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whats the deal with open circuit voltage?

I want to talk about Open Circuit Voltage (Voc) since I know this important electrical rule is not understood by most people who buy solar panels. For example, lets say we have a nominal 12v solar panel and you take it outside on a sunny day without a load connected to the solar panel and test the voltage. The results might surprise you, if you don’t understand Voc since the voltage will read higher than the nominal or “rated voltage” on the solar panel. Voc is the maximum voltage a solar panel is able to output when there is no current flowing through the solar panel, once you connect a load to the solar panel, the voltage will decrease closer to the nominal voltage. This is one of the basic building blocks of understanding how solar panels work, so I hope you got some value out of this short explanation. Does open circuit voltage make...

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the simplicity of enphase mirco-inverters

I was on enphase energy’s website reading their case studies today and was amazed by the simplicity of Sreenivas family’s 2.3kW solar electric system using enphase micro-inverters. The system is made up of 13 sharp 175w solar panels which are connected to each other via AC interconnect cables that are already part of the enphase mirco-inverter. 12/3 romex is used through the garage attic from the solar array to a 1-15 amp backfed breaker in a 100 amp main panel. The Sreenivas family case study is a good example of how enphase makes deploying solar panels an easier process by avoiding stringing solar panels which has a direct impact on system complexity and how long it takes to install a solar electric system. The enphase micro-inverter is more then a grid tie inverter, they’re an “inverter solution” since performance monitoring is built into the system and is the only grid tie inverter that can monitor the system down to the individual solar panel. This installation looks quite simple, don’t you agree? What do you think about solar electric systems that use micro-inverters versus a traditional centralized inverter? Enphase Diagram of Sreenivas...

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a Consumer’s Guide to Alternative Energy

Recently, a community.gogreensolar.com member, Jeff Cooper sent me a DVD he produced called the future fuels series, a consumer’s guide to alternative energy. Before I watched the DVD I was quite skeptical on the quality of information that was going to be presented, but after I got a chance to view it, I was surprised that the 34 minute program turned out to be an unbiased resource since it covers both the pros and cons of alternative energy resources geared towards the alternative energy consumer. In a nutshell this DVD will: help you say no to foreign oil save money on your energy bills at home and at the pump reduce your overall carbon footprint The program will go over solar power, biodiesel, wind generators, ethanol, hybrid & electric cars. I think the best part of this DVD are the interviews with consumers that have actually integrated renewable energy technologies into their lifestyles. This DVD is perfect for someone who wants to learn more about alternative energy or to teach others about the benefits of green...

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top 5 advantages of grid tie solar power

Simple grid tie solar power systems without batteries have their advantages. This post will review the top 5 advantages of connecting your solar panels up directly to the grid without the use of batteries: Economics – Since grid tie solar power systems do not need batteries, this type of system is at least 30% less to install versus a battery based system. Typically simple grid tie systems are 90% to 95% efficient which makes the rate of return more attractive since solar electric systems with batteries are less efficient overall. Lower upfront cost – Batteryless grid connected systems avoid costs for batteries, charge controllers, control panels, and a backup generator, thus reducing the upfront cost of going solar significantly. Grid tie solar panel systems are expandable, meaning you can start a small solar array and build your way up to a larger system that increases your energy independence. Reliable – Maintenance is required with a battery based system and if they are not properly maintained then the life of the battery will rapidly diminish. Simple grid tie systems are more reliable since you don’t have to worry about maintaining a battery back. The downside is if the utility you are connected to goes down, than your grid tie solar electric system will go down as well, simple grid tie systems do not provide backup power. Flexibility – When it comes to designing a grid tie solar electric system it can be designed to your budget and desires of how much utility dependence you want to offset with your grid tie solar electric system. User friendliness – simple grid tie solar power systems get rid of a lot of parts, therefore they are easier to manage. These days many grid tie inverters include remote monitoring software which allows you to view the output, data and health of the overall grid tie solar electric system through your favorite Internet browser. A grid tie solar electric system is much more easier to install and maintain in the long run. Can you think of an advantage of connecting your solar panels directly to the grid without batteries that I have not covered in this...

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solar electric systems and your utility meter

Grid tie solar electric systems connect to your existing electrical service and send extra power you generate back to your utility company. Your utility company in return, depending on their interconnection agreement give you a credit based on the number of kWh (kilowatt hours) you contribute to the grid each month. This is called net-metering, it allows you to offset or eliminate your electric bill through solar panels without leaving the reliability of the electric grid itself. This concept is converting homes and businesses across the world into mini power plants that give back to the grid versus just being a liability to it. When you are using electricity from the gird, your meter spins forwards in the normal direction. On the flip side, when you install a grid connected solar electric system and you produce more then you are using, your electric meter will spin backwards! Although before installing you solar electric system be aware of the type of meter you have on your home or business, because some older electric meters records the number of time the meter spins and does not register if the meter is spinning backwards or forwards. In this case if you do not have a “two-way” meter you would be billed for the power you contribute to the grid, yikes! Most locations have two-way meters although if you are unsure, call your utility company to confirm. If you find out you only have a one-way meter, you can always upgrade your...

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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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