Contrary to popular belief, harnessing solar power for your Raspberry Pi or Arduino projects is not as daunting as it might seem. This article will serve as a comprehensive guide on how to utilize solar panels to power both your Raspberry Pi and Arduino systems, paving the way for more sustainable and eco-friendly projects. With the appropriate solar panel and battery, your projects can operate continuously, independent of conventional power sources.

Building a solar-powered Arduino or Raspberry Pi involves a similar process. Both require a power management board, a solar panel, and a battery. The power management board is crucial as it ensures the efficient conversion of solar energy into electrical energy, which can be stored in the battery for later use. The solar panel, on the other hand, is the primary source of power, capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity. The battery serves as the storage unit, holding the converted energy until it’s needed by the Raspberry Pi or Arduino.

In the case of Raspberry Pi, the power management board also plays a vital role in managing the power requirements of the device, ensuring that it receives the correct voltage. For Arduino, the power management board helps regulate the power supply, preventing any potential damage due to power surges or drops.

In this article, we will delve into the specifics of how to set up a solar power system for both Raspberry Pi and Arduino, discussing the technicalities in detail to provide you with a thorough understanding of the process. So, whether you’re a seasoned tech enthusiast or a beginner looking to explore the world of solar-powered tech projects, this guide has got you covered.

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:

  • Voltage
  • Intended use
  • Capacity

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.