How To Build A Solar Generator (2,000 Watt) – Part 1

I started looking into some of the biggest portable solar generator units on the market, because the idea of a completely silent generator that can run large power loads while never needing gasoline is a really cool concept. Whether you want to run a portable table saw, or go tailgating  / camping where the noise of a standard generator would just be irritating, we will show you step-by-step how to build a weatherproof indoor/ outdoor solar generator!

Solar Generator Build – Quick Links

Part 1 – Component Overview – (current step)
Part 2 – Component Testing

Part 3 – Mounting Internal & External Components
Part 4 – Wiring the Solar Generator
Part 5 – Plexiglass Cover & Design Updates
Part 6 – Solar Panel & Battery Bank Expansion

After seeing what was available, I found myself wanting to design my own solar generator for a number of reasons. For one it will be a lot cheaper, second, I can add several features I wanted to add that were not built in to the manufactured units. Finally, because it will be a really fun project!

By building your own, you will learn all about small off-grid solar setups, and also be able to fix the individual components if you ever have problems with it down the road. You can also easily modify the plans to build a permanent style off grid solar power setup for a cabin or camper.

For comparison, here is a popular manufactured unit. It is nice looking package, and if you don’t care about cost it might be a good option for you, especially if you are not really the maker type.

Goal ZeroYeti 1250

As of this writing, the above unit is selling for $1,999.95. It includes a 1250 Watt Ac inverter with a 1500 Watt peak surge capacity. It includes two 30W panels.
The solar generator I am going to show you how to build will cost half the price, include a 2,000 watt / 4,000 watt peak AC inverter, a 100W solar panel, a high quality true deep cycle AGM battery. I also will add extras, such as integrated LED flood lamps, a high current port for attaching jumper cables, and some others.

Main Components for our Solar Generator

I selected the components listed below based on the quality of reviews, as well as price and features suitable for this project.

Rugged Pelican Case 1620

Pelican Case

I selected this case for our portable solar generator because it is waterproof / weatherproof, has rugged several sturdy handles as well as rolling wheels. I unit will be quite heavy once complete, so I needed something that can take a lot of abuse!

Kreiger 2000W / 4000W Peak AC Inverter

Kreiger 2000W Inverter

This unit should be able to run nearly anything that you could normally power off an standard 15 Amp wall outlet. It also comes with a mountable remote power switch that we will be mounting into the side of our case, as well as heavy 2 Guage battery cables and main fuse.

Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel & Charger Kit

Solar Panel And Charger

This kit includes a very high quality 100w monocrystalline solar panel as well as a 30A solar charger that is matched well for our needs.

Optima Blue Top 8016-103 Battery

Optima Deep Cycle Battery

This AGM battery is a deep cycle battery, which means we will be able to discharge the battery somewhat further during night time use or during short high power loads without shortening the normal life of the battery.  Another advantage of this battery is that it has both standard top posts as well as threaded posts for easier connections. One other important feature is that the battery can be mounted and used in any orientation, which is important considering our solar generator may get stood upright or laid in different directions during normal use.

Main Components for the Solar Generator

Additional Components & Supplies

You will need two sets of these:

Tools You May Need (if you don’t already have!)

 

Click here for Part 2 where I will show you how to function test all of your components before we start the actual build.

21 thoughts on “How To Build A Solar Generator (2,000 Watt) – Part 1”

  1. Hi Mark, excited about this build! We live near Hilton head and after the recent hurricane we started to think about alternative energy during an evening on the patio when the power was out!

    I have a question about your chosen battery. you’re building a large powered unit which I like and main Concern would be to power the refrigerator.

    How did you choose your battery? Why one and not two? I saw on Amazon that the optima battery has 55AH, is this enough to power things for a good length of time (say 2-3 days incase any day is cloudy and for extra).

    I am still learning about electricity, so please bear with my questions.

    Can’t wait for video 3, thank you!
    Stephan

    1. You can run as many batteries in “parallel” as you want. You will maintain 12 volts but increase the capacity or amp hours with every battery added. But keep in mind that added battery’s means added weight. You will have to get a larger box with wheels that will be able to handle the added weight. If you really want to go down some internet rabbit holes for batteries (which is dangerous and expensive) you can run two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series to make it a 12 volt system and have more amp hours. All electric golf carts run 6 volt batteries for more range. Full time RV’ers also run 6 volt batteries for more capacity, but wire them so that they will still power all their 12 volt items. Now if you have deep pockets look into “Edison Batteries” or “Nickle-iron batteries” Pretty expensive but nice stuff. But the more batteries that you run the more solar panels you’ll need to replenish them. Then you can’t forget about your solar controller. That can only handle so many volts and amps too. So a simple solar generator like this guy built will honestly be able to do quite a bit. If you want a little extra help get a small inverter generator from harbor freight or Home Depot. They’re quiet and can supplement power when needed while topping off your solar generator on a cloudy day.

      Then there is always wind generators. But That’s enough shit hits the fan prepper stuff for one night.

  2. This is a fantastic tutorial presentation. I’ve been considering building a solar generator/battery backup solution for my home (we get many storm related power outages each year.) You have done a very good job planning out the components of your generator and assembling them into a finished kit that looks as good as any I’ve seen advertised for sale.

    I’m planning to tweak the idea and use two panels (hinged together) and 2 batteries in the case which will require either a bigger case or some changes in the included components. I also want to put mine to use running low voltage exterior lighting when not needed for emergency power, so I get double duty from it throughout the year.

    Thanks for the thorough explanation of how to get the project done!

    1. Sounds like a great plan Andrew. Please post some pictures when you are done with your build. I would love to see how it comes out!

  3. The battery quick connect should work to jump a car battery, or to charge the deep cycle battery in the box from a car battery right?

    1. That is correct Josh. The high current quick connect is tied directly to the internal battery, so current can flow either way. Which ever side has a higher voltage, will supply current to charge the other.

  4. Appriciated your video. In fact, I am about to build my solar generator based on your lists. One thing I still think it would be helpful is the schematic. Do you have it?

  5. I love the idea and the detailed plans you provided. Thanks so much. I’m going to give this a shot myself.

  6. Hello Mark,

    Thanks for the tutorial, I plan to build a solar system using your specifications. I was just curious as to what load your current specifications can handle. I’m planing to build a unit that supports a household of Fridges, A/C units, lighting, Tv’s.

    Will having multiple batteries help with long term usage. Also should the batteries be wired in a series or parallel connection? Also how long will it take for the battery to be replaced?

  7. Hi Mark, thanks for the greta write-up, currently using this to build my own.

    Question: My chosen Victron inverter strongly suggests to ground the unit. Any tips on achieving this in a trolley-type generator?

    1. Yeah, I have found a lot of differing opinions on this. In the case of a permanent installation setup, I would ground the inverter per manufactures recommendations. For a mobile / portable solar generator setup, grounding can be difficult. Lots of these inverters are used in work truck / vehicles, where the same problem exists. I would check to see how your inverter is recommended to be installed in a vehicle application and design it to be similar.

  8. Hi,

    I just put this same Renogy system in at my cabin in Talkeetna Alaska. I was impressed with the quality and simplicity of the system…1 year later it is still ticking along. So nice to have led lights and phone chargers in a remote location.

    As with Stephen, I am interested in how you chose that battery…?

    Thanks for the tutorial!

    E-

    1. I chose the Optima Blue Top because I had purchased one for another purpose (robotics application) in 2002, and it is still working! It’s weaker now, but after 15 years I was impressed! I am not sure if they are the same quality now or not, but they were the right combination of AGM, size, capacity for our needs here. When I designed the battery expansion unit, space wasn’t as big of a concern for that so I went with a 125AH AGM that is more purpose built for solar applications.

  9. I just completed the same generator. For some reason my voltage on the USB panel display says 13.4 V and the inverter says the same thin 13.4 V. Why is it not showing 12.4 V. Is it to high or ok with 13.4 V.

    1. That’s completely normal Justin. They call them 12v batteries, but the voltage can vary depending on the conditions. When the solar charger (or AC charger) are charging the battery, normal voltages can be as high as 14 volts or even slightly higher. You don’t want the voltage to exceed 15 volts though, however the chargers we are using are designed to limit their full charge voltage automatically.

  10. Having a hard time seeing all of the info on how to build one. Due you have any other way to see the info

  11. Nice work Mark,

    I watched the video and surprisingly, I was able to follow along with everything you were saying 😀 I’m fixing to build one of these myself. There’s only one thing that I am thinking about changing and I’d like to get your feedback if possible.

    I am thinking about upgrading the non-solar charger from the listed 1.5A charger to a 7.2A charger shown here:
    http://a.co/4TSwToB

    Stephen Harris from battery1234.com says:
    “Harris Tip #4
    Under NO circumstances would I go lower than a 6 amp battery charger. DO NOT buy 1 or 2 amp ‘trickle chargers’ EVER. They are not intelligent and they usually end up destroying a battery PLUS they NEVER have the ability to bring a discharged battery back up”

    The NOCO Genius G7200 12V/24V 7.2A UltraSafe Smart Battery Charger is a bit pricier, heavier and not as mount friendly, but I think it might provide a good option for AC charging.

    As someone who has actually built this thing, and thus has more experience with it than I do, do you forsee any problems coming from this substitution???

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Chris, glad you liked the videos!

      The alternate AC charger you selected looks like a good product, and should work fine also. It is pricier, like you pointed out, but if you plan to recharge your batteries by plugging into existing AC a lot, it will recharge faster due to the higher output current.

      I am going to have to disagree with the guy you quoted stating that any 1 or 2 amp charger will destroy the battery. The product I used in the video is absolutely designed to be able to be connected all the time, and will not overcharge the battery. It is indeed automatic and will “float” the battery once it is fully charged. It currently has 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 623 reviews, so I cannot believe it destroys batteries. But the one you link is also good, and if a faster recharge rate is what you are looking for, give it a try!

      Good luck with the build!

    1. Hi Joseph, no not currently, but I do go over every single connection in the wiring video. I may add a full schematic later but haven’t yet.

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