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Comparing Inverter Technologies
Apr21

Comparing Inverter Technologies

The decision to install solar is a simple one. It will save you money so you should do it. Solar panels require an inverter to convert the DC power that they produce to AC power that your appliances need. So you know an inverter (or inverters) needs to be part of your solar package, but navigating the options on what type of inverter technology is right for you can be little more complex.  The basic options are microinverters, string inverters, string inverters that require optimizers and battery-based inverters.  Microinverters are installed at the solar panels. They will mount to the solar panel frame or the racking depending on what racking you are using. There is typically one microinverter for every one or two solar panels. The most popular brand for microinverters is Enphase who pioneered the concept of microinverters many years ago. String inverters are very different than microinverters. They are installed separately from the solar panels and one string inverter can handle many solar panels. How many solar panels can go on a string inverter depends on the size of a the string inverter and the wattage of the solar panels. The residential string inverters usually max out at about forty solar panels while a larger commercial inverter could handle hundreds of solar panels. Inverters designed for utility scale solar farms can even handle thousands of solar panels but that is probably a little bigger than you are looking for here. The name “string inverter” comes from the fact that the solar panels are wired together in series strings. Some string inverters require DC optimizers be installed at the solar panels. One or two solar panels connect to each optimizer and then the optimizers are connected together in a string.  It used to be that only SolarEdge inverters needed to have optimizers in installed, but the new NEC 2017 requirements for rapid shutdown has changed the rules for all string inverters. If the system is installed on a building, there need to be rapid shutdown devices that can de-energize the system at the module level. These may not be as complex as the SolarEdge optimizers which do maximum power point tracking for each solar panel but at the very list they have to be a switch that can turn off the DC power for each solar panel. Finally, there are the battery-based inverters which get their power input from batteries instead of solar panels. If you are installing a battery-based inverter as part of your solar power system, you would need to install charge controllers to manage the power from the solar panels going into the batteries and...

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Solar with Batteries for Farm Self Reliance
Apr16

Solar with Batteries for Farm Self Reliance

The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has opened our eyes to understand the importance of American farms and maintaining food supply, especially during emergencies. While Covid-19 will probably not cause power outages, it is definitely making us all think about how prepared we are for future potential future disasters, like earthquakes, fires or floods. Many modern farms would have a difficult time operating during an extended power outage but that can be fixed with a solar installation that includes energy storage. The solar equipment would save the farm money on a day to day basis during normal times and then it could charge the battery system to keep essential electrical systems running in “off-grid” mode during a power outage. Many farms already have generators that run on gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane. But the fuel for it has a shelf life and no matter how much you have stored, there is always the chance that the emergency could last longer than the fuel supply.  Solar is the best way to truly be prepped for disasters because it is a never-ending supply of electricity that re-fills itself every day. Solar with batteries can run the farm for months or even years if necessary. There really isn’t a better option available.  If your farm already has solar installed to offset the costs of your electric bills, then this gets even easier because you can add batteries to your existing system. Which battery system is best for you will depend on what equipment you already have installed. Enphase IQ microinverters have been very popular over the few years and can now be retrofitted with the Enphase Encharge battery-up system. If you have a SolarEdge inverter, you can pair that with SolarEdge’s new StorEdge inverter with an LG Chem battery. Outback’s Radian system can be AC coupled with almost any existing inverter, so that is also an option. Either way you go, the retrofit is no problem and can even be a DIY project for someone who is handy. In order to size the solar and battery system, you need to think about all the electrical equipment that you count on for day to day operations. The list will depend on what type of farm you are, but most farms list things like well pumps, irrigation systems, pumps to water livestock, electric fences, barn ventilation systems, milking machines, poultry warmers, grain elevators or grain dryers. It is also important to consider things that don’t run on electricity but rely on an electric controller or timer.  These are the loads that you will separate and put your back-up loads panel. You will also need to...

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DIY Solar – A Guaranteed ROI During Hard Times
Apr14

DIY Solar – A Guaranteed ROI During Hard Times

With jobless claims skyrocketing to a record 22 million over the past few weeks, many people with savings are scrambling to find a stable place to safeguard their funds.  The usual workhorse stocks with dependable ROIs in the tech and banking sector have been on a nauseating roller coaster of ups and downs, while the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and NASDAQ have been feeling the whiplash of these tumultuous and unpredictable times.  One unexpected financial investment with guaranteed cash-on-cash returns is DIY home solar, with many a homeowner enjoying paybacks in the double digits. Consider this: Last year the average American household paid $118.36 a month in electric bills. In 2020, 38 of 50 U.S. states saw an increase in prices of 1-6%, with Vermont residents seeing their energy bills go up the most by 15.2 percent.  Converting a home to solar will bring a homeowner’s monthly electric bill near $0 and, in most cases, remove it entirely. There are plenty of state and federal, low-interest payback programs that allow homeowners to pay off the price of a solar system in less than ten years, ensuring they can lock in a monthly payback that doesn’t inflate with every coming year. While it’s hard to predict future rate fluctuations, installing such technology that puts you in charge of your energy production can lock in a fixed rate and offer financial security.  Because DIY solar projects further reduce installation costs, such grid-tied systems tend to recover the cost of the entire project in 3-6 years. There after, the investment will generate a net-positive monthly income, with utility companies actually paying homeowners through net-metering programs.  As proof just how reliable a financial return home solar is, one homeowner wrote an investment blog about locking in double-digit returns on his solar installation project when the market was on a record-breaking bull run in 2018.  Here’s a look at how the actual numbers of his residential solar investment shook out after a year: Solar panel purchase price:$26,10030% Federal Tax Credit:        ($7,830)Net Upfront Cost:  $18,270Actual electricity production (6,129 kW/hr @ $0.3475):$2,130Cash on cash return:11.7% The 30% Federal government tax credit the homeowner enjoyed above stepped down to 26% this year and will decrease another 4% the following year until it expires in 2022.  Regardless of this decline, investing in a home solar system with the help of Go Green Solar while the Federal tax incentive is still generous, is a secure way to ensure monthly electrical bill savings — especially considering both the U.S. and global economy have yet to feel the full repercussions of COVID-19. Any way you cut it, in today’s bear market, the annual...

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What Is the Difference Between Grid Tie and Off Grid Solar?
Mar30

What Is the Difference Between Grid Tie and Off Grid Solar?

There are two basic types of solar power systems – grid tie and off grid. The simple explanation of the difference between them is that grid tie systems connect to the grid and off grid systems don’t connect to the grid. Whether or not they connect to the grid makes a big difference in how they are designed. First let’s define what we mean by “grid”. The grid is the utility company’s network of conductors and equipment that bring electricity from the power plant where it is made to the end user’s home or commercial building. If a building is getting electricity from the electric company, it is connected to the grid. So what makes a grid tie system different from an off grid system is that the grid tie system must interact with the grid and there are some requirements and some advantages to this interaction. First, a grid tie inverter must sync up exactly with the grid. Its AC output wave must be exactly in time with the AC wave that the grid is delivering to the building. It also means that you must choose the correct grid tie inverter based on how the power is delivered to your building. A typical home receives 120/240 Volt Single phase (aka split phase) power so the solar power system would have to use a single phase inverter. Commercial buildings are usually three phase power which is typically 120/208 Volt or 277/480 Volt and could be wye or delta configuration. It must be determined exactly what type of power is being delivered to the building so that you can choose the correct grid tie inverter.  The other big requirement for a grid connected system is that it can not feed power to the grid when the grid goes down. The reason for this is that the utility workers are trying to troubleshoot and correct the problem and if there are a bunch of solar power systems still feeding into the grid, it would be dangerous and it would affect the measurements the workers are making as they try to determine what is wrong and fix it. One of the advantages to a grid tied solar system is that they can rely on the grid to provide power when the solar isn’t producing enough. This means the solar does not need batteries and the building never goes without power. In an off grid system, there is no grid to provide power so if you want power at night, you have to have stored enough power during the day. This means that off grid systems have to be much larger because the...

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Preparedness with Solar and Batteries
Mar27

Preparedness with Solar and Batteries

As the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic is changing our lives, preparedness is coming to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Coronavirus is proving how fast global events beyond our control can threaten the basic infrastructure that we normally take for granted. While Coronavirus is not likely to cause power outages, it does remind us that bad things happen and a little prepping can go a long way. Other recent reminders include the 5.7 magnitude earthquake on March 18th which left 73,000 people without power and the tornado in Mississippi on March 24th which took out the electricity for 16,000 people.    Ready.gov is a great resource for learning what is best to keep on hand based on what threats you might be preparing for. In many of the scenarios they suggest having several days of food on hand. With the current Covid-19 quarantine guidelines, you should have two weeks of food on hand which is causing many Americans to purchase additional freezers to store the extra food. But what happens to that frozen food stash if the next emergency includes a power outage? This is where the combination of solar and batteries can really shine. A generator is also an option but they require fuel (typically gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane) and depending on the emergency that is happening, you might be out of luck once you run out of the fuel you have on hand. The benefit of solar with batteries is that the batteries get recharged every day and the system can run for years without requiring anything to keep it going.  Doomsday preppers have long understood the requirement to have power to weather the worst that could happen. This doesn’t mean you have to forsake your normal life and move out to an off-grid homestead.  There are already millions of standard grid-tied systems installed on homes and businesses across the United States. In general, if they don’t have batteries, they don’t currently provide back up power. The only exception to that is the newer SMA inverters which can provide up to 1,800 watts of power (enough to run a refrigerator) but only when the sun is out.    The good news is that if you already own one of these systems, all you have to do is add batteries. There are a variety of ways to do it, depending on what equipment you have in place already. Any system can be retrofitted by AC Coupling a battery based inverter like an Outback Radian which will operate with any 48 volt battery bank. If you have SolarEdge equipment, you can add the SolarEdge StorEdge inverter with an LG Chem battery....

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