Powering Motus Towers

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Heather Gaya

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Jul 11, 2022, 2:11:32 PM7/11/22
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Hi all,

I've been working on setting up two CTT Sensor Stations in the North Carolina and we're having a lot of trouble getting them powered (and keeping them powered).

Currently, each tower has 1 100W solar panel, 1 marine battery, and the solar charge controller that CTT sells (10 AMP blue box, unsure of the brand), all connected by 10 gauge wire. Each sensor station connects to 1 433 mhz omni (for nodes), 2 433 mhz yagis (for hybrid tags) and 1 166 mhz yagi (for lotek tags). The charge controller is sitting in the battery box, with the sensor station and solar panel mounted about 10 ft up the pole.  

For one tower, we initially got the setup working on one tower, but now the charge controller is acting finicky and seems to just stop recognizing that things are attached to it any time it's even a little bit jostled. I'm not sure if this is just a consequence of a cheap charge controller or if something is wrong with our setup. We also purchased a 500 watt charge controller from harbour freight to see if that worked better, but it showed 0 Amps coming from the solar panel and 0 Amps going to the load and that was it.

For the other tower, the blue charge controller recognized the solar panels and the battery, but the sensor station only flickered and then buzzed loudly when connected. This didn't happen with a direct connection to the battery, so the issue must be in the sensor station somewhere. 

We're running out of field season and I'm getting increasingly frustrated with driving 45 minutes up a mountain just to fiddle with some wires that won't stay connected. Has anyone had a similar experience powering their towers? Any suggestions that could help us get ours up and running?

Best,
Heather 




Matt Webb

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Jul 11, 2022, 3:53:48 PM7/11/22
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Heather,

I'm sorry to hear you're having so much trouble getting power to stay on!  It sounds like you have the right components, but perhaps there's something in the wiring that might be making this finicky...  I have not used either of the Solar Charge Controllers that you are having trouble with, so I cannot speak to their functionality.  The one I use is the SunSaver 10L (here: https://www.amazon.com/Morningstar-SS-10L-12V-Sunsaver-10-Amp-Lvd/dp/B002MQSTQ2) and this has worked very well for me.  I would always recommend that you get crimp connector ends that would crimp onto the ends of your wires connecting to the charge controller to ensure proper connections are made there. (for the SunSaver I use these crimp connectors: https://www.amazon.com/Insulated-Connectors-Electrical-Terminals-MILAPEAK/dp/B07Q2R1TGF)

I would like to know what Marine Battery you are using, can you provide a model name / number, or at least how many Ah it is rated for?  I have had good luck with this battery (https://www.amazon.com/Weize-Battery-System-Camping-Trolling/dp/B07SW353M8)

One more thing I'd recommend, is to use a smaller gauge (higher AWG) wire when connecting from your charge controller to the SensorStation board - the 10AWG would be difficult to ensure that it is getting a good connection as it is so large and un-flexible.  I use something like this and have always had good luck: https://www.amazon.com/Geosiry-Electrical-Wire-Extension-Auto%EF%BC%8CInsulated/dp/B09FDBRQZR/

I don't expect that the problems you're having are on the SensorStation end, I'd bet that there's something going wrong with either the Charge Controllers or with the wiring not making good connection.  It's always a good idea to use crimp-on connectors whenever possible and not just twist wire and hope for proper connections... wire can change shape under heat, stress, etc., and in some cases it can become disconnected even though it looks like it is...

Best of luck!
Matt


Matthew M Webb

Avian Ecologist and Motus Wildlife Tracking System Coordinator

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies

Motus project #281

970.482.1707 x36 (office)

970.405.7155 (mobile - use this number!)


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On Mon, Jul 11, 2022 at 12:11 PM Heather Gaya <heather...@gmail.com> wrote:
Hi all,

I've been working on setting up two CTT Sensor Stations in the North Carolina and we're having a lot of trouble getting them powered (and keeping them powered).

Currently, each tower has 1 100W solar panel, 1 marine battery, and the solar charge controller that CTT sells (10 AMP blue box, unsure of the brand), all connected by 10 gauge wire. Each sensor station connects to 1 433 mhz omni (for nodes), 2 433 mhz yagis (for hybrid tags) and 1 166 mhz yagi (for lotek tags). The charge controller is sitting in the battery box, with the sensor station and solar panel mounted about 10 ft up the pole.  

For one tower, we initially got the setup working on one tower, but now the charge controller is acting finicky and seems to just stop recognizing that things are attached to it any time it's even a little bit jostled. I'm not sure if this is just a consequence of a cheap charge controller or if something is wrong with our setup. We also purchased a 500 watt charge controller from harbour freight to see if that worked better, but it showed 0 Amps coming from the solar panel and 0 Amps going to the load and that was it.

For the other tower, the blue charge controller recognized the solar panels and the battery, but the sensor station only flickered and then buzzed loudly when connected. This didn't happen with a direct connection to the battery, so the issue must be in the sensor station somewhere. 

We're running out of field season and I'm getting increasingly frustrated with driving 45 minutes up a mountain just to fiddle with some wires that won't stay connected. Has anyone had a similar experience powering their towers? Any suggestions that could help us get ours up and running?

Best,
Heather 




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The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations. Learn more at https://link.edgepilot.com/s/380ddb66/KwfJx_mlfkycBx5BMYYNXg?u=https://motus.org/
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Jim Moore

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Jul 11, 2022, 4:54:39 PM7/11/22
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I would add to what Matt said is to make sure you have the correct polarity for the 12 volt line to the station.  18 gage wire has plenty of ampacity for the station.  Check the voltages at the battery and on the power terminals at the station.

Good luck
-jim

Heather Gaya

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Jul 11, 2022, 6:27:30 PM7/11/22
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Thank you everyone! It makes me feel better to know our components are likely correct. 

It sounds like our next step should be to try some crimp connectors and maybe some slightly smaller gauge wire. Interestingly the problem seems to be the battery to charge controller connection specifically, so it may just be something is odd about that port. 


Thanks!
Heather

 

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations. Learn more at https://motus.org
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Heather Gaya

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Jul 12, 2022, 7:16:16 PM7/12/22
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All the connections seem to be working well now (thanks everyone!), but the tower is draining a lot of battery very rapidly. Our 100W solar panel produces about 11.3-11.7 volts, but as soon as the CTT sensor station is turned on, the battery starts to drain faster than it's charged.

Do people usually use more than one 12V battery for their setups? We do have 3 Yagis and 1 omni attached to our station, so perhaps we just need to install an additional battery and solar panel? 

-Heather 

Pat Lorch

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Jul 12, 2022, 7:36:38 PM7/12/22
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I’m with Matt on suspecting the charge controller. It is also suspicious that your panels are only producing 11V. Are they shaded?  Is it really cloudy?

Patrick Lorch

On Jul 12, 2022, at 4:16 PM, Heather Gaya <heather...@gmail.com> wrote:

All the connections seem to be working well now (thanks everyone!), but the tower is draining a lot of battery very rapidly. Our 100W solar panel produces about 11.3-11.7 volts, but as soon as the CTT sensor station is turned on, the battery starts to drain faster than it's charged.

heather...@gmail.com

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Jul 12, 2022, 9:30:56 PM7/12/22
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The panel isn’t in the perfect location, but it looks like it’s getting enough light. The panels can charge the battery from 10.7 to 12.8 in about a half hour (even with clouds, which we’ve had this week) , but as soon as the load (sensor station) is connected it drains the battery below 10 in about 45 minutes or less. 

Sent from my iPhone; please excuse any typos

On Jul 12, 2022, at 7:36 PM, Pat Lorch <plor...@gmail.com> wrote:

I’m with Matt on suspecting the charge controller. It is also suspicious that your panels are only producing 11V. Are they shaded?  Is it really cloudy?

Pat Lorch

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Jul 13, 2022, 12:55:52 AM7/13/22
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I have seen behavior like this in a car with a bad battery and one where one of the cells was low on water. You might check if one or more of the cells are low. 

Patrick Lorch

On Jul 12, 2022, at 6:31 PM, heather...@gmail.com wrote:

The panel isn’t in the perfect location, but it looks like it’s getting enough light. The panels can charge the battery from 10.7 to 12.8 in about a half hour (even with clouds, which we’ve had this week) , but as soon as the load (sensor station) is connected it drains the battery below 10 in about 45 minutes or less. 

René Janssen

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Jul 13, 2022, 8:13:25 AM7/13/22
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I think the battery is not in the best condition. Maybe testing this
would prevent problems. And yes: more battery capacity couldn't harm
and your station for the more longer nights and lower sun angle will
helps the station keep on track.


René

Op wo 13 jul. 2022 om 06:55 schreef Pat Lorch <plor...@gmail.com>:
> To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/motus-wts/CF6C7987-6EA9-4096-B075-D900E2936FDA%40gmail.com.

Cory Holliday

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Jul 15, 2022, 10:10:35 AM7/15/22
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Hello all,

I thought I would add a few notes also.  

I have three solar powered Motur receiver stations (CTT Sensor Stations).  All are powered by 100w solar panels, controllers are Morningstar - Sunsaver 10a - and I'm using Renogy 100 amp hour batteries.  I've had good results so far.  I did have problems with one station not charging and it was a polarity issue as Jim suggested.  On some charge controllers it may not be obvious if polarity is reversed, and the panel on that station arrived unmarked for + and -.

Best of luck,

Cory

Cory Holliday

Cave and Karst Program Manager

The Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

750 Big Branch Rd., Granville, TN 38564

615-504-7427 Mobile



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The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus) is an international collaborative research network that uses coordinated automated radio telemetry to facilitate research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. Motus is a program of Birds Canada in partnership with collaborating researchers and organizations. Learn more at https://motus.org

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