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Old 28-10-2016, 18:37   #1
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Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

It is night now here and we have a thunderstorm. I have noticed that when a flash strikes, our regulator (PWN) lights up the 'charging' LED diode.

The flash, a short pause, then the 'charging' LED goes on and stays lit for about 4 seconds and then it slowly fades. Every single time right after a flash.

Are my batteries getting charged by the storm? ;-)

I have never seen this before. Have you?

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Old 28-10-2016, 19:48   #2
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Likely it's broad spectrum EM waves (pulse) from the lightening pinging the LED's. Either directly, or via their circut boards. Though the same energy could be mildly pinging (energizing) some of the circuts in the controller itself. Think of it as lightening being "reflected" by some of your electronics, & that likely such has always transpired on a very low level, in many of your circuts, it's just that you can see it now. Especially as LED's take so little energy to light them.

Or to look at it another way, think of how radios crackle when lightening flashes, even if it's 40nm away. Same thing, only it's not visible on a radio.
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Old 29-10-2016, 07:57   #3
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Big thanks for explaining this to me!

Does it mean a 'mini emp' or something similar?

In my technical naivety, yesterday I assumed the light from the flash was strong enough to make the solar panels create some marginal electricity which in turn woke up the regulator. But now of course I understand the voltage on the panels could not be big enough.

Now that you explained the workings, I understand a pulse excited some coils or circuits within the regulator and this gave the energy required to light up the led.

I wonder if this is sort of like a mini EMP that is often discussed related to nuclear blasts being able to excite and wipe out electric and electronic circuits.

A natural mini emp that does not kill my electronics. A warning sign.

So, should the thunder hit close by, the pulse alone could be big enough to kill the regulator maybe (???).

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Old 29-10-2016, 08:13   #4
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Definitely does NOT have to be a direct strike to kill some components aboard your boat's electronics. I had an electronics engineer explain this to me and he mentioned, just like you, EMP, even if not a huge one.
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Old 29-10-2016, 10:06   #5
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
The flash, a short pause, then the 'charging' LED goes on and stays lit for about 4 seconds and then it slowly fades. Every single time right after a flash.
Are my batteries getting charged by the storm? ;-)
Just the opposite, the storm may be discharging your batteries a minute amount. The charge indicator LED may be powered and controlled by the energy directly from the batteries. The flash from the lightning triggers the circuit and activates the LED and a 4 second delay powers the LED from the batteries and then no charging is detected and the system shuts down and resumes it's low power sleep mode. Of course we can't be sure about this scenario without taking a look at the schematic but it may be a possible root cause. Anyway, it does not seem like anything to worry about.
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Old 29-10-2016, 10:35   #6
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Argghhhhhh!

Many thanks everyone for your insight!

So I have been warned in a gentle way of what may ultimately happen if one of them strikes close enough.

Interesting thing now I can use the regulator as a storm detector ;-)

Cheers,
b.
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Old 29-10-2016, 11:11   #7
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Really, this is a lot of fussing over nothing. Such events have been going on for thousands of years, & will continue long after humans are gone. With lightening, solar flares, & lots of other events sparking up electrical circiuts to a tiny degree all of the time, most of them unknown to us. Or rather, not percieved by us. Look up electromagnetic shielding. You can't achieve it 100% of the time, though we do a much better job now than 20yrs ago, & have to as electronics are more sensitive to being improperly shielded than are old school electical circuts.

While you're lookinng things up, think about how generators & motors (electric type) work. And note that if you pass enough current through some wires to create a field, then this field can cause mechanical movement in things, aka a motor. And the field doesn't care how it gets achieved, even if it's by random atmospheric energy discharges causing electricity to flow through the windings in X.
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Old 29-10-2016, 13:06   #8
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Yep.

Just that I got caught yesterday not expecting to see anything like that - our solar regulator blinking leds on a pitch dark night.

I did more web surfing now and noticed an interesting video where garden led lights illuminate for a brief moment every time a lightning strikes nearby. So I understand now this is far more common than I could imagine.

My initial idea of our solar panels creating energy from lightning flashes is silly in retrospective.

Learning something new each day.

Thanks for all replies!
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Old 29-10-2016, 13:44   #9
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Haha... it is just the lightning flash on the panels that produces a brief power spike at the input of the controller, causing it to try and start charging.

A lightning flash can be so intense that solar controllers need to be protected against the overvoltage it can cause at the input.

Your initial idea wasn't silly at all, it is exactly what happens.
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Old 29-10-2016, 14:12   #10
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
My initial idea of our solar panels creating energy from lightning flashes is silly in retrospective.
Actually, they do. Conventionally, & "otherwise".
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Old 29-10-2016, 14:28   #11
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

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Originally Posted by OceanSeaSpray View Post
Haha... it is just the lightning flash on the panels that produces a brief power spike at the input of the controller, causing it to try and start charging.

A lightning flash can be so intense that solar controllers need to be protected against the overvoltage it can cause at the input.

Your initial idea wasn't silly at all, it is exactly what happens.
Both an emp and a lightning flash solar panel energy or only one of these things?

I could try to disconnect the panels from the regulator next time.

I can also start the meter to see if there is anything going on between the regulator and the battery.

Just imagine the big solar equipment store on a stormy night - all regulators blinking ;-)

Eh. My head is turning. And it feels nice.

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Old 29-10-2016, 20:34   #12
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Maybe a lightning rod and a ten megohm resistor in series would get more charge into your batteries. Just kidding....f
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Old 29-10-2016, 23:22   #13
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

We've had all the LEDs in our electrical distribution panel flickering in thunderstorms.
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Old 29-10-2016, 23:53   #14
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
. . .
So, should the thunder hit close by, the pulse alone could be big enough to kill the regulator maybe (???).

b.

A close enough strike and random bits or maybe everything on the boat gets fried, doesn't actually have to hit the boat.
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Old 30-10-2016, 09:01   #15
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Re: Solar Controler vs. Lightning - an Oddity?

What a blessing it will be when we can harness and store the energy from a lightning strike.
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