The owners of DC Solar, pleaded guilty today to charges related to a billion dollar Ponzi scheme

westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭

they sold   mobile solar generator units (MSG), solar generators that were mounted on trailers that were promoted as able to provide emergency power to cellphone towers and lighting at sporting events,


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,
Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
West Chilcotin, BC, Canada


  • Marc KurthMarc Kurth Solar Expert Posts: 825 ✭✭✭✭
    I backed away from these people when I was asked for battery pricing based on large numbers. When discussions got into the details, they became vague and didn't seem to understand batteries - and they wanted very long payment terms. As I recall, they did build trailers and they decided to use the bottom of the barrel UPG batteries.
    I guess if you are going to defraud people, you might as well go big.
    I always have more questions than answers. That's the nature of life.
  • dakleindaklein Registered Users Posts: 10 ✭✭
    edited February 10 #3
    First post here, and this a perfect topic to chime in on.   :)      It's very interesting to read the plea statements.

    I brought home a 2016 vin trailer from the Jan auction, and it looks like my trailer was put together in 4/2018 based on an inspection tag I found in it.  Everything seemed to work as intended, I charged the car from it a couple times, for a few hours while the sun was mostly out, trying not to kick the teeth out of the cold FLA batteries.   It looked like about 500 still left at the Vegas track location, and they are all the 2016 vin trailers.

    The batteries are certainly heavy, 1900# each, flooded forklift batteries from Exide.  I'm not sure they ever saw any use other than being charged by the panels, I think the trailer was just stored since then.   The charge controller had put out lifetime 700 kWhr.  The water level was a little low, below the top of the plates at least, I put in 8 gallons to get it 1/4 to 1/2 of the head space filled.       The batteries were fun to unload, jacked from underneath and rolled out on bars.   

    I have taken everything except the panel frame off the trailer now, and it all looks legit and well done for the most part.  As legit as a mobile solar generator can be.   more pictures:

    Minor build details I can find fault with:    A crimp on an Anderson connector in the 2/0 negative battery cable was loose enough to pull the cable out of it.  The positive lead from the solar CC goes to the positive cable of the battery (good), however, the path the second battery for the charge current has to go through 2 Anderson connectors in the battery paralleling Y cable.  So that did result in the second battery not receiving as much charge, at least in the recent marginal solar conditions when I was playing with it, not getting up into float.  After disconnecting the parallel cable, the rear battery OCV was 50.5,  while the front was 52.3v,  this was at 35 dF battery temp.

    In the last auction, most of the plain solar trailers went for 3400-4000.  If you drive one home, try the panel racks so they don't shake, and I would also wedge 1" foam blocks behind the panels backs to keep the panel glass from flexing constantly in the wind.

    I'll start setting it up in the garage, as a battery backup system for the house.  I'll post elsewhere here with some questions and looking for advice on details of the system.

    Dale,   SE Michigan
    4.7 kW rooftop grid-tied Enphase M190s (about 1/3 original survivors still, have replaced and re-replaced the rest), 21x SolarWorld 225W
    2.6 kW DC coupled to 1080Ah 48v Exide FLA forklift bank, Midnite 250-CP CC, SMA SI6048 x2, 10x Talesun 265W   (a DC Solar trailer)
    480 W camper system, 2x Panasonic 240W HIT, Midnite Kid CC w/ Whizbang Jr, 2x 6v GC2 FLA 230Ah
  • notesnotes Solar Expert Posts: 50 ✭✭
    Nice purchase Dale, I see they are having another auction the end of February. 60 more trailer units. Did you bid online or make the trip down? Any info would be appreciated. Would you know the weight of trailer and trailer hitch size?
  • boBboB Solar Expert Posts: 980 ✭✭✭✭
    The solar trailers definitely existed.  They had LOTS of them.  I'm sure they worked fine BUT there were few actually deployed.  I think that was (one of ?) the main issues.
  • NLVMikeNLVMike Registered Users Posts: 4
    The scam was complex. Short version is that they offered the trailer for sale to investors, at a price of $150,000 (wow). However, they only took $50k, and claimed that they were financing the remaining $100k, and it would be paid off by lease revenue. Additionally, the gave the investors a 30% tax credit based on the full price, so it was almost free to them. They built thousands of them, but sold twice as many. They are trickling out to the market as the bankruptcy courts sort out who owns them. 

    In order to pull off such a scam, the product has to be pretty wiz-bang. It is. Buying them out of bankruptcy auctions seems to create the only winners in this deal. As of today, there are still a couple hundred sitting in a yard in Las Vegas.
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    Now the batteries are damaged from sitting an ~ couple years I would think. If they are 48 volt batteries, I would be interested.

    Forklift batteries start exposing the lead quite quickly. They are loaded with max lead instead of a so much water that I may see in inferior sorts of batteries.

    How much damages is incurred from exposing the lead to air? No idea - but it is bound to happen sooner or later. At least on mine anyway - maybe 1" of liquid covering the plates at a maximum. Might be 1/2" - seems that way.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,068 admin
    In general, exposing lead acid plates to air is thought to be very bad... This is from a 1922 all things Lead Acid battery manual (building, maintaining, taking apart to repair--remember 1922).

    About exposure to air:

    4. Allowing Electrolyte to Fall Below Tops of Plates. If the electrolyte is allowed to fall below the tops of the plates, so that the active materials are exposed to the air, the parts thus exposed will gradually become sulphated. The spongy lead of the negative plate, being in a very finely divided state, offers a very large surface to the oxygen of the air, and is rapidly oxidized, the chemical action causing the active material to become hot. The charging current, in passing through the parts of the plates not covered by the electrolyte also heats the active materials. The electrolyte which occasionally splashes over the exposed parts of the plates and which rises in the pores of the separators, is heated also, and since hot acid attacks the active materials readily, sulphation takes place quickly. The parts above the electrolyte, of course, cannot be charged and sulphate continues to form. Soon the whole exposed parts are sulphated as shown in Fig. 209.

    As the level of the electrolyte drops, the electrolyte becomes stronger, because it is only the water which evaporates, the acid remaining and becoming more and more concentrated. The remaining electrolyte and the parts of the plates covered by it become heated by the current, because there is a smaller plate area to carry the current, and because the resistance of the electrolyte increases as it grows more concentrated. Since hot acid attacks the active materials, sulphation also takes place in the parts of the plates still covered by the electrolyte.

    The separators in a battery having the electrolyte below the tops of the plates suffer also, as will be explained later. See page 346.

    Obviously, most Lead Acid batteries cannot be disassembled/repaired (not rubber cases with asphalt seals). But still a very interesting look 98 years back.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    Generally my forklift battery has ~ 1" of water covering the lead plates. In cells that are ~ 3' tall. By comparison my 8Ds have over 2" of water covering the plates in cells that are ~ 10" tall. A ratio exceeding six times the difference between water "latitude" and plate height.  Ugly wording but the gist exists.

    The forklift battery should be watered ~ monthly. The 8Ds can literally be done annually. In fact I have never seen any exposed 8D lead. Keep in mind these are not premium deep cycle 8Ds. They are just real big starter batteries - designed for large trucks. Though three were made in 2011 and recently retired - they also sat idly for a few years as well.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
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