A critical design element of any wireless sensor network (WSN) is how to power the sensors.
Options include providing a self contained power source, an energy storage unit (e.g., battery) and incorporating some method of energy harvesting from the ambient environment.
For sensors that are located outside, the most prevalent energy source is solar, followed by wind.
Related Article – Energy Harvesting In Wireless Sensor Networks
The area of Precision Agriculture focuses on increasing crop yields while simultaneously minimizing the amount of water, nutrients and pesticides necessary for growth. Implementing a wireless sensor network that monitors and controls localized plantings (e.g., vegetable beds or trellises, vineyards, fields, etc.) can significantly reduce the agricultural inputs costs while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact due to excess water and fertilizer.
Related Article – The Use of Wireless Sensor Networks in Precision Agriculture
Sensors deployed in a Precision Agriculture WSN need to collect data (e.g., soil moisture, pH levels, temperature, leaf color, stem diameter) and transmit information on an hourly basis. Solar energy harvesting combined with high performance batteries allows these sensors and modules to operate without any additional external power. Energy harvesting removes the life cycle limitations imposed by using a battery by itself, and also decreases the system size and cost as a smaller battery can be used.
Compact solar batteries and photovoltaic (PV) energy harvesting solutions are available from Sol Chip .
They use a propriety “CleanTech” technology to eliminate the need for an expanded solar panel area. Their design integrates a miniature solar solution to provide a perpetual power supply for wireless sensor and mobile electronics. This is described as:
The Sol Chip Everlasting Solar Battery harvests light energy to power billions of individual appliances. Through its innovative IP, Sol Chip’s technology integrates all the components required — in a single battery unit — to harvest and supply sustainable solar/light energy to low-power applications.
Sol Chip’s technology utilizes low-cost manufacturing flow, thereby increasing overall efficiency and decreasing design complexity, while reducing cost.
Use of Sol Chip solar batteries is not limited to Precision Agriculture applications. These devices can also be incorporated into outdoor wireless sensor networks for environmental monitoring, traceability systems and general data logging.
For Precision Agriculture, it’s expected that targeted use of this technology can reduce the use of chemical products such as fertilizers, herbicides and other pollution products and yield safer crops.
(Image Credit – Sol Chip )
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