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You Can Add Energy Storage to Grid-Tie Solar
Jul11

You Can Add Energy Storage to Grid-Tie Solar

Energy storage systems for solar are becoming more popular. People want to have back-up power during power outages and changes in net metering and time of use electric rates can give energy storage options a better payback. When going solar, many people feel pressured that they must make the decision about energy storage up front. But the truth is that adding energy storage to an existing grid-tied system is easy. The best part is that you do not have to remove or change any of your existing grid-tie system when you add batteries. This surprises many people who understand traditional solar power systems with batteries, but it is all about DC coupling versus AC coupling. For many years, solar with energy storage was always set up as a DC coupled system. Solar panels were connected to a charge controller which managed the solar power going into the batteries and kept the batteries from being overcharged. The power from the solar panels and the batteries is all DC, hence the term DC coupling. Then a battery-based inverter was used to convert the DC power from the batteries to AC power to feed the loads. This technology is all still used for some systems, but it is no longer the only option. This is great news for anyone who has grid-tied solar already installed and wants to add energy storage. Grid-tied systems have the solar panels connected to an inverter (or microinverters) that change that DC power from the solar to AC power from the loads. These grid-tied inverters do not work with batteries, and until the last decade, installing a battery system meant removing that grid-tied inverter and replacing it with a charge controller and battery-based inverter. But now there is a better way that is rapidly gaining popularity and it is called AC coupling. In an AC coupled system, you connect the AC output of a battery-based inverter to the AC output of a  grid-tied inverter. This will work with any grid-tied inverter or microinverters, but you must be careful in your choice of the battery-based inverter as it needs to have the right functionality. Inverters like the Outback GS Radian are specially designed with AC coupling in mind. Outback even packages it with batteries as a complete kit to make the choice easy. If you have a grid-tied solar system, you probably already know that it does not work during a power outage. The reason for this is that grid-tied inverters will not make AC power unless they have AC power coming to them from the grid. When you install the battery-based inverter, it creates AC power that...

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SolarEdge Vs. Microinverters
Jul05

SolarEdge Vs. Microinverters

With so many options on equipment, it is easy to get lost in the decision making process. One of the most common customer questions is the difference between microinverters and a system like SolarEdge that incorporates DC optimizers with a string inverter. First, let’s look at the ways these two systems would be the same. Both SolarEdge and microinverters will maximize the power from each individual solar module with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology. Having an MPPT device at each solar module helps mitigate shade and orientation issues that can occur with the standard string inverters. Another common element is that both SolarEdge and microinverter systems will provide module level monitoring so you can see how each solar module is performing individually. Both systems also meet the 2014 NEC Rapid shutdown requirements in that if the system is shutdown with the disconnects that are accessible at ground level, the conductors from the roof will not be energized. So, how are microinverters and SolarEdge different? It’s all about where the power is converted from AC to DC. The solar modules produce DC power and a microinverter converts that DC power to AC power at the solar module. In a SolarEdge system, there are DC optimizers that do the maximum power point tracking at the module but they don’t convert the power to AC. The “conditioned” DC power flows in the conductors that come down from the roof and it is converted to AC power at the central inverter which is typically installed near the main service panel of the building. Now for the fun part…. Which one is best? Everyone in the solar industry has an opinion and the bottom line is you have to decide for yourself. Let’s look at some of the factors that will help you make this decision. Cost The cost of the whole system needs to be considered in this. When buying microinverters, you will pay for the microinverters, the monitoring system and the trunk cable (which is a separate part for some brands and not others). When purchasing the SolarEdge system you will buy the DC optimizers, the string inverter and possibly a monitoring option depending on how you want the monitoring to operate. The individual microinverters will cost more than the DC optimizers (you are paying for all the DC to AC conversion electronics in every microinverter). The monitoring equipment is typically the same cost for either system. Then with SolarEdge, you have to buy the inverter. The result is the total system cost on microinverters less than SolarEdge if you are doing a small system (under 3.8kw) and microinverters cost more...

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Top 5 DIY Solar Installation Mistakes
Apr26

Top 5 DIY Solar Installation Mistakes

Professional solar panel installers live by the phrase “measure twice, cut once,” to avoid waste and get things right the first time. But that may not work for a smart amateur. A homeowner should probably approach a solar panel installation DIY project by taking the original estimate and factoring in twice as much time and three times as much money if you don’t have support services from your solar kit supplier to get the job done right the first time. The reason? DIYers without the proper support mess up. These are the most common mistakes a solar panel installation DIYers might make — and how to avoid them. We’ve been helping DIYers successfully install solar panels  Mistakes such as not taking out the required permits, or starting a job without the necessary tools and supplies. Or not properly preparing the job site. Or just failing to get a clue. So lace up your work boots and read on for tips on how to get professional results installing your solar electric system. #1- Not taking out the required permits and utility interconnection Considered a bother at best by many DIYers, permits actually serve a greater purpose than just raising money for the government. People in permitting offices aren’t evil. They’re there to make sure the job is done right and you don’t hurt yourself. Plus, for solar installation, you need proof of the permit or your insurance carrier won’t cover it. This is exactly why our GigaWatt solar kits offered by GoGreenSolar.com offer permitting services which not only provide a full set of customized code complaint plans designed by our professional solar engineers but we provide our DIY customers the support they need to deal with their permitting office plan checkers and inspector’s questions and objections so you get your project done efficiently. Additionally our interconnection services deals with your utility directly so you get permission to operate your newly installed solar electric system as quickly as possible after your permitting office inspects and approves your newly installed solar electric system. Failure to file the correct paperwork with your utility can prevent you from turning your solar electric system on, every day that goes by that your system remains off is money down the drain. The utilities often make the process of filing and receiving permission to operate a difficult one because they know once you flip on the switch to your newly installed solar electric system they will lose revenue from you forever. We’ve filed thousands of utility interconnection applicaitons on behalf of our customers and have learned every trick in the books, when a customer purchases a GigaWatt...

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The New StorEdge from SolarEdge
May05

The New StorEdge from SolarEdge

How does StorEdge compare to existing battery solutions? Fewer components, less expensive, easier to install, better Tech Support, more mature product line. Here is a typical StorEdge installation: Features that make StorEdge better: A)  All of the StorEdge components (including the LG Chem battery) are exterior rated.  The Sonnen is interior rated only. Most people do not have room in their garage for a Sonnen cabinet, let alone in their living room as shown in their brochures. B)  The StorEdge inverter is the solar inverter.  Sonnen recharges from the grid, and requires the addition of solar equipment.  The battery bank has the same high DC voltage and low amps as a solar array, so the inverter can easily invert the DC power to AC; whether it is coming from the solar array or battery. C) StorEdge allows the homeowner to install solar now (to cut utility bills) and add the battery later.  Sonnen is grid-tie battery backup only.  Solar is NOT included. D) StorEdge has the ability to perform Zero Export (do NOT backfeed the grid, self-consumption only) which is required for homeowners in Hawaii.  Sonnen can NOT perform this function and requires the solar equipment, such as a SolarEdge install, to do it. Technical Details: Many people wanting battery storage are familiar with the traditional 48v battery banks, but the StorEdge design is very different from the traditional 48V battery storage system. Anybody with a SolarEdge 7600 that wants to add battery storage can get it with an Autoformer and a LG Chem battery. The StorEdge marketing still makes a lot of noise about Powerwall 1 and 2 being compatible (which they are) but Powerwalls are NOT available to us through our distributors, so they are off the radar for DIY installs.  The LG Chem is a very good battery made by a bankable company.  They don’t have the media hype of Tesla, but it is every bit as good.  I have seen the LG battery up-close and personal, and they did a nice job on the enclosure. Here’s what makes the StorEdge design better: 1)  The 350v of DC power coming from the Optimizers is fed DIRECTLY into the battery. Note: In a traditional 48v battery system (such as the Sonnen), there is an Inverter/Charger that reduces the 350v to 48v.  Eliminating this step simplifies the design, and is more efficient since there is no conversion loss as the Charge Controller circuits adjust the output power.  It also eliminates an expensive piece of equipment, reducing the system price-point; as well as eliminating a point of failure.  Moreover, an Inverter/Charger is generally expected to last 5+ years.  Conversely, the StorEdge inverter life expectancy is 12 years...

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Solar Power Cables – Ensuring Maximum Efficiency without Compromising on Safety
Dec22

Solar Power Cables – Ensuring Maximum Efficiency without Compromising on Safety

Image Source: ecopoweredsolutions.com.au Ecological concerns are catalyzing the adoption and use of solar power in a variety of environments – from rooftop solar systems to large-scale distribution plants. Eco-friendly and inexpensive, the solar energy is efficiently addressing environmental concerns by generating non-polluting electricity. The recent developments in solar technology include safe and reliable solar power cables used in the generation and transmission of power. These cabling solutions are designed for improving efficiency and reducing cost while ensuring reliable performance and durability. Solar installations and photovoltaic panels are driving innovation in solar cable technology and new standards are being established for robust and safe designing of solar power cables. Emerging Trends for Power Cables in Solar Applications Solar energy systems offer considerable benefits for the environment as compared to conventional sources of energy. However, generating solar energy from renewable sources requires a robust cabling system that is designed to maximize energy-efficiency and minimize the risk and losses. This enables optimum generation of power that can reach the respective substations for timely transmission to the grid. Cables used for solar power generation must offer a much higher voltage range as compared to the standard rating of 600V used in conventional applications. Solar power cables to be used between substations and transformers should be developed to incorporate improved resistance to UV rays and ozone while ensuring lower line loss and cooler operations. Engineered to serve a high voltage range of up to 2000V, solar power cables are subjected to long-term sunlight exposure. The end-use of solar power cables is very different from the power cables used in wind and thermal generation. In order to ensure safety, reliability, flexibility and performance even in sub-zero conditions, solar cables must be resistant to water absorption and deformation under extreme installation conditions. Keeping all these factors in mind, special solar power cables have been engineered to ensure complete reliability and safety. These cables are specifically designed to facilitate fast and easy connections in utilities and large-scale power generation plants. Cables that simplify the installation process and eliminate inconsistencies that arise in field terminations are also being designed. Feeder cables that are used for connecting inverters with combiner boxes are now available as an all-in-one solution that does not need a conduit. PV power cables also come in different color codes to facilitate easy identification of output, source, and circuits, thus eliminating the need to tag cables. Key Challenges in the Development of Solar Power Cables Despite the fact that solar technology has a promising future and given the recent developments in solar power cables, this emerging trend is not without challenges. Standards, regulations, and codes make...

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Everything You Need to Know: DIY Solar Installation
Dec09

Everything You Need to Know: DIY Solar Installation

Solar power is becoming a more and more popular option for energy. This is the age of going green with hybrid cars, e-books, and, you guessed it, solar power. It may seem like a major expense, but it’s one that eventually pays for itself in savings. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know, consider and do to install it yourself. What You Should Know Before Installation Be sure to do tons of research before starting this project. Use the internet for its wealth of knowledge and search for instructional videos to see how exactly it’s done. It’s important to acquire some wiring and voltage knowledge. Read up on each before beginning. Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of your town for projects like this. Learn the process for obtaining any permits you need to start and complete the solar power installation. Decide whether you are doing an “on the grid” or “off the grid” power source. In most cases, it is best to do on the grid. This means you stay connected to your utility company. If you don’t generate enough power for your needs you’re covered by the utility company. What You Need to Start Your supply list should include: solar modules, a power inverter, PV disconnect, your breaker box, and a net meter. The solar modules are the panels you’ll be installing. These are what collect energy from the sun. A power inverter is needed to turn the energy current collected by the panels into a current your house can use. PV disconnects allow you to cut the power so no one is electrocuted while working on the system. The collected solar energy connects to your home through your breaker box. Finally, a net meter measures how much energy you give or take from the power grid. Calculate Your Energy Calculating your energy is important in determining the kit you’ll purchase and the layout you’ll install. There are calculator apps you can use right on your phone to calculate your energy uses. All you need is your electric bills. Your electric bill will tell you how much energy you consume. You’ll also need to find out the peak sun hours of your location. This is a number of hours your area gets sunlight. Take the energy amount you use in a day and divide it by the number of daily peak sun hours and that amount is the kW you’ll need in panels. What Kind of Panels Will You Need Crystalline and thin-film are the two basic types of panels. Crystalline panels are the more commonly used option. They have a 40-year lifespan...

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