use a solar charger in a rainstorm anyway?

  18. #18
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    I think I'll get the IceTech i101 for $30 from REI. This guy seems real happy w/ it: http://expotv.com/blog/electronics/i...phonestun-***/
    It looks cheap but good enough for an ipod and a cellphone. Plus, it's internal battery can be charged from an outlet. It's something more for emergencies in mind like having to make a call and the ipod part of course is more fun than anything else. I think I'd charge my lithium batteries on tour when I get to couchsurfers' homes or a public place now and then and just read a book in the mean time or the paper- that is if I can even get an English paper in the middle of nowhere!

  19. #19
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    I took a Brunton roll up panel on my year tour and never used it. I gave it away in Almaty to a bike mechanic who helped me out (along with rechargeable batteries and stuff). Nice piece of gear.

    I did use a recharge device which used 4 AA batteries to charge up my PDA. 4 alkaline AA's gave me about 1.5 PDA charges, 4Nicad chargeable AA's gave me ~0.8 recharges to my PDA. 4 Lithium AA's gave a lot more recharges (2 or more).

    The reason I didn't need to use the solar panel was because my power consumption was minimal. My camera (Canon S2IS) used 4 AA's, and using lithiums-I think I only needed one swap out up to where I gave the Solar away. I had a portable hard drive (hyperdrive) which used 4 AA's, and I took them out after I backed up. My PDA worked hours off of a charge, plenty for my journal needs. I didn't use my PDA online (except once).

    -In summary, I would recommend solar (especialy flexible solar-like Brunton), to folks whose power consumption off grid would justify the weight & cost. ie-Folks who upload journals/blogs off of grid power, profesional or "semi" professional photographers. Basicly-folks who use a laptop off grid power.

    EDIT-Adding:

    I've heard of newer laptop computers with solid state hard drives, and ?6/8hours user time per charge. This would be an awesome computer to use due to lower risk of hard drive failure from vibration/altitude. Longer run time is a nice bonus-ie would only need to fully recharge every 3 days if using 2hrs per day.
    Last edited by Camel; 08-16-08 at 11:42 AM.
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

  20. #20
    Senior Member john bono's Avatar
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    I just finished a tour of the northern cascades using a daisy chained pair of Brunton Solarport 4.4s(max output 4.4 watts each). They are designed to charge a cellphone, and designed to be daisychained to increase, but I found the pair to be wholly inadequate to the task of keeping a cell phone charged. The phone I tried to charge was an LG Voyager. I set up the chargers to sit on my bob trailer, held in place over the bag by a cargo net, and place the phone in the bag to charge while riding. What would inevitably happen is that the process of charging would "wake up" the cell phone, causing the phone to drain nearly as much battery in the wake up process than the pair of solar panels would provide(mind you, this was in an area which didn't get a drop of rain or a cloud in the sky for the 6-7 days I had the panel running and charging). Every day I looked at the phone, the battery would be at the same point at the end of the day's ride(often over 6 hrs of direct sunlight) as it was at the beginning. At one point, I stopped by Rad Shack, picked up a car adapter and a 110-12v adapter so I could plug it into an outlet and properly charge the battery.

    Frankly, the only thing those damn things were good for was to get the inevitable "ooh, look, solar panels" comments occasionally from other riders/tourers/passersby.
    Ride a bike. It makes your legs stringy, and less tasty to our Kanamit friends.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  21. #21
    Scott n4zou's Avatar
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    I use a standard bicycle dynamo to recharge a GPS unit and cell phone. Both are designed to be recharged by plugging into a computer USB port. Here is the circuit.

    Batteries must be solder tab type with no possibility of poor or open connections.
    An open or poor connection will allow unregulated power from the dynamo to flow into any device connected to the USB port possibility damaging it.

    Instead of using complicated semiconductor parts soldered to custom made circuit boards I just use 4 Ni-MH batteries. They work very well limiting voltage output of the dynamo and absorb excess current by using it for recharging. The batteries internal impedance will increase as output voltage of the dynamo approaches the design voltage of the batteries. 4.8 Vdc is the rated voltage for 4 fully recharged Ni-MH batteries. Recharging voltage needs to be slightly higher. At 5.2 volts the internal impedance of the batteries load the dynamo to the point it saturates and becomes impossible for it to produce more than 5.2Vdc. This is perfect for recharging these batteries and is well within the requirements of a standard computer USB port. A standard computer port is also rated at 500mA which happens to be the same as a standard bicycle dynamo. The batteries also make it possible to switch over to the headlight circuit leaving the USB device plugged into the USB port. The circuit above is actually two separate circuits. The batteries do not power the headlight emitters. The switch allows you to use the dynamo to power the headlight or the USB power system. The center off position electrically disengages a hub dynamo and prevents slow discharge of the batteries across the bridge rectifier diodes when the bike is going to be parked for more than several hours. My headlight is a two emitter system but may be replaced by any dynamo type headlight. More information about dynamo powered emitters can be found here.
    http://pilom.com/BicycleElectronics/...lectronics.htm
    Recharging a device is simple. Simply plug it into the USB connector, select the USB power circuit using the switch, engage the dynamo if your using a bottle or BB type dynamo, and start riding. Disconnect the device every half hour or so and check the battery indicator on the device for charge level. Pretty soon you'll know how long it will take to recharge your device. When riding at night you should use the headlight circuit only and secure any USB devices safely in a pannier or bag. Riding at night needs your full attention.
    I've tried solar panels. There a waste of time, money, and weight for the amount of power you can get from them.
    [SIGPIC]http://www.bikeforums.net/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=57360&dateline=1197386754[/SIGPIC]
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  22. #22
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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    Those are some fairly large panels. I suppose if you were running larger electronics, they would be needed.

    I have two pieces of Brunton equipment, a solo 3.4 and a solaris usb. The solo 3.4 is nice to have for trips where you simply need something to bridge the distance between one plug-in to the next. It will do 4-5 small device charges before needing to be recharged itself. I tend to just use something like this on domestic tours.

    Depending on the lighting conditions, the solaris will optimally charge the solo in a day, and may require 2-3 in poor conditions. This is certainly an adequate energy production rate to power a cell phone, mp3 player, 2xAA digital camera, PB Superflash and NR Minewt Mini USB. The Minewt is definitely the most power intensive device to charge, but my personal energy needs are met by this pairing.

    On solar panels, you would want flexible amorphous ones like in the photos. Preferrably ones with some degree of water resistance. The crystalline panels like the Solio require fairly direct positioning towards the sun, and a lot of these small chargers will find themselves dead with a little water - a Solio I was given died after it was put out to charge, and my neighbors sprinkler fell on its side, giving the Solio a soak - not a real piece of resilience. Good flexible panels can be found which are nicely water resistant (or proof), and which aren't as needy for shadows, clouds or orientation.

    I quite like n4zou's dynamo option as well. That could work quite nicely, as you would be able to skip having a battery powered light at night as well. I would personally prefer the panel as it will operate while not riding, which I do a lot of on tour - places to see, which is one of the nicest benefits, that you can use this system while not cycling and while doing completely different activities like backpacking if you want to. But for someone putting down a lot of miles on a bicycle, it would put out a lot of power, and could be less noticeable.
    Last edited by Abneycat; 08-18-08 at 04:17 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member ultimatekiwi's Avatar
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    I found a solar-powered garden light (similar to: http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?Inv...GARDEN-LIGHTS2 ) that had been run over, and appropriated it for myself. The stake and reflector parts were gone, and I was just left with the panel + LED + rechargeable AA batteries. I taped the solar panel dish on top of/between the brackets holding my rear rack on, so that the panel would get sun to charge the batteries, with the LED+batteries facing down. Unfortunately the batteries bounced out that same day, before I could test it out as a charger. However, it did make a very bright light--which I used in my tent every night--when coupled with two non-rechargeable AA batteries. But, of course, such a system would limit one to electronics running off of AA batteries only. Just a cheap alternative source of solar panels for the less-discerning consumer.
    -Ben

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