How Does a Solar Generator Work?

Solar generators, like our AC200P are a great source of backup power for all sorts of outdoor trips. 

They are light and portable, allowing you to charge and run various electronic devices via renewable energy.

Plus they are eco-friendly and unlike conventional generators, do not require you to keep loads of fuel on hand. 

With all this being said, the question remains: How exactly does a solar generator work? 

A solar generator works by collecting solar energy through solar panels and then storing that energy into its built-in solar battery. An inverter then converts that energy into alternating current (AC power) before it is released for use in home appliances and other electronical devices. When combined, these three components make a fully functioning solar generator.

What is a solar generator?

How does a solar generator work

Ultimately, the term solar generator can actually be referred to any technology capable of being powered by the sun’s energy.

However, most commonly, when people use the term solar generator, they are more often than not referring to a portable power station set up, like the ones we sell at Bluetti Power.

These special systems are capable of capturing the sun’s energy via integrated solar panels, which then transport said energy to an internal storage system (usually comprised of lithium-ion technology).

Solar generators may not always be the right setup for large homes however, they can be extremely useful for boats, campervans, or as an emergency backup if your area experiences a blackout.

How does a solar generator work?

how does a solar generator work

Solar generators can provide off-grid energy, consistently, over extended periods of time, without requiring anything other than the power of the sun.

Solar generators provide a green solution for power generation, that in many cases can be as effective or even more effective than propane or gas powered generators.

Solar generators work, by integrating a solar panel, charge controller, a battery system and an inverter into a compact system that is able to convert solar energy into a useable electrical current.

To better understand how solar generators work, we will discuss each of their components individually.

Battery: A solar generator needs to store the energy it collects from the sun in order for you to use it at a later stage. The battery functions as the storage unit.

Lithium-ion batteries have been used in a wide variety of solar generators on the market since about the year 2016. However, you can also use less efficient lead acid batteries which are cheaper and more abundant than lithium-ion technology.

With that being said, lithium-ion batteries do have significant advantages over lead acid batteries, and it is our recommendation to use lithium-ion batteries as they are safer and more affordable in the long term.

Charge controller: Is a vital component of the solar generator, its main purpose is to protect and promote the durability of the battery. Charge controllers usually have various features for charging and discharging based on the certain type of battery and solar panel combination that you are using.

Charge controllers are crucial to making a solar generator work as they balance the power dynamic between the solar panels and batteries.

Inverter: This component converts the low direct current (DC) from the battery to alternating current (AC) which can be used to power your everyday household items.

Appliances that require DC power can actually do without the inverter since the electricity does not need to be converted.

You can read this article to further understand the differences between AC and DC power.

Why solar generators are essential?

Having backup power at your home is becoming more and more essential, as each year a larger percentage of our population rely on these technologies to survive and to stay connected with the rest of the world.

Solar generators are not only used to power smaller appliances like fans, medium sized refrigerators and air conditioners, but they are also useful to provide essential backup power for critical medical devices such as CPAP machines and other at home health monitors.

Solar generators vs gas generators

While fuel generators may work in many of the previous instances mentioned before, they have quite a few drawbacks:

  • Polluting
  • Noisy
  • Rely on fuel
  • Heavy

When you find yourself in an emergency situation like a blackout, hurricane, or flood, it may be quite hard to access any sort of fuel source, this essentially renders your gas generator useless.

Costs of a solar generator

The cost of your solar generator largely depend on the brand and specifications. In general, generators that are able to produce and store more power usually cost more. 

The simple reason for this is thanks to the three internal components. The charge controller, inverter and solar battery.

By far the most expensive part of a solar generator is the battery. 

What many people don't realize is that lithium really only makes up a tiny part of the battery itself.

In fact the most expensive component of a lithium battery is the cobalt, which acts as the negative cathode of the battery. 

Cobalt is alot harder to get than lithium, this is mainly because the metal is mined as a byproduct of other metal mining operations.

See below the price of our solar generators based on the power capacity:

Model Power Price
AC20 200Wh/120W $229,99
AC30 300Wh/300W $299,00
AC50S 500Wh/300W $429,99
EB150 1500Wh/1000W $1099,00
AC200P 2000Wh/2000W $1799,00

5 Benefits of using a solar generator

1. Free clean energy from the sun

When you use a solar generator, you are essentially using free energy from the sun instead of using costly dirty fossil fuels. You can continue getting this free energy from the sun for the lifespan of your solar panels, which is usually around 25 to 30 years.

2. Low maintenance costs

Unlike most conventional fuel or gas generators, solar generators have absolutely no moving parts and do not use a liquid fuel. No moving parts means that the likelihood you will need to pay for any types of repairs is significantly lower.

3. Quiet and clean operation

Aside from the obvious financial gains of using a solar generator, choosing this green technology over other fossil fuel systems has various environmental upsides. Gas powered generators lead to air pollution alongside noise pollution, and while the latter is jut simply annoying, the former contributes to climate change.

4. It’s an investment opportunity

The overall lifespan of a solar panel is 25 to 30 years. While gas powered generators do have long lifespans, usually 20 to 40 years, they do not come without problems. You will need to perform various maintenance jobs on them to keep them operational. Additionally, you will need to continuously buy them fuel in order to use the device. Solar powered generators require no such tasks.

5. Light and easy

Most heavy duty gas powered generators can weigh hefty amounts, sometimes up to 250 pounds. Our heavy duty solar powered EP500 Pro weighs a mere 182 pounds in comparison. Obviously, the less powerful the generator the lighter it usually weighs but in summary, solar generators weigh much less than gas powered generators.

Should you buy a solar generator?

If your main aim is to power smaller appliances like the ones found on boats or campervans, then a solar generator might just be the perfect choice for you. Given how easy they are to transport and operate, solar generators offer a unique energy solution for those who find themselves on the move in need of extra electricity.

With that being said, there are some drawbacks such as the limited power capacity, slow recharge time, and reliance on the sun. All of which limit the usability of the technology as whole home backup power systems.

For those of you who are interested in a backup energy supply from a renewable power source, we recommend installing a rooftop or ground mounted solar system with a home battery system attached.

What is the best battery for a solar generator?

Batteries used in solar generators are typically made with one of three chemical compositions: lead acid, lithium ion, and salt water. In the majority of cases, lithium ion batteries are the best option for solar powered generators, though various other types of batteries can be more affordable. 

1. Lead acid

Lead acid batteries have been used in off-grid applications for decades, making them one of the most tested battery solutions. While they do indeed have one of the shorter life spans than other battery types, they are one of the cheaper options currently on the market.

2. Lithium ion

Lithium ion batteries are lighter and more compact than lead acid batteries. They also last much longer when compared to their lead acid counterparts. The one downside to lithium ion batteries is their high price. However, the cost is justified in the long term as they will eventually pay for themselves.  

3. Saltwater

Unlike other the other battery storage options, saltwater batteries do not contain any heavy metals, relying instead on salt electrolytes. Lead acid and lithium ion batteries need to be disposed of with a special process, a saltwater battery however, can be recycled easily. Due to it being a fairly new technology, saltwater batteries are largely untested, and the one company that makes these batteries Aquion filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

Final thoughts

 

Solar power generators are a smarter alternative to traditional gas powered generators, they are fume-free and quiet. 

They produce no harmful emissions, and can reduce your carbon footprint and enable flexible indoor/outdoor operations.

We recommend checking out our large selection of solar powered generators, you can do so in our shop here

Alternatively you can read our article covering the most powerful solar generators here.

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