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Solar Panel Realizes Outdoor Operation of Raspberry Pi

2017/02/23 16:42
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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A 20W solar panel is used to power the Raspberry Pi. (source: MechaTracks)
A set of devices are contained in a waterproof box. (source: MechaTracks)

MechaTracks Co Ltd announced Feb 21, 2017, that it has released "Raspberry Pi Outdoor Operation Kit," which enables to operate the "Raspberry Pi" low-priced compact PC board by using solar electricity.

MechaTracks (Fukuoka City) is a company that develops and sells electronic devices. The Raspberry Pi was originally developed for programming education. Then, it started to be increasingly used for business purposes and by university researchers. More than 10 million units of the product have been sold worldwide.

The Raspberry Pi Outdoor Operation Kit consists of a solar panel, communication module, etc. It is expected to be used in the field of IoT (Internet of Things). Its price is ¥198,000 (approx US$1,748).

The kit comes with a 20W solar panel and a 20Ah lead-acid battery. During nighttime hours, it is powered by electricity from the battery. It enables to connect the Raspberry Pi to the Internet by using solar electricity and wireless communication even in an outdoor place where there is no power outlet or Internet access. The components of the kit including a 3G communication module for data transmission are integrated with a waterproof box.

The power consumption of the Raspberry Pi is large (several hundred milliwatts to several watts). Therefore, when a solar panel and a rechargeable battery are used as an outdoor power source, their sizes become large.

This time, MechaTracks developed the "slee-Pi" power management module for intermittent operation (timer-controlled operation) of the Raspberry Pi (booting/processing takes place once in every 10 minutes). As a result, the power consumption was reduced by about 80%, reducing solar panel and battery sizes by 20%, the company said.