We’ve bought a small piece of Heaven on Lake Keowee in South Carolina and have begun the process of building our retirement home there. It will be a long process and we expect to relocate from Cincinnati sometime in mid to late 2018. In the meantime, I will still be taking care of my many Cincinnati clients both old and new, and nothing will change in the immediate future. Long distance work East of the Mississippi will continue on the same basis as before. With panel pricing now below 50 cents/watt for even name brand panels, and inverter prices falling as well, it’s not uncommon to come in around $1.35/watt complete for roof mounted grid-tie systems (before the 30% tax incentive!) so SOLAR is more affordable than ever before. This is now a 5 to 6 year payback! If you’re interested in a DIY Solar project, and you live East of the Mississippi, or anywhere around Lake Keowee, look me up and I’ll be glad to help you save a bundle on grid tie, grid backup, or even off-grid DIY SOLAR PROJECTS!
SunPower panels are made by a vertically integrated company in California using proprietary cell technology their founder developed. Their cells are small, but very efficient, with NO shiny silver conductors blocking the face. These cells are found on most Military, aerospace, and high-end jobs! Imagine my surprise when my favorite panel reseller announced they had some for sale. Normally, these panels go for about $1.50/watt, and can only be purchased directly from SunPower. The panels we got were obviously “2nds”, but the reason why was because their leads were shorter than standard! This project used a SolarEdge inverter, that has MAXIMIZERS mounted at each panel, so the slightly shorter lengths had ZERO consequence on this project, and the homeowner got a tremendous system at a DEEP discount. The reseller put his own label on the panels (which promptly fell off at the first dew!), but from the photo you can see the specs, and they are impressive. What’s even more impressive is that the panel SIZE is 41 X 60 inches – SMALLER than standard 60 cell panels on the market!.
The job came to a total installed power of 14,300 watts, so I recommended that we use a PAIR of SE 7600 inverters. PUCO rules for Ohio say anything over 6000 watts must have a utility grade meter, but for this job we needed TWO meters. The client had TWO 200A service panels, and in order to be in compliance with the NEC (National Electric Code), we could not backfeed both inverters into one panel due to the current limitation for backfeeding. (1.2 X buss rating minus the main breaker) so it would be (1.2 X200)-200 =40A. So we ran each inverter through a meter, to a disconnect switch mounted on the outside of the house (required by the local Fire Department) and then to each inverter. It was a little extra work, but it passed all inspections with flying colors. Both inverters were mounted side by side in the basement, and the 4 strings were run down 2 rigid metal conduits from the roof all the way to the inverters. When running high voltage DC lines inside a residence they MUST be in RMC. That way, if there is ever a short, it will go to the metal conduit and cause a breaker to pop rather than get hot and start a fire! Here’s a picture of the inverter pairs and the happy homeowner!
Standard Everest rails and hardware were used to mount the panels to the roof. 8 of the panels were darker than the others, so we put them centered in the bottom row, between some plumbing vent stacks. There’s not a tree anywhere near the home and the roof faces due south, so it makes a LOT of power!! The owner provided a crew of 4 and the whole job took just a hair more than 2 days of time. They prehung and wired the inverters in the basement, so all that was required was the panel hardware and mounting, and running the HV solar wire down the RMC to the inverters in the basement! This setup makes about 1,500 KWH per month (average) which in our area adds up to about $150 in power savings!
I apologize to my dedicated readers/followers/solar enthusiasts… I got so bogged down with solar projects I just couldn’t find the time to update the blog!! Well, I find myself with a little free time this week, so I’m going to do my best to get caught up with some of the projects from the last year and half!! Stop back often for updates!!
I just received this announcement in an email from one of my many electronics industry sources. It describes a new filter, used by the military to protect sensitive electronic gear from EMP or equivalent events. Just thought I’d pass it on! HEMP Filter link
It’s been a while since I posted any new activities – but only because I’ve been so darned busy! A client in Harrison Indiana wanted a a solar system installed, but he launched his project too late in the year, so rather than fight the weather, we decided to just install the BACKUP portion of the project ahead of time – giving him the benefit of a backup system for the upcoming Winter season. He lives out in the country, and encounters frequent power outages during the winter months, so this was a good compromise, and that’s what this blog entry will be about.
We decided to go with the new OutBack RADIAN 8Kw inverter and the Outback AGM batteries, since they don’t require watering or venting. He had space on the wall where his current Main breaker panel was located, so we just expanded with some extra plywood. We hung the inverter and mounted the battery bank directly below it so that we would minimize the distance the 4/0 Battery cable would need to cover.
With that plan in mind, I went in search of some 1 inch plywood, which it seems none of the lumberyards carry. I got the lumberyard to precut a 4 X 8 sheet of 1/2 inch thickness, and managed to squeeze them into our PT cruiser. A couple squirts of glue and some 3/4 drywall screws to hold them together got us the mounting plate we needed for all the things we were going to add: a SUPPORTED LOAD panel – this is the loads that will be backed up when the power drops, another outlet for the freezer next to this panel, and the OutBack MATE3 control center that lets us program the Radian and observe the voltage and operation visually.
The MATE3 also provides the interface to the internet so that this can all be monitored from a PC on the web. We planned on adding solar this year when the weather warmed up, and the Radian PREWIRED INTERFACE took all the hassle out of making this all work. THe interface is directly below the Radian in the next photo. Everything inside this prewired box is clearly labeled and it would be VERY hard to get it hooked up wrong!
The next step was to move the breakers and wiring for the supported loads from the main panel (at the left) to the supported load panel (in the middle). The lines were too short by a couple of feet, so I went to the electrical supply house and found some neat nylon splice blocks that have compression screws and they come in big strips of 20 or 30, so I could cut them into blocks of 3. This allowed me to splice new romex (same gauge) to the black, white and copper ground wires in a manner that was safe and in compliance with the National Electrical Code.
The wood backing also allowed me to screw the splice blocks in place at the top of the board (out of reach) to keep things safe. Please notice that all connections between the breakerboxes, the inverter and anything else on this board are all in conduit. The only exception is the Romex, which by code is allowed. Just remember that EVERY line of romex going into the supported load panel MUST have a strain relief. You just can’t run wires through the holes in the box – it would NEVER pass an inspection!
While I was doing all that wiring, the homeowner was busily assembling the battery cabinet and installing the OutBack AGM (sealed lead acid gel type) batteries and all the jumpers to create the battery bank. There are two banks of four batteries, which are then paralleled to achieve a sizeable AmpHour capacity.
These batteries are not cheap, but they don’t require any attention like checking fluid level, or requiring a vent fan, so it simplifies the installation and use of the system. By the way, if you want a closer look, just click on the photos and you will get a full screen size view.
If you look close you’ll find that there is a 175Adc breaker for each ROW of batteries in the cabinet. This will come in handy troubleshooting in the future. It also keeps things safe while connecting the battery cables. The cable used in this setup is high strand count 4/0 with FACTORY TERMINATED ring ends. No, you CAN’T use welding cable, and don’t even THINK about putting ends on by yourself.
Always purchase SOLAR battery cables that are pre-terminated by your supplier. During normal operation DC current out of the battery can reach peaks upwards of 500 to 1000 AMPS. Any weak or loose connection will get hot and create a problem in no time!
Here’s the finished installation – just a few more lines to move from the main breaker panel over to the supported load panel. If you click on the photo, and zoom in, you can just make out those splice blocks I was talking about at the top. There was just enough room below the supported load panel to mount the Mate3, and the finished installation looks pretty nice with all the brushed steel panels and covers re-installed.
Other than the battery cabinet, the backup system didn’t take any additional floor space, so it was not a problem where we placed everything. The homeowner still needs to run an ethernet cable down a chimney chase from upstairs to put the system online – another project for a rainy day. I went back in the early Spring of this year to install the ground mount and a sunny boy inverter at the back of the property.
This is an old farm, and the service is sort of snaked around the property. By intercepting the feed to the barns, we will be able to redirect them THROUGH the RADIAN INVERTER PREWIRE BOX, and effectively create an awesome GRID BACKUP system that will operate AND Charge the batteries when the utility power is down. In Bright sun, we have 8KW from the inverter/battery bank COMBINED with 5 to 6KW of realtime solar power to run some BIG loads like AC or the washer/dryer.
If you look back at the 2nd picture, you can see TWO large boxes with cables coming from them. These are two 4Kw inverters. The RADIAN design is redundant- if one quits, you still have power, just 1/2 power. That’s better than NONE when the power is down. I think this is the best feature of the radiant design!
Wow, thanks to all who attended my seminar this year! I changed it up a little and made it a presentation of good-to-know FACTS about solar – every aspect of it. Ended up with about 10 minutes of open questions, and I got lucky again – I was able to answer every one with a solid response! Sorry I left my NEW box of business cards at home, but I think the 12 folks who came up to get the 12 I had were the folks most interested in future contact (I hope!). I promised I’d post the PowerPoint presentation, so here it is with the presenters notes included. MEN FAIR 2014 Presentation Nothing that will rock the world, but there might be just that one photo, or factoid that you’ve been looking for! Thanks again for all who were in the PACKED tent (even if you just wanted to get out of the rain!)
Here are some highlights from a recent article in SOLAR INDUSTRY MAGAZINE.
If several recently introduced legislative bills give any indication, Congress has heard the call from solar energy advocates to modify the investment tax credit (ITC).
The ITC, which expires Dec. 31, 2016, currently pays a credit of 30% for qualifying projects. If no changes are made, the credit shrinks to 10% in 2017.
In recent months, both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that not only calls for an ITC extension but also stipulates that solar projects should qualify for the tax incentive based on when they start, as opposed to when they are placed into service.
On Feb. 6, Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Michael Bennett, D-Colo., co-sponsored the Renewable Energy Parity Act of 2014, which would allow developers to qualify for the ITC if projects are under construction before the credit’s expiration date, rather than having to wait until those projects are completed and in service.
In August, Rep. Paul Clark, R-Calif., introduced H.R. 3017, the Renewable Energy Construction and Investment Parity Act of 2013, which also extends the energy tax credit to solar energy, fuel cell, microturbine, combined heat and power systems, small wind energy, and thermal energy properties – the construction of which begins before Jan. 1, 2017.
While the ITC push appears to be gaining traction – as evidenced by the support of House and Senate Republicans – sources express doubt that any of the bills by themselves could pass, given the grid-locked Congress.
Found this story today, and it is really amazing how a little bit of willpower and cooperation allowed this small town in Germany to not only go OFF GRID (total disconnect!) but to also SELL power to neighboring towns at a discounted rate! Read the story here: OFF GRID GERMAN TOWN STORY
It depends on how much roof space (or yard space) you have, and how many panels you install. A good average system size is 24 panels, which in most cases is a PALLET of panels, which gets you the best pricing. My home has 24 panels on it. 20 of them are 230 watt panels and 4 are 240 watts, added at a later date.
My house faces South West, and I have two large hills on the East and West side that shade my roof for an hour and a half in the morning and an hour before sunset. All that considered, here’s what I just got from the electric company on my most recent bill. It tells the story. I have gas heat, so this is just for my electric usage, but that includes AC in the summer months!
If you live in Ohio and own or are considering installing residential or light commercial PV solar, please contact Governor Kasich at his office and tell him you want him to oppose SENATE BILL 58, currently in discussion.
I’ve encouraged everyone I know to do so, and I emailed his office last week. Below is the email response I got:
Thank you for writing with regard to Senate Bill 58. Your letter has been forwarded to me for my review. We appreciate that you took the time to share your views about this important piece of legislation.
Senate Bill 58 is currently being debated during the 130th session of the Ohio General Assembly. Please be assured Governor Kasich will keep your views in mind if Senate Bill 58 is passed by the General Assembly and forwarded to the Governor for his signature. I encourage you to share your concerns with your legislators, as your input will be important as they review this legislation.
Once again, thank you for writing to Governor Kasich. Please do not hesitate to contact the Governor’s office if we may assist you in the future.
Dave Ward Director of Constituent Affairs
We must all pull together to RAISE the percentage of the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) upon which the Solar SREC values are tied, if we want to preserve the extra value that this represents to the smaller producers of solar energy!! It’s currently pegged at a max of 1/2%, and should be more like 2% of the total 12% renewable energy long term goal.