Is Minnesota Really That Cold in Winter? Find Out with Digi-Key's Weather Center

Have you ever wondered if winter temperatures in Minnesota really dip to negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit? Now you can find out by tracking Digi-Key's Weather Center without having to experience the bitter cold yourself. By the way, the answer is yes, it is that cold.

See the current weather and a view from our roof with the Digi-Key Weather Center.

The Digi-Key Weather Center was developed to demonstrate connectivity to customers by using products available and supported by Digi-Key. Placed on the roof of Digi-Key's 600,000 square foot facility in Thief River Falls, Minnesota in July 2010, you can track the most dramatic of weather changes year-round. The Digi-Key Weather Center is a collaborative effort by members of Digi-Key's Design Support Services team.

"Internet connectivity is quickly becoming more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. We wanted to develop an application that could illustrate functioning logic blocks to our end customers in multiple areas from self-sustained solar charging to remote communications with various sensors. All of the development is being shared in the public domain to jumpstart ideas or reduce our customers' development time. Given our remote location, having some fun with our extreme weather patterns seemed like a natural," said John LeDuc, Digi-Key's manager of Technical Content & Design Support Services. "Components from the semiconductor, interconnect, passive, and electromechanical product areas are used in this project to demonstrate the countless options engineers have when it comes to utilizing the products they have purchased from Digi-Key's expansive offering."

"The purpose of this project is to continually add to it" said Brandon Tougas, Digi-Key's lead project engineer for connectivity, "We want to update the Digi-Key Weather Center with sensors as technology improves and show our customers a variety of ways to connect components and data over the internet."

This introduction marks the beginning of a series of articles dedicated to the development of the Digi-Key Weather Center. Additional articles focusing on the various components in the Digi-Key Weather Center and how they were implemented will appear in future issues of the Microcontroller, Sensors, Lighting, and Wireless Solutions TechZone Magazines.

Digi-Key's Weather Center

Once the structure was assembled and powder-coated, the components were placed onto the structure. The first component was the solar panel (Parallax 750-00032-ND). The main control box (Bud Industries 377-1139-ND), which houses the batteries and charge circuit, was mounted next. In July 2010, the Digi-Key Weather Center was placed on the roof of Digi-Key's 600,000 square-foot facility in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The structure faces due south, the ideal direction to obtain the most solar exposure. The solar panel is connected to the main control box using weatherproof connectors.
Once the structure was securely anchored to the building, the charger and battery were added to the control box. In November 2010, the Digi-Key Weather Center was updated with brackets to hold two more solar panels, making it possible to view most of the southern atmosphere to collect as much solar energy as possible. The battery charger board uses a Texas Instruments BQ2031 lead-acid fast-charge IC. Circuitry is based on TI's DV2031S2 lead-acid charger development board and configured for a 6-cell battery using the two-step voltage charging algorithm. Fast (bulk) charge voltage is set for 14.9V and maintenance (float) voltage is set for 13.7 V. The input power for the charger is provided by the solar panel, which outputs approximately 20 V @ 0.5 A under full sunlight conditions.

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