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Author Topic: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?  (Read 6244 times)

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Offline grweldon

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2015, 04:27:02 PM »
After many years of just reading the forums i am finally writing something.  I am off the grid in Western Maine. 12 panels, 20 batteries and a Winco propane generator to charge the batteries when needed...

It would be nice to know the rated wattage output of the panels.  I'm assuming 3KW total? (250 watt panels)...
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Offline maple flats

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2017, 05:41:48 PM »
My battery bank referenced 2 yrs. ago this month is still going strong but they are only emergency back up heat for the RO now, because I installed a wall mount propane heater which runs off a bulk tank.
I have now put in a totally off grid solar system at my house (the house is on the grid but the new system is isolated from the grid power). I have 1720 watts in panels, the battery bank is 24V 683 AH, consisting of 4 Rolls 6V 683 AH batteries in series. I have a MorningStar MPPT 60 charge controller, and an Outback 3524 inverter. We use it depending on the battery bank voltage. In the summer we run the washing machine and the vacuum all the time, in the winter they are only run on solar if we have good sun. The rest are run all the time on solar (2 sump pumps, light in the duck's coup, and the TV and dish box most of the time. They are on a power strip  that is plugged into solar when batteries are up good and into grid if voltage is down below 25V. This system was put in last December and finished in Jan. 2017. We ended up needing a rapid shut down set-up to comply with the newer code to protect first responders in case of an emergency.
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed,  Peterson ATS upgraded to WPF mill, maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Offline maple flats

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2017, 07:24:21 PM »
The new totally off grid system is doing well. Lately we have been able to run the clothes washer on solar too every time, regardless of what the weather has been. The lowest the battery meter has shown is 25.1V which is real good. So, we run 2 sump pumps, 1 50" TV, the satellite box, the DVR 2 dehydrators (we've been drying apples), the washing machine, the vacuum every day and an outside fountain pump along with a lite in the duck house. (we get 2 eggs almost every day from 2 female ducks as long as they get 14 hrs of light, either natural or from a bulb).
I declare this little 6 panel 1710 rated watt system a success. As the days get shorter my guess is that we will need to do the wash and vacuuming only on days with decent sun to be able to plug into the solar power.
Everything else runs off the grid power.
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed,  Peterson ATS upgraded to WPF mill, maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Offline 1270d

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2017, 04:11:41 PM »
My wife and I are considering our options for electrical service for a home we plan to build in the next year or two. 

For a traditional grid hook up I would need to have the utility install a little over one half mile of line at 7.50 a foot.  Depending on where we select our home site the cost will be somewhere between 20 and 30K, 35 if we built towards the back of the parcel (41 ac).   

Our current home is a mid seventies split level with gas fired hot water heat.  All appliances that can run off of natural gas are doing so with the exception of our clothes dryer which is electric. Almost all of our lighting has been switched over to LED but other than that there is little energy conservation around here.  In this location so far our peak electrical bill was somewhere in the area of 900 kwh.  Average is closer to 600. 

Our latitude is 46.4 degrees in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

Also we are a younger couple with a growing family so we need to keep that in mind when sizing a system.  I have gotten extremely mixed reviews locally on the PV option for this area.  We get more snow than most areas of the country so maybe that could be a negative?

Any input is appreciated.

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2017, 07:37:04 PM »
Our latitude is 46.4 degrees in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

Also we are a younger couple with a growing family so we need to keep that in mind when sizing a system.  I have gotten extremely mixed reviews locally on the PV option for this area.  We get more snow than most areas of the country so maybe that could be a negative?

Any input is appreciated.

At that high of a latitude, your panel angle will be high as well (steep) so snow should just slide off.  Just make sure there is a place for it to go so it doesn't back up.  What is the average number of sunny days each month?  There are web sites that you put in your latitude, angle on your panels, the direction they face, and I think, the number of sunny days.  If not the last one, then you can just ratio down the numbers to get a good estimate of your solar exposure.  With how cheap panels are getting, its just a matter of finding a deal on good batteries and taking care of them.
John Sawicky

Just North-East of Sacramento...

SkyTrak 9038, Davis Little Monster backhoe, Case 16+4 Trencher, Home Built 38" cut Bandmill up to 64' - using it all to build a timber frame cabin.

Offline John Mc

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2017, 10:13:58 PM »
1270d - Here's the web site we used when I was working for a PV installer here in VT. No need to put in the number of sunny days. The site draws from a database to calculate the average "sunnyness" for your area.

http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

If you were doing a roof mount, an 8/12 or a 9/12 pitch roof would theoretically give you the best total energy output per year, given the seasonal solar conditions in your area. Highest total output is usually the target for a grid-tied system.

I'd consider going with a steeper roof for an off-grid system in your area for a couple of reasons: (1) It sheds snow better (PV panels are pretty good at shedding snow anyway, but it never hurts to help it along) and (2) For an off-grid system, you generally want to favor winter production to help counter the lower amount of sun at a time of year when most people use more electricity - steepening the angle gives it a bit better output in the winter. (and you only lose about 0.5 - 1% off your total output by using a 10/12 or a 12/12 pitch instead of a 9/12 which is close to peak total output in your area).

I'm not a fan of trackers. They do increase the output of the PV panels, but they add complexity and cost to a system, and the moving mechanical parts are far more prone to breakdown than the PV panels and associated electronics. If you have the space, it's almost always a better deal financially to just add more panels to get more output, rather than mounting them on a tracker. (10 or 20 years ago, it made sense to put them on a tracker: PV panels were very expensive, so you wanted to get everything you could out of them. They are so cheap now, it's generally better to just go with a fixed mount.)

You should talk to your system designer about possible future expansion. THere can be things you do now to make that easier. For example your "home run" wiring (wires that run from your PV system to your circuit breaker panel could be oversized to allow for future expansion without having to pull new wires (at the very least, make sure any conduit is sized to accommodate future expansion - you don't want to have to tear than out just because you added a few panels).
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline grweldon

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #26 on: November 20, 2017, 03:47:05 PM »
I started small with 750W of panels and a 456AH battery bank and a 1500W inverter. I recently added 900W more of panels and will install a 4000W 120/240V Magnum split-phase inverter. With the 1500W inverter I run a small 150W fridge continuously, 8 LED twin-tube 4' lights 4-5 hours on weekends, run a computer and 450 watt-per-channel (output) amplifier. I run small power tools (circular saw, drill, etc) and if I'm careful and don't put too much load on it I can run my chop saw and crosscut 2x8 lumber. I plan on adding 230 more AH of batteries and 1KW more panels eventually. I'm very happy with the way that things work and I'm anxious to get the 4K Magnum hooked up.  I have no other source of power at the farm but plan to run a 24VDC booster pump to charge a bladder tank for water pressure with collected rainwater as the source.  Haven't tackled water heat yet but I think propane will be added in the future for water and ambient heat. As I said, I like it.
Timberking 1400, Ford 3910 Tractor, John Deere 350B Crawler/Loader

Offline 1270d

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #27 on: November 21, 2017, 05:37:01 AM »
Thanks for that calculator.   It looks like a 10 kw system would be close to my current needs and maybe with a small wind generator would do the trick.   

Any ideas or info about batteries and bank sizing?

Offline John Mc

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #28 on: November 21, 2017, 09:01:03 AM »
Thanks for that calculator.   It looks like a 10 kw system would be close to my current needs and maybe with a small wind generator would do the trick.   

Any ideas or info about batteries and bank sizing?

Batteries and bank sizing is outside my area of experience (my former business partner would have something to say on this, but he is swamped these days - lots of folks trying to get their system in before the end of the year.)

I know that 10 KW is large for a typical grid-tied system for a residential home in our area (I'm in VT, but conditions are similar to Michigan), but the goals are different for a grid-tied system (you are just trying to handle the average load for the year, rather than with off-grid where you have to deal with a seasonal low in production in the winter - right at the time most people in our type of climate have a seasonal high usage).

The one thing I can say is you should look hard a conservation FIRST, then size your system for the remaining load - of course if you have no kids now, but they are in your future, the added load may well dwarf any conservation efforts.
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.   - Abraham Maslow

Offline 1270d

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #29 on: November 21, 2017, 05:05:47 PM »
I have four kids now and expect more. Conservation is going to be difficult, but of course some is possible.

Any thoughts on the types of batteries?   Lithium ion seems to be the thing now but I'm pretty much priced out of those products.   My house plan will be somewhat geared towards efficient electrical usage since this is an entirely new construction project.

Offline gww

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #30 on: November 21, 2017, 05:56:04 PM »
I am using a fork truck battery.  I think there are plusses and minusses on them, faster self discharge for one.  It was the cheapest to get the most with suposed good longivity.  Very heavy.
Still not cheap.  Mine is 48 volt 800 amp hour.  That is 24 2volt batteries in a steel case.  Weighs one ton.
Cheers
gww

Offline 1270d

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #31 on: November 21, 2017, 09:22:37 PM »
One ton?  Wheww

Offline Stuart Caruk

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #32 on: November 22, 2017, 01:52:47 AM »
Before I got sick and figured I was going to die, I set up a 20 @ 300 watt panels on a lot in Roatan. Turns out it was waaaaay cheaper to produce power, and way more reliable than RECO provides. Power down there is all made from diesel generators, when they run...

Biggest problem was leaving the island. Batteries, solar panels, wire, inverters... anything not welded down just disappears.

When I go back down, I want to set up small buildings with a porch holding up a flat sloped roof set at 22.8 degrees to maximize the solar gain. Each building should be able to get me a 12 - 15 Kw array. Hopefully if I get the panels up on the roof, and running at a high enough voltage, they will be much harder to steal. Since I sold my old lot and mill, this time I'm looking at trying the south side of the island. On a much larger lot with access to some very deep water close to shore.

I plan to work on proving the feasibilty of compressed air energy storage, for storing solar generated power for use a night time. Think of it as an air battery, or a 55 cubic meter energy storage bag sitting in 1800' of water.
Stuart Caruk
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Offline bdsmith

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #33 on: December 29, 2017, 09:58:29 PM »
Battery technology is advancing now that photovoltaics are well established.  Saltwater batteries are the newest storage technology but the company has had some financial problems earlier this year.  They bear watching.

Offline maple flats

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #34 on: January 15, 2018, 08:08:42 PM »
If I were superstitious (we got married on Friday the 13th, over 50 yrs ago) I wouldn't say this, but my battery bank that was rated to last 7 years has now passed the ninth year since being connected. So far, so good. But as mentioned earlier, the only use of that battery bank is as back up power to heat a very small room in my sugarhouse where my reverse Osmosis unit is stored, it can not freeze. The only other use would be for lighting the sugarhouse in case of a power failure during a boil. Fortunately that has never happened (yet).
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed,  Peterson ATS upgraded to WPF mill, maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Offline maple flats

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #35 on: January 17, 2018, 06:14:21 AM »
Here, on the 43rd parallel, snow on the panels is a major issue. If you get much snow, be sure you have the ability to remove it from the panels. Just 6" of snow on panels can cut the watts to near zero. My most recent solar install has snow issues, it is on a south facing second floor wall over a garage roof. I have a 24' handle on a snow rake but rarely can get all of the snow off. It seem to need another handle, but then I wouldn't be able to lift the head without kinking the handle. As it is, I seem to miss the upper 18". If the sun is good and the temp is about 24F+ it soon slides off, but if colder it doesn't slide. If it warms to about 28F it slides off if it is not totally overcast.
My ground mount array at my sugarhouse is no issue clearing snow off.
logging small time for years but just learning how,  2012 36 HP Mahindra tractor, 3point log arch, 8000# class excavator, lifts 2500# and sets logs on mill precisely where needed,  Peterson ATS upgraded to WPF mill, maple syrup a hobby that consumes my time. looking to learn blacksmithing.

Offline tule peak timber

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2018, 04:52:03 PM »
Before I got sick and figured I was going to die, I set up a 20 @ 300 watt panels on a lot in Roatan. Turns out it was waaaaay cheaper to produce power, and way more reliable than RECO provides. Power down there is all made from diesel generators, when they run...

Biggest problem was leaving the island. Batteries, solar panels, wire, inverters... anything not welded down just disappears.

When I go back down, I want to set up small buildings with a porch holding up a flat sloped roof set at 22.8 degrees to maximize the solar gain. Each building should be able to get me a 12 - 15 Kw array. Hopefully if I get the panels up on the roof, and running at a high enough voltage, they will be much harder to steal. Since I sold my old lot and mill, this time I'm looking at trying the south side of the island. On a much larger lot with access to some very deep water close to shore.

I plan to work on proving the feasibilty of compressed air energy storage, for storing solar generated power for use a night time. Think of it as an air battery, or a 55 cubic meter energy storage bag sitting in 1800' of water.
  Very interesting....I'm racking my brain for alternative energy storage my self.
 
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #37 on: January 18, 2018, 06:35:10 PM »
 lRan my sawmill for several years  with an old diesel on used motor oil. In warm weather I run my cummins gen set on 70% used veg. oil.   The diesel has to be I.d.i. [pre combustion chamber] style. The injectors have to be easy to get out and provide access to the pre cups so you can clean the deposits. The fuel needs to be as clean as you can get it. An old 318 cat. with pony start is what I had.  They had these in gen sets also. These old engines can be fitted with new generators yet to day.

Offline bdsmith

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #38 on: January 23, 2018, 11:12:24 AM »
1270d,
Since you are building new, you might consider a low voltage DC  wiring system for your lighting.  LEDs are low voltage, high current devices.  Most use between 3 and 5 volts DC.  The 120VAC to 5 VDC converters use between 10% and 15% of the energy of the LED fixture.
If you had a few solar panels that fed the lights directly or charged a 6V battery bank, you could reduce the amount of generation you need.  You also wouldn't need 14 gauge ROMEX for wiring and could install it without the need of a licensed electrician.  I have seen systems with Cat5 wiring.
You would need to source converter-less LED bulbs like automotive bulbs.  There are various styles of industrial bulbs available.

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Re: Off-grid battery/solar systems. Who is running one?
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2018, 11:48:01 AM »
1270d,
Since you are building new, you might consider a low voltage DC  wiring system for your lighting.  LEDs are low voltage, high current devices.  Most use between 3 and 5 volts DC.  The 120VAC to 5 VDC converters use between 10% and 15% of the energy of the LED fixture.
If you had a few solar panels that fed the lights directly or charged a 6V battery bank, you could reduce the amount of generation you need.  You also wouldn't need 14 gauge ROMEX for wiring and could install it without the need of a licensed electrician.  I have seen systems with Cat5 wiring.
You would need to source converter-less LED bulbs like automotive bulbs.  There are various styles of industrial bulbs available.
I think you mean low current.  Some of the automotive bulbs I was planning to use draw around 0.03 amp at 12v.  However, I wouldn't go light gauge wiring.  With DC, voltage drop is a big deal (when you start looking a long runs or cumulative loads).  Standard 12 or 14 gauge wire is not all that expensive and then I would be pre-wired should something come along in the future that would make me want to convert to 120vac.

The county was trying to say I wasn't following code for my DC install.  I asked him to show me the code - he couldn't find it either. ;)
John Sawicky

Just North-East of Sacramento...

SkyTrak 9038, Davis Little Monster backhoe, Case 16+4 Trencher, Home Built 38" cut Bandmill up to 64' - using it all to build a timber frame cabin.


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