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How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Motor

By Benjamin Strusnik July 18, 2022

how to connect a solar panel to a motor

Solar panels are a sustainable means of energy production that can be used to power just about anything, be it your home, RV, boat, or even motors.

In this article, we guide you through how to connect solar panels to a motor, taking a brief look at all the components you’ll need as well as what they are and how they work.

How to Connect a Solar Panel to a Motor

If solar power is still unchartered territory that you have yet to brave, connecting a solar panel to a motor can be quite complicated. For this reason, we’ve put together this brief guide detailing what you need and how to connect all the various pieces of equipment.

how to connect a solar panel to the motor

The components you need are:

  • A solar panel(s)
  • Motor
  • Maximum power point tracker (MPPT)
  • Battery

So let’s take a look at how these components are to be connected to power a motor.

Solar Panels

How Do They Work?

Solar powers produce electrical energy by absorbing the light energy from the sun and using specialized solar cells to convert it into electrical energy. The more sunlight your solar panels receive, the more power they can produce for your circuit.

For running motors, this electrical energy produced by solar panels can then either be used to power a motor directly or it can be stored in a battery, charging it so that it can be used to power a motor later on.

How Should They be Connected 

People often get stuck when it comes to deciding whether to connect their solar panels in series or parallel. The solution to this problem is fairly simple – look at the voltage and current requirements of your circuit.

If you have a high voltage requirement, solar panel wiring in series increases the voltage of your circuit. If your circuit needs more current, connecting your solar panels in parallel increases the current flowing through your circuit

As you will see below, people also question whether you should connect your solar panels directly to your motor or rather to a battery that is then in turn connected to your motor. Both are possible, it just depends on how much control you want to have over the running of your motor. 

connect a solar panel to a motor

Types of Motors 

When it comes to using solar panels to power motors, you’ll notice that you can choose between alternating current (AC) motors and direct current (DC) motors.

While both work in the same way, DC motors are regarded to be both the easiest and best equipped to be powered by solar panels.

This is because, as their name suggests, DC motors run using direct current. Direct current is the form of electrical current that flows from a power source directly into a motor. 

The electrical current sent from solar panels to a motor is also DC current and so it’s clear why solar panels and DC motors are the most compatible to work with each other.

If you want to power an AC motor with solar panels, you need to use a solar power inverter to convert the DC current produced by the solar panels to AC current to power the motor.

connect a solar panel to the motor

Maximum Power Point Trackers (MPPTs)

Although your solar panels can technically be directly connected to a DC motor, you run the risk of wasting a lot of the energy produced by your solar panel. This is because solar panels often produce power that isn’t 100% compatible with the power capacity of the DC motor you want to run.

For this reason, you’ll want to make use of a maximum power point tracker (MPPT). An MPPT analyzes the power output of your solar panels and the power needs of your motor and then adjusts the output of power from your solar panels to your motor accordingly.

In this way, an MPPT ensures that as much of the power that your solar panel produces I harness by your motor 

DC Motor Controllers 

A DC motor controller is a device that works together with an MPPT to regulate the amount of power flowing from your solar panel to your motor as a means of regulating the speed and torque of your motor. 

Speed and torque are two variables that are inversely linear. This means that the higher the speed of your motor, the less torque is generated. The slower your motor is running, the more torque is generated.

In this way, a DC motor controller allows you to control these two variables as it allows you to control and limit the amount of power you are sending to your motor because the more power there is, the higher the speed at which your motor operates.

Batteries

Once you’ve taken all of this into account, you need to decide whether to wire your solar panels directly to your battery or run the current through an inverter. Although it’s not entirely necessary, this may not always be a bad idea.

If you connect your solar panels to a battery, the power produced by your solar panels is used to charge this battery instead of powering the motor directly. The power stored in your battery will then be used to run your DC motor.

Therefore, connecting solar panels to batteries instead of directly to your motor will mean that your motor is not directly reliant on the amount of sunlight shining on your solar panel, but rather on the amount of stored power in your battery.

how to connect a solar panel to your motor

This isn’t a question of how to disconnect solar panels from your motor, but rather how you can power your motor indirectly using your solar panels and, ultimately, independent from the amount of sunlight available to your solar panel at a point in time.

Conclusion

The way in which solar panels power DC motors is the perfect way to showcase how effective and versatile solar panels are.

Now that you’ve read this article, you’ll easily be able to discern what components you’ll need to connect your solar panels to a motor (knowing what each of them does) and ultimately have your solar panels hooked up to the motor you wish to power with ease and efficiency. 

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