Research Project Summary Information
Commercialization of a Solarscaping Controller(ST4936-1)
An immediate, under-exploited market exists for self-sufficient products for photovoltaic- (PV) powered landscaping, and outdoor fixtures. This project will design, produce, and market an advanced universal solar control system for stand-alone PV and landscape applications. Long-term goals include developing a full line of outdoor products for lighting, fountains, security, signs, mobile refrigeration, etc.
The SolarScaping controller to be developed was based on Solarcraft's "Joule Gauge," an 8-bit microprocessor-driven PV controller and battery monitor that incorporates clear, easy-to-access battery monitoring, intelligent load control with disconnect when necessary, and the ability to be upgraded with snap-in custom software and modules. The new controller has additional software, redesigned packaging, and an improved user interface. These refinements make the controller suitable for extended outdoor use and bring it to the level of sophistication necessary for the target market.
This project developed a New York-manufactured PV controller for markets in New York and elsewhere. Sales are projected at 800 units for the first year, increasing to 9,000 units in the fifth year. Initial customers include landscape architects and designers, exhibit and urban designers, educational programs, solar engineers, water purification companies, nurseries, pond builders, and retailers of outdoor power equipment.
The following improvements were targeted: (1) a built-in timer; (2) dynamically visual metering of (a) the percentage of battery charge, (b) the incoming amperage from the solar array, and (c) the outgoing amperage of the load; (3) an on/off timer override for load and array disconnect (to be concealed so as to prevent tampering); (4) two 12-volt sockets, one to provide current for other applications, and one to facilitate battery recharge when necessary; (5) rear-mounted wiring with waterproof connectors; (6) stainless-steel hardware; (7) customizable circuitry software; and (8) capacity for custom finishing on the face plates. The project investigated markets, developed a controller with repositioned components for encapsulation and improved heat sinking, and then conducted real-world testing with selected customers. The final product includes an infrared remote control and weatherproofing features. A more expanded marketing program is beginning, and the project’s first royalty checks are being generated. Improvements continue on the wireless capabilities of the unit. The project has been incorporated into more than one application.
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R&D - Environment & Energy Res