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  • My tiny project in sunny Ecuador

    I started a thread in another forum and Jason asked me to post it here as well.
    The mods in the other forum are more focused to professional solar installation and rarly answered a question there, I hope that I can get better responds here.

    I will copy the most important parts of the proyect.




    Hi everybody

    First of all I want to introduce myself.

    I’m a 51 years old German retired (of my self employed biz) mechanical engineer and own a hostel in Ecuador where I’m living since almost two decades.
    English isn’t my mother language, so please forgive if I use sometimes a wrong word or have some typos.

    Ecuador has a huge amount and intensity of sun hours and at noon you have no shadow as the sun is right above you. We have only 3 to 4 months raining season with very poor rainfall.

    EC (Ecuador) generates his electric energy mostly from hydro systems and during a strong dry season we have energy cuts which lead to dark nights all around.

    I use a 7500W diesel generator and a emergency 3500 gas generator for those cuts and can work without interruption in my hostel where I have an electricity bill of about 150$ monthly.

    Now I came up with the idea to generate enough energy to be independent of the grid at least in my own house which is relative big (500 m2) but we are only a two person household.

    I want to exclude in this first project air-conditioning, microwave, washing machine, dryer and the fridge which are the main power eaters. For hot shower water I will try to construct a Solar panel with isolated 100L hot water backup during my project.

    I will have several questions during realizing my mini project and hope to find useful answers here, thanks for that in advance.

    In attach my estimated energy use during a day/night for this project.

    In the not far future I want to construct a Wind Generator of about 600W grid tied, I already bought a 60VDC Ametek motor, the rest have to wait till I finish the first step, the solar energy.

    I need to refine these values, to be able to find real numbers I bought a watt meter called Kill_a_Watt which should arrive next week from USA.

    What I already invested:

    To start the project I was surfing in the net and tried to figger out what would be basically needed for my small project and the conclusion was:

    330 3x6 cells 0.5V, 3.5 Amp 1.75W (will leave a review of 3 different Ebay sellers when finished)

    1 Charge controller Morningstar 30 Amps

    1 Modified Sine Wave inverter 2500W/Spikes 5000W

    I do have basic tools like a solder pistol of 35W and 60W, a multimeter which I’m replacing actually with a Clamp multimeter to measure Amps, etc.

    What I’ve done so far.

    Well, the first solar cells arrived, it was really well packed and the shipping cost me 40$ additional to the US Ebay price.

    I was able to solder the 3 x 12 cell strings with only damaging one cell which broke in the middle while a strong wind passed the open window of my work room, will not happen again.
    I have a friend who works in aluminum doors and windows, I told him about my needs as a solar panel frame and he said: no prob look for it in two days, that’s today. I will upload a photo when I glued the cell strings.

    One string of 12 cells produce 7 volts from 9:00 to 17:30 in the afternoon.
    Attached Files
    136
    Lower my monthly electric bill
    33.82%
    46
    Help the mother earth avoiding to burn oil etc.
    28.68%
    39
    Grid independence is my goal
    21.32%
    29
    Want it as a PC etc. backup system in case of energy cuts
    5.88%
    8
    It
    10.29%
    14
    Last edited by ecusolar; 12-13-2009, 01:35 PM.

  • #2
    Question about encapsulating

    Now my first question to the experts:

    I was reading that it will be a good idea to encapsulate the cells but I also was reading that this is very difficult to do.

    What is the reason for encapsulating
    What would be the estimated time a panel can survive without encapsulating?
    Does someone have photos of cells that got damaged cause of corrosion?
    I imagine that the reason is to avoid corrosion and I was thinking of a glass/glass sandwich system like we all know from isolated double windows. It could be easy done even creating a vacuum inside with a small plastic tube which will be sealed after the desired vacuum is reached.

    Did anyone try this out?

    Would it be wise to apply WD40 or any other chemical like oil or fluid silicon to avoid corrosion before encapsulating?

    I know that a junction of glass and air will reflect a certain amount of sunlight but would it make a big difference?

    I would have serious problems to adquire solar cell encpsulating materials in EC and would like to work with what I can get easily here.
    Attached Files

    Comment


    • #3
      First panel

      Here an update

      My friend delivered the panel frame, man that's heavy.

      He used 6mm glass on both sides and the frame is like a door.

      It measures 100 x 50 cm inside and here was the first problem.

      I only could glue 33 cells (3 x 11) as the last one of the strings was touching the aluminium frame, next have to be made 5 cm larger.

      I might use this one for triggle charging my diesel generator battery and the hot water DC pump for the future solar hot water system.

      I had to use a flash to take the photo, it's evening now. Tomorrow I'll post the generated voltage.
      Attached Files

      Comment


      • #4
        First panel voltage read

        Here now a surprise:

        I took out the panel I made yesterday, remember that it has only 33 cells by accident of missing space!

        It reads on a cloudy morning at 8:30 18 volts to my surprise.

        I can't measure Amps as my other (the good one) multimeter is damaged and I have to wait till the 15th of dec. to get my new clamp meter.

        I was wondering if that would be fact for another panel and soldered 10 cells together and brought it out at 9:30, it measures a happy 6V outlet.

        Q: Would that mean that I can reduce the quantity of cells because I'm direct under the Ecuator?
        Attached Files

        Comment


        • #5
          DIY 33 cell Panel in plain sun

          Here another photo of my first DIY panel in plain sun at 14:00 h (18V out).

          The fan you see there is a 24 V cooling fan and it spinns from 6:30 to 18:30 h (Wow, 12 hours) when connected.

          I took the decision not to cure this one with Sylguard (anyhow I have 8 more panels to built) as it will be a test panel for other additional aplications and measurements like heat inside etc.
          Attached Files

          Comment


          • #6
            Double purpose panel

            As I said before I have a multi purpose for the DIY panel.

            This is to generate Solar electrisity AND solar hot water in the same panel.

            Here a picture of the construction of the panel you saw in the photo and where the water hoses/tubes will be placed.

            I have more than enough space at home to place the panels so it's not my idea to save space but construction cost.

            Also I was reading that cooler cells produce more energy than hot ones, that's why I want to measure the heat in the spaces of the panel.

            The cost of the frame was 34$ the glass included.

            The lower part of the panel will be a sheet of aluminium and isn't included yet.
            Attached Files

            Comment


            • #7
              Economic aspect of DIY panels

              Q: I just said making them won't save you any money over buying them

              I think I will second that after finishing my project, it will be very difficult if not impossible to get closed to the quality of factory manufactored panels, starting with the Ebay cells which are mostly B-quality.

              Anyhow, compiling a DIY system makes you to understand step by step what is all this about and at the end you might stick to install a system by yourself but buying factory parts it needs for your consume.

              As I said before, I don't care too much how long the panels I'm making last (but hope at least 6 years) as China is in full production and will drop worldwide solar panel prices. Maybe in 5 or 6 years they cost the half of today and are soft string, who knows?

              Not everything coming from China is bad, they produce the quality you want and have different export qualities with of course different prices and a not exportable local quality.

              I know all this because I have a Chinese friend which imports/exports al kind of stuff.

              Comment


              • #8
                Kill A Watt

                Today arrived my Kill A Watt meter.

                It's a very good tool, my 23" Samsung LCD screen is rated 108W but it only uses 70W.

                The Sony laptop charger is 60W but when the battery is charged I could read 35W only.

                My wife called me Mr. Watt-son today.

                Comment


                • #9
                  TEDs

                  Holy, that's nice stuff.

                  here the price list of TEDs: http://www.theenergydetective.com/store/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Silicone "Frame" for sealing

                    I have no mayor updates today, the only thing I did was creating my "frame" for the sealant.

                    Here a photo to have an idea what I did.

                    It's a 3mm Iron lineal 1M long (I made two of those and two smaller ones to get one panel done at the time), I passed Silkasil to have a guide for the final sealing which will be done tomorrow (at least one panel).

                    It takes a little time to do that but I think it's worth to do, mostly because of cosmetic reasons.

                    To solder the cell strings I use a guide at one side, I have several pieces of MDF of 120 cm by 25 cm where I solder the cells, once they are done they will rest there untill I glue them to the glass buttom.

                    I use few silver solder to have a better heat transmission in the first contact but than I only use only the solder which is coming with the wire (on the wire).
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by ecusolar; 12-13-2009, 01:08 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Panel size

                      I'm still not sure what will be the best panel size:
                      1. the 3 by 12 cells
                      2. the 4 by 9 cells

                      Did someone read about that or have experience with both designs?

                      Actually I'm using 3 x 12 strings but need to use a cable to get pos and neg closed together.
                      Attached Files

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Sealed DIY panel w/o vacuum

                        Ok, I finished the panel yesterday night and it's all dry now

                        Here I simulate the worst case what can happen in Ecuador, a sunny day with sudden rain.

                        I sprayed with a sprikler constantly for 15 minutes water, than let it sun dry and you see it has no fog in.

                        This panel wasn't made using vacuum, the next one I will try that out.

                        Here the price of the panel, it doesn't include the frame I will use a more solid mounting rag instead.

                        The panel gives 21 Volts, this time I used 36 and not only 33 cells.
                        Attached Files

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Another panel

                          Today I finished another one what looks identical but has a little pvc tube in to let the panel "breath" like RCinFLA mentioned.

                          I think they aren't bad for the weather condition you find here in EC, we have garantized 8 month without rain and it's very dry (air huminity) during that time.

                          The raining season is just 4 month but sometimes it rains only once a week.
                          The weather is changing like everywhere due to all the stuff humans have done in the last 300 years.

                          Next prototype will be under vacuum and I guess it will be the final model.

                          Each one is marked and maybe I can post a follow up in some years when china panels cost 0.5 $ per Watt, lol.

                          BTW: the last one took me only 3 hours, I think it's getting better from now on.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I will make the rest of the panels in the next week, I decided to keep the design, so all will look the same.

                            I'm actually with a friend who has a workshop (I made him the website) and we are discussing how's the best to mount the panels.

                            I'm almost sure that I will not use any frame at all but a solid built mount.

                            Maybe later I will upload a draft how this will work.

                            I will make the rest of the panels next week as I don't have glass at the moment.

                            One note beside of all: If someone doesn't have the best solder skills go for already tabbed cells. I have pretty good skills but I asked one of my staffs to solder the tabs on a damaged cell, he did it but damaged the cell even more and it looked horrible.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Vacuum

                              As you saw in my proove in a previous post I didn't experience condensation in my panels but to avoid it in the future I built a vacuum in the panel.

                              Once that it is sealed completely and the silicon dry I used a medical needle and pushed it though the silicon under full noon sun, than I connected a vacuum pump and sucked as much air as I could. Than I took off the needle and cured the hole which gets closed only by the own silicon pressure with silicone.

                              That way it shouldn't present any condensation.
                              Attached Files

                              Comment

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