OutBack Power Technologies recently announced the general availability of the FLEXmax Extreme, an outdoor-rated charge controller optimized to work with solar energy sources to ensure a regulated power supply.

“The big thing about it is that it doesn’t need a fan,” said Mark Cerasuolo, senior marketing manager for Outback Power, during an interview with Urgent Communications. “It’s the first charge controller on the market that is both outdoor-rated and fan-less.

“It’s a significant step, because—for the first time—now you can put renewable-energy systems in places where you couldn’t before.”

Cerasuolo described the FLEXmax Extreme as “really the first sealed charge controller on the market,” and noted that the solution is contained within a National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) 3R-rated enclosure that can be installed outdoors and can withstand harsh conditions.

Renewable energy from solar arrays is being used extensively to power wireless-communications sites that are off the commercial power grid—something that is common in developing nations that have opted to invest in wireless infrastructure rather than wired communications, Cerasuolo said.

In addition, solar power often is used as a complement to battery backup at key sites—particularly those in hard-to-reach locations—for LMR or cellular networks, Cerasuolo said. With the FLEXmax Extreme, it is easier for the military and public safety to leverage solar energy when commercial power is unavailable, he said.

“For public safety, the implications are large,” Cerasuolo said. “You can use renewable energy really under any circumstances and in any environment, and you can locate renewable-energy systems in very remote place, or places where it simply is going to be hard to service anything.”

Phil Undercuffler, director of product management and strategy for OutBack Power, echoed this sentiment.

“The FLEXmax Extreme charge controller extends OutBack Power’s ability to make critical renewable energy accessible around the world, even in regions and industries that have never considered renewable energy possible,” Undercuffler said in a statement. “Our solutions deliver reliable, independent and efficient clean energy to even the most extreme and remote locations.”

According to an Outback Power press release, other key features of the FLEXmax Extreme include:

  • Advanced circuit topology that reduces radio-frequency interference;
  • High-efficiency operation and low self-consumption of power, which improves on-site energy harvesting and contributes to lowered fuel consumption in generator-based or hybrid installations combining both renewable and conventional energy generation schemes;
  • Protective conformal coating to prevent corrosion;
  • Continuously dynamic maximum power point tracking (MPPT) operation to optimize solar power output;
  • An operating range of -40 to 60 degrees Celsius (-40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) to accommodate a variety of environments and applications;
  • 98% conversion efficiency;
  • A ground-agnostic design to support both positive and negative ground systems without requiring additional components. 

Pricing for the FLEXmax Extreme is $1,200 per unit, which is about 50% more expensive than a unit with similar performance characteristics that is not designed for outdoor installation, Cerasuolo said.