Solar Powered Amateur Radio Station

My home Ham station is inexpensive and it runs independently of the power grid.

There are four main parts of the setup.

Part 1. The solar panel

This panel is rated for about 14-18V open circuit, and is designed to charge typical lead-acid 12V batteries. Maximum power output in full sun is 15W. It is reasonably weatherproof.

15W Solar Panel

Part 2. The power station

DC Power from the solar panel travels into a charge controller, which charges the battery in the power station. The charge controller (small yellow box) prevents overcharging of the battery. The battery inside the power station is a sealed lead-acid type, rated for 12V at 12 Amp-Hours. Also visible in the picture is a smaller backup battery, a smaller solar panel (upside down), and a small inverter, which allows me limited AC power if necessary.

Battery Power Station

Part 3. The radio

My primary radio is an Icom IC-703 Plus, which is wired directly to the 12V power station. This radio can receive signals from 30KHz up to 60MHz, including all of the HF ham bands and commercial shortwave bands. It can transmit with 10W output (voice, Morse code, or digital data) on all the HF bands and the 6-meter band (50-54MHz). These bands are suitable for communication over long distances, which will vary based on atmospheric conditions. From here in North Georgia, I have made many contacts with other hams as far away as California and Canada. Also in the picture, I have a handheld radio, a Yaesu VX-7R. The VX-7R can receive from 500KHz up to 999MHz, and can transmit on the 6-meter, 2-meter, 1.25-meter, and 70-centimeter ham bands (FM only). Visible in the background is a graphical band plan, which shows the frequencies for each band and the limitations on each for things like license class, power output, etc.

My Radios

Part 4. The antenna

The last component of the system is the antenna, which is every bit as important as the radio. This is a simple but decent quality dipole. It is about 75ft. long and works best on the 40-meter and 80-meter HF bands. I was only able to get it about 20ft. in the air, with the ends drooping lower and tied to trees. It would work better if I had it higher up.

The Antenna

So how much did this cost? The basic setup of the solar panel and charge controller, power station, IC-703 radio, and antenna was only about $1000. The VX-7R handheld was about $300. Ham radio doesn't have to be expensive.

Oh, you might hear me sometimes on 20, 40, or 80 meters; my call sign is N4IAN. How's that for a vanity call? ;) 73