Solar energy harvesting for Internet of Things (IoT) is moving from hobbyists and makers to mainstream professional IoT applications. For growing applications in agricultural monitoring and asset tracking, the main reason for using solar energy is to eliminate pain of inaccessibility and cost of maintenance. If you don’t have access to the grid-based energy source or cannot justify the cost of changing the batteries often, solar harvesting can be a good candidate for you.
One key to getting the solar-powered IoT applications right is the ability to harvest. However, as for batteries, many make a mistake thinking that this is the most important consideration. Focusing only on the energy source, e.g., using the most energy-packed battery or the largest solar panels, can impact the size and cost of your product as well as limit its application.
Instead, there are several things to consider to get the solar harvesting right for your IoT device:
The goal of evaluating solar energy harvesting as a potential energy source is to understand if its economics are better than if the device is battery-powered. Hence, to make a fair and data-backed decision following best practices can be applied:
In addition to direct and indirect sunlight, some solar panels can use artificial indoor light sources such as LED, fluorescent, incandescent, and halogen to generate electricity. These panels enable more diverse use case that need to be evaluated.
Here is a tutorial showcasing step-by-step practice of measuring solar panels (using using Otii Arc and Battery Toolbox):
The video below showcases the best practices being applied when testing small-size solar panels for a LoRaWAN IoT device Generic Node from The Things Industries. Solar panels evaluated can be found here and here.
If you want to know more about the set-up for profiling solar panels make sure to talk to our engineers directly.
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