As a bit of a ‘greenie’ i like to see what is possible in reducing my own greenhouse emissions and generally being responsible for my impact on the environment. I was browsing the web the other week and came across this article which describes how someone built a solar powered amplifier. To be more accurate it is a battery powered amplifier (12 volts) with solar panel added to add additional power and /or to charge a rechargeable battery. I have been interested in solar for years due to my mate Johnny Grainger (see his solar blog here).

I had an old pignose amp that i bought back in 2001 – it is a basic 12 volt amplifier that pignose ampworks on a small transistor amplifier. It has a reasonable level of overdrive and can output around 5 watts rms. I used my multimeter to work out it uses around 200 ma of current at 12 volts to power the amp.

John Grainger is a guru in everything solar panels and solar power. He is my ‘go to guy’ when it comes to all things ‘green’ and renewable energy’. He has recently started promoting solar battery storage solutions for solar power systems – the idea being that the solar energy that is not used in a home, from its installed solar system, can neatly and efficiently be stored in ‘solar batteries’ so that the energy can then be directly used to power a home at night. This is a game changer for solar power systems and will make, john says, it possible to be ‘grid independent’ or at least 90 percent less reliant on the electricity grid.

This is from John’s blog:

“The biggest ‘game changer’ has certainly been the remarkable level of interest shown by South Australians in embracing solar battery storage technology. It is estimated that between five and twenty percent of new residential solar power installations (yes, it is hard to pin down the precise figure!) are now incorporating solar battery storage technology. The emergency of  lithium-ion battery technology has meant that storage of solar panel generated electricity will become ‘mainstream’ within the next five years and most Adelaide solar companies will be offering a solar battery storage option. Lithium-ion batteries offer huge benefits over ‘traditional’ sealed lead acid battery technology, the main benefits being:

  • Astoundingly high energy densities possible. depending on their design,  lithium-ion batteries can store large amounts of electrical energy in a small physical size. This means that for an ‘average’ home,  lithium-ion battery packs that can run most electrical appliances for a reasonable mount of time to the total night time usage without calling for a huge (physically) battery bank.
  • Minimal ‘self discharge’ characteristic. The problem with many of the traditional battery technologies was that they suffered from internal electrical discharge – so even when no external load was applied to the battery, those batteries would slowly discharge – wasting precious stored solar energy. Lithium ion batteries have minimal self discharge characteristics
  • High Cycle Life Characteristics. Lithium ion batteries can be charged and discharged many more times than sealed lead acid batteries. this is a critical specification as the rated number of charge / discharge cycles is a reasonable measure as to the longevity of the battery system.”
  • (reference:

This is amazing – i will look to install batteries as an adjunct to my 4.2 kilowatt solar system this year.

Anyway, my pignose amp is now solar powered. I used a low cost ET solar 100 watt 12v inverter for solar panelssolar panel and a 12 volt inverter off ebay (which cost only $32!!) to generate more than enough solar energy to run the amplifier even on overcast days.

Conclusion – Going ‘green’ starts with YOU! By combining a few simple solar components i can now run a small guitar amplifier 100 percent off solar panels. I am going to look to see what other devices i can now run off solar and cut my carbon footprint in the process!