Solar Panel Storage for Earth Sciences’ Power Station

Solar Power Station in the field.


In AY 2015-16, a capstone design team, consisting of Kenny Garner, Evan Schrodel, and Adam Jones, design a solar power station that the Earth Sciences department could use in their three week Field Camp experience.  The power station had two solar panels (expandable to four) that plug into a tongue-mounted power distribution box.

The mechanical design of the panel ‘storage for transport’ section was lacking.  This semester, in their mechanical design class, a group of 16 mechanical systems engineering students will be designing competing storage and transport modules for the solar panels.

This blog will document the progress of this endeavor.

The transportable green energy station was my Capstone project. My engineering team contacted the Earth Science Department to learn about their requirements for the solar power system they needed. Earth Science explained that they needed a system for charging smart devices and laptops in the field; we estimated power usage to be 1.6 kWh per day. The system required to be maneuverable by two men and able to fit on the front of their travel trailer. As systems engineers, we looked to the solar market to find them the system they needed. Number one rule in engineering is “Don’t engineer something you can buy cheaper.” We found their solar station online. The JASPak 300 Solar Generator provides 1.8kWh of storage and 300W charging capacity for $4,899.00. We agreed that a system could be engineered cheaper with a better design for their specific needs, so we took on the project. Evan, Adam and I engineered a portable Solar Generator that provided 3kWh of storage and 400W charging capacity for $2,424.00. The price comparison at the end shows an increase in economic efficiency of 64.15% in kWh cost and a 39.87% in charging Watt cost. I am thankful to say that the Earth Science Department validated the systems requirements, and that they are pleased with the service the Systems Engineering Department provided.” – Kenny Garner, B.S., ’16

Trailer mounted power distribution system at 2016 EIT Open House


Mechanical Design team met with Beth McMillan, chair of Earth Sciences, and Mike Deangelis, faculty member in Earth Sciences, to look over the trailer and start determining functional requirements.


Mechanical Design students Austin Kerr, Jason Reed, and Adam Ness measure critical specifications for the trailor.  Dr. Beth McMillan goes over functional requirements with the students.


The Mechanical Design class brainstorms possible functions for the device and forms design teams.


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