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ABSTRACT

Our problem is the ever rising costs of non-renewable energy from natural resources and the resulting energy crisis facing our planet. Solar energy is not a revolutionary technology by any means and has long been criticized for it’s inefficiency and other shortcomings. Modern advances by companies such as DayStar Technologies have made great gains towards reducing the power conversion inefficiencies and have succeeded in creating a solar cell foil that is close to 20% efficient as opposed to the traditional 10% and have greatly reduced costs with CIGS technology [1]. Our product addresses the other implementation difficulties related to solar energy, primarily, “What do we do when the sun goes away every night”. We ought to store the energy right? And how do we propose to do that? Well with batteries, of course! But its not that simple, the battery currents and voltages need to be regulated to provide optimum power transfer to the client because efficiency reduces cost and high cost is the last major road block in making solar a feasible energy alternative. The heart of our product then is microprocessor control of the stored energy.

The approach taken by our team of engineers was essentially an embedded systems approach. We needed to interface the microprocessor which we programmed, with some current/voltage limiting hardware, a buck regulator, opto-isolators, and various other necessary components to effectively read the currents coming off the panels and entering the batteries, and those currents leaving the batteries to power some desired application. It’s true our project as described is not breaking any real ground, however, most products meant to regulate a battery voltage are completely analog and offer very little control to the user. They are also not digitally self-optimizing which is a possibility for us. As far as future improvements and evolutionary capability we are offering an extra buck regulator component and a few pins for a future expansion solar array as technologies in this sector improve to generate even more power. We suspect we can be competitively priced, if not cheaper than our closest competitors who don’t offer expansion options and digital flexibility.

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