What is an MPPT charge controller and why is this desirable? A Maximum Power Point Tracking charge controller is an intelligent electronic device that looks at the power output of the solar array that is feeding power into the charge controller and looks at the battery array that is requiring charging and matches the voltage and current to use the maximum output of the solar array. Why is this necessary? If you look at the myriad of solar panels and start to notice their outputs, you will see that the voltages range from low to high and have voltage variation within normal operating parameters. A typical solar panel is constructed to operate in excess of 18 volts. Storage batteries are designed to a set or predefined voltage based on the construction of the battery. Most are designed to operate at 12 volts. If you try to charge a battery with more than 12 volts from the output of the solar panel array, the battery will take the nominal battery voltage from the solar array at the maximum deliverable current from the solar array. Since Amps times Volts equals power and the solar panel is delivering its current at a lower voltage (12 instead of 18), the 6 volts will not contribute to power delivery. This wastes potential power and results in a more costly solar energy system.
So how does the MPPT charge controller eliminate the voltage mismatch? An MPPT charge controller is designed to convert the output power from a solar array into the correct storage battery voltage by transforming the solar array current. This action allows the batteries to be charged at its voltage and no solar array power is lost in the conversion. Using this method results in power conversions of up to 98% and simplifies what once was a technological minefield with multiple charging devices and monitors required to maximize charging efficiency. Not only does the MPPT charge controller not overcharge your batteries and create premature damage, it squeezes every watt out of the expensive part of the solar array which you do not even need to think about!
Quality MPPT charge controls are manufactured by several companies such as . This technology has provided a means to close the cost per watt gap for many people who are trying to go solar but need to conserve cash on installation. Ask around on blogs and forums as many systems have already been built and the issues have already surfaced to the point that you can find out what is working.
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