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  • Interested in Solar

    Greetings to you all,
    I am interested in getting some solar panels for my home but I am finding a lot of conflicting information over what type of system, what panels, what inverters, and how large it should be. I have also heard that there are a lot of Fly By Night contractors out there that can't be trusted.

    A bit of information that might be helpful. I live in eastern Idaho, not sure of the Latitude off the top of my head but we do get some severe winters and quite often we can go days with no sun so a grid tie system is almost a requirement. Power outages in the winter time are also fairly common and can last for several hours so I would like some form of reserve for those times. I have an 80 foot south facing fence line I would like to install the panels along so I do not have to place them on my roof.

    What I am wondering is would I be better off buying a standby generator instead of installing a battery bank? Are Micro inverters at each panel better than a single large inverter? I know some places require your solar system to shutdown in the event of a power outage, is there a way to stay powered up in these events? I have installed transfer switches of both the automatic and manual variety for several generators and I don't see why one would not work in this situation.

    Oh, last bit of info, I am thinking about installing around 15KW worth of panels, a lot I know but I want to be able to run my 3/4 HP well if the power is out. The good thing is I have 400 gallons of pressurized water storage at almost all times so my pump only has to run maybe once a day if that. Heat is all propane and only requires 500 watts for the fans. Water heater is electric but can be easily shut off if needed.

    Basicly who should I avoid, what brands are the best for the buck. I am not looking for a quick return on investment but for more peace of mind.

  • #2
    Wow a lot of miss information.


    all grid tie systems without batteries will shut down without the grid even if you have a transfer switch
    a batter system that runs in grid and backs things up is called bimodal or hybrid and it does not need a transfer switch usually as they are built into the invertter


    you do not need 15kw to run your well pump. You do not need any solar, just a battery and modest inverter.
    you size a grid tie to offset your bill, which you did not give. What is your average usage in kWh ?
    OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

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    • #3
      I have solar power and grid power available to my house.

      Where I live [on the East Coast] the grid goes down every month, so I need something more reliable.

      How much solar is really a secondary matter. In summer, my solar can recharge my batteries and can run my home without the grid. But in winter as we have more cloudy days, the issue shifts to how many days I go without sunlight. To be able to recharge the batteries.

      Batteries require maintenance, and to go a long time you need a lot of batteries.

      I know a lot of neighbors here who use solar power. Most are off-grid, but some net-meter. I am told most often to avoid net-metering.

      4400w, Midnite Classic 150 charge-controller.

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      • #4
        For peace of mind (and maybe less of a danger to yourself) start with a book: "Solar Power Your Home for Dummies". You will benefit from the read. ~ 20 bucks at bookstores/Amazon. A good primer. Knowledge is power. You may also find you will get more in the way of security and spend less $$ with a small/med. size generator in lieu of PV.

        Respectful suggestion. Don't buy any solar until after you read the book. As you sound like you already know, what you don't know can hurt you. After the read, fill in knowledge gaps here. The questions you ask and the answers will have more substance after the read.

        If you do choose PV, staying away from roof mounts is probably a good idea, especially in snow country.

        Welcome to the neighborhood and the forum of fewer illusions.

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        • #5
          read this excellent post about planning for snow removal.
          https://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum...nt-pv-mounting

          I would suggest for your situation, a simple Grid Tie system, and a whole house backup generator with transfer switch. You chose manual or automatic start.
          Because of likely cold start issues, I'd suggest propane generator, if you already have propane tank on site.
          Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
          || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
          || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

          solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
          gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            I have solar power and grid power available to my house.
            Most people do.

            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            IWhere I live [on the East Coast] the grid goes down every month, so I need something more reliable.
            so do I. I have a bimodal inverter from Outback. It works like a grid tie system except when the grid is down, then it takes over for some loads.

            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            IHow much solar is really a secondary matter.
            How much would be up to as much as would offset your load, though you could go much smaller. I wanted the backup as primary because in WV we have cheap energy so backup was primary, offset secondary.

            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            In summer, my solar can recharge my batteries and can run my home without the grid. But in winter as we have more cloudy days, the issue shifts to how many days I go without sunlight. To be able to recharge the batteries.
            Winter is not so much the cloudy as shorter days. The colder weather helps with production though
            The issue goes to how long are your outages. Bimodal can and will recharge from grid as well as from solar. Also you typically don't put your whole house on the backup system.
            For example I have my well pump but not my hot water heater, stove, clothes dryer, dish washer, or hot tub. But I do have the well for water, lights, internet, garage door opener, fridge, freezer... important things. This helps the battery run longer.

            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            IBatteries require maintenance, and to go a long time you need a lot of batteries.
            Not all batteries need maintenance. and to go a long time you don't necessarily need a lot of them, as pointed out determine your real critical load and since you are using the grid and net metering as primary the batteries do not need to cycle very often. There are different kinds of batteries, some that are designed to cycle a lot and some that are designed to have longer shelf life. You want the longer shelf life low maintenance.

            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
            II know a lot of neighbors here who use solar power. Most are off-grid, but some net-meter. I am told most often to avoid net-metering.
            Who is telling you to avoid net metering and WHY??? Is there reason valid? is it important to you?

            Are they trying to validate their own (poor) choice to themselves...
            OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

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            • #7
              My average KWH over a years time is about 1500 KWH with a peak of 2000 KWH per month. I was planning on over sizing the system because I know that while a panel may be rated at a specific output there are a lot of factors that can effect the actual output. Temperature, inclination, orientation, cloud cover and even dust so I am only counting on about a 75% efficiency If I get higher than that, bonus.

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              • #8
                If I do go with batteries most likely I will go with 2 volt 2500 ah flooded cell substation batteries. I have an option on some through a local utility and they change them out every five years regardless of usage. The things are darn near bulletproof as long as you keep the acid levels correct and the plates submerged. Sure I would need sixty of them minimum but I have seen them still going strong after thirty years.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Leo S. View Post
                  My average KWH over a years time is about 1500 KWH with a peak of 2000 KWH per month. I was planning on over sizing the system because I know that while a panel may be rated at a specific output there are a lot of factors that can effect the actual output. Temperature, inclination, orientation, cloud cover and even dust so I am only counting on about a 75% efficiency If I get higher than that, bonus.
                  you can do a simulation on PVwatts at NREL to see your production for a particular size. 2MWH a month is not all that big. You don't want too much over production as most utilities do not give you much if anything for it, so the system size part of the array that over produces has the least value and least ROI.
                  OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Leo S. View Post
                    If I do go with batteries most likely I will go with 2 volt 2500 ah flooded cell substation batteries. I have an option on some through a local utility and they change them out every five years regardless of usage. The things are darn near bulletproof as long as you keep the acid levels correct and the plates submerged. Sure I would need sixty of them minimum but I have seen them still going strong after thirty years.
                    These would only last long if you are grid tied and do not cycle them often, i.e. only for backup needs on grid outages.
                    OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Leo S. View Post
                      My average KWH over a years time is about 1500 KWH with a peak of 2000 KWH per month. I was planning on over sizing the system because I know that while a panel may be rated at a specific output there are a lot of factors that can effect the actual output. Temperature, inclination, orientation, cloud cover and even dust so I am only counting on about a 75% efficiency If I get higher than that, bonus.
                      The term "oversize" is both situational and definitionally variable. Part of PV preliminary design considers as many variables of the type you mention and more as thought necessary and known.

                      That's one reason why knowing what's involved in PV acquisition is important.

                      Sizing then considers, among other things, the balance between how much those design variables and the usually unknown (and in some cases unknowable) magnitude of their variability, and the cost of sizing increments both in terms of lost production for undersizing and lost opportunity cost for oversizing (paying more upfront.

                      With most net metering, as Butch notes, overgeneration is reimbursed at a relatively small fraction of retail rate. That low reimbursement rate will quickly and usually drastically reduce a system's cost effectiveness, lengthen payback time and reduce ROI a lot more than most folks realize.

                      Oversizing is a pretty sure bet to reducing cost effectiveness. If one goal is to pay the least amount to meet a goal of supplying adequate electricity over the long term, or getting the most bang for your long term buck, oversizing without understanding what affects array annual output, or not understanding the sometimes draconian effects that low reimbursement of overgeneration can have on system cost effectiveness will work against that goal.

                      I'd work on lowering usage before throwing expensive PV at it. Not using, not needing or using less and so not buying something is less costly than buying more of it.

                      Buy and read the book.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Leo S. View Post
                        My average KWH over a years time is about 1500 KWH with a peak of 2000 KWH per month. I was planning on over sizing the system because I know that while a panel may be rated at a specific output there are a lot of factors that can effect the actual output. Temperature, inclination, orientation, cloud cover and even dust so I am only counting on about a 75% efficiency If I get higher than that, bonus.
                        I'd first find out how exactly your Utility Company handles, things. Is it going to be straight up Net Metering, what rates excess generation is returned at, is it done annually or monthly (not even sure anyone does it monthly), do the only give you pennies on the dollar for anything you feed back period, is net metered until you're you've produced more than you consumed and then you get back pennies on the dollar, do they do Time of use rates, different rates for different seasons? There's a bunch of different ways that different utilities handle these things, and many are changing.

                        Find out if you can actually pull hour by hour consumption data from your utility from the past year (this is a great one if you know how to use a spreadsheet and can then get a Consumed (from the Utility) vs Produced (to the Utility) as you'll need to do math.

                        Then definitely get the data from PV watts

                        Really do your homework like Butch and JPM are suggesting. And read the 'Solar Power your home for Dummies' as JPM has suggested.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Net Metering is the best thing since sliced bread. You put 5kwh into the grid, and it unwinds your meter 5kwh. Cheapest battery ever !!

                          Originally posted by Leo S. View Post
                          If I do go with batteries most likely I will go with 2 volt 2500 ah flooded cell substation batteries. I have an option on some through a local utility and they change them out every five years regardless of usage. The things are darn near bulletproof as long as you keep the acid levels correct and the plates submerged. Sure I would need sixty of them minimum but I have seen them still going strong after thirty years.
                          NOOOOOO !!!!!!!!!! Flooded substation batteries are very nice, for about a dozen cycles. They are EMERGENCY BACKUP batteries. They are NOT Deep Cycle batteries and will not survive many deep cycles. But it's your choice.
                          if you cycle them more than once a week, your charger needs to be able to put 250A into them, to stir the electrolyte, to prevent it from stratifying.


                          Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                          || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                          || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                          solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                          gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

                          Comment

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