Much information has been written about portable solar power. The same is true for the amateur radio hobby. However, there is not much information available for the solar ham radio enthusiast. Understanding how to size equipment for a specific need is key to insuring the right equipment is placed into service. A central source is being developed to provide the ham radio operator with authoritative information to make such purchasing decisions. Consider the benefits of using alternative energy for camping, participating in a DXpedition or when called in to participate in local emergencies.

The DXpedition

DXpeditions are very special events held by ham radio operators for the benefit of ham radio operators around the globe. Ham radio operators plan out the DXpedition for months and then gather supplies and equipment, apply for permits and foreign licences necessary to operate in various exotic and sometimes dangerous locations around the world. The central purpose of the DXpedition is to allow fellow ham radio operators the chance to win awards. Some ham radio operators wait for years to contact just one of these unique locations. The reader should realize that some of these locations may be no more than a small knoll jutting out from the middle of the ocean.

The awards called DXCC are granted by the American Radio Relay League located in Newington Connecticut. After the proper documentation has been submitted and validated, ham radio operators receive the awards and proudly display them in their ham shacks. The ham shack is generally a room where the ham keeps his equipment, project workbench and displays badges, post cards called QSL cards, awards and other special information gathered by his operating station over time.

As you might imagine, alternative energy can play a huge role in the case of the DXpedition. With today’s advances in solar technology, small flexible, waterproof panels may be rolled up and easily stowed with the other gear to be transported to the location of the DXpedition.

Portable panels do not generate enough power to run full-sized high frequency HF radios which are used in long distance DX communications. However, there are numerous applications for alternative energy. Running low power Handie Talkies, recharging cell phone batteries, running lights around the camp site are just a few of the uses for this amazing technology. Jackets and other articles of clothing have flexible solar cells integrated directly into the fabric.

Low Power QRP Operation

Low power operation called QRP is another perfect application for small., flexible solar panels. QRP is defined as operating a ham radio with 5 or less watts of output power. Think of communicating with people using the same power that is emitted from a night-light bulb. Of course this form of communication is more challenging over long distances using high frequency (HF) radio equipment, but many ham radio operators love a challenge. At one time many years ago, I made a QRP contact (known as a QSO) using morse code (known as CW) with a station located in Hawaii. (My ham shack is located in New York).

High Power Operations

Using rigid solar panels in conjunction with a power regulator and one or more deep cycle marine battery may be used to operate high frequency HF radios running up to 100 watts of output power. There are specific formulas used to determine how to size required solar panels and battery required for such operation. The Solar ham radio Web site contains formulas and other important information about applying alternative energy to radio operations.

Source by Gary Utz