How To Build A Solar Generator (3,000 Watt) – Part 1

Note: The original design of this solar generator used a 2,000 watt inverter. This has been upgraded to the new 3,000 watt model in the latest version and several other improvements. Before you build the solar generator following our plans, be sure to watch the new intro and updates video below so you are aware of the changes!

Introduction

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 Pelican 1620 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 3000W / 6000W Peak AC Inverter

Kreiger 2000W Inverter

The Kreiger 3,000 watt power inverter 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 0 Gauge battery cables and main fuse.

When this post was first created, we used the 2,000 watt unit which is no longer available. The 3,000 watt unit installs and wires up the same way, although the unit in the videos and photos is the older 2,000 watt version.

Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel & Charger Kit

Solar Panel And Charger

This kit includes a very high quality Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline solar panel as well as a 30A solar charger that is matched well for our needs. The kit also includes a set of MC4 solar cables for easy install.

Optima Blue Top 8016-103 Battery

Optima Deep Cycle Battery

The Optima Blue Top 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

Below is a list of components used in this post and their current Amazon prices.
(If you are using an Ad Blocker, the list may not show)

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.

55 thoughts on “How To Build A Solar Generator (3,000 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.

  12. Mark, I attempted to send you and email yesterday, July 30 after inhaling your 6 videos. WOW! I am in AWE of your creativity, style and neatness. Do you respond to emails?

  13. Hi Mark..
    Thank you for posting an awesome tutorial for making these generators..
    I’m very excited about doing this project , which will be quite a new experience for me, but feel absolutely positive by your videos that I can do this..! Lol
    I do have a question on batteries. I noticed that some of the high end made generators have the Lithium Iron batteries used . I know that they are less in weight and get more charges , but is there anything else I should know? If they are
    good to use , can you recommend one that holds a lot of power..? This is all very new to me so I’d appreciate any wisdom and advice..

    Thnx… Tommie

    1. Hi Tommy, I am confident you can build it too! Yes, Lithium Ion batteries are much lighter and that is why most cordless power tools have switched over to them. They discharge at a much steadier voltage as well, but need additional electronics to monitor and protect them from overcharge and discharge. They are also more expensive, but another issue to check into before jumping over to them, is most solar charge controllers do not work well with them. I have not fully researched this side of things, because I wanted to keep the budget for the build within reach for more people.

  14. Hello Mark! I have a pretty urgent question of you if you don’t mind! I am building one of these this week (absolutely incredible tutorial by the way!). Anyway for an event I’m helping out with this weekend, I need to have 2kW consistent power over the course of 9 hours. I know its a lot and I’m struggling to find a way to make it work. At this point I have ordered, piece for piece, your recommended items with only a few changes.

    Essentially my question is, how many batteries (same model as yours), do I need to put in parallel and how many panels should I have to reach this requirement. Is it even possible?

    Your quickest response would be greatly greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    Jonah

    1. Hi Jonah, I just saw your question. That’s a tough one to answer as there are a lot of variables. When you say 2kw consistent over 9 hours, do you mean they will be actually using 2kw of load the entire time? If so, that’s going to take a pretty big system. The batteries will be draining down pretty quick with that size of a load. It would take 20 of these 100w panels to produce 2kw in full direct sunlight. That is the lot of power!

  15. Hello Mark,

    great project and presentation.

    I am in the process of replicating it with some modifications (2 100W panels, MPPT charge controller, 2 Optima BlueTop batteries)
    I was wondering if it would make sense for efficiency purposes to configure it as 24V (panels, charge controller, batteries) and then step it down to 12V with a transformer like this https://www.amazon.com/uxcell-Converter-Regulator-Transformer-Waterproof/dp/B01LY8D7U0.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thank you much,
    Martin

    1. Hi Martin,

      That is an interesting question. I am not certain but I would think that stepping 24v down to 12v to power a 12v inverter would be less efficient (due to the conversion loss through the 24v-12v converter) than using the same two batteries in parallel (so they are running at 12v) would be to power the same 12v inverter. Now with that said, I have heard 24v AC inverters have an efficiency edge over the 12v ones. Although they are less common, would always need 24v, and you would have to find one that fits for your application. Let me know what you end up using and how it works out!

  16. Hi Mark,
    Love your video. Followed it but made some modifications. Question, I have 2k watt pure sign wave inverter & per manufacturer, suggests it must be grounded. I read somewhere it doesn’t have to be because it’s under 5 kilowatts & will be used indoors(garage) while portable 100watt panels will be in the backyard. The argument is how can it be called portable if it’s grounded. Your thoughts?

  17. Iv gotten mine pretty wrapped up. Still
    Waiting on my VMAX 135ah battery to
    Come in but everything looking ok on tests so far.

    I was able to fit the krieger 3000 watt as well as a Reliable 2500 watt pure sine as a back up in my pelican 1650 case. It’s not wired but can be in a matter of minutes. In event of any EMP type event I want a back up. Il likely keep an extra charge controller inside as well. I was very meticulous with wire management and used auto wire conduit for management and organization. One other major difference for my case is a 1/2″ piece of plywood I mounted with construction adhesive to act as a base for hardware mounting. I just didn’t want fasteners showing on the outside for waterproofing and aesthetics. Shoot me an email or send me yours and il send some pics.

  18. I was wondering how you were providing ventilation for the unit. Does it get hot after the inverter has been running for a while?

    1. Haven’t had any issues with heat / ventilation yet. Most of the high current / power uses I needed are intermittent so the unit doesn’t get too hot. The inverter will shut down if it overheats before any damage occurs, but this has never happened to me so far. If it ever does, I plan to just open the case and let it breathe!

  19. Hi Mark, I really need you help. Could you send me a phone number or email address to contact you. Please just send it to my email address so I can get some information from you. I hope this finds you in the best of health and spirits, Chic

  20. Hi,
    This is a fantastic video. I like that you published a video showing it’s capabilities powering some tools. What kind of results have you had peering other things? Fridge, fans, etc.

    Thanks

  21. Hi,
    This is a fantastic video. I like that you published a video showing it’s capabilities powering some tools. What kind of results have you had powering other things? Fridge, fans, etc.

    Thanks

  22. Hi Mark, thanks for all of the time and effort you put into this. I am going to build one of these but had a few 25ft 4ga jumper cables laying around that I was thinking of using as the power cable from the panels to the generator (I believe you are using a 25ft 12ga wire). I know that 4ga is overkill for this application, but do you see any reason that a jumper cable couldn’t be used for this (ie. insulation, resistance, etc.)?

    Also, I have some surplus lithium battery packs laying around from a previous project (wired in 12v packs totaling ~120ah/1.4kwh @ ~18lbs) that I was thinking of using in lieu of lead acid. If wouldn’t mind, do you mind shooting me an email?

  23. I have an Electric golf cart with 4 12-volt batteries already. Can I utilize those batteries to running household items – as well as recharge it via the solar panel?

    Thx

    1. You can definitely use the batteries as long as you have them wired in parallel for a 12v system. The components I used are all geared for a 12v system, not 24v, 48v, etc.
      you may also need to keep them upright and in a ventilated enclosure depending on the battery construction / chemistry.

  24. Hi I’m new to this but setting up off grid and was looking for a way to have quiet power without an entire field of panels. I love this idea and an going to do it. One question – how would i hook a wind turbine in the mix? I know your product is portable but I’ll have mine stationary\fixed. Here in Maine, wind is a must in the winter. Thank you for your fabulous instruction and saving one old vet a ton of $$!

    1. Sure! Just set up your wind turbine to charge the battery as you would with a dedicated wind system. Both the solar and wind turbine will contribute to recharging the batterys. You *might* even be able to wire the wind turbine into the same charge controller, but I am not sure on that one. It will depend on how much voltage / current the wind turbine can produce.

  25. Thanks for all the great questions / comments guys. Sorry I was out of town for a couple weeks and was backed up on the day job as well. I am doing my best to keep up with the questions / emails I get but I am definitely backlogged. I will answer as many as I can, but I don’t know all the answers either!

    Feel free to chime in and help others if you know an answer to a question. It is my hope to make this site / forum community based in the future. I would love to have great useful content from lots of perspectives and backgrounds!

  26. I’m sorry to keep bothering you. Is it possible to link two or more of these together? I have been reading the other comments and know already that for my application I’ll need a pure sine wave inverter, but I’m not sure how to link the gennies to each other. Thanks

  27. I need a solar generator for our home so my mom’s oxygen will run in a power shortage. Would you make one of these and sell it? If so, how much?

    1. I have one I made the exact same way and it includes 1 – 100watt solar panel. That should run your moms machine. I can sell You that one. I can send you pictures. Let me know.

      Justin. 941-320-9386
      I live in Florida.

    2. Hey Pat. I can also custom make yours to the way you want it. This is what I do because I am a disabled vet with nothing to do so I make these boxes to sell. I have not made a website yet but I will customize the box however you want. Let me know. My email is
      Jtzb03@yahoo.com

  28. Hi my name is Juan I Built your solar generator tu use in Puerto Rico and It’s work fantastic thanks I would like to ask too you too show me how to install 2 panels to the System

    1. To Juan Martinez,

      I lived for over 8 years in PR, and am getting ready to go back soon. I am interested in bringing a bunch of these (as many as I can) to Borinken and Vieques, and I’ve been in discussions with some friends with a solar power company about building a solar generator along the lines of these ones, with parts that are readily available on the island now. Would you have any insight into what the availability is in PR for the components needed to build this design. I am wondering if I will need to bring a container load of components, or if I could just find the parts there?

      What do you think? Do you know anything about the current availability of these parts needed on the island?

      Will Amazon even deliver to PR?

      At any rate, good luck to you and your family.

  29. Mark,
    Great videos! I’m considering building one for emergency backup power. Ice storms are a threat here but I don’t like the idea of relying on a generator and gasoline. I have a new furnace and am concerned about the quality of power. Any thoughts on running furnaces and HE gas fired water heaters. Is a pure sine wave inverted required? Simple substitution but pricey .

    The inverter link to Amazon is pulling up a smaller unit.

  30. Hello Mark,

    Great videos, I just wanted to know why not use Lithium Ion batteries? They’re lighter, more reliable, and requires less time to charge compared to lead acid batteries.

    1. While I think everyone can use the type of batteries they prefer, I still go with lead acid batteries for now, since they have a longer track record, lower initial cost, are widely available, easier to recycle, and less specific about their operating conditions. It just comes down to individual preferences for a given application.

  31. For Chris Dresser
    I’m assembling the components to build this system in Vieques. I found no components readily available in Puerto Rico. Comment here and I can let you know my process for acquisition. Amazon will deliver some. Maybe I can get you contact info through the administrator

    1. I already sent a few less rugged but lithium solar generators to PR. The only issue I found was getting batteries shipped. Shoot me an email if you want dettails.

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