Part 1 - Solar Energy
Welcome to this first article on
Experiments with Alternative Energy.
As an electronic engineer (Cal Poly,
Pomona, CA), I’ve always been
interested in renewable energy, so to
promote it as a topic for teaching and
learning math and science in K- 12
schools and colleges, in 2002 I founded
my company LearnOnLine, Inc., and
created the REEL Power (Renewable
Energy Education Lab) project. These
experiments are based on that effort.
By John Gavlik, WA6ZOK
Figure 1. Experimental Test Bed for the Parallax BS2 Processor.
Our first lesson is on solar energy and how you can measure DC electricity under various series and parallel wiring configurations, loads, and light sources. Future articles and experiments will
address more on solar energy plus wind turbines and
fuel cells. I wanted to include experiments on geothermal,
biomass, and ocean wave devices, but these are a bit too
difficult to perform on a desktop.
We’ll begin with the fundamentals of how to set
up the “test bed” — the hardware, firmware, and software
— along with the data acquisition and data display
techniques. The important point to realize is that you will
be able to work with either a Parallax BS2 or PICAXE
28X2 microprocessor along with the supplied
basic language code for each of them. The
code and the component setups are designed
to give you a highly detailed insight into how
solar panels, wind turbines (three-phase,
no less), and fuel cells operate on an
In the experiments, I will touch on
elements of mechanics, physics, and chemistry
to round things out where necessary.
However, I will walk a fine line between
making things too simple or overly complex in
terms of the inner-workings of these devices
(read no heavy duty math or cumbersome
theory — just the basics like Ohm’s Law and
first year Algebra). So relax. This is meant to
be both fun and informative. If you want to
learn more (I hope), there are always schools,
online forums, and the web.
One more thing before launching ahead —
most of the details for the equipment setups,
the firmware, and graphic software, and
especially the experimental procedures are
found on my website at www.learnonline.com
Figure 2. Experimental Test Bed for the PICAXE 28X2 Processor.