Tuesday, February 1, 2011

12 Volt 20 Amp Solar Charge Controller

SCC3 - 12 Volt 20 Amp Solar Charge Controller


The SCC3 is a solar charge controller, its function is to regulate the power flowing from a photovoltaic panel into a rechargeable battery. It features easy setup with one potentiometer for the float voltage adjustment, an equalize function for periodic overcharging, and automatic temperature compensation for better battery charging over a wide range of temperatures. The SCC3 is able to handle reverse polarity connection of both the battery and photovoltaic panel.
The design goals of this circuit were efficiency, simplicity, reliability and the use of field replaceable parts. A medium power solar system can be built with the SCC3, a 12V (nominal) solar panel that is rated from 100 milliamps to 20 amps, and a lead acid or other rechargeable battery that is rated from 500 milliamp hours to 400 amp hours of capacity.
It is important to match the solar panel's current rating to the battery's amp-hour rating (C). A typical maximum battery charging current is C/20, so a 100 amp hour battery should have a solar panel rating of no greater than 5 amps. It is advisable to check the battery manufacturer's data sheets to find the maximum allowable charge current, then choose a PV that does not exceed that value. On the other hand, if the solar panel output current is too low, the battery may never become fully charged.
With a few parts changes, the SCC3 circuit can work as a 24V/15A solar charge controller. The 24V parts differences are shown on the schematic.

Basic Specifications (12V version)

Maximum solar charging current: 20 Amps
Nominal battery voltage: 12V
Night time battery current drain: 0.8 - 1.8ma
  • Features
    • Efficient design is suitable for use with low to medium power solar panels and solar arrays.
    • Will work with most rechargeable battery types: Lead Acid (wet or gell), NiCd and NiMH.
    • Common Negative Ground for Solar Panel and Battery.
    • Reliable all solid-state circuitry, no power hungry relay with limited-life contacts.
    • Built in fuse for short circuit protection, load circuitry requires its own fused disconnect.
    • Designed to withstand reverse battery and reverse PV connection.
    • Charging method: Full-on below float point, chopper-stabilized PWM at float point.
    • Temperature compensated float voltage set point for optimal charging at different temperatures.
    • Radio quiet, can be used with sensitive radio receivers.
    • High voltage transient protection on solar panel input for limited lightning protection.
    • Simple 4 screw connector will accept spade lugs or wires for attaching a battery and PV panel.
    • Multiple SCC3 units can be used to connect several (<20 Amp@12Vnom) solar arrays to one battery.
  • Controls and Indicators
    • Red/Green LED for Charge/Float state indication.
    • Equalize switch for periodic maintenance overcharging.
    • Float voltage adjustment trimmer pot.
  • 12V Kit Specifications
    • Nominal Battery Voltage: 12V.
    • Solar Charging Current: 0 to 20 Amps continuous.
    • Recommended Battery Capacity: 0.5 to 400 Amp Hours.
    • Photovoltaic Panel Voltage Ratings: 12V Nominal (17-24V Open Circuit Voltage, 36-48 cell typical).
    • Absolute maximum PV input voltage (not sustained): 26VDC
    • Photovoltaic Panel Power Ratings: 1W to 240W (90ma - 20A Short Circuit Current).
    • Voltage Drop During Charging: 0.5V @ 10A, 1V @ 20A.
    • Float Voltage Adjustment Range: 13V-15V (range can be altered).
    • Float Voltage Variation during charging: +/- 0.03V
    • Equalize Mode Voltage Increase: 1.5 Volts.
    • Charge Controller Temperature Compensation: -7.5mV/Degree C.
    • Night Time Battery Current Drain: 0.8 - 1.8ma.
    • Fuse Type: 20 Amp ATO automotive fuse.
    • Board Dimensions: 3.5" wide by 3.0" deep by 0.95" tall.
    • Fits into a standard 4" X 4" electrical utility box, can be mounted on the cover plate.
    • Board Mounts: 3X 4-40 screws on 1/4" spacers.
    • Assembled Weight: approximately 60 grams (2oz).
  • 24V Kit Specification Differencess
    • Nominal Battery Voltage: 24V.
    • Solar Charging Current: 0 to 15 Amps continuous.
    • Recommended Battery Capacity: 0.5 to 300 Amp Hours.
    • Photovoltaic Panel Voltage Ratings: 24V Nominal (34-42V Open Circuit Voltage, 68-84 cell typical).
    • Absolute maximum PV input voltage (not sustained): 45VDC
    • Photovoltaic Panel Power Ratings: 2W to 360W (90mA - 15A Short Circuit Current).
    • Float Voltage Adjustment Range: 26V-30V (range can be altered).
    • Float Voltage Variation during charging: +/- 0.06V
    • Equalize Mode Voltage Increase: 3 Volts.
    • Charge Controller Temperature Compensation: -15mV/Degree C.
    • Fuse Type: 15 Amp ATO automotive fuse.


The circuit activation section uses op-amp IC4 wired as a comparator to switch power on for the rest of the SCC3. When the PV voltage is greater than the battery voltage, IC4 turns on and sends power to voltage regulator IC3. Diode D2 prevents damage to IC4 if the battery is connected with reverse polarity. IC3 produces a regulated 5 Volt power source. The 5V is used to power the SCC3 circuitry, it is also used as a reference for the battery float voltage comparator IC1a.
The float voltage comparator IC1a compares the battery voltage (divided by R1/VR1 and R3) to the 5V reference voltage (divided by R5 and R6). The comparison point is offset by the thermistor TM1 for temperature compensation. The comparison point is also modified by the Equalize switch, S1 and R2. The output of IC1a goes high (+5V) when the battery voltage is below the float voltage setting. The output goes low when the battery voltage is above the float voltage setting. This provides the charge/idle signal that controls the rest of the circuit.
The charge/idle signal is sent to IC2a and b, a pair of D-type flip-flops. The flip-flops are clocked by the IC1b phase-shift clock oscillator. The clocking causes the flip-flop outputs to produce a square wave charge/idle signal that is synchronized with the frequency of the clock oscillator. The two halves of IC2 operate in synchronization, IC2a is used to drive the PV current switching circuitry, IC2b is used to drive the charging state indicator LED either red (charging) or green (floating).
The clocked charge/idle signal switches bipolar transistor Q1 on and off. The Q1 signal is used to switch power MOSFET Q2, which switches the solar current on and off through the battery. The solar charging current flows through the heavy lines on the schematic. Diode D1 prevents the battery from discharging through the solar panel at night. Fuse F1 prevents excessive battery current from flowing in the event of a short circuit. Transzorb TZ1 absorbs transient voltage spikes that may be caused by lightning.


Connect the solar panel to the SCC3 PV terminals, connect the battery to the SCC3 battery terminals.
Put the solar panel in the sun, the battery will charge up. In systems where the battery is frequently deep-discharged, the equalize switch should be occasionally turned on for a period of several hours to a full day. This increases the charge of the battery's weaker cells.
When the battery is low and the sun is shining, the LED will be red. As the battery reaches the float voltage, the LED will quickly alternate red/green. When the sun goes down, the LED will shut off.

SCC3 Circuit Extensions

Secondary Battery Charger

The above circuit may be used if you wish to charge a remote secondary battery. The #1156 lamp limits the secondary battery's charge current to a maximum of 2 amps, it also protects the remote wiring from high currents in the event of a short circuit. The wiring should be rated to handle more than 2 amps of current, #16 or #14 gauge wire is recommended. Other lamps may be used for setting different maximum charge current values. The Schottky diode prevents a load on the main battery from discharging the secondary battery. The diode has a .5V drop, so the secondary battery will always stay .5V below the main battery's maximum (float) voltage setting. A wet cell lead acid main battery and a gell cell secondary battery will work well in this configuration. Float voltages for gell cell batteries are lower than for wet cell batteries.

Dump Load Controller

A Dump Load Controller circuit can be used to feed excess solar power to an auxilliary load such as a heating resistor. The dump load circuit can be constructed from a second SCC3 kit using custom wired jumpers. The dump load circuit monitors the PV voltage. When the PV has charged the battery and the battery reaches the SCC3 float voltage setting, the SCC3 PV circuit opens up and the PV voltage rises. The dump load circuit detects this higher PV voltage and connects the dump load to the PV.
For 12V systems, the dump load circuit should be adjusted so that it activates at a PV voltage of around 15V. The dump load resistor should be connected across the terminals labeled "Dump" in the schematic. For the optimal dump load power transfer, the value of the dump load resistor should be chosen so that it pulls the PV voltage down to the PV panel's rated maximum power point during full sun conditions. The dump load resistor should have a power rating that is greater than the PV panel's maximum output wattage rating.
The dump load controller provides a low-quality power source. The power is only available when the main battery becomes fully charged and when it is available, it comes in pulses. Dump load power would be suitable for running a heating resistor or a catalytic electrolyzer for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.


Battery Low Voltage Beeper

Battery Low Voltage Beeper



This circuit provides an audible and visual low voltage warning for 12V battery powered devices. When the battery voltage is above the set point (typically 11V), the circuit is idle. If the battery voltage should fall below the set point, the LED will light and the speaker will emit a periodic beeping sound to warn of the impending loss of power. The circuit was designed for monitoring solar systems, but it could also be useful for automotive and other 12V applications.


Nominal operating voltage: 12V
Idle current: 6ma
Low Voltage Warning current: 15ma


U2 provides a 5V regulated voltage reference. U1 is wired as a comparator, it compares the fixed 5V regulated voltage to the voltage on the wiper of VR1, that is proportional to the 12V supply. When the supply drops below the set point, the output of U1 goes low, turning on Q1 and powering the beeper and the LED. The beeper consists of U4, a tone generator, and U3, a low duty cycle pulse generator. The tone can be changed by adjusting R7, the beep rate can be changed by adjusting R5. A small amount of hysteresis is provided by R1 and the current through LED1 and the beeper, this separates the on and off points for the circuit.


The circuit board was made by printing the pattern (see below) onto Press-n-peel blue circuit board transfer film with a laser printer. Etch the board, drill the holes, and assemble the parts on the board as per the board photo. Be sure to correctly orient the diode, electrolytic capacitors, ICs, and transistor. The CA3160 op-amp may be difficult to find, other low power CMOS op-amps may be substituted. A standard 741 op-amp would also work, but the idle current will be higher. The speaker shown was removed from an old computer motherboard, most of the larger electronics supply companies sell a variety of miniature speakers that will work for this circuit. It is not shown in the schematic, but an inline fuse rated at 1 amp should be placed in series with the +12V input wire to prevent fire in the case of a short circuit. The circuit board should be mounted inside of a small plastic or metal project box, holes can be drilled in the box to accomodate the LED, on/off switch, speaker and power wires.


Connect the circuit to an adjustable DC voltage source. Set the voltage source to 11V or wherever you would like the circuit to turn on. Turn on switch S1. Adjust VR1 until the point where LED1 just comes on and the beeping starts.


Connect the circuit to the 12V source that you wish to monitor. Turn S1 on, if the battery voltage is above the set point, nothing should happen. As the battery voltage drops below the set point, the LED will light and a periodic beeping will come from the speaker. If the beeping becomes annoying, turn off S1. Be sure to charge the battery soon, excessive discharging will shorten the life of most rechargeable batteries.


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