Tell me watt ya got

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Hi all

I was wondering if you guys could tell me kind of system you have installed, like this panel, that inverter, this meter, etc...

It would helpful too, if you could tell me what you would do different today, if you were just starting out.

Thanks

Arnold
Brighton Mi

Comments

  • crewzer
    crewzer Registered Users, Solar Expert Posts: 1,832 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    Arnold,

    My relatively small system is described below. There are two things I'd probably do differently if I was just starting out:

    1) Start with a 24 V or 48 V battery system. My first system used a 12 V battery bank because it was installed in an RV. However, everything else being equal, higher voltage systems require smaller wires (less current), and the charge controller and inverter typically operate more efficiently.

    2) Start with sealed AGM batteries, which are essentially maintenance free, instead of flooded-cell models, which are relatively maintenance intensive (cells to check and water, battery tops to clean, etc.) and require periodic equalization. AGM batteries cost more than flooded-cell batteries, but, due to their higher recharge efficiency, you can specify a PV array that's ~10% smaller, which can be a significant cost savings. Note that AGM batteries can be just as dangerous as flooded-cell models, and they require a temperature compensated controller or charger.

    HTH, and good luck!
    Jim / crewzer
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got
    ajneitzke wrote:
    Hi all
    I was wondering if you guys could tell me kind of system you have installed, like this panel, that inverter, this meter, etc...It would helpful too, if you could tell me what you would do different today, if you were just starting out.
    Thanks
    Arnold

    Follow the link on left of this message to my WWW page, but for here: 22ea Sharp 208W panels, in 2 strings of 11, (4.5KW STC) feeding a Xantrex GT3.8 I re-roofed my 16 year old shingles, after the brakets were installed, I didn't want to have to pull the whole thing off in 10 years to re-roof then.
    What I'd do different, I'd likely add 1 more panel to each string, as I'm not fully loading the inverter, and doubt, with my array oriention, that I could. My rack is not adjustable, faces due west, at about 20deg tilt, and only for a week or 2 in the summer, will I come close to maxing out the inverter. Winters, in the cold weather, I won't have enough sun angle to overvoltage the inverter, so study your micro-environment, and ask and judge the answers, and think on it a week, and then run it past the forum here, for even more advice.

    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 ,

  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,477 admin
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    My home has 20x BP 4175 (175 watt STC) panels, a Xantrex 3.0 GTI inverter connected to a 20 amp 240 VAC double pole breaker. The panels are rated at 3,500 watts (STC) and the system is rated at 2,933 watts PTC (panels + inverter). My home is about 15 miles south of San Francisco CA, on the sunny(er) side of the coastal mountain range. We get 70-85F weather through much of the year, and rarely below 60F.

    The roof (and solar array fixed mount rack) is at about 155 degrees (SSE) and roughly at 35 degrees (latitude). Some early morning and evening tree blocking.

    The system, at most, has generated 2,999 watts peak (saw a few times over the 1 year it has been installed), but tends more towards the 2,500 to 2,600 watt peak range.

    I installed with Home Depot/BP Solar--just because it was relatively new to my area and I wanted to have some big company names to backup the local (contracted by BP) installer and because BP had guaranteed panel availability--~2 weeks from order date). California paid for about 1/3 of the total installation price.

    The installation took longer than I had guessed--it took about 1 month+ for California to send the "rebate guarantee" and another week or two because the installer ran out of UV rated wiring for the roof.

    I also have the E7 PG&E Time of Use rate plan (~$0.29 per kWhr for noon-6pm, Mon-Fri power and ~$0.09 per kWhr for off-peak power). For me, this was the ideal plan (generate much of my power at $0.29/kWhr, and use much of my power at $0.09 per kWhr). Bad part for others is that this plan is no longer available for new installs and those TOU plans are much less solar friendly--folks might be just better off using standard residential E1 rates.

    I have done much for conservation before I did solar (CF lamps, double pane vinyl windows, wall insulation--1939 home, skylights for natural light and ventelation, new appliances). I have oversized my install hoping to eventually have a plug-in electric or hybrid vehicle. I installed solar as a hedge against the crazy California power regulations and possible skyrocketing prices (this was after ENRON and such). I am, currently, giving the utility about $200 in "free" power from my account.

    My panels generated about 4,800 kWhrs over 1 year, and I have been running about 200-300 kWhrs per month usage (average of 400 kWhrs per month generated for a net 100-200 kWhrs into my utility "bank"). Top months generated are around 540 kWhrs per month (3 months), low month was 134 kWhrs (December).

    What I have learned...

    The solar is working fine--no problems at all. Power generated is about 10% less than estimated by the installer. Last winter was wet and cloudy for us--solar production was way down for December and January--but not a problem with Grid Tie and 1 year net energy billing).

    I was not thrilled with just bolting the racks to my (new) asphalt shingle roof and gooping the bolts with roofing cement--I hope that they will last the 30-40 years of my roof and panels without leaking. (no problems with leaks so far). Only leak was the sort of half-a$$ way they attached the conduit to the roof junction box... There were probably a 1/2 dozen ways that they could have done it better--make sure to ask and approve before they do yours.

    I put my Xantrex in my garage and it has been great there--easy to read the meter by just opening the kitchen door and does not attracted unwanted attention (nobody can see my arrays or the Xantrex from the street side of my home). Recommended to install outside but my garage is pretty well shaded from afternoon sun and remains quite cool.

    If I was only into saving money, I would recommend that people also look into solar hot water and solar hot air heating... The equipment and installation for these systems is more cost effective than solar electricity. I chose Solar Electric because of low maintenance and I did not have a great place to place the extra water tanks for solar hot water. Solar hot water seems have more issues with higher maintenance and failure rates.

    Manual data logging (pencil and paper) is a pain with the Xantrex, but I did not want to dedicate a PC to the job--a waste of money and electricity for my installation. There is another thread here where somebody is writing a program for a Palm Pilot to log the data--that is probably about all that is needed for me and I have an old Palm that would be just right (screen no longer keeps calibrated for pen entry for more than a 1/2 day at a time).

    I would recommend that people look into adding about 10-15% more panels than the controller is rated for. If you are not in a cold climate, you will rarely exceed the controller's rated capacity (and the Xantrex, at least, simply limits the power to its rated value--it does not shut down or do other silly stuff). In my case, I have no more roof capacity so I was limited to 20 panels anyway.

    Also, PG&E has issues with solar installs... For my home, and others I have talked with, the first month's bill is all messed up (I should have had a hundred kWhrs credit, instead they sent me a bill for $400). Also, they are playing with Base Line electricity billing--too much to discuss here--but basically, any ambiguity in the solar billing rules is firmly changed to the utility's favor. None of that has affected me, but if you have TOU billing where one period is largely generation, and the other is largely consumption--you may be surprised that your bill is higher (or your net credits are lower) than expected.

    What would I have liked--Grid Tie Solar does not supply emergency backup power. It would have been nice to be able to charge/run a few hundred watts of emergency power in the event of a power failure or earthquake... But there are no off-the-shelf products that can work with Grid Tie connected solar panels to provide this function (and a full off-grid capable system with batteries just did not make economic sense given that my power rarely fails). So, I just have a small Honda eu2000i generator for backup.

    All in all, my system, power billing, and installation all pretty much went as expected (not perfectly, but just like any remodel)--no difficult problems with either the installer, the city, or PG&E.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    outback stuff has gridtie w/battery right? id consider that if you have reliability issues w/grid.
    I have gridtie and a separate small offgrid system. i would have bought agms otoh the flooded lead acid was way way cheaper.

    i would have bought more all at once too.
  • Roderick
    Roderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    18 x Mitsubishi 165W modules
    PV Powered PVP2800-XV inverter
    Unirac Solarmount with standoffs
    grid tied, no batteries

    I bought a "kit," which came with the modules, inverter, a DC disconnect switch, and wire. The price was decent, but I realize I might have done better buying components from different places.

    Doing it over again, even if I got the kit, I would ask to have it customized to delete the wire. The included wire was a TC type, 2-conductor wire, #10, and rated for UV. However, it only carried a 75 degree C rating when wet (THWN). The inspector had not seen this type of wire put in conduit before, but after thumbing through his NEC, concluded it was ok. However, he then objected to the 75 degree rating, considering the possible air temperature just above a hot roof, and the possibility of conduit filling up with water. Looking through the calculations, I had to agree.

    The kit did not come with instructions or technical advice, although there was a call-in line for the vendor (not toll-free) for technical support. And they had email support, which was free, and worked. Doing it again, I would create my own design, and specify all my own components, then start buying.

    I would not assume that larger wire is less flexible. #8 wire, just from Home Depot, is 19-strand, and much more flexible than #10 wire, which is 7-strand. And #8 wire has THWN-2 rated insulation for some reason, even though it looks exactly the same as the #10, which is only rated THWN.

    I would not be shy about calling the toll-free numbers on the internet to price components. Some non-posted prices are higher, but some are lower, too. It's the only way to find the best deal.

    I would insist that the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction, like the City that issues the building permit) do a review of my plans. Only when the inspector came around did I find out that such a service was available, and free. And the Reviewer's Stamp on the plans would have made it easier to argue for my design, if there was a dispute.

    If getting the roof redone, I would be sure to get multiple bids. I got 4. If I had taken the first one, I would have paid about $15,000 - and not gotten exactly what I really had in mind. The 4th bidder quoted $4700 - and did a good job. I know, because I was side-by-side with them, putting up solar standoffs while they were sheeting

    All in all, I had no major regrets. I downloaded and followed the John Wiles guide, and it no doubt saved me many times over from disasters.
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got
    Roderick wrote:
    I downloaded and followed the John Wiles guide, and it no doubt saved me many times over from disasters.

    Where and What is the John Wiles guide ?
    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 ,

  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    it's interpretations on the nec. check it out.

    http://www.sandia.gov/pv/docs/John_Wiles_Code_Corner.htm
  • James
    James Solar Expert Posts: 250 ✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    Hello aj and welcome. If you are planing on a medium to large size system, I would reccomend an MPPT charge controller. vs. a PWM controller. I plan on changing over to an MPPT's
    (i now have a Trace/Xantrex C60)
  • Roderick
    Roderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got
    mike90045 wrote:
    Roderick wrote:
    I downloaded and followed the John Wiles guide, and it no doubt saved me many times over from disasters.

    Where and What is the John Wiles guide ?

    Look on this page, for something that says "Photovoltaic Power Systems and the 2005 National Electrical Code: Suggested Practices" or something like that.  There are also many other useful articles on the page.  This is pretty much regarded as the standard by inspectors, and for many, this may be where they learned the bulk of what they know about photovoltaic.

    http://www.nmsu.edu/~tdi/Photovoltaics/Codes-Stds/Codes-Stds.html
  • sodamo
    sodamo Solar Expert Posts: 54 ✭✭✭
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    OK, I have 2 working systems, both described in separate posts with the words "system in Hawaii" in the subject. We live totally off grid. I built the 1st system from what I could learn on-line, reading, etc with some neighborly help. 2nd system was bought /installed from a local professional but with heavy input from me and my experience with system #1. System #2 is producing, but I'm only using to power the construction of house and no real loads yet - just tools and dorm sized fridge to keep the drinks cold.

    LESSONS:

    - Wish I'd found this site earlier.
    - #1 system is 12 volt, #2 is 48 volt. Unfortunately I cannot change #1 unless I get a new inverter as my Prosine 3.0 inverter is 12 volt only. It has performed very well and no complaints.
    - Went thru 2 charge controllers on #1 before finally getting MX60, which I really love. #2 system is all Outback with 2 MX60's.
    - Wish I had installed more PV panels initially, started with 4 - 123watt, added 2 - 125 watt. System #2 has 36 - 125 WATT.
    - Wish I had sited PV location more carefully. System #1 losses about an hour of early morning sun during summer. System#2 has a treeline to rear, that if ever interferes will get topped. (Neighbor who planted them agreed)
    - Wish I had convinced wife to run generator more often in my absence, killed first set of batteries in about 6 months. Thankfully, they were "cheapy" 12 volt deep cycles I got at Sam's club. I replaced them with 6volt golf cart type. System #2 has huge Rolls Surette deep cycle made for solar application.
    - Wish I'd installed wind generator for addition power source sooner. (OK, truthfully, it is still in the box and on my To-Do list for next 2 weeks. If it works as planned, adding wind to system #2 will be first major modification. Seems we get good wind at night and days of poor sun.

    David

    10.04 KW panels
    3- FM80 CC
    4- FX3048T Inverters
    FNDC, MATE3
    OpticsRE
    12 - 1350ah Rolls Surette 4v
    24kw generator (Chinese, built in Az)
    10kw MEP803A backup generator
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Tell me watt ya got

    craigslist/ebay hodge-podge

    (3) sharp-185 watt panels (love these, paid $400 ea)
    (1) sharp-165 watt panel (paid $400 also)
    (1) Uni-solar PVL-128 (thin film, about 20' long, wouldn't buy again, paid $500 on ebay)
    (2) Siemens SR-90s (paid $400 for both, good workhorses, light/small)
    xantrex-C40 - $110 on ebay, cheap what can I say it works fine
    (12) 2-year old DCS-100L AGM batteries ($240, from craigslist), great deal
    (1) Siemens 100a standby/transfer panel
    (1) PV combiner box
    (bunch) of pressure treated lumber and 2x4 to mount on the roof
    (1) 25' 10/3 outdoor rated extension cable
    (1) APC-1400RM2U inverter (UPS) w/ SNMP card--- I consider this temporary

    best part of my system is the battery array bar none (14 KW), my 1KW (rated) PV array takes like ~3 days to charge it if the batteries are @ 50%

    what I would change? hmm, lots