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How to Power Electric Motors With Solar Panels

Solar cells and panels can be used to power motors and other electronic devices.
solar cells image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com

Electric motors are usually powered by alternating current or direct current. Direct current motors are the easiest and best motors to power with solar panels. Alternating current motors can also be powered by solar panels, but they require a power inverter to change the direct current of the solar panels to alternating current to feed the motor. This conversion also causes the alternating current motors to run hotter than normal. This is one reason to use direct current motors most often with solar systems.

Verify the voltage and current requirement of the DC motor. Also check the voltage and current output of the solar panels. The motor used in this example is a 12-volt DC motor with a current requirement of one amp. The solar panels are 12-volt units with a current output of 0.5 amps each.

Connect the two solar panels in parallel to increase the current output to one amp. If you need more current, add more solar panels in parallel. If you need more voltage, connect the solar cells in series to increase the voltage. To connect the solar panels in parallel, connect the positive wire from each solar panel together. Then connect the negative wire from each solar panel together.

Connect the two positive wires from the solar panels to the positive terminal of the DC motor. Connect the two negative wires from the solar panels to the DC motor.

Place the DC motor and solar panels outside in direct sunlight and look for the motor to start turning. You may have to point the solar panels directly at the sun to get the motor started. It usually takes more current to start a motor than it does to keep it running.

Things You'll Need:

  • 12-volt DC motor (1 amp)
  • 2 12-volt solar panels
  • 12-gauge electrical wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire strippers
  • Plastic twist caps
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