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SMA Sunny Webbox – Visualize your performance

Typically once a solar power system owner installs solar panels, they get enjoyment of seeing their meter spin backwards. Although more system owners these days want more detailed output of how the solar power systems are performing. Customers who have purchased a SMA grid tie inverter have an easy option to add detailed performance monitoring through an add on device called the SMA Sunny Webbox. The Sunny Webbox can interface with up to 50 SMA grid tie inverters which connects to the internet through your router and uploads performance data to the free Sunny Portal. Historical data is also recorded on the Sunny Portal therefore installers and system owners can keep an eye on the system from anywhere in the world to make sure the solar panels are operating most efficiently. The internet is a great place to share information and critical data such as a solar power system performance should be easy to access, analyze and share to extend the experience of a solar power system after the installation is complete. The data can be access through any standard web browser, which is great because it will work on all types of operating systems. The Sunny Webbox connects to your SMA Sunny Boy through a RS485 cable and gives the solar power system owner the ability to remotely configure the...

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PVWatts makes estimating solar power easy

PVWatts is a performance calculator for grid connected solar power systems developed by NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) to help non-solar expert conduct estimates for grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems within the USA. The calculator uses hourly Typical Meteorological Year weather data to forecast how many kilowatt hours (kWh) you will generate on a monthly or annual basis. You can enter parameters such as fixed mounted solar panels, solar panels on a tracker and even the azimuth to properly forecast different solar power system setups. Both version 1 and 2 of the calculator are provided for free on the PVWatts Website. I ran a estimate of how a 4.0 kilowatt (kW) solar power system would perform in Los Angeles using version 1 of the PVWatts calculator. Check out my assumptions and system performance: Station Identification City: Los_Angeles State: CA Latitude: 33.93° N Longitude: 118.40° W Elevation: 32 m PV System Specifications DC Rating: 4.0 kW DC to AC Derate Factor: 0.770 AC Rating: 3.1 kW Array Type: Fixed Tilt Array Tilt: 33.9° Array Azimuth: 180.0° Energy Specifications Cost of Electricity: 12.5 ¢/kWh Results Month Solar Radiation(kWh/m2/day) AC Energy(kWh) Energy Value($) 1 4.44 401 50.12 2 5.35 441 55.12 3 5.62 506 63.25 4 6.05 522 65.25 5 6.19 548 68.50 6 6.17 526 65.75 7 6.48 567 70.88 8 6.68 582 72.75 9 5.78 487 60.88 10 5.43 480 60.00 11 4.84 420 52.50 12 4.46 398 49.75 Year 5.63 5879 734.88 Whats the performance of a 4.0kW system in your neck of the woods? go ahead feel free to post and discuss your results...

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UniRac’s Laminate RapidRac PV mounting solution

UniRac, a well know solar panel mounting solutions product manufacturer has released a new product line that is engineered to rack frameless laminated solar panels to commercial flat top roofs. The ballasted solar panel mounting application is wind tunnel tested and weighs less than 3 lbs per square foot. UniRac makes the installion simple with only a four page installation guide, one tool, and 6 components, solar panel installation has never been faster or easier. UniRac conducted time trials which have proven RapidRac is being installed at 1 kilowatt (kw) per man hour. The RapidRac is code compliant and documentation is included for easier bulding permiting. UniRac is using the Internet to serve RapidRac installation instructions (as well as instructions on mounting products via Unirac Mobile, a micro-site accessible from mobile devices such as cell phones, blackberries and PDAs. www.unirac.com/mobile, next time your on the roof and need to figure out how to install a UniRac product, well you’ll have the information at your...

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Outback Power Introduces SMARTRE

Outback Power, a company that typically focused on off-grid inverters showcased a new product line at the Solar Power International 2008 trade show in San Diego, CA called the “SMARTRE” product line. SMARTRE is short for Smart Renewable Energy which is a grid tie with battery backup inverter line that focuses on easy installation. The SMARTRE inverter operates similar standard grid tie inverter, although during a utility outage, the Outback SMARTRE will switch to the battery bank and still keep your critical loads powered through an outage. For customers who want security when the grid is down but also want to take advantage of being connected to the gird, the SMARTRE solution is the product that meets those needs. The SMARTRE product line will be available in power levels up to 6.3kw and is suitable for residential and small commercial projects. The SMARTRE inverter’s integrated AC switch, transfers to the battery bank flawlessly when the grid goes down without effecting data sensitive loads like computers. SMARTRE is capable of providing as much as 69 kWh of storage during outages. The inverter charges the AGM batteries using a multi-stage charging process which prolongs battery life up to 10 years. The SMARTRE is a versatile product and can be installed both indoor and outdoors and can be either wall or pad mounted. Outback Power backs the SMARTRE grid tie inverter with battery back up with a 5 year warranty, which is odd because in California for your grid tie solar power system to qualify for the rebate your inverter needs to have a 10 year manufacturers...

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What is anti-islanding on a grid tie inverter?

Linemen who work for the utility company have a dangerous job because they are the people who are dispatched when an electrical line has gone down. Even though most linemen assume the line is live when they reach the scene to repair a broken connection, its still important to think about their safety. That is why most grid tie inverters on the market have an “anti-islanding” function built into the inverter’s software. The term “anti-islanding” refers to a feature of a grid tie inverter that senses when there is an power outage and shuts itself down and stops the production of electricity. There is a common misconception within solar panel and wind turbine consumers that if there was a blackout their grid tied system would keep them going through an outage, well this is not true because of grid tie inverter anti-islanding feature will stop the production of electricity when the gird goes down. You have to realize that when you own a grid tie system, the energy is stored in the grid, so the system is as reliable as the grid itself. When the grid goes down, the anti-islanding feature on the grid tie inverter will realize that either there was a sudden change in system frequency, voltage, rate change of frequency, increase in kW beyond normal levels, or a change in kVAR and shut down the inverter. When the inverter shuts down your system is no longer producing electricity for the safety of the people who will be working on the grid to repair it. There are grid tie inverters that are still under development such as the TerraWatt Power inverter which works during an outage because the inverter redirect the power being generated by a system back into the property without shutting down and keeps the linemen safe because the TerraWatt Power inverter does not send electricity into the grid when it senses there is an...

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Touch-screen device for tracking solar panel and home energy usage

Open Energy a company I wrote about recently, that manufactured solar roofing tiles has also announced they are working on a device that helps solar power system owners visualize their home energy usage and solar panel production. The device has a wireless Internet gateway that can show solar power production along side electricity usage. The device can also pull in gas and water usage data that can help home owners make educated decisions on the fly about their resource consumption. Open Energy’s monitoring device will be out on the market next year and will cost between $1,100 to $1,400 USD which includes other monitoring services along with the hardware. More companies are developing ways for consumers to track energy production from solar panels and compare it to a home’s energy usage. Monitoring software and devices are becoming more of a standard when purchasing a solar power system. Traditionally consumers have to rely on reading the LCD screen on an inverter to figure out the production for that day. But a device or web software the analysis of the home energy usage and solar panel production can be analyzed in greater detail. Customers want to know in real time what the system is doing, we are very used to information on demand, these devices, software and hardware help solar electric system owners really understand how their system is...

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