Maine Island Cabin Solar Needs

ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭

Hello all,

Thank you for such a GREAT forum.  I have found a LOT of great information and I really appreciate the supportive nature of the members.

I am outfitting an Island cabin with a solar system for seasonal use May – October. I have been trying to decide on gas or electric refrigerator.  I will most likely remove the system in the winter to mitigate theft, so I am trying to keep solar panels to a minimum.  I would appreciate any feedback on my logic.

Besides the refrigerator I will have maybe 0.5 KW daily need:

  • LCD TV - DVD Player - Satellite dish (maybe)
  • 12V stereo system
  • Probably a few LED Lights
  • Propane heaters
  • Propane stove

I plan to run the generator 1 – 2 hours per day

Calculation constants:

  • 4.0 Sun Hours (stats show 5+ May thru Aug, Sept is 3.9 and Oct is 2.6 so I know I need more gen in these months
  • 0.75 charge controller de-rating
  • 0.85 Inverter efficiency
  • 2.8KW usable stored energy in four 6V Duracell Ultra 6V Deep Cycle (assuming 50% discharge)
  • 400W/solar hr (two 290 Watt SolarWorld panels)

 Refrigerator options:

  • 0.55 KW/day option 1 – Unique UGP-290L1 DC refrigerator (192 KW/year)
  • 1.17 KW/day option 2 - Samsung RT18M6213SR (364 KW/year divided by inverter efficiency)
  • 0.0  KW/day option 3 – gas reefer (gotta lug 40 lbs propane per month)

Solar production:

  • 1.2 KW daily production (4.0 sun hrs * 0.75 controller de-rating * 400 W)

I think I am comfortable with option 1, and still meet my other needs, I was pretty conservative in the calculations.

Here is a tentative list of components:

  • $500 - 2 SW290 Panels (80V)
  • $500 - Tamarac STP-LR/090 Pole Mount
  • $400 - Morningstar TS-MPPT-30 controller
  • $150 – AIMES REMOTELF Remote on/off w/LCD
  • $400 - 4 Duracell Ultra 6V Deep Cycle battery
  • $900 - AIMES 4000W charger/inverter (I would like something better)
  • $1400 - Unique UGP-290L1 DC (0.55 KW)
  • $TBD – Auto start generator

Questions:

  1. - I am looking for a 2000W inverter charger with 100 Amp charging. Is there such a thing?
  2. - Suggestions for an inexpensive auto start generator / controller?
  3. – Where do I want fuses in this system?
  4. – any input on any of the system components.

Finally, every day is breezy on the lake.  I am going to check with the local airport for average wind velocities an weigh wind power into the equation.  I am leery of erecting and maintaining a turbine high in the air tho.

Thank you in advance for any feedback!






Comments

  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,860 ✭✭✭✭
    First , is this Maine Island in BC? Just thinking of # hours of solar insolation..
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭
    I have an island system and recently changed from propane refrigeration to electric.Running a generator every day will get old pretty fast and in my experience will end up costing more than propane for the fridge.
    With the low cost of solar panels, I'd consider a larger system and the electric fridge. How much is that Unique fridge? One with higher consumption would probably be cheaper although would require more panels and batteries.
    Island cottage solar system with 1400 watts of panels, Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Trace C40 PWM controller 8 Trojan L16's. My 24th year.
  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    The island is on a lake in the state of Maine, ENE of Bangor, very near Calais.  5+ hours sun from May thru Aug, Sept & Oct are less than 4.  This is a very remote area and the cabin is the only one on the island. Lakes are frozen in the winter and easy to access by snowmobile so I really don't want to attract attention with a huge set of panels. I was beginning to convince myself I could do electric reefer with 2 300W panels but I probably should go propane (like everyone else in the area).  I listed prices in first post and with reefer I will have ~$5K into the system.  Once again, it is theft that concerns me, not the additional investment in more panels.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,545 ✭✭✭✭
    The 4kw inverter could take ~1000wh just being on. Even a 2kw will have material tare losses relative to you estimated load. I would instead consider a much smaller inverter (eg Morningstar 300w psw or Samlex psw), and separate charger(s) like a pair of Iota 45a.

    They aren't auto-start, but the small inverter type generators by Honda, Yamaha, etc are nice. They're light enough to move easily, and fairly quiet and easy on gas in eco mode. Portable generators really aren't meant for AGS.

    A 300w panel isn't easy to move around. Not overly heavy, but awkward and fragile. A couple might not be so bad to take down, best done with two or more people, but more than a couple panels would get old real fast. If you plan on taking them off-site, they can be a real PITA to get in and out of a boat. If possible, I'd try to find a spot to mount them that can be made hard to get at after installation to deter theft rather than taking them down.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,860 ✭✭✭✭
    I have 1680W of PV and I run my fridge from Mid \march till mid Nov. A GE 18 cu. ft top freezer model , runs at ~< 1 kWh per day avg.
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    Thank you all for the responses:

    Estragon, thank you for the smaller inverter suggestion. I am a bit confused as to whether I need a transfer switch.  The generator will be wired to the cabin AC distribution so I presume I would put the entertainment system on the small inverter.  If I did use a larger inverter to power all cabin outlets does the transfer switch rotate between inverter output and generator output?

    Regarding the solar panels, my concern is erecting a billboard that says valuable stuff here.  I doubt that I would take them down in the winter but I will most likely remove the more expensive components. I DO NOT want to be the model solar installation that attracts attention.

    I have spent a fair amount of time pulling together specs on a variety of components, I attached the excel spreadsheet (someone may find this info useful).  I really do like the specs on the Unique 290L1 DC refrigerator. 

    706 Jim, are you glad you converted from propane to electric refrigeration?
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 168 ✭✭✭
      

    706 Jim, are you glad you converted from propane to electric refrigeration?
    At this point I'm happy to leave the propane fridge behind. I was able to sell it for more than the cost of a new, larger electric fridge that is also self defrosting. My Consul fridge was the safety vent model vented through an exterior wall. While this installation kept the air inside the cabin cleaner, after approximately 15 years, the burner flame would blow out in a strong wind probably due to the trees growing larger around the vent opening. We've run the electric unit since August 25 and will be shutting it down in a few days assuming that all went well in our recent 12 day absence.
    My main reason to change to electric was the increasing difficulty of carrying propane tanks to an island in a boat. I've gone from 100lb to 60lb to 50lb tanks keeping in mind that the empty tank weighs 80% of the fuel it holds. Electric will be cheaper to run  as my fridge used about 1.25lb of propane per 24 hour day.
    For reasons known only to propane suppliers,  pounds  are used in Canada and gallons in the US.
    Island cottage solar system with 1400 watts of panels, Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Trace C40 PWM controller 8 Trojan L16's. My 24th year.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,545 ✭✭✭✭
    I use a simple lockout panel to select source. Essentially it has an input breaker for each source and a metal plate that rotates in a way that allows only one breaker to be closed at a time. In my case, I wired circuits I wanted to always be powered (lights, etc) to this panel, and wired bigger loads that don't need to be powered all the time (pumps, etc) to a sub-panel that's only powered by the larger source (a pair of 48v Outbacks or generator). The Outbacks have an internal transfer switch that automatically uses generator power for loads and battery charging if available.

    I could have used an automatic transfer switch instead of the lockout panel, but I figured the lockout was cheaper, simpler, and available at the local big orange box.

    I don't know that my 22 panels are a billboard saying "valuable stuff here". It could also say "these people are too cheap to get grid power brought in, and likely don't have fancy stereos, TVs, etc that take lots of power to run".
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • nickdearing88nickdearing88 Registered Users Posts: 92 ✭✭✭
    You need to wire a trip-roap tied to a shotgun solar security system, LOL.
    Such a shame to have the thieves dictate what you can leave on your own property -- but I understand where you're coming from. It's easier to protect ourselves and our property for those of us who live onsite full-time.
    Current test system: 4-100w Renogy panels mono/poly, 1 string of 4 panels in series - 24v 100Ah AGM Battleborn LiFePO4 batteries - Morningstar MPPT40 CC - 1500W Samlex PSW inverter
  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    I would like to thank Estragon for his words of wisdom, I have rethought my power system and the new diagram is attached. Initially there will be no solar panels, just generator to recharge batteries and run microwave, hairdryer & coffee maker. When running Honda I will switch off battery charger to run 1000W devices. The system is pricing out at ~$1K without the generators (which I have).

    I still have not settled on a refrigerator, the leading candidates are:
    1 - Sundanzer DCR225 (200 WHr/day)
    2 - Unique UGP-290L1 (550WHr/day)
    3 - Propane model TBD

    I have recently seen reviews that indicate the Sundanzer is easily damaged by lightning, since it is not on AC I don't think it is an issue.

    As always, I welcome any constructive input.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,860 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 4 #12
    this is the time to include the Solar panels etc, so they fit in well with the rest of the set up... ;)
    I'm thinking about wiring AC and DC here,  hook ups etc. ,as well as where it will all go,  etc etc



     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • mcgivormcgivor Registered Users Posts: 1,280 ✭✭✭✭
    Charging with a generator is an expensive proposition, the time taken to perform the most important stage of charging, absorbtion, takes hours, at ever reducing current this is where PV is most useful, undercharging by terminating the generator early will dramatically shorten battery life expectancy. Running the generator to completely charge the battery would use fuel Inefficiently, the cost of which could exceed the cost of a few panels, kind of a dammed if you do or dammed if you don't  situation, without some PV involved.
      1500W, 6× Schutten 250W Poly panels , Schneider 150 60 CC, Schneider SW 2524 inverter, 8×T105 GC 24V nominal 

  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,545 ✭✭✭✭
    FWIW, I went the first 3-4 yrs at the cabin using just a couple of golf cart batteries and generators while I figured out the solar, and built a 3 storey 12x68' structure to mount panels, among other things.

    I ran the diesel for tools, fridge, charging etc for part of the day. After that, put food in coolers with ice packs for the night. Arranged work so table saw etc. work done first, then rechargable tool work after generator run time. The golf carts and 300w psw inverter worked fine for lights etc. overnight.

    Doing it this way had a couple of advantages. First, and maybe most important, it forced us to get used to conserving power, ,and helped clarify what, for us, was really necessary vs what we could live without. Second, it gave me time to get a reasonable understanding of how all the pieces fit, so I could get it more or less right the first time around.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 7,284 ✭✭✭✭

    I think this would be a marginal system at 12 volts.
    the amount of power you need to start a fridge, the all night the load of the satellite receiver I think a 24 volt system would be a much better idea

    The other problem is getting a good charger to run off a small generator, most small Chargers have poor power factor and to get 500 watts output, needs 800 watts into it

    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 ,

  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    Thank you for the input guys!  The cabin is in Maine, where I was born & raised, and I live in Reno. Next May I will load up a small trailer and head to the cabin for the summer.  I will put the battery system in place immediately, pre-building and testing a control panel over the winter to minimize install time.  I think I will put a PV charge controller into the control panel but the solar panels will have to wait until I get there (maybe longer). Most likely it will be a 200W-400W PV.

    There is lots of info on this site for choosing panels & controller, but I would be glad to hear any recommendations :-).  The roof would be close to batteries, but it faces SE and has more shading from trees.  The ideal spot will require ~100' cable routing. My initial thoughts are three 12V 100W panels in series to minimize, but I really have not dug this yet.

    I am still focused on the rest of the system.  Some of the reviews for the $160 PowerMax charger have me leaning towards more expensive brands that are 2x to 3x the price.  I hate to spend the extra $ but I also don't want to be scrambling to return or replace a defective charger.

    It may just be me but each component takes hours of research into specs and reviews to ID the best option, eliminate the turds and ID components I did not account for.  I made an audible YES! when I came across the GoPower TS-30 auto transfer switch that powers the charger only when the generator is on and it also has a built in delay for the generator input, absolutely perfect for this application.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 1,545 ✭✭✭✭
    I suspect both the Sundanzer and Unique use the same Danfoss DC compressor. The watt-hrs aren't directly comparable though, as the Sundanzer is fridge or freezer (fridge only consumption listed), the Unique is fridge and freezer. The Sundanzer is a chest type, which will be more efficient than upright, but not as user friendly. I doubt there's any difference is suseptibility to lightning.

    I used a Danfoss to cool a highly insulated chest fridge or freezer, and it is very efficient. Roughly 150-200wh/day at fridge temp, and ~350wh/day at freezer temp, and I haven't finished properly sealing the lid yet.

    I used a pretty basic 6/12v automotive type charger at first. Not ideal, but it got the job done.

    At 100' you'll likely want to do series and mppt controller, as you say. Shade is bad. A small Morningstar or Midnite Kid would likely work well. I used a Midnite "big baby" box for wiring breakers, etc. on the 12v system which worked well. Wiring it up over the winter sounds like a good plan. It takes more time than you might think, and it's easy to forget something or run short on wire etc. You could likely even wire up inverter/controller/etc mounted on a piece of plywood and be all set for spring.

    100w 12v panels will likely cost more per watt, but will be much easier to handle, especially if you intend to take them down seasonally.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    I have been digging into chargers for the last 2 days and I ended up going with an IOTA DLS-55 from chargingchargers.com. The customer support guy was VERY helpful, I think it is a one man show. I plan to use my Honda 2000i whenever possible and the larger chargers need more than this generator can supply.  It will work but will overheat and eventually damage the charger.  I ordered most everything to start building the power control and monitoring and will start that build after Thanksgiving.

    Thank you for the support! It has helped me to avoid some critical errors.  I feel pretty good about the system I will install and it will be far more efficient than the one I initially envisioned.

    Oh, over the weekend I also made a lake water filter that is very similar to the Melco filter available on lakewaterfilters.com. I spent a couple hours in the hardware store and it was $54 at checkout, then I had to drill a couple hundred little holes in the PVC. The Melco $42 15GPH would have worked fine, but it was kind of fun and therapeutic to build my own.
  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    I believe that I now have my final system that is represented in the attached PDF.  Grounding was one of my final unknowns and I found a thorough youtube video here:

    Sheet 2 of the attached PDF has my Cliff notes from this presentation.

    One of the major changes in this configuration is to isolate the Honda generator to only the charger. In bulk charge the 55A IOTA charger requires 100% of the Honda 2000i 13 amp output.  I plan to use the Honda as the battery charging workhorse so I reduced my charger size and connect the Honda directly to it. The primary generator is a Champion rated for 3650 continuous watts and will be used when larger devices are used (microwave, hair dryer, power tools, etc.)

    The PV controller will be at least 50A MPPT and I am leaning toward two SolarWorld SW 290 MONO WOB in series.

    I have cardboard cutouts of all the components and I am now laying out the charging/inverter panel that will be very close to the batteries and a separate remotely mounted systems control and DC power distribution panel.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,860 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 10 #20
    I do not see any SPD's in the pdf.. surge protection device (Lightning Arrestor)
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • mcgivormcgivor Registered Users Posts: 1,280 ✭✭✭✭
    Battery connection wise, move the connections so as to be diagonally opposite, ie. move the positive to the other side if the interconnect jumper, both charging and dischargeing, to provide better ballance of the parallel setup.
      1500W, 6× Schutten 250W Poly panels , Schneider 150 60 CC, Schneider SW 2524 inverter, 8×T105 GC 24V nominal 

  • littleharbor2littleharbor2 Solar Expert Posts: 681 ✭✭✭✭
    Shouldn't the shunt be at the battery negative, allowing it to read charging and discharging?

    2.1 Kw Suntech 175 mono, Classic 200, Trace SW 4024 ( 15 years old  but brand new out of sealed factory box Jan. 2015), Bogart Tri-metric, 700 ah @24 volt AGM battery bank. Plenty of Baja Sea of Cortez sunshine.

  • ScoobyMikeScoobyMike Registered Users Posts: 8 ✭✭
    Thanks again for the input guys!

    Westbranch, where would I put the SPD? Or do I need 2, one on the PV input and 1 on the main generator input?

    Mcgiver - will do...

    Littleharbor2, I really did that on purpose. Power meter measures either the load on battery bank or charger current. The PV controller will have it's own meter for battery voltage and PV current.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 4,860 ✭✭✭✭
    here are the MidNite KID and SPD Manuals and a diagram or 2  that should resemble yours at the back of the KID manual...

    http://www.midnitesolar.com/pdfs/kidManual.pdf
    http://www.midnitesolar.com/pdfs/SPD_Installation_Manual.pdf



     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge, Hughes1100 Sat Modem
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
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