1230 Watt Solar Install

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TheJuggler

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I concur on having more than you need :)  I wanted you to put a meter on one so the rest of us could have the information  :D
 

TheJuggler

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Was just curious about what amperage you're really getting out of a panel... and would be interesting to know how much of THAT is actually getting to the charge controller.  I found the panels by a process of elimination using the various "clues" in your earlier posts; i.e. 32", 205W, and was looking at the spec sheet here:

http://www.amerescosolar.com/sites/default/files/S72MC.pdf

regarding their rated output.  That diode job isn't anything to be proud of and I was just curious as to what effect, if any, it might have on the overall efficiency.  I get that if you make a panel for mediocre performance, that's what you get, I'm more curious as to the company's accuracy in reporting their equipment's capabilities.  Helps when deciding what is actually a "deal" as far as Amps/$ invested goes I would think. :)
 

Frank B

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TheJuggler:

I guess that will now have to wait until I can put them to the test.  ;D  I hope to find out in Arizona this winter.

Summer has been entirely TOO busy, and though I WANT to get back to this project, I just can't seem to find a couple of free, sunny days.  I need to do some programming of the controller as the absorb voltage causes gassing of my flooded cells.  I think I need to set a current limit, but I suspect that this  will be based on the average draw of the trailer with nothing but 'background' tasks running, and I haven't even determined that yet. 

I also want to run a heavy load (like a heater and/or microwave) while the controller is in bulk mode to see how much the panels can put out 'pedal to the metal'.  I already know that the controller can give the batteries more than they can take, so I need to up the ante on the load.

As to the soldering job, what is wrong with it?  They are hot joints -- done by hand rather than machine.  Isn't that what one would expect from Mexico where people (sad to say) are cheaper than machines?

As to reported output vs real output, the voltages are within a whisker of what they claim, and amperage is at least as much a function of cloud and lattitude as the quality of the panels.  Methinks thou art  chasing percentages too small to worry about.  ;)

Frank.
 

Frank B

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OK, the preliminary figures are in.  50.7 amps on a relatively clear day with the sun just past solar noon, which is just about optimal for the way my trailer is parked at the moment.

I compromised by  paralleling the solar controller to the converter, and thereby using the factory wiring to transmit the power to the battery bank from the converter.  This is about a 20' run.  The coach wiring is  #6 wire where it connects to the converter, but appears to be lighter gauge where it connects to the batteries.  I'm sure I could improve the performance if I rewired with #2 or heavier, but that is not in the cards at the moment.  This was never about chasing maximum efficiency, but more about pragmatism.

With that said, however, I am QUITE pleased with just over 50 amps at this latitude (51 degrees) in August on a day where the air is still somewhat filled with thin smoke from the forest fires burning in the province to the west of us.

I consider the project a success at this point.  Now I hope we can go south this year and park it in the desert for a few weeks and enjoy it all!  ;D
 

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Kevin Means

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Don't you just love looking at the output of an MPPT controller that's converting volts to amps. :) 50 amps per hour is great Frank, and I'm quite sure it's significantly more than your consumption. Just remember that the US/Canadian exchange rate is about 1.275 to 1 right now, so you're not going to get as much sunshine up there as you will down here. 8)

Kev 
 

Frank B

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Kevin:

Don't you just love looking at the output of an MPPT controller that's converting volts to amps.
smiley.gif

Yes, very much.  I had to Instagram that shot to my family.  :)

50 amps per hour is great Frank, and I'm quite sure it's significantly more than your consumption.

Yes, far more than I will ordinarily use.  However, it is the 17 to 25 amps in full cloud and rain that I was really reaching for.  Max amps is of lesser concern to me, other than the pure excitement of seeing that on the screen.  :D

Just remember that the US/Canadian exchange rate is about 1.275 to 1 right now, so you're not going to get as much sunshine up there as you will down here.
cool.gif

;D

It is good to see the exchange rate coming evening out a bit.  Taking a 30% hit last year was hard on the savings, which was only partly offset by the lower diesel prices in the States (massive taxes on fuel in Canada).  Hopefully the exchange will improve yet more before we hope to head south.

Frank.
 

Frank B

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Update:

Got our first chance to actually put the new solar to work this past week and see how it does.

Conclusion:  Regardless of the solar capacity you have, if you park in the shade, it will never be enough.  :-\

We went into the mountains and pine forests just S and W of Calgary to a limited service (pit toilets, no power, water or sewer) Provincial campground that we have enjoyed for some 12 years or more.  Where we have parked in the past was more a function of view than sunshine, though over the years we have noted one spot that is 'hotter' than the rest, and have mostly avoided that one.  This time we were not able to get our preferred spot, so took one that is among some tall pines.  Lovely site, but shady.  The solar was not able to keep the 6 GC2 batteries charged with liberal use of the microwave, computer, and my color laser printer/scanner that I used to digitize some old photos.  I had decided to make this a REAL test of the system.  :D

We just didn't realize how little sun gets into this site.  About 80% shade most of the day, with about 2 hours of 10% shade between 1 and 3 pm.  The solar charger never got out of bulk mode, never being able to muster enough power from the array to reach the 14.4v needed to go into the absorb stage.

After 4 days, it was getting to the point that I began to feel a need to run the generator, but just did NOT WANT to throw in the towel that easily.  So we moved to the 'hot' spot, and all problems were resolved. 

This site has about 60% shade most of the day, with pretty much full sun between noon and 4 pm.  The solar charger got the battery charge voltage up to 14.4 volts near 2 PM, and then kept it there for the default 1 hour before switching into 'float'.  I increased the time limit on the absorb stage to 1.5 hours on the last 2 days, but should probably increase it well beyond that based on what I have learned from "Battery  University".  Batteries came back up to almost full charge the 3 days we were in that spot, though high cloud reduced performance on the last day.

It also appears that that the more aggressive charging algorithms in this Outback FM80 solar controller have somewhat rejuvenated my 3 year old battery bank that has otherwise only seen input from the 60 amp Progressive Dynamics shore power converter, and the anemic 110 watt factory solar with pwm controller.

So, we had enough power 'to burn' when parked in the sun, but just enough to get by when we weren't.  Not a surprise, of course, but this was after all a test run.  I am looking very much forward to seeing what happens if/when we get down south into the sunny Arizona desert this winter.

Final conclusion:  You CANNOT have a solar array that is too big.

Frank.
 

Kevin Means

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We boondocked for a week last year under a canopy of pine trees in the Oregon mountains. There wasn't a single minute that any of our panels were in direct sunlight. My brother had two portable panels for his TT and even those couldn't be kept in full sunlight. We had to run our generator for about an hour each morning, which wasn't too bad considering our coach's consumption. It was certainly better than having to run it four hours a day like we used to before installing the solar.

Kev
 

Frank B

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One more report:

We have now been in Arizona for about a month, and just over a week S of Quartzsite in a great boondocking area. I am pleased with the performance of our system. 

Our travel trailer is typical of middle-of-the-road units in that it uses propane appliances.  We don't watch a lot of TV, tending to use tablets to stream Netflix.  Therefore, our electric needs are not heavy and it appears that we have more than enough solar to do pretty much what we want with electrical power. I've not needed the generator since we left Canada a month ago (though we did have shore power a couple of nights on the way down).

On sunny days, the batteries will only take 30 to 40 amps from the controller before they go into absorb around 11 AM. However even that much draw seldom happens as we have only gotten to a 50% discharge over 24 hours when we were much further North, and had to run the furnace a lot. Therefore, I have found that the FM80 is way overkill for our needs. The FM60 would have been more than necessary as well.  However, the Outback controller is VERY programmable, and should we one day go for Lithium batteries, I am all set.

I brought a full-size Brother MFC-9330CDW multifunction laser printer/scanner with us this time as I want to digitize a lot of our old photo albums.  It works fine off the 2500 watt Sunforce inverter.  My wife brought her waffle iron, and we took our 600 watt electric toaster.  We have the typical RV microwave of about 1000 watts, and just for a lark, we also took along a hot air popcorn popper that draws as much as the microwave. I even brought my Makita professional rotary buffer / polisher to spruce up the exterior of the trailer, and I've been running that off the inverter as well.

This past week we have not spared ourselves any electrical conveniences. Nothing we throw at the system seems to tax it in any way.  In full sunlight in January the Outback FM80 solar controller puts the 6 Interstate (Costco) GC-2's into float by about 1 PM.  Even on somewhat cloudy days, we get a full charge long before the sun begins to wane.

My overall design philosophy of 'cover the roof with residential panels' seems to have worked well.  The FM80 works well with the 40 v panels, and I have zero need of tilting those panels as we have SO MUCH capacity already with them flat.  Even the occasional shade on the panel beside the a/c doesn't affect things much -- again because of the admittedly over-designed solar array.  The use of these 32" wide panels still allows me room to walk around on the roof as well.

So, residential panels are 'cheap', and no one ever seems to say that they have too much solar.  I'm glad that I put a lot of panels up there, as the extra cost and work was not that much more.

Frank.
 

HueyPilotVN

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Frank B said:
OK, the preliminary figures are in.  50.7 amps on a relatively clear day with the sun just past solar noon, which is just about optimal for the way my trailer is parked at the moment.

I compromised by  paralleling the solar controller to the converter, and thereby using the factory wiring to transmit the power to the battery bank from the converter.  This is about a 20' run.  The coach wiring is  #6 wire where it connects to the converter, but appears to be lighter gauge where it connects to the batteries.  I'm sure I could improve the performance if I rewired with #2 or heavier, but that is not in the cards at the moment.  This was never about chasing maximum efficiency, but more about pragmatism.

With that said, however, I am QUITE pleased with just over 50 amps at this latitude (51 degrees) in August on a day where the air is still somewhat filled with thin smoke from the forest fires burning in the province to the west of us.

I consider the project a success at this point.  Now I hope we can go south this year and park it in the desert for a few weeks and enjoy it all!  ;D

Frank.

Before I left Lake Havasu I went to Lowes and got the end of a roll of #2 cable, (about 50 feet).  I also got battery lugs and I have a crimping tool.

I was going to suprise you at KOFA with free new #2 cable for your battery to Invertor cable that you mentioned in the above post.

Hopefully you are coming to Quartzsite after KOFA anyway.
 

Kevin Means

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Frank B said:
You are amazing!
Yep... Bill is a generous guy, which reminds me... Thanks again for the filter Bill. I really appreciate it! And if you ever accidentally buy the wrong batteries, like maybe 800 AHs of lithium batteries, please offer them to me first. :)

I'm glad your solar setup is working so well Frank. Sounds like it's all dialed in... but a popcorn popper??  ;D Boy, this boondocking lifestyle's gettin' tough! Thanks for coming by the other day. It was nice to finally meet you. We ended up with 11 RVs and a tent at our boondocking site, and everyone seemed to have a great time. We sure did. We had originally planned to stay 4 or 5 nights, but ended up staying an entire week. What a great group!

During the entire week, I only ran our generator for about 15 to 20 minutes one evening, so Cyndi could nuke some things in the microwave for our group potluck dinner. Other than that, it was all solar. Not bad considering we have such a power-hungry coach. Several of us in the group had solar. It's a pretty popular option in that part of the country.

Kev
 

Frank B

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Calgary, Alberta
Kevin:


And my thanks to you. It was a pleasure to meet you and your wife as well. Sorry that we are so shy, but with the pressure of life today, even when retired, the wife and I seek QUIET more than anything else.  In fact, I complained to one of my buddies back in Calgary about how much I hate sitting beside the fridge outside under the awning. I hate the 'roar' of the propane burner. :)  THAT is the kind of quiet we crave, something that we find in abundance here.  It would be nice to get to know you better in a smaller group.


And my thanks to Bill as well. I'll have to look him up in the phone book and send him a big 'Thank You' card when we get home.


Safe journey home. We're off to Agua Caliente in Anza Borrego once we finish a shopping trip to Yuma on Monday (if the somewhat overzealous ranger doesn't chase us out on Friday).? 


Frank.
 

Frank B

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Calgary, Alberta
Got a surprise here a few weeks ago while camping in eastern Alberta around 51 degrees North latitude. Our solar install continues to please, and, wonder of wonders, it actually generated 60.9 amps for a while near solar noon, or 920 watts at the business end of the controller. Not bad for 1230 watts of FLAT mounted panels! I expected to get about 50% efficiency with the way my system is set up, but 920 watts is closer to 75% efficiency! Never expected that...

Frank.
 

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