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Morningstar Solar String Calculator

Morningstar Corporation, a company known for its high quality charge controllers has released a string calculator for estimating the proper sizing and configuration of solar panels when used with the Morningstar charge controller product line. One of the most difficult aspects of setting up a battery based system is the compatibility between the various system components which include solar panels, charge controller, batteries and possibly an inverter. The calculator takes into account the solar panel and battery specifications as well as information on the ambient temperatures to help you not only select the right charge controller for your project but to string the system properly to ensure proper function of your off-grid solar electric system. The results of the calculator show you the number of solar panels that may be wired in series and parallel to safely operate within the charge controller specified range. All you have to do is either select the solar panel you will be using from the list, or manually enter the specifications of the solar panel if you don’t see it on the list, enter the model of the charge controller, and enter the battery voltage and ambient temperatures and presto! The calculator will spit solar panel configuration recommendations. I’m glad Morningstar took a proactive approach to help customers figure out a confusing aspect of purchasing and using the right charge controller for their project. What do you think? Give the calculator a try:...

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Akeena’s AC Solar Panels?

Akeena recently released a press release highlighting a strategic partnership with enphase energy, a company known for their micro-inverters. A micro inverter differs from traditional central inverters by being attached to the back of each solar panel allowing systems to harvest more electricity, simplifies installation, and increases system reliability. The partnership between Akeena and Enphase shows that micro inverters are gaining momentum in the market and are now being trusted in larger scale deployments. Traditional solar electric systems since they work with dc wiring involve high voltage and require complex stringing and design can be eliminated by panels that convert the dc to ac at the solar panel level then transmit via AC to the electrical service panel. Akeena will build enphase inverters right into their propriety Andalay system, sounds similar to the ReadySolar, “Solar in a Box” in my opinion, what do you...

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simplifying solar panel installation

image credit: San Francisco Sentinel Solar Red, a start up solar power company based out of San Jose, CA is making some bold claims about reducing the cost of installing solar panels up to 25% through their interesting plug and play mounting bracket that interleaves into residential roofing shingles during construction or can be retrofitted into residential roofs. According to the company it would cost you $825 in additional costs to make a new roof solar ready through their solar mounting product line. Once the Solar Red mounting brackets are installed, compatible solar panels can be simply clicked into place, saving thousands of dollars in reduced installation costs claims the company. Traditionally adding solar panels onto your roof require bolting of racking and complicated wiring that can take up precious time which adds to the upfront cost of going solar. Solar Red’s intent with their mounting products is to shorten the learning curve so that roofers and construction workers can install solar panels with ease, which would help solar go mainstream wouldn’t you agree? Companies like Solar Red that are focusing on making the installation process easier can significantly add value to the solar power industry if they can develop a product that lives up to the aggressive claims Solar Red has made. What do you...

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Standoff Solar Panel Mounting 101

SSI Solar Rack Mount As we have discussed in the past, keeping your solar panels cool is important to receiving the maximum efficiency out of your solar electric system. How you mount your solar panels on your roof make a difference on how cool they will operate. Standoff mounting is the most popular method of mounting solar panels on sloped roofs. Standoff mounting works by attaching standoffs to the roof’s structural support which holds rails, solar panels are mounted on top of the rails. The standoff allows a space of three and five inches between the solar panels and the roof. Keeping space between your solar panels and the roof serves an important function by allowing air circulation which keep your solar panels running...

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don’t forget days of autonomy

Off grid systems are confusing to put together because you have to precisely calculate the size of the battery bank, its important the battery bank has enough capacity to power your loads especially during days of limited sun exposure. The term days of autonomy means the number of days a battery bank can provide the appliances you have connected to the system without a recharged by the solar panels. The system’s location is important to determine how the number of “no sun days” which is an important variable to figure out the autonomy. The general rule for days of autonomy is 2 to 3 days for non-critical loads and 5 to 7 days for critical loads. The downsides of a off-grid solar electric system is when you have periods of limited sun and your days of autonomy is not evaluated properly you will have to ration the power stored in the battery bank until the weather gets...

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the ability to print solar cells

Solterra Renewable Energy Technologies is on a mission to lower the cost of solar cells by introducing thin film quantum dot solar cells, which supposedly can cut the production costs of solar cells in half. Quantum Dot PV Solar Cells is an advanced manufacturing process which not only lowers cost, but increases solar cell efficiency by allowing the solar cell to capture a broader spectrum of light. The manufacturing process of quantum dot PV solar cells is similar to low-cost screen printing or the way inkjet printers work. The ability to print solar cells onto inexpensive substrates is the key to Solterra’s patented manufacturing process, which is the key reason they are able to print the cost per watt down significantly. Don’t get excited yet, this company is far from developing product for the mass public and has no efficiency data to backup the expected results of their product line. Although it will be an interesting solar technology to follow since printable solar cells can change solar power products overnight. What do you think about the ability to print solar cells onto virtually any substrate? What will quantum dot solar cells do to solar technology and most importantly the...

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