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welcome to balance of systems 101

If you in the process of shopping for a solar electric system, more than likely you have ran into a key term called balance of systems (BOS). What role does BOS play in a solar electric system? Today I’ll write about why the BOS components are the foundation of your solar electric system. BOS parts are all the pieces of the solar electric system besides the solar panels. The parts that make up BOS include: inverter batteries & charge controllers (if your system is off-grid or grid tie w/ battery backup) overcurrent protection devices electrical enclosures junction boxes support and security structures. disconnects Some of the parts in your balance of system will be rated for outdoor exposure such as most grid tie solar inverters while other parts such as batteries would need an electrical enclosures. BOS parts are typically located close to the electrical service panel, although close proximity is not required. The layout of the BOS parts within the system must be done in a neat manner which allows easy access, testing and disconnecting the system. For solar electric systems operating at 48 volts or less its important to minimize the distance of the dc wiring for efficiency purposes. Solar panels are just one part of the solar electric system, all the components that make up the system must work harmoniously for you to maximize your solar harvest. Selecting the right components can be overwhelming for people who are just get started with clean energy systems, that’s why we have our complete pre-engineered solar grid tie systems, our systems include everything you or your installer needs to get your system up and generating electricity without having to worry about the compatibility of the wide range of products that make up a solar electric...

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genasun charge controller for lithium-ion batteries

Typically when people have a battery based solar electric systems they are composed of deep cycle lead acid batteries. Although lead acid battery technology is not the newest type of battery on the market, there are more advanced batteries called Lithium-ion batteries, which are typically found in our consumer electronics, such as cell phones, ipods, digital cameras..etc. Lithium-ion batteries have the best energy-to-weight ratio, so they’re significantly lighter then lead acid batteries. Another great feature of lithium-ion batteries is that they have no memory effect, means they won’t hold less charge as the battery gets older. Compared to lead acid batteries, Lithium-ions have a slow discharge rate when not in use. More people are now using lithium-ion batteries with their solar electric systems, thanks to Genasun who recently released the GV-4-Li charge controller which is a maximum power point tracking controller that is optimized for use with lithium-ion batteries. Do you think people will finally be ditching old lead acid battery technology for lithium-ion...

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disconnects for your clean energy system

Clean energy systems such as a wind turbine or solar panels which produce electricity that are attached to a building need to have safety devices called “disconnects” according to the NEC (National Electric Code) Each major component of a clean energy system including inverters, and charge controllers, batteries (if your system is battery based) must be able to be disconnected from sources of power. To be compliant with NEC code, your disconnects must: be switches or ciricut breakers be installed in an accessible location must not have any exposed live conductors clearly display the on/off position be compatible with the system’s voltage and current The picture above shows a Xantrex DC Disconnect that meets all NEC code requirements. Overcurrent protection circuit breakers maybe used as disconnects. Only switched fuses can be considered disconnects. The NEC code says a solar photovoltaic system can have 6 or fewer disconnects, switched circuits or circut breakers to cut off all sources of...

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5 solar panel performace factors

You have to think of the performance of solar panels like cars, obviously a Porsche 911 will outperform a Toyota Corolla. There are five major factors that contribute to how much electricity a solar panel will produce, understading the factors below will help you get the most performace out of your solar panels. The material of the solar cell: Solar panels are composed of different cell materials such as monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, dye based solar cells, organic, plastic and even hybrid, which is a mix of different cell materials. Each type of solar panels have a cost and efficiency trade off based on their cell composition. Load resistance: Resistance becomes a factor with off-grid systems and grid-tie with battery backup. When you charge a battery with a solar photovoltaic panel. Connecting a solar panel to a battery causes the solar panel to operate at a higher then normal voltage which causes the solar panel to exceed the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and decreases the power output. Most residential and commercial solar electric systems are simple grid tie so they avoid the batteries all together. Intensity of sunlight: Pretty obvious? The brighter the sun the more you will produce, quite simple. Technically as solar radiation decreases the solar panel’s current output will decrease as well, although the voltage output of the solar panel will not be affected as much by the intensity of sunlight. The temperature of the cell: The ambient temperature has a significant effect on how much electricity a solar panel will generate. During the hottest days in the summer, when the intensity of the sunlight is the brightest, common sense tells you on those days you’ll be producing the most electricity. Although that is far from true, the hotter solar cells become, the less efficient a solar panel becomes, silicon does not perform well in high heat. Heat is a electrical resistance to the flow of electrons within a solar panel. If your solar panels are mounted on top of your roof, airflow around the solar panels are very important to keep them cool. Ground mount and pole mounted arrays have less of an issue with airflow. Sanyo solar panels are unique because they have a higher temperature coefficient which enable Sanyo to outperform competing brands by 10%. Shading: Have you ever broke a one light bulb on a string of Christmas lights? Typically, when you break one light bulb, the a whole row of Christmas lights will go out. Even if one solar panel in a solar array is partially shaded the performance of the entire system will decrease significantly. It’s important when you...

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how will you mount your solar array?

Today, I wanted to discuss the most popular methods people use to mount solar panels to create clean electricity. Roof Mount: Mounting solar panels on the roof with racking is the most common way people install solar panels for their home. In this type of setup solar panels are supported by a metal frame which is set at a predetermined pitch. A roof rack mounted solar array is bolted into the roof’s structural members. Roof rack mounting systems such as the UniRac Solar Mount are adjustable, so you can change the pitch of the panels to cater to the changing seasons. The clamps that hold down solar panels to the racking systems are typically available for most solar panel brands. Ground Mount: Ground mounted solar is definitely easier to clean since its more accessible than the roof obviously. Another advantage of installing a solar array on the ground versus the roof is that you won’t compromise the integrity of the roof on your home. Although before a ground mounted array can be installed local weather conditions and soil load bearing capacity should be measured to make sure the project site is safe to install a ground mounted array. Ground mounted systems require structural strength to avoid load bearing failure. Ground mounted support structures can be purchased, UniRac makes a ground mount kit or they can be fabricated by people with trade skills. Local building codes must be analyzed before you start your ground mounted array project. Pole Mount: A pole mount is typically considered when installed solar panels on a building is not an option. Solar arrays can be mounted on top of a pole by using special hardware that bolts on solar panels onto a vertical pole. The benefits of a pole mount is you can seasonally adjust the solar array to increase the systems performance through the year. The thickness / diameter of the pole will be based on the size of the array on top of the pole itself. Similar to a ground mount solar array soil types wind speeds, and building codes must be taken into consideration before installing a pole mounted solar electric...

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top 4 solar photovoltaic grid tie inverter features

Most grid tie inverters that are included in a solar electric system are over 90% percent efficient and include the following features: Weather Proof Enclosure – most grid tie inverters from Kaco Solar, Fronius, SMA, Xantrex, Enphase Energy and other major manufacturers are designed to be installed outdoors because they have weatherproof enclosures. AC/DC Disconnects – Newer grid tie inverters have built in AC/DC disconnects for safety and could have an over current protection feature. Some people like to add additional disconnects around the inverter to remove the inverter if it needs to be serviced. Ground Fault Protection – The National Electric Code (NEC) requires that roof mounted solar electric systems must be grounded. Most grid tie inverters have built in ground fault protection built into the inverter. Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) – tracking the peak power point of a solar panel array is important to maximizing your energy harvest. Solar grid tie inverters on the market today take advantage of MPPT technology. Are there any other features of a solar grid tie inverter that you think is important, that we missed on this...

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