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60 Cell Vs 72 Cell Modules
Jul16

60 Cell Vs 72 Cell Modules

When shopping for PV modules, you must choose between 60 cell and 72 cell modules. The extra cells mean extra wattage and while many people make the assumption that more is better, this isn’t always the case. There are two basic ways that the extra cells will make the solar panels different, voltage and physical size. Both of these factors should be considered when making the choice. Because all the solar cells in a PV module are connected in series, the 72 cell module will be about 6 volts higher than a 60 cell module. If you are using them with a string inverter this means less panels on each string. If you are using them with microinverters or DC optimizers, you will have to make sure the equipment you choose is designed to handle the higher voltage. Microinverters and DC optimizers for 72 cell modules will typically have a maximum input of 60 volts to prevent issues in even the coldest of temperatures. So now let’s talk about size, which definitely does matter. All standard solar cells are similar in size and efficiency, so the 72 cell PV module is going to be a bit larger. You may be getting more wattage, but your wattage per square foot is still the same. The typical solar module is 6 solar cells wide, so a 72 cell module is the same width as a 60 cell module, but it is about a foot longer and 8 pounds heavier. The typical size for a 60 cell module is 66” x 40” and weighs in at 40 pounds while the 72 cell module is going to be about 78” x 40” and 48 pounds. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, until you are the one that has to move it around. Carrying a standard 60 cell module on a steep sloped roof is awkward, but the 72 cell module, which is likely taller than your biggest crew member, can be a real bear. If it is a two story house, lugging it up to that roof is not going to be fun either. Another challenge of the size is trying to maximize the wattage that you can fit on a residential roof. With limited roof space, the flexibility of the smaller 60 cell module can be a great advantage. Especially as more states are adopting stricter codes for fire access, using a shorter module often means being able to install a whole second or third row which will result in a larger overall system size. Transport also needs to be considered. Trucking companies already don’t like our non-standard sized pallets...

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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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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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The difference between Power Optimizers and Microinverters
Aug05

The difference between Power Optimizers and Microinverters

A report by GMT revealed that more than half of residential solar PV installations have either a power optimizer or microinverter installed. But when it comes to deciding which Module Level Power Electronic to enhance your dwelling with, the difference between the two can seem as nuanced a choice as Coke vs Pepsi.   Grouped into the category of Module Level Power Electronics, both solutions aim to overcome the deficiencies found with the traditional central inverter systems, which can suffer massive power losses when one panel in the chain is shaded or malfunctions. Additionally, both claim to improve the power yield of solar modules by up to 25%.   So let’s break it down:   With a traditional inverter system, PV panels are wired together like a string of christmas lights, collecting energy from the sun and dumping it into a central inverter system, which then converts the DC electricity to AC. While this might sound simple enough, if a panel in this system experiences any issues, the entire energy output of the system is dragged down.   To avoid this energy loss, microinverters such as the Enphase 215W or the APS YC500A, are installed on each (or every other) panel, decentralizing the conversion of DC to AC from a single point to smart web of panels   Optimizers, such as the SolarEdge 3kW SE3000A-US-U, are similar to microinverters in that they are also located on each (or every other) panel. Instead of converting the energy at each panel, however, an optimizer “conditions” the DC electricity before sending it to a central inverter, mitigating the energy loss that might occur on individual panels, which can drag a whole system down. The benefits of optimizers is that since don’t convert the DC to AC on each panel, they include less parts than microinverters and are considered easier to install and scale. Conversely, since optimizers feed the DC electricity into a central inverter, if that inverter goes down the entire system can fail, whereas a failure with microinverters only affects one module.   Ultimately, the deciding factor on which MLPE to go with depends on the specifics of one’s home. Optimizers are good for harsher weather environments and micro-inverters are good for a home with panels that need more independent control....

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World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant
Jun27

World’s Oldest Solar Power Plant

When it comes to having the “world’s oldest”…well, anything, California doesn’t hold many distinctions.     Somewhere hidden in the state’s White Mountains there’s a 5,068 year old tree that’s the world’s oldest bristlecone pine.   and somewhere in Downey there’s the world’s oldest McDonald’s. But conifers and Big Macs aside, California also has the distinction for housing the world’s first and oldest solar power plant, which was built way back in 1985. Owned and built by NextEra Energy Resources, the 354 MW facility houses nine operational solar plants, with the newest being completed in 1990. It facility covers 1,600 acres and houses nearly a million parabolic mirrors. According to NextEra, it can power over 230,000 homes during peak energy production. The plants, which are referred to as Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS), use panels that are different than the more commonly used photovoltaic ones, which transfer and store energy into batteries. Instead, the SEGS use mirrors that are 94% reflective (compared to typical mirrors with a 70% reflection rate) to direct the sun to heat a synthetic oil called Therminol. The focused light is nearly 80 times more powerful than normal sunlight. The heated oil then super-heats water, producing steam to power a turbine. The plant is estimated to displace about 3,800 tons of pollution per a year, which, when added up over the decades is a savings of about 60,000 tons of waste. So next time you’re driving through the Mojave desert and want to make a historical pit stop, check out the oldest solar fields in the world. And be sure to bring your sunglasses!...

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5 Ways To Prepare For Solar
Jun16

5 Ways To Prepare For Solar

In the same way you’d tape off areas before painting a room, or stretch before running a marathon, there’s some steps you can take to prepare your house before switching to solar.     X2 check permitting guidelines   Often times the most difficult part of converting to solar is dealing with local regulations and permitting processes. Most city utility companies require the following documentation before installation can begin: Level 1 interconnection Application and Agreement for inverter-based generating systems Electrical diagram of proposed generating system Specifications of inverter Application for electrical service (if you’re going to use meters) If you’re the do-it-yourself type of person, perhaps the best place to spend money on outside help is on a solar design and permit service. Municipalities are not known for their speed, and a red-flagged permit takes longer to get through the second time than the first. Also, it makes sense that you know the rules before you play the game. In some cases you might even uncover hidden rebates or government incentives.     Make sure your roof can handle the weight   Consult with a building inspector or engineer to determine the maximum load that is safe to put on your roof. Solar arrays can be heavy, and the weight of these plus any racking systems and microinverters can add up. So think of this maximum load number as Gandolf…     …and make sure to tally up the weight of every item you install.   3) Check your roof’s condition Any repairs you’ll need to make to your roof after installation will require the removal of the solar panels. Make roof repairs before adopting solar energy and don’t cut corners on using the best materials. Saving a few dollars in the short run could end up costing you thousands down the road.   4) Plan your angle of attack In the northern hemisphere most panels are mounted on south-facing roofs to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. If you have a roof with an east or west orientation you or an installer will need to position the array at optimal angles. If it’s too flat it will collect water and if it’s too tilted you’ll miss out on precious rays of power. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy has helpful guidelines on how to optimally angle your array.   5) Build a Sun Cabinet Call it a utility storage nook or sun cabinet–we just like the fancy name–but build or designate a closed space to house all your solar equipment. Batteries, inverters, Balance of System (BOS) modules all help enhance a home’s...

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