New Directions Radio: Power Your Ham Radio With Solar Energy

New Directions Radio shares news about how to run your ham radio with solar energy, includes Macdonald's test results for how much a solar panel will put into battery storage each day.

| January/February 1978

The New Directions Radio column shares the latest on radio activities, this issue shares how to run your ham radio with solar energy.

Copthorne Macdonald is an amateur radio enthusiast, inventor of slow scan television, and founder of New Directions Radio. New Directions Radio article MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 49, January/February 1978.

Power Your Ham Radio With Solar Energy

Wood can always be burned for heat, and an oil or tallow blaze will provide light, but there's no substitute for electricity when it comes to powering a radio. Fortunately, it doesn't take much "juice" to keep a ham rig on the air, though . . . and the little bit we do need to run a QRP (low-power) amateur rig — such as the Heathkit HW-8 described in my MOTHER NO. 47 column — can be supplied in a reasonably economical fashion by an array of silicon solar cells.

Other people have also seen this as a natural marriage of components. "Mac" McNaughton (VE3EQQ), for instance, uses a 300-ma (milliamp) panel coupled to two series-connected 6-volt wet-cell nicad batteries to power his HW-8 from Mitchell, Ontario. Also, a fellow by the name of Jack (K7ZR) sent his HW-8 with 180-ma solar array and 12-volt motorcycle battery down to last summer's NDR Workshop at Bob Hickerson's (WA6RRR's) place in Yreka, California.

My own setup is a bit more modest than Mac's or Jack's in terms of solar panel size, battery capacity, and overall cost. The "generator" panel I use-a small (1/2 inch by 7 inch by 8 inch) unit called the "model SPM-150-16", made by Solar Systems, Inc., Dodgeville, Wisconsin, consists of 40 series-connected 2-centimeter by 2-centimeter silicon solar cells mounted in a transparent plastic case. The panel produces up to 100 milliamps of output current during the day (depending on the cells' orientation, cloud conditions, and temperature), and is priced in the $80-$100 range.

[As of late November 1977, the SPM-150-16's exact price was $70.75 plus $2.25 postage and handling. — MOTHER.]

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