# fresh meat

Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Hello everyone,

I am currently just lurking here.
I just wanted to introduce myself, say hello and prepare you all for my misguided questions....please be kind.

Thanks.

"Morpho"

p.s. what's a watt?
Just kidding!....sort of.....
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Re: fresh meat

Welcome Morpho!

You don't need to duplicate your post... I think everyone here pretty much hits the "New Posts" link--and having multiple threads on the same subject just confuses people where to reply.

Regarding what is a "Watt"... It is not a bad question at all.

How much electrical math have you had? The basic equations are:

V=I*R=Voltage=Current (Amperes) * Resistance (Ohms)

W=V*I=volts*amps=Power in Watts...
W=V^2 / R = I^2 * R

Watts is a "rate" -- basically like Miles Per Gallon is a rate.

A 100 Watt Light bulb tells us how much power the light is burning--but not how much energy is needed to run the bulb for a period of time (a 20 MPG gallon car -- how much gas do we need to make the "trip).

So, in physics (and chemistry and such), there are other units (Joules, Erg, and such) that are used in the MKS (metric system)--however these are very small numbers. So, for residential and commercial use, they made up a unit called a Watt*Hour. Basically, run a 1 watt load for 1 hour, you have used 1 watt*hour of energy (like 20 MPG car, run it on 1 gallon of fuel, and it will go for 20 miles).

So, a 100 watt light bulb running for 2 hours:

100 Watt * 2 Hours = 200 Watt*Hours

Or, run a 400 watt light for 1/2 an hour:

400 watt*1/2 hour = 200 Watt*Hours

Or--the same amount of energy was used.

The related unit is the kWatt*hour (kilo-watt-hour). That is:

1 kWatt*Hour = 1,000 Watt*Hours

For our homes, the utility bills in kWhrs (again--an easier number to deal with on the bills--200 kWhrs @ \$0.10 per kWhr = \$20.00 is my monthly power bill, is easier than 200,000 Watt*hours * \$0.00010 per Whr = \$20.00).

The biggest confusion for most people--me included at times--is the difference between Watt and Watt*Hour. You need to know both for designing a solar system...

Watts is like the Horsepower of the generator (peak power needed to run everything at once).

And the Watt*Hours is like the fuel tank--on average, running some lights, microwave, fridge over 24 hours--how big of storage tank (battery) are you going to need, and how much solar panel (plus sun) is going to be needed to fill up the tank at the end of the day.

Either you will need to study basic electricity--or ask a few basic questions at a time--until you get a hold of the whole thing. It is not hard, but you can drown if tossed in the deep end of solar.

Lastly, we normally stress conservation here before throwing up solar panels all over the property and stuffing batteries in the basement.

Typically solar electric power is 2-10+ times the cost of utility power ("Grid Tied" to "Off Grid" application range of cost).

It is almost always cheaper to send money on conservation than to spend money on generating your own power (and typically, a lot less frustrating).

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

it might also be a better intro to us by saying what you're interesting in in particular and asking us the questions pertaining to it to see if we can help you achieve those goals
• Posts: 717Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Hey welcome Morpho bring on the misguided questions they will be right up my alley.
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Halfcrazy, niel, BB,
Thanks for the welcome, and thanks for the info.

I am interested in having a good base to make a reasonable educated decision regarding an Off Grid PV system for my soon to be started cottage/greenhouse here in the great frozen north.

I have no understanding of electricity...other than it is magic and you shouldn't bathe with a toaster in your hands.

Thanks for all the info BB I will read it...re-read it...google it...sleep on it....probably have a nightmare or two about it. Math and I have a long and tumultuous relationship, all I need to see are two numbers close enough together that they might interact and I break out into a cold sweat.

Okay, I will read this and get back to you with my second question.

Thanks again.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

BB,

I hope you had this stuff written down somewhere and you just copy and paste it for newbies like me. If not, thanks for subjecting yourself to Carpal Tunnel risk.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Morpho,

As has been suggested, read, reread and learn all that you can before you buy ANYTHING! The recurring mistake that people make, is they have some preconceived notion of what they should do, they go buy a bunch of stuff, only to discover that it doesn't quite meet their needs.

There are some really sharp folks here, many who have done your homework for you in terms of reinventing the wheel. Take advantage of their expertise.

As we have said over and over again, "Avoid the Ready, Fire, Aim! and "Do the math".

Spend time getting ahold of a real idea of what your loads are likely to be. 2 things are true, in off grid, (and grid tie as well) The first is that the loads WILL grow with time, and second conservation of all sorts is ~1/10 the cost of PV solar, so that for every \$\$ spent on conservation, you stand to save 10 on the PV cost.

Good luck,

Tonyt
Re: fresh meat

Actually, no--I do not.

All "freshly baked" (or half-baked) for your pleasure.

We try not to give "canned" answers here... Everyone has a slightly different question and level of experience.

And, especially, with new users--the WARNING:

Off Grid systems with lead acid batteries are more dangerous to work than regular 120/240 VAC household wiring.

Batteries will output more current into a short circuit than 120 VAC home plug can--welding a dropped wrench on to the terminals.

Also, batteries are filled with hydrogen/oxygen gas--very explosive.

And batteries are full of very strong sulfuric acid. Also, batteries have no off switch / breaker to make them "safe" to work on--they are always "hot" and ready to "bite". Wearing safety glasses, removing rings, covering the battery bank with a board/plastic/rubber mat when working near them, and wrapping electrical tape around your tools are all common safety tasks when working on these systems.

Make any one mistake--and frequently it will cascade into a worst situation.

Do not work on, or design/install any electrical system unless you are 100% sure of what you are doing (or have a knowledgeable friend to help).

Regarding help from this forum, I can point to the "search tool" to try and find common questions--and I have also had good luck with Google and a custom search:

The "site:" limits your searches to a particular website/path. Sometimes the "natural language questions" get me closer than the "Search" button above (and sometimes, not).

Have fun!

-Bill :roll:
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Good day everyone,

I'm going to ramble what I think I know and then you can all correct me if thats okay?

Watts: the measurement of power used (or made available by the panel??) at any given time?

Volts: the amount of force needed to move the electricity from point a to point b in a circuit?

Amps: the actual amount of electricity in the circuit?

Is any of this right?

Okay...so let me start at the Module and work my way through the production line.
The panel converts the light through chemical magic to electricity and depending on the panel size (Watts) you will have more or less power produced and available to be stored?

Why are panels "advertised" as 130watts, or 180watts and not their amps or volts as well?
And what is the benefit in a panel that is 180 watts but has different specs regarding Amps and Volts? Wouldn't a person want the most of everything?...Bigger Amps! Huge Volts!...what am I missing?

Thanks for the safety tips BB! Fear not, I have a healthy respect for all things that can kill me. I only had to have the toaster/bathtub lesson once to get a clear picture!...but who doesn't love a slice of toast while in the bath?
The boys and girls at MIT are probably trying to solve this dilemma as we speak.
Do the batteries off-gas?

Hi Icarus, I have spent the last few months designing the cottage to be super small and super efficient so there will be little room for excesses of any kind. I hope this will serve me well when it comes time to ready aim and fire!

Thanks again everybody.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Morpho,

Panels are not "advertised" by volts or amps,, because the measure of power is the combination of volt AND amps. Watts is the result.

Different panels put out different voltages with similar wattages. For example, a 100 watt panel might be built to put out 24vdc , so it would put out somewhere around 4.16 amps.

Or a panel might put out 12 vdc, so a 100 watt 12vdc panel would put out,,,,8.33 amps.

Remember VXA=W or W/V=A

Watts are the measure of power.

The advantage of higher voltage is that it is easier to move through any given piece of wire. ( and there are reasons why people may want higher voltage battery banks or input voltages). Once again, remember if you double the Voltage, you halve the amount of amps required for the same amount of power. So for example, if you send 15 amps down a # 14 wire @ 12 volts you can send ~180 watts,,, the limit for #14 wire. If on the on other hand you send 15 amps down the same wire, but this time the voltage is 120 volts,, you can send 1800 watts safely. Ten times the voltage, same amperage = ten times the wattage.

Tony

Remember, the only dumb question is the one that is not asked! Go visit the off gird section, and do a search on this site for other cabin folks. There are a bunch lurking here and there and several in Canada. One advantages you have in Canada (where in AB are you?) is that we have long days in the summer, coupled with cooler temperature. One thing you may not know, but PV panels put out more power when they are cool, and significantly more when they are very cold. (Batteries tend to suffer somewhat however).

Tony
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Icarus,

oh...that makes more sense....I think. I will ponder this for a little while.

I'm going to be near Drayton Valley...almost straight west of Edmonton, so cold will be plentiful for the panels....too bad about the short winter days.

THANKS!
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Okay, I think I understand the relationship between Amps, Volts and watts.
Thanks.

I have done some looking around and have filled out endless calculators. Some made sense...others left me scratching my head.

The best I can figure I will have a load of about 1800 Watt hours per day.
5 CFL's, 5 LED's, I already have a danby freezer that I have heard I can convert to a cooler, two computers, a pump that will draw surface water no more than 10 feet away and 6 feet in elevation, Charge up a cell phone that is so lightly used I couldn't even find it right now if I wanted to, No TV, no stereo (other than the computer), a root cellar for most refrigerator needs. Basically a pretty modest house and lifestyle.

What kind of system would all the gurus go with?...considering I may want to expand it a bit....or is this just a loaded question with so many variable I don't even see yet?

...let me have it!

Thanks again.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

i think it's good that you want to learn and that you are asking questions, but i think you may benefit by reading more here on the forum and elsewhere too before thinking about a system, big or small. home power magazine also is good reading and you can get a free issue online in pdf form. if you have dialup it could take all night as you will find it to contain more than 10mb.
Re: fresh meat

OK, once more from the top... You want to run a 1,800 Watt*Hour load in Lindale, Alberta, Canada... So a "city" so small, that in Google Maps the only feature that stands out is a stack billowing steam.

Using the PV Calculator, picking Edmonton Alberta (a small suburb 50 miles east of the Metroplex of Lindale)... Use default settings for everything, start with 1kW of solar panels (easy to scale) and 0.52 derate factor--because you are off-grid:
``````Results

Month
AC Energy (kWh)
Energy Value(Can\$0.0862 per kWhr)
1      2.94          50     4.31
2      4.36          66     5.69
3      5.82          94     8.10
4      5.26          78     6.72
5      5.47          80     6.90
6      5.56          77     6.64
7      5.35          74     6.38
8      5.40          77     6.64
9      4.45          63     5.43
10      3.94          60     5.17
11      2.63          41     3.53
12      1.79          28     2.41
=====================================
Year      4.41          789     \$68.01
``````
In February, you will, for typical weather patterns, generate an average of 28 kWhrs per month or just under 1kWhr per day of useful 120 VAC energy.

Depending on your needs, you may try running your panel at 80-90 degrees vertical (help clear snow during the winter)--run as above with 90 (vertical) panel--you will get about the same amount of power--but if you have snow, it will probably be easier to clean, and you might gain some from white snow reflecting sun into the panel...

OK, next assumption, lets assume that you will need to use a generator (or other alternate energy source) during the worst 3 months of the year. So the minimum 30 day average is now 60 kWhrs per month, or 2 kWhrs per day (2,000 Watt*Hours per day).

With this assumption, a 1 kW solar panel system would seem to meet your minimum needs for 9 months out of the year.

I, however, agree with Tony's (Icarus) suggestion of taking your "guestimated" load and multiply it by two... So, 1.8 kWhr*2=3.6 kWhr planned system.

Using our 1kW PV Calculation Results we can figure:

(3.6 kWhrs per day needed / 2kWhrs per day)*1kW ref panels = 1.8 kWatts of solar panels

1.8kW (1,800 watts) of solar panels will give you more than enough power for reasonable growth. And, if you keep your loads down in the winter--your daily average available power needs are almost covered too (especially if you don't need an electric fridge/freezer during this time--another reason to watch seasonal loads).

So ~1,000 to 1,800 watts of solar panels.

Next, battery sizing... Normally recommend 6x your daily load. And, unless you need 12 volts DC, recommend 24 volt battery bank--will support a 2,000+ watt inverter quite nicely--if needed.

Assume inverter is 85% efficient, 3 days of no sun, and 50% maximum discharge:

1,800 Watt*Hours * 1/0.85 * 1/24 volt battery bank * 3 days * 1/50% dischrg = 529 amp*hours at 24 volts

This battery is sized based on 1,800 watt daily load... With 1,000 watt of solar panels, which works out to round 5-7% ratio of solar charging current to battery capacity (recommended is ~5% to ~13%).

This 529AH battery bank is on the "large" size of the range... You could choose to just double the solar panels and leave the batteries alone--or double the panels too (from ~1,000 watts to ~1,800 watts of solar panels). Your choice.

Picking a generator--you don't want to oversize the unit. A 529AH battery bank would probaby be OK with a 650-1,000 watt charger--which may run on a 2,000 watt generator. If you go with a larger battery bank, you may need to step up to a larger unit:

529AH * 5% = ~26.5 amps min
529AH * 13% = ~69 amps max

If you make the battery bank larger (or smaller), size the charger/genset appropriately. Try to avoid running a 600 watt charger on 6kW genset... Generally, generators drop in fuel efficiency once they are under 50% load (some are pretty good down to 25% load)--You may end up "buy" 3kWatt of fuel flow and only using 600 watts of electricity. On the other hand, you will usually be able to run a charger at 90% of generator output--so the genset does have to be larger...

Many folks run the genset in the morning to bulk/quick charge the battery bank and run other loads (like washer, vacuum, etc.)... Then shut down once the battery is about 85%+/-5% full, and let the solar panels bring it back to full power.

I will stop here... Our Host is a good place to start looking for components--but being in Canada, you may wish to purchase local (in country) based on shipping and duties.

Outback and Xantrex make good Solar Charge Controllers (60-80 amp controllers). Get the Remote Battery Temperature Sensor.

For solar panels, look at the 100 watt and larger units--less wiring and generally lower \$\$\$/watt. As long as you look at good brands of mono/poly crystalline panels--buy "\$ per watt" delivered cost.

For an inverter, highly recommend a TSW (True Sine Wave) inverter for running your home. More efficient and "electrically" compatible with anything out there. If you are tight on money--get a smaller TSW for your electronic loads and fridge (1,000 watt max or so, less if not running the freezer). Get a big, cheap, MSW (modified square wave) to run your well pump, vacuum, and table saw.

Lastly, I would high recommend a Battery Monitor... Something like the Trimetric is a good low cost unit. I really like the Xantrex Linklite and Linkpro units as they have a progamable output that can be set to warn/turn off inverter if you get below XX% battery capacity... If you save running your batteries dead just one time, you probably will have paid for the unit.

And while you are on the Battery Monitor Page, look at the Kill-A-Watt meter--great way to measure your 120 VAC loads in Watt*hours to better estimate the needs of your computer, fridge, etc.

The above is a first guess based on commonly used rules of thumb and assuming flooded cell batteries (cheap and rugged). Other options like AGM batteries and such are available depending on your needs. Any questions?

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Niel,
You are right...I'm slowly working my way through the "world wide interweb" and gaining some knowledge. To be honest I have learned more from the few posts I have had answered here than most things I've read elsewhere.
Thanks for the Homepower magazine info.

BB,

We have a stack!????!...WITH STEAM!!!??!!?? Progress is a merciless tyrant I guess.

"Any questions?"
hahahaha
yes. Too many to count.

Thanks for that!
A place to start.

One of the local retailers told me a 650watt system would cover me and then some.
Which I was kinda dubious of anyway. The thing that kicks me in the teeth is it will cost 16 grand for that system. A 1500 watt package from the same guy's will ding me 26 thousand.
I look at the prices In the States even before rebates etc. and drool

Then I look at what the Power company wants me to pay to hook up to the grid (\$8000) and then I have to pay them every month for the power...plus fees and taxes and delivery charges and charges for the charges.

Makes me want to skip the whole thing....strap a generator to a stationary bike and peddle my butt off!

Okay. I'll read some more....give you guy's a break and come back when I'm smarter.

Thanks.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Buy a Honda Eu 2000 or possibly 3000 Genny. Use it to build the cabin, then start building the system as budget allows. Start with the battery bank size accordingly, then a 120vac charger like an IOTA or Xantrex TC 40. Wire a transfer switch like and IOTA, with the genny on one leg, the battery on the other.

With this start you can charge the batteries during the day (or night while you are using the loads if you prefer) until you can afford to buy you panel array. Make sure you start with the charge controller sized for the panel array and battery bank.

It is not unlike how my system evolved. We had a genny based system. We added a 12vdc system to run the fridge ignitor and a couple of reading lights. From there we added our first panel. We now are just about 100% solar including lighing, internet modem and laptop charging, water pumping, radio etc. using the genny perhaps 1 day/month to eq or top up.

We do however use a generator for the shop(s), we have a honda powered washing machine. No TV helps.

Icarus

PS. Consider your fridge. If you are only going to use the cabin part time, I would suggest a good Dometic propane fridge. Adding insulation to the cabinet, and a fan on the condenser coils can dramatically improve the efficiency of these fridges.

If on the other hand you are going to be there full time, consider a good .5kwh/day energystar fridge. The purchase cost will be less, the PV/battery costs will be more, but over the life of the fridge it will be cheaper.

We have used Propane fridges for decades and I never considered the idea of a compressor fridge until it was too late in my new house. If I had to do it over I would have added the PV cost. The cost of Propane will, in the long run continue to go up, and a 8cuft Dometic uses about 1/2 litre (1/2 quart) per day.

Tony
Re: fresh meat

Looking at the cost of utility power. Assuming \$0.10 per kwhr, 20 year "pay back" period, 1,800 WH per day:

(\$8,000 + 365days*20yrs*1.8kWhrs per day*0.10 per kWhr) / (365days*20yrs*1.8kWhrs per day) = \$0.71 per kWhr

At this point, somewhat cheaper for utility power vs off-grid power (which usually runs \$1.00 per kWhr or more).

If you can share the costs to run the line to your place, might reduce the price some.

The value of your property might increase by the value of the utility feed. However, you might also have to pay increased property taxes on the increase in valuation.

The price of power will probably go up... But so will the price of replacement batteries too (new set every ~3-7+ years).

Understand your desire to "...stick it to the man...", but there is a reason that the man usually wins one way or the other.

Regarding your power use--look at your computer and fridge power usage... Sounds a bit high/extravagant vs your other "minimalist" plans.

If you don't need a freezer or fridge for much of the time and use a nice, low power laptop or equivalent--you can get your power usage down a lot more.

Tony/Icarus lives, probably in similar conditions, on 210 watts of panels (see his signature).

If you like music--running an MP3 and a small amplifier (I am too cheap for an Ipod) for music will consume much less than the computer/laptop. A boom box and/or satellite radio might be an option too. Even my laptop uses ~20-30 watts or about 400 Watt*Hours when used 12+ hours per day.

"Conserving" and knowing your actual power usage (see kill-a-watt meter again) are your best tools here.

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 717Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Morpho we are in central maine and with 2000 watts of panels we produce 8,000 watt hours a day on the average and contrary to what all the websites say i do about as well in the winter because of the cold and the reflection off the snow. i keep fairly decent records and we do maybe 11,000 watt hours in the best of the year and about 8,000 in the worst.

Your loads sound very minimal and i would highly doubt you need a 2,000 watt pv system. I would recommend you look at the rest of the year and base the decision on that. and just plan on running a backup generator some in the winter. it really is part of being offgrid. one could never afford to build an offgrid system to eliminate the generator.
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

My winter yield is way better on an hour for hour basis than in the summer. Because of the quirks of my exposure, I do better on a daily basis as well.

Summer and winter I get about the same hours of "good sun", but in the winter time reflection off of snow and ice, coupled with cold panel temps and my yield is much better.

In the winter I get 4 full hours of sun, a bit more if I play with the panels a bit more. I can put a couple of my panels on a temporary rack on the ice and get close to 7 if I turn them throughout the day.

Also, as Bill suggests, there are some significant savings to be had by looking hard. For music, we use a 12vdc good quality auto radio (bought initially for it's signal capture ability) coupled with an Ipod and Satellite radio, connected to good quality home speakers. The whole thing draws ~ 1 amp (12-15 watts) as opposed to ~40-80 to play through the lap-top, or +100 for a home stereo.

Tony
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

BB, icarus, halfcrazy

Yup I figured I wasn't going to get away with strictly solar and since this will be my full-time residence I will have to resort to a Generator off and on.

The Computer is non negotiable, It is my livelihood for better or worse. I can do without a lot of things. I'll beat my clothes over a rock before I can lose the computer.

Reflection from the snow improves your results?...what happens if you use some big mirrors to bounce light onto the panels?....yes I realize I will have to adjust the mirrors a lot throughout the day, but I have to fill the time somehow. Or is this just stupid?

I can forgo the computer music...and even ipod music. I have a guitar, banjo, flute, and drum. (Not set up as a one man band...yet.)

Thanks for the cost analysis BB. I know there is no free lunch and the Man is going to get me either way. It just rubs me the wrong way that a private enterprise that wants to sell me power makes you pay to have it available. Its like a book store charging it's potential customers a huge fee upfront to build the bookstore in the town, then charging them for the books they buy!

my gut says I can make it work by keeping things simple...I like candle light...

Thanks again.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
Re: fresh meat

Regarding how much "your system" will produce... It is always a gamble...

For example, PV Calc says I should generate about 264 kWhrs for January... Last year, January was about 206 kWhrs. The year before 303 kWhrs.

This year, another 300 kWhrs (virtually no rain so far--another issue).

Also, if you don't have grid tied solar, it is difficult to figure out how much your array can actually output--the solar charge controller will normally reduce the array's output as the battery becomes fully charged.

If you have a grid tied system (or dump type controller), then you can get a better idea of your array's capability--as it is producing its maximum output throughout the day--which is consumed by the GT Inverter or Dump Controller.

The other thing to watch is how your power from the panels is consumed... The charge controller may tell you how many amp*hours or watt*hours it outputs... But you also have losses on the downstream end... Battery charging losses (very roughly 20% or so) and inverter losses (another 15% or so)... So the overall losses from the charge controller to AC load can be:

80% battery * 85% inverter = 68% efficiency (or another 32% loss)

With so many variables (from weather, to equipment, to end user loads), it is somewhat a guess as to exactly what size system you would be happy with.

If your loads are "flexible" (over and above your computer usage as measured by a Kill-A-Watt meter), you certainly can build a smaller system and see how it works for you. Only run the wash and vacuum on sunny days--use the genset when you have too... Add more panels if you need. And when your "training batteries die" (usually, start with a "cheap" set of golf cart batteries until you get experience--pretty much everyone kills their first set of batteries and gives them an early death--maybe 3 years or so), size the next set for your, now known, needs.

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

I know that you "like candle light", but spoken from someone who has been there: Remember, loads WILL grow with time and it is much better (and cheaper) to design this in from the beginning. You may think that electric light is something you can do without, or music, or the radio or whatever, but the reality is, living day in and day out with little (tiny) energy use is very trying. Try reading a book night after night by kerosene lamp. ( Alladin's or propane mantle lamps which put out enough light to read by also use a very significant amount of Kerosene (2-3 cups per night) and they stink unless you use very good quality Kerosene. They also consume O2 at a considerable rate, making a tight house problematic). There is a reason that the Amish are reported to go to bed early.

Go a couple of weeks without hearing the news on the radio, or no music eventually the radio adds sound good.

My point is, you live in the 21st century and have lived in a world where life's conveniences have been ingrained in most of us at the flick of a switch. Very few people can go on such a strict diet for very long. Even our tiny consumption is very hard for most people to imagine.

As for sticking it to the man for "having to pay for it's availability". You are beginning to see how expensive it is to put together a power supply system for yourself. Imagine the cost of a system that provides you with virtually unlimited energy at the flip of a switch, 24/7, 365/yr. Now imagine paying for that system when the cost of that energy is ~.\$10 kwh. So let us suppose that you are conservative and you only use say \$1.00 a day, or about 10 kwh/day. Your annual bill would be ~\$365 year. Now let's assume that the hard cost of bringing you the grid,, just the last mile cost, not even considering the full grid/generating distribution system,, just the extra wire, poles, transformers, fuses meters etc is \$4000. (1/2 your estimated \$8k cost) How do you expect the utility to EVER recoup that cost selling you \$365 worth of power per year? That \$365 worth of power isn't "free" for the utility either, so you can't apply 100% to paying off the infrastructure cost, perhaps only a small percentage. Add to that the cost of coming and reading the meter, repairing your "last mile" when an ice storm takes it out and you realize that you \$8000 cost for the grid is cheap at twice the price.

Also consider this,,, if you bought and fueled a generator to run your house 24/7 (and you ran it 18 hours/day) lets say a 3kw model to run you peak loads, it might cost ~\$2000. A years worth of fuel at say 5 litre/day @ say \$1.00/litre, would be \$1825/year. The (hard) cost of the genny and the fuel would paid back in about 2 years. Factor in depreciation of the genset, and the payoff might approach 1.5 years.

My point in all of this is to you and others who wish to go off grid is just this,, go in with your eyes open, with a realistic expectations of what you are and willing to live with long term. I would bet the farm that most people are prepared to live with way more than they think they are.

Tony
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

BB,
Thanks again.
Training batteries! There must be some kind of rules to follow so you simply don't mess up the batteries. Do this and don't do that...kind of rules.
probably more fluid than that.

hmmmm?

so many things to consider.

Icarus,
Thanks again.
I can appreciate your point regarding the power company needing to cover costs etc. But they only need to bring the power less than 100 feet. I'm not talking miles. The equipment they install has got to be purchased at an extreme discount. It's not like it's me walking into "Chuck's Transformers". They buy in massive volume. They also are a long term business that in theory plan on sticking around for 500 hundred years and they charge people for equipment that has paid for itself many times over. AND they get all sorts of tax breaks from the government! etc. etc.
I own a business, every time a client calls me up and needs my service, I don't charge them the cost of my computer, and then charge them for the service. Although I like the idea....maybe these power companies are onto a good thing!

I get your point though. It's all expensive and either put up or shut up!

But we are way off track.

I take it my mirror idea was a stupid one.
...now what do I do with all these mirrors i scrounged up?!
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Let's see,

Live tap of the main, hang or tap a transformer, do a meter drop, install a meter. Doesn't seem cheap, but for endless power, still a bargain.

If electric utilities were such great investments their share price would be higher,or the public utilities would be paying dividends to the customers.

Tony
• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

The power company in question made a profit of 137.5 million dollars in 05....seems alright to me.
Either way, I think I've touched a live wire with you. Sorry.
Not my intention.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
Re: fresh meat

\$8,000 for 100'? Wow--sounds like SF Bay Area--a few years ago my brother-in-law had to spend \$10,000 for a buried run from the pole to his home (over \$xx,000 remodel, they make you bury your feed).

Morpho--I don't think you got anyone upset here... It is that, even though though this is a Renewable Energy Forum (attached to a RE wholesaler/retailer)--we are all a very practical bunch here.

If you have utility power nearby--it almost never makes sense to go off-grid solar.

Most people don't realize how good they have it (with utility power) until we tell them that their RE power costs them \$1-\$2 per kWhr (using "cheap" US supplied materials--can be much more for non-US installations).

Yes, it is nice to "go green"--but most times, going green really means conservation and utility power. Just substituting a on-grid live style with off-grid technology is usually neither green or cost effective.

For Icarus/Tony--I have the feeling that he would install a utility feed to his cabin if it where available. However, I am sure he would not be running a 1,000 kWhr per month bill when connected.

The issues of generating your own power are many. And unless you have lived the off-grid life and all of the issues (old inverter is obsolete, can't repair and need a new one, plus new support equipment because the old equipment won't interface with the new; hail storm takes out panels, kids with baseball, etc.).

I can't say I have lived that life--I am just Grid Tied in a large metropolitan area. But we here try to talk people out of the idea that off-grid is cheap and idyllic . It is neither. But it is better than not having any electricity or heat at all (and usually better than 24/7 generators and fossil fuel space/water heating).

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

No live wire touched here.

I just wanted to reiterate how cheap the grid really is. I do agree that \$8k is a bit steep for a residential hookup however. It's been a long time since I had to do a residential hook up and meter set, but something in the neighbourhood of ~\$500 would seem normal for overhead service drop, double for underground maybe?

Tony

Bill,

Let's see, 30km through the bush from the HV transmission (highline) sub station to step down to what, 164k, 12 km down the lake to my island, transformer on the ground stepped to 240 or hell let's go to 277 3 phase if we are going to go to all the trouble. Wow then I could leave the outside light on when I go to the outhouse! I could even have a light in the outhouse,,, maybe even heat! LOL.

T
• Posts: 7,917Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat
BB. wrote: »
\$8,000 for 100'? Wow--sounds like SF Bay Area--a few years ago my brother-in-law had to spend \$10,000 for a buried run from the pole to his home (over \$xx,000 remodel, they make you bury your feed).

Wow, I got lucky, my remodel, I just ran the service conduit (3" PVC) underground to their pole, and they pulled the wire thru to the meter. I had about a 50' run thru my backyard. It was whatever the standard charge was, and I've got no overhead wires to snag ladders with.
Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
|| Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
|| VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

• Posts: 163Solar Expert ✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

Otherwise you might advise me a PV module from a calculator and a couple of D cells will do the job!

I checked with the power company again and the estimate stands at \$7900.00 big ones for just under 100' of overhead line to the corner of the lot and then anything else is up to me. So, if left up to me an extension cord from there would just about do it!

A little digging around on my bills showed me that the price of electricity has doubled in 4 years and they are upping the rate by an additional 10% this year.

I also read somewhere that it takes 3.3 kWh of energy to deliver 1kWh of electricity to a home. Is this true? Because that is a pretty sad statement if true.

Icarus,
Maybe you don't really want a light in the outhouse. Trust me on this one...I couldn't help but have a look. I was never the same again.
12 conergy panels (3kw)  -  Outback Flexmax 60 CC  -  Magnum MS-PAE Inverter  -  Magnum ME-RC50 remote  -  ME-BMK batt-monitor  -  8 DEKA Solar GC15 230amp hour (48v) Yamaha ef3000ise Yamaha ef2000is
Re: fresh meat

Well, sort of true...

The most efficient coal and natural gas fired generators are probably in the 40-50%+ range for heat to electric conversion.

Another 25-50% energy loss in distribution (transmission lines, transformers, local distribution).

For my electric company--very roughly 50% of my "retail cost of electricity" is for "power" from the generator and the other 50% is for the costs of distribution and transmission (distribution in the larger cost factor).

Morpho, what are your power rates? I assume they are still much less that we pay "on the coasts" of the US metro areas.

Mine run from \$0.09 to \$0.58 per kWhr (I have Time Of Use pricing; depending on time of day, season, and amount of power used--the more I use, the higher the rates--me, I am always at the \$0.09 rate effectively because of conservation and Grid Tied solar--during the summer I "sell" power at \$0.29 per kWhr in the afternoons and "buy" it back at \$0.09--1 year net metering).

If you keep your usage low (~300 kWhrs per month or less), then the power costs are around \$0.12 per kWhr (for flat rate pricing). Over 1,000 kWhrs per month, those go upward of \$0.40 per kwhr (again for flat rate residential).

In the end, spend your bucks on design and conservation first (second, and third ). Solar hot water / heating can be a better deal than Solar PV too. For cold areas, that gets a bit more complex to prevent freezing.

-Bill
Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
• Posts: 5,108Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
Re: fresh meat

You could have the utility light up a temporary construction power pole, or a Mobil home panel with a 100 or 200amp main in it. You could then wire the house (cabin) as needed, using the power from the mobil home panel.

Eventually pull some wire from the mobil home panel to a panel in the house.

I've done this several times,,, it saves the cost of the utility doing on temporary and then one permanent service.

Tony
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