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Thread: Panels not producing proper wattage

  1. #1
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    Question Panels not producing proper wattage

    Hello,

    Here is a quick note on my setup, which is self-installed.

    4x (230w 36v 7.7amp) Canadian Solar panels (total of 920 watts)
    1x Midnite Solar combiner box
    1x Midnite Solar DC disconnect panel
    1x Morning Star Tri-Star TS-60 charge controller (with remote meter)
    1x AIMS 3000w Modified Sine Wave inverter
    1x AIMS 3 stage automatic transfer switch (not yet connected)
    4x 125ah 12v deep cycle batteries (connected in series and parallel)

    This is a 24v system.
    The panels are all connected to the combiner box + to + and - to -
    Each panel has its own circuit breaker (I need one more MC4 combiner to connect them in parallel the way I want)
    Technically, aren't the panels connected in parallel through the combiner bus?

    Anyway... The issue is this:

    The charge controller meter shows only (roughly) 140 watts (TOTAL) being harvested by the panels.

    We live in the mountains at 8000feet elevation. My neighbor who has a 10kw system said that I should be getting up to 30% more energy than the panels are rated, just because of the altitude.

    What are the common scenarios that would cause the panels to only produce a total of 140watts?

    I did test each panel to see if all of the panels are working. The charge controller registers that each panel is indeed producing power. The testing was performed by shutting off all but one breaker and going down the list of four breakers.

    I am dying to hear your feedback on this one.

    thanks in advance!

    X111

  2. #2
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    Default

    First, your neighbor is flat wrong....you'll never see 30% over the panel rated wattage. On a really cold, clear day with a lot of snow cover to reflect light, you "might" see the rated wattage or a slight amount over....might......

    Now, as to your original question:

    Your charge controller is only showing 140w. OK, let's assume, for the moment, that is correct.

    1. What's the load on your system at that time ? Are the batteries full ( or nearly ) and nothing being used off of the inverter ? ( you said the transfer switch isn't connected right now )

    That is the answer....the panels don't produce if nothing on the output end is using. 140w may just be battery maintenance level. Find some kind of load ( DC light bulbs, fan, etc,) and connect directly to the battery, or connect an AC load on the output side of your inverter....SOMETHING for a load....turn them on....watch the meter on the CC at a time when the panels SHOULD be producing good power......your reading should climb.

    2. If it doesn't, and you are using power, and it's not being replaced, you DO have an actual problem.

    2a. Are the panels oriented correctly....solar south, and correct tilt ?

    2b. Have you got a clamp on DC amp meter ? Get one, clamp over each individual positive lead coming from the panels and get an amp reading. WITH A LOAD on, full sun, correct mounting angles, you ought to be seeing 6+ amps on each lead. IF that's the case, then the watt reading on your charge controller isn't right, OR the charge controller itself is faulty, not giving the output it should.

  3. #3
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    Default re:TnAndy

    TnAndy,

    Thanks for the response.

    You may have solved the issue with your answer.

    1: There is no load on the batteries except for the charge controller and inverter. The controller shows roughly 3 amps being used.

    2: The array is pointing due South at 45 degree tilt.

    3: My (el cheapo) DC meter died and I am waiting for two new (good ones) from Amazon. I do intend to check each panel with a meter when I get the new ones.


    So, just for me to verify my understanding of your answer...

    a: Panels will not produce power (not much anyway), if there is no load on the batteries.

    I will double check the output with a good load on the batteries and will report my findings.

    NOTE: You know... I have been searching Google and Youtube for the answer, but all of my results from Google just return adds for me to buy stuff. Yahoo was better, but was still a failure. Search engines these days seem to be lacking good results when people need answers to questions. I am thankful that I was able to eventually find this forum.

    Thanks...

    X111

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by xoneeleven View Post
    TnAndy,

    Thanks for the response.

    You may have solved the issue with your answer.

    1: There is no load on the batteries except for the charge controller and inverter. The controller shows roughly 3 amps being used.
    Actually, the batteries ARE your load ( at 3amps ).....the inverter will only use a tiny amount on a standby situation.....and the CC won't use all that much even when working. Your batteries are simply being trickle charged at this point.

    It's a popular misconception that panels will produce if nothing on the receiving end is there to take the production....they don't......electricity only flows in response to a load.


    Quote Originally Posted by xoneeleven View Post

    3: My (el cheapo) DC meter died and I am waiting for two new (good ones) from Amazon. I do intend to check each panel with a meter when I get the new ones.

    Make sure you get one with a CLAMP ON DC capability.....that is really handy for troubleshooting PV issues. A simple voltmeter will not do the job.

  5. #5
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    Thumbs up 2nd re:TnAndy

    TnAndy

    It looks like everything is working as designed. I put the fridge and a freezer on the inverter as a big load.
    The wattage and amp hours shot up on the meter.

    Thanks for the tip regarding the DC voltage tester. I will look for one today.

    X111

  6. #6
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    Don't ya love it when a plan comes together.........

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TnAndy View Post
    Don't ya love it when a plan comes together.........
    Every time!

  8. #8
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    Does not sound like anything is wrong. If the batteries are fully charged and no load, the panels will not generate any power because non is being used.
    MSEE, PE

  9. #9
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    Smile

    Thanks for all of the positive responses.

    I have taken some time today to hookup my Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS).

    The fail-over to the grid is working fine. The ATS works much like the rack mounted datacenter ATS's that I have been exposed to.
    When I shut off the inverter, it switches to the grid. The kitchen appliance motors sure work better being powered from the grid. Time for more batteries.

    This ATS supposedly has a charge capability. I wonder if I can tie the charge port to my inverter charge port. Both ports are AC. (The inverter is an inverter/charger)

    X111

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by xoneeleven View Post
    Thanks for all of the positive responses.

    I have taken some time today to hookup my Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS).

    The fail-over to the grid is working fine.
    Huh? Why would you have primary solar battery power with commercial power available?
    MSEE, PE

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