After successfully getting my workshop solar system up and running, this fall I moved on to my next project, transitioning my ham station (what I call my “ham shack”) to emergency solar power. This turned out to be an interesting and fun project!
The solar power industry uses a unique cable connector called an MC4; after viewing a few YouTube videos, I decided to do it right and order a crimper tool specifically for that connector. So, on to Amazon to buy the crimper, MC4 connectors and solar extension cable to add to my existing Renogy solar kit.
On the ham shack side, I had already purchased an Epic PWRgate power backup system from West Mountain Radio. A PWRgate device provides instant cutover to a battery backup if AC power goes down. The original PWRgate has been on the market for a decade; I’ve been very happy with mine, but couldn’t figure out how to introduce solar into the backup strategy.
This new PWRGate version introduced last summer makes that easy! It adds a solar controller that allows the backup battery to be charged by solar power during the day. At dusk, the PWRGate switches over to the shack 12-volt DC supply to keep the battery charged.
After learning the proper MC4 connector crimping technique and routing my new cable into the ham shack, I had to change the cable ends to Anderson Powerpoles. These connectors are a ham radio standard, and the PWRGate expects a Powerpole for its solar input.
Well, the solar cable is quite large (12 AWG), and required me to use 45-amp Powerpole contacts. I’ve always used the smaller 15 and 30-amp contacts, so back to Amazon to order larger contacts.
For my battery, I chose a 100 AH battery from Universal Battery Group.
I’m happy to report that, after two months of service in the shack, the system is working fine! During the day the PWRGate keeps my battery charged via my two 100-watt Renogy solar panels on the roof, then switches my battery back to a trickle charge from my Astron 25-amp DC supply.
The PWRGate has an RS-232 port to allow real-time monitoring of the system. In this screenshot grabbed on a sunny day, it shows the power supply bypassed (13.72 VDC), the battery at 13.08 VDC, zero battery charge current (since it‘s fully charged) and the solar panel producing 20.6 VDC. The final figure is the number of minutes in this state (fully charged), which is 224 minutes.
This new system should keep me on the air for some time when the power goes out!