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Denis Lenardic
All Rights Reserved
2nd Jun, 2011
This page was last time
updated on
25th Nov, 2007

Charge regulators
"Why do the people who know the least, know it the loudest?"
(Geoff Metcalf, KSFO San Francisco)

Different charge regulators produced by STECA GmbH
(courtesy: Steca GmbH)
Where are you: Home > Charge regulators
The solar charge regulator main task is to charge the battery and to protect it from deep
discharging. Due to overcharging electrolyte boiling could occur causing damage to the battery or
even its destruction. Deep discharging could also damage the battery. Charge regulator
electronics is most sensitive and crucial to assuring stable photovoltaic system operation. Charge
regulator malfunctioning result in high maintenance cost including battery replacement. An
important parameter to consider is charge regulator efficiency percentage. For small photovoltaic
systems charge regulators from 5 A to 30 A are available. Some of them could be used in both 12
V and 24 V DC systems.
Other topics: batteries > inverters

Charge Regulators
There are many different types of charge regulators available on the market, the simplest switch
on/off regulators, PWM charge regulators which charge the battery with constant voltage or
constant current (they are the most often used regulators in PV systems) to the most complex
MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) charge regulators. MPPT charge regulators are more
expensive and suit large systems better, where the investment in an expensive MPPT regulator
returns quickly. In most cases, including inexpensive charge regulators for small systems,
regulator set includes all necessary electronics for battery protection, such as protection against
deep discharging and against overcharging. Charge regulator functioning is characterised by two
different voltage thresholds, battery and module voltage, upon which the battery is charged. At
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Solar cells
Site analysis
Shading analysis
Charge controllers
Hybrid systems
higher voltage, usually 12.4 V for 12 V batteries, charge regulator switches the load to the
battery, at lower voltage, typically 11.5 V, regulator switches the load off. On the market you can
find charge regulators which allow manual settings of these thresholds, or you could merely
adjust the battery type to Pb acid or Gel type, and the regulator will adjust the two voltage
thresholds automatically according to the battery type without losing the performance. If
excessive ambient temperature swings of more than 5C are expected, temperature compensated
charge regulator electronics should be used.
Shunt and serial regulator

Charge regulators produced by Morningstar Corporation
(courtesy: Morningstar Corporation)
The energy produced during the day, which wasnt consumed by loads, is saved in batteries.
Saved energy can be used at night or during the days with bad weather conditions. Batteries in
photovoltaic systems are often charged/discharged; therefore, they must meet stronger
requirements than car batteries. Due to the fact car batteries are not suitable for PV systems use!
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There are many solar battery types available in the market. Most often used classic Pb acid
batteries are produced especially for PV systems, where deep discharge is required. Other battery
types, such as NiCd or NiMH are rarely used, unless in portable devices. Hermetical batteries
often consist of electrolyte in gel form. Such batteries do not require maintenance. Typical solar
system batteries lifetime spans from 3 to 5 years, depending heavily on charging/discharging
cycles, temperature and other parameters. The more often the battery is charged/discharged the
shorter the lifetime.

Lifetime depends on charge/discharge cycle rates numbers. The deeper the battery is discharged
the shorter the lifetime. The most important battery parameter is battery capacity, which is
measured in Ah. Battery capacity depends on discharging current; the higher the discharging
current the lower the capacity, and vice versa. Batteries can be charged in many different ways,
for example with constant current, with constant voltage etc., which depends on the battery type
used. The charging characteristics are recommended and prescribed by different standards. The
solar batteries prices are higher than the prices of classic car batteries, yet their advantages are
longer lifetime and lower discharging rates. Consequently, the maintenance costs of the
photovoltaic system are lower.
Charge regulators, interesting web sites

Steca Solarelektronik - The Steca Company was founded in 1976. Today this is a
medium-sized company. The business area solar electronics covers photovoltaics and solar
thermal technology.
Webmaster's choice - many tips and tricks available as pdf files - grounding, large loads etc.
Morningstar Corporation - Morningstar Corporation, a privately-owned corporation, is a
supplier of photovoltaic controllers using advanced technology.
Webmaster's choice - many interesting information available as pdf files - see reference center.

Phocos - Phocos is a leading player in the world of renewable energy in grid-independent
power supplies. Company manufactures a wide range of system components for energy
conversion, energy management and energy utilization.

ETA Engineering - Manufacturing and worldwide distribution of a patented line of solar charge
controllers and battery capacity meters. ETA has manufactured and sold charge controls and
meters since 1992. A real workhorse, these units were designed to deliver many years of
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service on sustainable development projects in developing countries and in remote areas.
Blue Sky Energy, Inc. - Blue Sky Energy, Inc. is a privately owned company located in Vista,
CA. Their product range are MPPT solar charge controllers used in various, even extreme,

Helios Technology SRL - Established in 1981, Helios Technology is currently the oldest
manufacturer of solar cells, modules and photovoltaic systems in Europe. Its product
portofolio includes also charge controllers and accessories.
Battery related web sites
Any Batteries - Interesting battery related link collection.
Solar Street Lighting

AirTherm Solartechnik - With more than 30 years of experience in photovoltaics AIR THERM is
your best contact for R&D, distribution and all services in photovoltaic systems. We support
you with all components for your solar energy system in German quality.
Literature and more information
Dankoff, W.: What is a charge controller? Home Power, September 1999.
Usher, E.P., Ross, M.D.: Recommended practices for charge controllers - CANMET, Energy Diversification
Research Laboratory, Renewable Energy and Hybrid Group, IEA IEA PVPS T3-05:1998 (737 kB).
Koutroulis, E., Kalaitzakis, K.: Novel battery charging regulation system for photovoltaic applications, IEE
Proc.-Electr. Power Appl., Vol. 151, No. 2, March 2004 (832 kB).
Koutroulis, E., Kalaitzakis, K., Voulgaris, C.: Development of a Microcontroller-Based, Photovoltaic Maximum Power
Point Tracking Control System, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2001 (159 kB).
Maxim: Harnessing Solar Power with Smart Power-Conversion Techniques.
Mpower: Chargers and Charging.
IEA PVPS; Lead-Acid Battery Guide for Stand-Alone Photovoltaic Systems.
Sandia National Laboratories; Balance of system Publications.
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