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A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2016 5:07 pm
by Mark F
I have been looking at solar for ages trying to find a system that will allow me to remain independent of the grid for a few weeks. With my impending AAWT walk where I intend to skip Hotham it means I will be off grid for a bit over four weeks. This lead to yet another scan of developments in portable solar. I found that Anker has brought out a 15 watt, 2 USB outlet panel (2.1A max output) and added some smarts to the controller that helps prevent slow charging in partly cloudy conditions. https://www.anker.com/products/A2422011. Unable to resist I found one on eBay from a Japanese seller for about AU$95 delivered, Amazon won't ship to Australia. Ordered on Saturday, delivered today.

At 370g (my scales) it is much lighter than equivalent units from the likes of Goal Zero and far cheaper. It uses very high efficiency cells - 21%-23% claimed. Outdoor Gear Lab has given a top rating http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Solar-Charger-Reviews/Anker-15W-Foldable-Dual-Port-Solar-Panel.

Like all these units it is swathed in heavy nylon pack cloth. I now intend to strip it down and judging by a thread on bpl I should be able to get down to about 200g, less than the weight of many 10,000mAh battery packs. This should allow me to have a full system with 2 x 18650 batteries and charger under 350g. I have also stripped down my Miller 18650 charger (34g originally) to 16g.

Edit: just removed most of the heavy nylon and saved 120g after I add back a skin of cuben. New weight 250g.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2016 6:38 pm
by Gadgetgeek
anker does some very good and innovative work I have one of their USB chargers and its well worth it. One of the few designed to actually use all its ports at once.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2016 8:34 pm
by vanNek
Subscribing to this thread, i want to see the outcome of this.


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Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Thu 20 Oct, 2016 11:53 pm
by Aushiker
vanNek wrote:Subscribing to this thread, i want to see the outcome of this.

+1

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Fri 21 Oct, 2016 7:20 am
by keithy
Mark - the thin film higher efficiency Sunpower panels that the Anker uses are indeed lighter and better efficiency performance from my real conditons testing than the monocrystalline panels of my older panels.

I have a number of portable solar panels as mentioned in previous threads like BarryK's thread viewtopic.php?f=21&t=22455. I've picked up two panels now that use the Sunpower sourced thin film panel (a 3 panel 20W one, and a single panel 6.5W one).

I meant to do proper scientific testing by rigging up a constant current/resistor jig but never got around to it. Instead I tested directly with the equipment I would be charging on extended trips away from power sockets. I use various USB current meters and loggers and plug my USB devices in and note the charge time and the cumulative current passed through the 5V USB socket. My USB logger does not record the Max current but I usually check it at various times to see what the output of the panel is with devices that can accept a higher 2.4A current..

My older monocrystalline panels like the various Goal Zeros I have and the Instapark Mercury 10 would top out at about 1A. The thin film panels would output up to 2A depending on how many panels used.

One other thing to note is that the thin film panels seem to operate better at higher panel temperatures. The monocrystalline panels I think had an operating temp of around 40-50°C after which the output would be negatively affected. The thin film seems to still output a high current at higher temps of over 60°C.

I had previously read that the monocrystalline worked better in low light conditions than the thin film panels but have not tested this yet.

With the Anker I'm not sure how they get 15W from the two panels. The newer 6.5W thin film sunpower panel outputs a Max 1.3A at 5V (6.5W). So two panels could be 13W but if Anker suggest the output is DC 5V / 2.1A then the output would be 10.5W not 15W. If you have gear that can test the output current in sunny conditions I'd be keen to know what its Max output is.

Regarding stripping yours out, I was also going to do that after BarryK stripped his out to lighten his panel. I don't know why manufacturers still insist on making this with black nylon that retains the heat and makes the panel hotter, potentially reducing output. I was thinking of making an outer case for mine out of left over thin white Tvvek that I have from another project. My sewing skills aren't the best though so I'm not sure what it will look like!

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Fri 21 Oct, 2016 8:06 am
by Watertank
The weird thing about trying to buy Anker products on Amazon is that sometimes they won't ship to Australia and then a few minutes later when I log back on they will. I bought a 21w 2 port anker charger from Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012Y ... UTF8&psc=1
after a couple of tries the page changed and allowed me to purchase and have it delivered to Australia.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Fri 21 Oct, 2016 3:10 pm
by Aztec
I was looking at one of these... until I saw the weight...

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018TY8WWG/ref=psdc_2407762011_t3_B0107UJA62?th=1

940g - a bit weighty for bushwalking... and I don't need to charge my car all that regularly...

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Fri 21 Oct, 2016 7:20 pm
by Gadgetgeek
Amazon has a lot of rapidly changing algorithms that sellers use to get best price, and based on user engagement, other sellers, all kinds of factors. So I'm not surprised that its a bit weird.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Sat 03 Dec, 2016 3:47 pm
by Mark F
A quick report on the performance of the Anker panel. I used it for 12 days from Canberra to Guthega to charge my phone which was used for maps and navigation (not creating tracks), Petzl Tikka XP2 headlamp with Core battery and Steripen Freedom. I found that I kept everything fully charged with 30 minutes to an hour of sun each day. I had two days of bad weather where I didn't use the panel. I usually charged everything up in the morning while having breakfast and packing up. On a couple of days I also used it during my lunch break but I didn't use it attached to the pack while walking. One of the benefits of the panel was having two USB ports which was great with three items to keep charged with good sunlight but I tended to only use one if conditions were overcast. I also carried a single Panasonic 18650 battery and cut down Miller charger (16 grams) as a backup. This would give me about three days grace but was not needed.

Overall I am happy with the performance of the panel and it will be coming on more trips in the future. I would like to see if I can get away with just one half of the bi-fold panel which would reduce the weight to about 140 grams.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 09 May, 2017 5:54 pm
by Mark F
Based on a comment by keithy about a light 6.5W solar panel I tracked one down and it arrived today. I did this because the Anker system is providing more power than I seem to need so finding a similar but lighter system was appealing.

solar panel.jpg
6.5W solar panel


The panel was sourced from FastTech costing USD$20.90 and the panel weighs in at 109g but it looks trimmable - remove the eyelets and trim in a cm all round will get it under 100g. The packaging claims they are top quality Sunpower cells with 23.5% efficiency but the panel is lacking the cloth wrapping and pouch shown on the box which is a great thing as it doubles the weight. TH package comes with two small carabiners and four suction cups for attachment. The panel is nicely flexible so I will just make a sil-nylon stuff sac for it - no need for stiffening or padding.

Now to test it out.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 09 May, 2017 10:35 pm
by ChrisJHC
Looking forward to the review - if these are okay then it would solve a lot of problems for longer walks.

I would guess that these would be best used to charge up a small battery pack then use that to charge your device. Not sure I'd plug my device in directly but happy to be proven wrong.


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Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Wed 10 May, 2017 2:41 pm
by Mark F
I had a quick play with it and happy to report that it charges all my devices without problem - Galaxy S4, Steripen Freedom, Petzl Tikka XP, small Anker power pack. Unfortunately I don't currently have any run down batteries to test it with. I will let the phone run down to 40% and see how it goes then. At all times it was showing 5v or a touch above (within USB standard 5 - 5.5v I believe) and amps up to 0.8 but I think everything I tried charging was in top up mode.

Chris - provided the solar panel puts out the right voltage the device will only draw the required current and the solar panel will only deliver what it requires.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Wed 10 May, 2017 7:46 pm
by ChrisJHC
Ordering one as we speak - thanks for the report


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Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Sun 14 May, 2017 11:57 pm
by keithy
Mark F wrote:Based on a comment by keithy about a light 6.5W solar panel I tracked one down and it arrived today. I did this because the Anker system is providing more power than I seem to need so finding a similar but lighter system was appealing.

The panel was sourced from FastTech costing USD$20.90 and the panel weighs in at 109g but it looks trimmable - remove the eyelets and trim in a cm all round will get it under 100g. The packaging claims they are top quality Sunpower cells with 23.5% efficiency but the panel is lacking the cloth wrapping and pouch shown on the box which is a great thing as it doubles the weight. TH package comes with two small carabiners and four suction cups for attachment. The panel is nicely flexible so I will just make a sil-nylon stuff sac for it - no need for stiffening or padding.

Now to test it out.


Mark - I was actually eyeing that same panel from Fasttech as it is made with a white backing, and not the usual black/dark cloth wrapping. Keen to know how it performs.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2017 2:48 pm
by Mark F
I put the panel in good sun at 12:15 attached to my Samsung Galaxy S$ showing 3% charge. At 13:15 it was up to 37% charge. So 34% of 2600 mAh battery = 884 mA charging + losses.
Intermittent sun and cloud over the next hour increased the charge to 48%.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jun, 2017 7:42 am
by Aidan
Mark F wrote:I put the panel in good sun at 12:15 attached to my Samsung Galaxy S$ showing 3% charge. At 13:15 it was up to 37% charge. So 34% of 2600 mAh battery = 884 mA charging + losses.
Intermittent sun and cloud over the next hour increased the charge to 48%.


G'day Mark F,

have you got a link to your panel?

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jun, 2017 10:30 am
by Mark F
https://www.fasttech.com/p/6739701. FastTech is also a good source for Panasonic 18650 li batteries, chargers etc.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jun, 2017 11:26 am
by Aztec
Is it worth running two of the panels in parallel? any benefit? - double the current?
or am I missing something?

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jun, 2017 1:37 pm
by Mark F
Not sure how the electronics would take running two in parallel but most probably not an issue unless the electronics are sensing the draw on the output. I think that if you need the greater charge rate then the Anker panel can put out 2+ amps and has two USB ports if you need to charge multiple devices.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 06 Jun, 2017 3:28 pm
by Aztec
Looks like they make a double anyway! Saves me a little bit of money and effort...

https://www.fasttech.com/products/1424/ ... fect-solar

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Wed 07 Jun, 2017 1:52 am
by Aidan
Mark F wrote:https://www.fasttech.com/p/6739701. FastTech is also a good source for Panasonic 18650 li batteries, chargers etc.

Thanks heaps

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 20 Jun, 2017 4:07 pm
by keithy
Mark - are you able to take Voltage measurements from your 6.5W panel?

I've got mine now and doing some quick tests on it, I get a Voltage drop to around 4.3V after connecting a power bank to the panel. I tested with an older powerbank that would only take a 0.5A 5V charging current, and it also dropped down to around 4.3V. So still charges, but very slowly.

My other panels also had a drop in the same conditions (side by side) but even then the other 6.5W panel I have dropped down to around 4.7V, and the larger Blitzwolf panel I have only dropped down to 4.9V under load.

I'll have to test it out a bit more hopefully if we have more sunny weather over the next few weekends.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 20 Jun, 2017 4:19 pm
by Mark F
Keithy - Not a good test but just went out in the late pm sun (4:15) and the panel was happy charging a Miller charger with fairly full 18650 battery - 4.75v @ 350mA. On my Galaxy S4 with 87% charge it delivered 5.23v @ 270mA. Will try to get a midday reading with a couple of different loads tomorrow.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jun, 2017 1:32 pm
by Mark F
Had a play in the midday sun and saw charging of all devices tested - phone, Miller charger, Nexus 7, Petzl Core battery. Saw a range of charging rates depending on device and charge level from 810mA @ 5.2v to 370mA @ 4.6v. I suspect the charger circuitry on the panel may be a bit primitive but it certainly works for all my devices.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Sun 13 Aug, 2017 7:59 am
by GPSGuided
Finally received mine from Fasttech. The panel was sent out promptly and according to Singapore Post tracking, it arrived in Australia on 12 July after 3 day. Then I waited and waited for close to 4 weeks before delivery. I thought it got lost. No ideas why it took 4 weeks to travel the last leg. Maybe it's normal for FastTech's processes but don't remember similar with past purchases. Quick test with my iPhone and it seemed to work.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Mon 14 Aug, 2017 6:20 am
by ChrisJHC
Mine took a month to arrive (finally got here Friday).

Most of that time it was listed as "in transit to destination country".

Maybe they send it by ship?

Seems to work okay bit haven't had a chance to test it properly.


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Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Mon 14 Aug, 2017 6:24 am
by ChrisJHC
Speaking of mine arriving, the box calls this a "foldable" solar panel.

It doesn't look like it's designed to fold and I would expect it to either snap or be significantly affected if I did try to fold it.

Anyone tried to fold theirs?


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Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Mon 14 Aug, 2017 10:04 pm
by keithy
GPSGuided wrote:Finally received mine from Fasttech. The panel was sent out promptly and according to Singapore Post tracking, it arrived in Australia on 12 July after 3 day. Then I waited and waited for close to 4 weeks before delivery. I thought it got lost. No ideas why it took 4 weeks to travel the last leg.


Not just you and ChrisJHC. I had the last few shipments from Fasttech between the 23 June and 5 July take 37 and 45 days to arrive. Also with Singapore Post tracking. Wondering whether there is a holdup in international parcel sorting once it gets to Aust. Previously stuff from Fasttech including batteries only took around 2 weeks to arrive.

ChrisJHC wrote:Speaking of mine arriving, the box calls this a "foldable" solar panel.

It doesn't look like it's designed to fold and I would expect it to either snap or be significantly affected if I did try to fold it.

Anyone tried to fold theirs?


They appear to have reused the box wording from other models that they have (the one with the two panels for example). Do not try to fold the single plastic panel. You will have a bad time.

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct, 2017 5:30 pm
by Echidna not
Hi , after reading this post , I ordered one from FastTech on the 08/10/2017 , usually I’m the sort of person that investigates things to the enth degree before parting with $$ , but on this occasion I went in full guns blazing thinking oh well it’s only $20 odd dollars, but then my tight assedness kicked in so I then read the feed back on the actual website page , I was a little bit concerned after a bit of reading so I emailed them to make sure of delivery date , they got back to me promptly, needless to say I got it today 24/10/2017 :D , I can’t complain about the delivery time from China to Sydney received it late in the day so was only able to test it on a few items, my iPhone , a power pack , and my Garmin watch seems to do a good job so far it will make it less worry some about battery life while out packing . A Big thanks for posting the info guys much appreciated 8)

Re: A workable solar panel at last?

PostPosted: Tue 24 Oct, 2017 6:34 pm
by CasualNerd
Got mine too. The box was trashed in the mail but the panel held up really well. It's actually a really good balance of lightweight and strong, charges my phone or battery pack fine. For the price it's a steal.