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PV Solar Options
#1 Posted : Monday, December 15, 2003 4:42:22 PM
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We just installed a grid tied system to our place. Our local electric company has a limit of 1.5KW to be fed into the grid at one time. Our budget exceeded this limit. We have two meters at our little homestead, so we installed 2 1.1KW systems. We went with the SunnyBoy 2500U inverter, which is a 2500W inverter. This allows us to double our strings in the future to 2.2KW per meter. We are currently working with our utility to up the limit they are putting on us. Anyway, between the two systems, we are generating about 12KW per day.

You definetly want your system installed properly. I took a bunch of courses at Solar Energy International and decided to become a class for one of their PV courses. It was a great experience for all involved.

Pure sine wave inverters are really the best to use, especially if you have computers or other sensitive electronics. If you have more basic electrical needs, you can get by with modified sine wave inverters. If you go with true sine wave though, you can always add a computer later as long as you don''t exceed the inverters rated limit.

In the solar electric world, it is recommended to use as much gas as possible to decrease your electrical demand which will decrease your up front costs for solar. I really prefer to stay away from this because of the fluctuating costs of propane and natural gas. There are plenty of efficient fridges to choose from these days, just look at Energy Star''s website. Even though they''re efficient, they are still the most power hungry device you will probably have, besides electric ranges, electric space heaters and well pumps.

My advice would be to stay as small as possible when it comes to your dwelling. Also, buy the most efficient appliances possible. Usually, the amount people save in energy conservation is more effective than buying a solar system. Even so, when you decrease your demand, you decrease the up front cost of a solar system. Combining the two (conservation and alt energy) is a great way to go.
#2 Posted : Friday, December 19, 2003 6:45:57 PM
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Thank you ArrDavid. Interesting. I am building only 1100 sft. So that helps. And I was going with 4 or 5 x 100 watt panels plus the pure sine inverter. But I have one big draw - once in awhile - in the form of a funicular. It''s like an elevator at an angle for the purpose of getting up a short but steep hill. So, I''ll need a genset back up. I designed a small closet attached to the back of the house (accessed from the outside) for housing all the stuff (charge controller, inverter, battery charger, fuse box, etc.) and batteries but was recently told that an old freezer makes a great battery box. So, I may put them outside. My consultants are of different opinions on just about everything. One swears by propane gensets - the other hates them. One advises going 110 system with inverter and the other suggests 12 volt. One says I need 10 KW to power a 5Hp motor (for the elevator) and the other says 6000 watts is enough. And so it goes. For me, electricity is a mystery. I just don''t get it. It''s like quantum physics. But I know me...........it should be as free of maintenance as possible. I kill machinery. I try to be good. But I am not. Before I took a mistress, I''d take a mechanic. That''s how bad it is. So, I was hoping more of the MEN forum would have long term, hands-on experience. And they could share the ''make-up'' of their systems. By the way.....do you have a genset? What kind? How big?
And thanks for your reply. You are the only one.
#3 Posted : Monday, December 22, 2003 3:12:36 PM
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All of this stuff can be confusing. Check out http://www.homepower.com/files/loadcalc.pdf for some basic information on collecting data about how much energy you use and how much you need to store. With the refrigerator as a battery box, make sure it is properly ventilated. I''m sure there''s more articles at homepower.com to help, it''s a wealth of knowledge there.

As for our system, we do not have a genset. We are using the grid as our battery. The advantage here is that there is no battery maintenance. The disadvantage is that we still have no independence. When the grid goes down (which is not that often) my inverters shut down. This is for the safety of linesmen when they need to work on the lines. You can have a grid tied setup with a battery backup but the inverter options out there are very limited (there may only be one option and as I understand, the inverter does a poor job).

This project I have mentioned is at my wife''s parents place, which is where we now live. We plan on building a round cordwood home on this place. It will be off the grid with solar water heating, solar electricity and possibly wind generated power. My electrical demand will be very low which will require a smaller system. But, hopefully to eliminate the need for a generator, I will oversize the system. I also plan on having bicycle generators and pedal driven generators (Multi-Purpose Independence Toolkit from Sustainable Village). I plan on staying with low voltage, maybe 24V. Inverters are just another part of the system that can fail. As long as there''s juice in the battery, I can use it in a low voltage setup. If everything was wired for AC and my inverter went down, I would have no way to use the energy stored in my batteries. I''m sure I will need some AC somewhere, so I plan on have a small inverter (Exceltech) for something like a microwave.

Again, take a look at homepower.com. You can download the latest issue of this wonderful magazine. It is packed with information. I download the latest issues for free and when they come out with the newest cd, I purchase that. Take a look at the site and you''ll see what I mean.
#4 Posted : Monday, December 22, 2003 5:41:35 PM
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OK, I have a question here as am constantly arguing in favor of solar but hubby thinks it just won''t work here, naturally I set out to prove him wrong (lol), I bought one of those outdoor spot lights with 2 bulbs & motion detecter. Anyways, the thing is not exactly useless but struggles its way through winter & is better in summer but we have about 4mths of "summer" (actually its not winter so just appears to be "summer")lol.
How does one justify this type of cost for such a short "sunny" time frame?
Where are all you "successful" solar users located?
#5 Posted : Tuesday, December 23, 2003 4:18:35 PM
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There are definetly better locations than others when it comes to solar energy. Sometimes, when there''s not a lot of sun, you might have a lot of wind. I am located in south west Colorado, ideal location for solar. There are maps that will tell you approximately how many sun hours you have in your area. Take a look at http://www.fords-mtm.com/help/slr_wind_map.htm and see how your area looks. This map tells you how many KWH can produced per square meter. This is just another part of the calculation in determining how much energy you need to produce. It sounds like it''s not very sunny there most of the year, I would assume you will definetly need a generator. Also take a look at the wind maps. You know, really the best resource in my opinion is water. If you have flowing water on your place (with the right fall and volume), it is just amazing. I''ve seen micro-hydro setups where people have more problems with excess energy than not enough energy.

As for cost effectiveness, I don''t know what to tell you. This is why I''m reluctant to go into this sort of business. You need to look beyond the monetary issues if possible. I understand how money plays a part in our society and all of that but when it comes to solar electricity, you need to have different values. We put in a $22,000 grid tied system and it only cut our electricity bill in half. Dirty power is cheap, in some places. The value I''m speaking of is the amount of pollution we are not producing. If more people do this, our air will be cleaner and we can take less coal out of the ground. Sure you have to mine silica, in most cases, to manufacture photovoltaics but the difference is that your producing something with a 20 year life, maybe more. It''s not going to be used up right here and right now. Ok I''ll stop preaching. It''s up to you to make a difference.
#6 Posted : Tuesday, December 23, 2003 11:41:48 PM
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Thanks David, you''re right about all of the above. We do have lots of wind & have been looking at wind power but that noise issue is pretty darn BIG! We''re also looking at our water...we have one river & one creek both of which flow all year, problem there is hiding what we do from the state, thankfully right now there are no neighbours across the river, just state lands used mainly for hunting. Do get the odd games commissioner every now & then....though the hubby''s dad threw him into the river one year & they didn''t come back for a looooooooooong time. LOL.
Am looking at a ferris wheel type right now, our homestead is about 700'' above the river so whatever we end up with will generate the electricity at river then those little currents will just pulse their way up instead of trying to pump water up.
The hubby is the expert on all this so I should stop now, but Thanks for your answer.
#7 Posted : Wednesday, December 24, 2003 6:06:00 PM
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Oh my gosh, a river? What a bountiful resource. I''ve seen a setup where a guy has property bordering public lands. He found a spring on this public land and started using it for his own small micro-hydro setup. Somehow, with this usage, he was granted the right to own this water. He developed the spring and creek it fed and he is now considered an electrical company. He''s feeding the grid with wonderful, pollution free power and is making a very nice living doing it. It sure sounds like you have the resources to get off the grid, good luck on your venture.
#8 Posted : Wednesday, December 24, 2003 6:06:00 PM
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Anybody out there had any long term experience with PV solar........? If so, what 'tips' do you have? I am thinking of buying a system and, of course, I have researched it, but everything is so 'positive' and so are the salespeople. Nothing is THAT good. I have been convinced that I need a pure sine wave inverter, an electric fridge instead of propane (seems the panels are cheaper and more reliable than fuel) and so on. A friend of mine has two panels hanging 'higgeldy-piggeldy' off his balcony and it seems to work fine despite wires everywhere and nothing done properly. Anybody generating 1 or 2 or 3 Kw per day? What kind of system do you employ?
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