The present study developed a high-performance charge/discharge controller for stand-alone solar LED lighting system by incorporating an nMPPO system design, a PWM battery charge control, and a PWM battery discharge control to directly drive the LED. The MPPT controller can then be removed from the stand-alone solar system and the charged capacity of the battery increases 9.7%. For LED driven by PWM current directly from battery, a reliability test for the light decay of LED lamps was performed continuously for 13,200 h. It has shown that the light decay of PWM-driven LED is the same as that of constant-current driven LED. The switching energy loss of the MOSFET in the PWM battery discharge control is less than 1%. Three solar-powered LED lighting systems (18 W, 100 W and 150 W LED) were designed and built. The long-term outdoor field test results have shown that the system performance is satisfactory with the control system developed in the present study. The loss of load probability for the 18 W solar LED system is 14.1% in winter and zero in summer. For the 100 W solar LED system, the loss of load probability is 3.6% in spring. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.