Energy harvesting from the surroundings is a promising solution to perpetually power-up wirelesssensor communications. This paper presents a data-driven approach of finding optimal transmission policies for a solar-powered sensor node that attempts to maximize net bit rates by adapting its transmission parameters, power levels and modulation types, to the changes of channel fading and battery recharge. We formulate this problem as a discounted Markov decision process (MDP) framework, whereby the energy harvesting process is stochastically quantized into several representative solar states with distinct energy arrivals and is totally driven by historical data records at a sensor node. With the observed solar irradiance at each time epoch, a mixed strategy is developed to compute the belief information of the underlying solar states for the choice of transmission parameters.

In addition, a theoretical analysis is conducted for a simple on-off policy, in which a predetermined transmission parameter is utilized whenever a sensor node is active. We prove that such an optimal policy has a threshold structure with respect to battery states and evaluate the performance of an energy harvesting node by analyzing the expected net bit rate. The design framework is exemplified with real solar data records, and the results are useful in characterizing the interplay that occurs between energy harvesting and expenditure under various system configurations. Computer simulations show that the proposed policies significantly outperform other schemes with or without the knowledge of short-term energy harvesting and channel fading patterns.