Contrary to what people may think, constructing a solar-powered Raspberry Pi is actually pretty easy. It’s just like learning how to control solar water heaters. In this article, we will guide you on how to use solar panels to power your Raspberry Pi so that you can build eco-friendly Pi projects. With the right solar panel and battery, your project can run indefinitely.
To build a solar-powered Raspberry Pi you will need:
- A power management board
- Solar panel
Steps to Building your Raspberry Pi
1. Select a Power Management Board
To start building a solar-powered Raspberry Pi, you need to select a solar power management board. This board is also referred to as ‘HAT’. It will be directly connected to your Raspberry Pi’s 40-pin GPIO header. The function of this board is to convert solar energy from the panels into battery power for storage. Some management boards can also directly power your Raspberry Pi from the solar panel once the battery is fully charged.
2. Select a Solar Panel
Figuring out the right solar panel size for your project is easy. Simply check the product listing for the volume of current the panel can provide. For example, two regulated 5v/2A USB outputs. If there’s no output indication, you can use Ohm’s Law to calculate the correct panel size. However, to be on the safe side and save yourself the stress of determining the right size, you can go for a 12w solar panel.
3. Select the Right battery
To choose the correct battery, you’ll have to select between Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) or Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery based on certain factors such as:
- Intended use
However, the recommended battery to use is the Lithium-Ion battery.
4. Connect your Pi Management Board
You can check out how to assemble your PiJuice hardware to learn about this entire process. The process will help you connect your Pi HAT. It’s an easy process.
5. Connect your Battery
You can skip this step if you use the 1820mAh BP7X battery that came with your Pi hardware. For those using external batteries:
- First, detach the BP7X battery.
- Clip off the 2-pin JST connector from the battery you want to connect.
- Use a small screwdriver to link both wires to the screw battery terminal (Red (+) to VBAT and black (-) to GND).
- If it has an NTC temperature detector, connect it to NTC.
6. Connect the Panel
The PiJuice solar panel connects directly to the power management board through a Micro USB. However, if you bought your Pi hardware from another Pi manufacturer, you may need to use a different connector.
7. Use a Housing or Case for your Pi Hardware
Obviously, your Pi hardware will be situated outdoors. Out there, it will be prone to weather conditions such as rain or humidity. So it is imperative to acquire a water-resistant housing or case. You can build a small sheltered structure for your hardware.
Certain manufacturers such as PiJuice have casing for their hardware. You can also use this as it will give your hardware further protection from the weather. In addition, the housing should be able to accommodate your Pi, battery, and power, the management board.
Also, ensure that the housing for your Pi hardware is not too small or compact, and there’s provision for ventilation so that your Pi project won’t malfunction because of overheating.
8. Set up a Power Monitoring Program
Your Pi hardware will function without this, so it’s an optional step. However, it’s a nice thing to set up some program that you can use to check your Pi’s battery level/health and carry out tasks such as notifying you or safely shutting down your Pi hardware if your battery is too low to sustain it. PiJuice has power monitoring software. It’s built to function on any Debian or Raspian-based operating system.
9. Setup your Hardware in a Sunny Area
Ensure the choice location for your Pi hardware has enough exposure to the sun.