A small scale, stand alone photovoltaic system has five main components: solar array, charge controller, batteries, inverter, and conductor. We purchased these items in Thailand and brought them with us to Mae Wae Village to be installed as part of a pilot project. Our IQP serves (partly) as a blueprint for future installations.
The energy from the sun is harnessed in the solar array. Made up of solar panels, which in turn are made up of many tiny diodes, the array uses the sunlight's photons to excite electrons in the semiconductor material, thus causing a current to flow.
Our first step was to construct a base on the roof of the guest house to mount the panels onto. The village carpenter was very helpful in this task. The panels not only had to be at an angle above the roof, they also had to face a more southerly direction.
These boards are what hold the structure onto the roof.
Special boards were cut to give the metal supports the correct angle.
Once the mounting structure was in place we wired the panels together, and then secured them to the roof. Our multimeter proved invaluable in assuring our wiring job was done correctly. The information we received from the PV company where we bought the system on how to install the system was lacking many details. Luckily we had been studying the technology for many months. We also consulted with an American student studying in Bangkok who had experience installing renewable energy systems in rural environments. He proved invaluable to our efforts.
Chuck, Andy, and Gregg wire together the solar panels while some village children look on.
Our Multimeter Testing the panels in the sunlight
Andy and Justin secure the array to the mounting structure with help from the village carpenter.