Makers are launching user-friendly models resistant to a range of outdoor elements.
China suppliers of solar charge controllers are updating selections to meet the needs of various applications. Makers are employing advanced technologies that will maximize energy harvest under different weather conditions.
Under this effort, companies are developing models with housings resistant to a range of elements. A number are already offering devices with IP67 rating, mostly for outdoor lighting. To protect controllers against voltage spikes caused by lightning, transient voltage suppressors are being adopted.
For further differentiation, some companies are adding devices that use maximum power point tracking to their selections. Such regulators are capable of converting excess voltage from the panels into amperage, reducing power loss in the PV system.
Existing MPPT controllers have a rated current of 10 to 200A. At present, only a few enterprises are offering the products because these are more difficult to manufacture than versions employing pulse width modulation. A number of suppliers, however, intend to enter the category in the next few years.
Among the enterprises already offering MPPT units are Beijing Epsolar Technology Co. Ltd and Beijing Remote Power Renewable Energy Technology Developing Co. Ltd. The former offers the Tracer-1210 model with a rated current of 10A, while Beijing Remote Power's MPPT30A can handle 30A.
Some suppliers are releasing controllers that allow simultaneous charging of two batteries from a single PV array. Beijing Epsolar is offering PWM versions for recreational vehicles and boats.
Even with the various technologies being adopted, makers are keeping designs small and lightweight for portability and convenient storage. Models rated less than 30A do not exceed 200g, while those with higher specifications weigh about 400g. Saip Electric Group Co. Ltd, for instance, has released a 200g PWM system that measures only 80x100x32mm.
For additional user convenience, solar charge controllers are being fitted with LCD meters and other mechanisms that can monitor the status of the battery or PV power system. Battery voltage and solar panel current are among the parameters often displayed.
Products & prices
Classified by application, China's selection of PV charge controllers consists of those for stand-alone solar home systems, outdoor lighting and power stations. Models use either PWM or MPPT technology.
Prices vary depending on the housing, terminals and electronic components. For the first, plastic and aluminum are the main options, with the latter preferred for units rated more than 20A. Electronic components and other accessories are sourced domestically.
Most PWM controllers can deliver less than 20A. Priced about $15, best-selling units have a 10 or 15A rating.
MPPT designs, which are typically capable of handling more than 30A, start at $90. Products between 35 and 60A range from $100 to $150.
SHS & lighting controllers: Models for small household PV systems go for $10 to $20. Designed typically with manual load switches, most SHS units can support 170 to 680Wp PV arrays and bank voltages of 12 or 24V. Their rated current ranges from 10 to 20A.
Priced $10 to $20 each, charge regulators for outdoor lighting fixtures often function as a lighting controller as well. An LCD monitor usually shows the settings or current state of charge. In terms of rated current, voltage and power, the products have specifications similar to SHS types.
The selection includes designs for luminaires that can run on solar or grid electricity. Such devices allow charging from utility companies in case solar power is not available due to inclement weather.
Power station controllers: Models in this category are priced more than $20. High-end MPPT units can reach $300.
Devices for off-grid installations have a rated current of 20 to 60A. These are compatible with 510 to 4,090Wp PV arrays and 24 or 48V battery banks. For most, load control is done manually or via timers and light sensors.
Units for grid-tied systems, meanwhile, have amperage ratings of 100 or 200A. Models can support modules reaching 13,600Wp.
Designs are fitted with dot-matrix LCDs and usually have an IP65 rating. Most employ MOSFET technology, and some have RS-232 ports.
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