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  • sunpower service hell

    i'm wondering if anyone here has experience escalating trouble tickets inside sunpower.

    my inverter has started throwing code 1501 on maybe 1 morning out of every 7. this is a failure to synchronize with the grid's AC waveform. i called sunpower support (phillipines) and logged it, and the second time it happened i called back and they agreed to send a technician. the technician finally came today and *the technician* was given the runaround from the phillipines support people. the on-site tech determined that the inverter (SMA5000) needs to be RMAd, but somehow the phone support people have become fixated on something called the "speedWire" and are telling the tech to replace that. the tech told them about 10 times that they don't have any of those units in the office and that they'd have to install a PVS5x or PVS6. it's not clear to me that the "speedWire" is even a monitoring unit but it is irrelevant as the problem is in the inverter, not the monitoring. for anyone that cares to look, they will see that while this problem is happening the PVS is happily reporting 0W generation all day (until i go powercycle the inverter at which point it starts working.)

    anyway i'm wondering if anyone here got the runaround like this and how they resolved it. right now this problem is in the technician's hands as he has requested an RMA number but corporate won't provide it.

    all in all disappointing because i paid a premium for sunpower equipment thinking that if it failed that they of all people would have the resources to diagnose/replace a failed unit after some number of years. in the sense that a lot of their competitors from 5 years ago are gone, i'm in good shape, but they seemingly can't diagnose technical problems.

  • #2
    Not like your troubles, but I had a couple of glitches in the monitoring of my S.P. system about 5 years ago. The people in the Philippines initially surprised me with their ineptness. After a couple of calls, I gave up on them as a resource. Seems things haven't changed much.

    I got the S.P. system to either verify or refute their claims as "most efficient", knowing it was not as cost effective by about 20 % and probably not any more reliable than other quality system.

    As for equipment quality, it's fit for purpose, but no ore so than other stuff I monitor in my HOA.
    As for output, per installed STC kW, it's the same as other quality equipment.
    As for my vendor, he's good.

    As for Sunpower support, IMO only, but based on experience, they get an F.

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    • #3
      You could try calling the SMA tech support line (expect at least a half hour on hold) as Sunpower just rebrands their stuff. Probably going to tell you however that they are not allowed to help on Sunpower units. I have hundreds of SMA inverters installed, and I've never had this 1501 error. Seen a number of 7201 "AC relay" failures though.
      BSEE, R11, NABCEP, Chevy BoltEV, >2500kW installed

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      • #4
        yes the 1501 error is very confusing to them, because the manual says something like "you've provisioned for the wrong country" as a troubleshooting step. however, obviously my provisioning is correct as the inverter has been running fine for ~5 years and my house hasn't moved to england or anything

        anyway the verbose description on the LCD says it all - grid reconnection failure. honestly i was surprised that the inverter apparently stops locking the grid AC waveform when the sun goes down, as this problem becomes apparent first thing in the morning. i take this to mean that at first light the inverter attempts to lock the grid frequency/phase. but maybe that's not the case and for whatever reason overnight some nights the inverter loses lock.

        either way something is wrong with this thing and it should be immediately apparent from the monitoring data. the first time this happened i didn't realize it until late afternoon, and you can clearly see that the inverter is reporting 0W all day until i reset the thing. i don't know why this (and the 5 other times it's happened since) is not enough for sunpower to realize that the inverter is failing.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by astroboy View Post
          yes the 1501 error is very confusing to them, because the manual says something like "you've provisioned for the wrong country" as a troubleshooting step. however, obviously my provisioning is correct as the inverter has been running fine for ~5 years and my house hasn't moved to england or anything

          anyway the verbose description on the LCD says it all - grid reconnection failure. honestly i was surprised that the inverter apparently stops locking the grid AC waveform when the sun goes down, as this problem becomes apparent first thing in the morning. i take this to mean that at first light the inverter attempts to lock the grid frequency/phase. but maybe that's not the case and for whatever reason overnight some nights the inverter loses lock.

          either way something is wrong with this thing and it should be immediately apparent from the monitoring data. the first time this happened i didn't realize it until late afternoon, and you can clearly see that the inverter is reporting 0W all day until i reset the thing. i don't know why this (and the 5 other times it's happened since) is not enough for sunpower to realize that the inverter is failing.
          Is it possible that the grid changed (voltage or frequency) for a brief time that emulates a foreign country power service. That may be fooling the inverter into giving that 1501 error code.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

            Is it possible that the grid changed (voltage or frequency) for a brief time that emulates a foreign country power service. That may be fooling the inverter into giving that 1501 error code.
            That was my thought initially. The mystery is why it now requires a manual rest?
            9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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            • #7
              well my understanding is the SMA5000 does have a very narrow frequency lock range (59.5 - 60.5 hz IIRC) and so i suppose it is a possibility that the grid may wander out of that range from time to time. but i'd think that PGE's frequency is pretty solid overall and this problem happens about once a week, sometimes twice in a week since late january, whereas since november 2015 until then it never happened once.

              my main concern with this is that i'm having powerwalls installed soon and when the batteries are full the powerwalls increase their output frequency to cause the solar to stop generating. if the inverter won't restart when the powerwalls resume 60Hz output, i'm going to be in trouble during a power outage. this has to work right...

              anyway at this point the only thing i can think of would be to somehow monitor the line for frequency changes and see if there's an actual cause for this vs. the inverter just losing lock. i don't know if there are any commercial logging products like this (maybe a kill-a-watt with a computer interface?) but if not i suppose i can get a transformer and a raspberry pi with some kind of ADC hat and make my own monitor/logger.

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              • #8
                I recently wondered about utility power quality as I am getting random occasional solar production power drops.
                My installer contacted the Utility (PG&E) and asked if they could install a line datalogger or provide one they could install.
                PG&E sent a kit with the datalogger, wires and CTs, we installed it, downloaded the data logger software onto my laptop, and I am logging data every day with an without inverter to see if we can notice something.
                I created an Excel sheet where I can load the data and have graphs generated so I can visualize things better.
                Report and link to the excel file in the thread below
                https://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum...647#post412647
                Last edited by scrambler; 03-15-2020, 08:25 PM.

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                • #9
                  interesting. i didn't know PGE would supply such equipment. i'll read your thread.

                  i will say that my computer UPSs have tripped a couple of times in the past week, so there have been some very short brown-outs on my part of the grid.

                  given the COVID-19 stuff i'm thinking that not too much is going to happen on this in the coming months, and i kind of doubt that tesla is really going to show up on schedule (early april) to do my panel upgrade and PW install.

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                  • #10
                    strangely, this problem hasn't happened since 2/28 so maybe the problem is the grid. anyway everything's on hold here in CA so i'll have to solve this problem in the future.

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