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Will solar panels work under street lights?
(Moon Panels eh! most people know what solar means, but apparently some don't wink )

Please note this test and article was first done in 2003 as a reply to a question on the Motorhomes Australia forum,
so if it reads a little strange, well that's part of the reason :-)

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Hi Folks,

I have just completed my testing of solar panels under streetlights.

Though this testing was done in my workshop I used the same type of lighting that is most commonly used in modern street lights, namely the 400 watt mercury vapour lamp, it was set up at 7 foot above the panel, much closer than you would get out in the street but good enough I thought for initial testing.

The test equipment I used was a tricky Dickey cheapie digital multimeter, though inexpensive they are very accurate for simple measurements and a handy tool for all at a cost of about $23, the solar regulator I ‘was’ to use was a not so cheap BP BPR2NG solar regulator.

So the first panel I tested was the largest of the Uni-Solars, the US64 watt, these panels are in my opinion the best there is under all conditions.

Hehehe, it might be fun to point out at this stage that these panels are called SOLAR panels.

Ok with the light on lets look at voltage, hmm 13.86 volts, now I don’t think the regulator will accept that as a charging voltage, it needs to be at least 15 volts, this is not looking good.

So lets see how much current is being produced on a direct short circuit of the panel, now set on amps the meter says 0.00 , hmm, ok lets try the 20mA setting, great, success, we have a reading!

The reading was…………… 0.00624 Amps, WOW, if I can park under a street light for 200 hours I could get just over 1 (one) amp out of this panel.

To be fair I also tested a multicrystalline panel, a KC120 KYOCERA 120 Watt panel, one of the largest you can get, voltage produced this time 9.51 volts, and 0.00885 Amps.

So neither of these panels was ever going to put any charge into a battery, I should also note that both these panels were brand new.

Now to be fair Collyn Rivers did not mention street lights, he said "you can even get a fair solar charge by parking under sports ground or supermarket mega-lights".

Now I was not going to go driving out onto a football field during a game to test this out, and the inconsiderate organisers tend to turn these lights off after the event is finished.

As for supermarket mega-lights, Thursday night on the way home from work at midnight I pulled into our local shopping centre that has these sort of lights.

I parked directly under the best quad set of lights I could find, but the green charging indicator light on the solar regulator didn’t even come on, so it was not worth undoing the wires for testing, I packed up and got out of there before security came and asked me to leave :)

Conclusion, and at the risk of repeating myself…………………

Solar panels are truly amazing things, they will turn almost any reasonable light in to electricity, depending on how intense the light as to how much electricity they produce.

But under fluorescent or mercury vapour (street) lights they will NOT, I repeat NOT produce enough current to charge batteries, light up lights, or anything else.

With soap box still intact MrVal waits for the moon panels to surface once again, and they will :)

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