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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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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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SunJack’s newest light: All the colors of rainbow powered by the sun
Jul29

SunJack’s newest light: All the colors of rainbow powered by the sun

  The creators of the world’s most powerful portable solar charger, SunJack, just released the MultiColor CampLight™ – a daisy-chainable USB light bulb that can change colors with the touch of a button.   “We’re excited to bring the power of indoor lighting, outdoors. Now people can enjoy mood lighting and create ambiance in their tent just like they would in a high-end living room!”, says Harold Tan, CMO.   SunJack produces an array of portable solar charging products, including the famous SunJack 20 — a foldable 20 Watt solar panel with battery backup — which has been featured in Outside Magazine and the Survivalist. The unit’s efficient monocrystalline solar cells can simultaneously charge two Qualcomm Quickcharge battery packs, which fills in five hours and powers up to eight smartphones.     SunJack’s newest addition, the Color Camplight™ is the first of its kind for outdoor adventurers. A remote control allows users to switch between 16 colors and five settings (steady, flash, strobe, fade, smooth), while adjusting brightness levels.       The MultiColor CampLight™ also comes with the option to connect additional SunJack lights in a daisy chain, allowing outdoor enthusiasts the option for surround lighting or even a multicolored dance party in nature.   All of SunJack’s USB LED lights are shatter, shock and vibration resistant and shine at 340 lumens or the equivalent of of a 40W incandescent bulb. The lights can be powered by any  standard USB source, be it a wall plug, laptop or powerbank.   Pursuing its mission to provide renewable energy independence to people around the world, SunJack launched in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, and donates solar and lighting solutions to people in developing countries in addition to powering first-world luxuries. The MultiColor CampLight™ retails for $20 from SunJack.com, Amazon.com, and various retailers across the nation.   ABOUT SUNJACK GIGAWATT INC. DBA SUNJACK, develops solutions to help people stay powered. Since 2006, GigaWatt Inc has been distributing and installing solar for residential, commercial, and government customers. In 2014 SunJack was launched on Kickstarter to continue spreading the power of solar across the globe. For further information about SUNJACK and its products, please visit http://www.sunjack.com or call us at (888)...

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The Big Advantage of MicroInverters
Feb24

The Big Advantage of MicroInverters

In the old days of solar, all the PV panels used to be connected to a single, large inverter that would convert the direct current (DC) of the sun into the alternating current (AC) we use in outlets around the home. The system acted like one giant solar panel, with its max current rating equivalent to its poorest performing PV unit. That means if one of those connected panels experienced a reduction in energy because it was covered by shade or it failed, the entire system would experience that loss. Similar to the way a string of christmas lights will fail if one goes down, the saying, “you’re only strong as your weakest link” comes to mind when thinking of how these single inverter setups work. Then in 2008 Enhphase released the first commercially successful microinverter. The idea behind the project was to allow each panel to function more autonomously, so if one panel had issues the entire energy output of the system wouldn’t suffer. In order to do this, microinverters are used on every PV panel or every other PV panel, and have become popular in homes, where solar array sizes are small and maximizing the performance of every panel is necessary. Since 2008, microinverters have become increasingly intelligent and companies such as APsystems have innovated technology like a Field Programmable Gate Array chip with software that can be wireless programed to modify each panel’s DC-to-AC conversion to meet the demands of a changing environment without needing to climb up on the roof and replace the hardware. Such residential microinverters like the APsystem’s YC500A allow users to monitor each microinverter unit, giving them a clear overview of the entire system at any time. If a panel fails or is not performing well, it can be quickly identified. Additionally, because every unit functions more independently than the antiquated single inverter system, different models of solar panels can be rigged up to feed into the same power system. This makes it so a homeowner doesn’t have to replace all their PV panels at one time, but can swap out or add new panels as the technology improves. No doubt that when it comes to renewable energy such as PV solar or wind turbines, microinverters offer more flexibility and advantage. Some studies put them at producing 5-25% more power than the single inverter systems. As the solar market continues to expand, we’re going to see these little guys make a huge...

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Solar farms and solar forests
Feb01

Solar farms and solar forests

Think of the sheep. Think of the bees, the birds and the little earthworms. When it comes to solar, sometimes we’ve got our attention so focused on the sky we can overlook what’s there, beneath our feet–the land. However, one of our suppliers, Canadian Solar, has a project-line of solar panels built especially to suit the needs of farmers and those closest to the land. They call it the CS6P-P and the difference is, instead mounting the PV panels on the sleek, metallic basis we’re all used to seeing, it’s mounted on wood.   “So, as far as the goats are concerned, the arrays are very like trees.,” said Eric, one of Canadian Solar’s construction engineers. “They provide good shade, absorb sunlight and convert it to energy without creating CO2 or other greenhouse gas emission. Every solar farm is potentially a unique eco-system that benefits the natural world of which we are all a part”. And faced with global environmental issues like the declining honeybee population as document by the United States Department of Agriculture, structures that create areas with wildflowers to grow and hives to flourish are a good thing. According to Canadian Solar researcher Dr. Shawn Qu, the CS6P-P panels have of a lifespan of 25 years and remain mostly undisturbed by humans after their installation aside from the occasional maintenance. The wooden panel bases equate to about a 5% footprint of the entire structure, allowing room for wildlife to flourish. Canadian Solar was established in 2001 and is currently responsible for generating 9 GW of power, while supplying customers with over 30 million PV modules.   Though the company is the third largest solar companies in the world and has been an industry leader pushing towards a solar-powered future, it has a done a noteworthy job at borrowing inspiration from the sun as well as the trees. So, on behalf of all the sheep,...

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Solar 101: What’s the difference between microinverters and string inverters?
Mar19

Solar 101: What’s the difference between microinverters and string inverters?

If you’re a homeowner or an installer doing residential or small scale commercial solar installations, you essentially have three choices for converting the solar system’s DC power into AC power: You can either go with new microinverters or with string inverters—with or without DC power optimizers. All will work, but there are differences, especially in certain situations. String Inverters: The solar industry standard With residential string inverters, all solar modules are connected in a series circuit to a DC electric cable, which is then connected to a single inverter box mounted on a wall by the home’s main AC panel (as well as to any required DC disconnects). So it’s a very centralized system with a limited amount of labor. Modern string inverters not only convert the power from DC to AC, but also use Maximum Point Power Tracking (MPPT) to deliver the maximum amount of power available. This is important, since each solar panel can produce different amounts of power due to manufacturing anomalies, intermittent shading, leaves, dirt, passing clouds, and/or other factors. While a string inverter’s MPPT works fairly well, especially in sunny areas with no obstructions, having all solar modules tied in a series circuit can still be a disadvantage for several reasons: 1)   MPPT technology is essentially drawing the average amount of power available, rather than the full amount available from each module. As a result, the entire solar array can lose 15% to 30% or more of its full potential output because one or more panels in the string are temporarily shaded or have debris. 2)   If you have limited roof space and need two arrays with different sun orientations, each array will need its own string inverter. 3)   Similarly, since module mismatch can cause efficiency issues, you’ll need to use the same brand and panel voltage within each string. 4)   String inverters don’t easily allow for expanding the system in the future unless you purposely oversize the inverter, wiring, and other BOS parts. 5)   While it’s common to have online monitoring with string inverters, the monitors only measure the performance of the entire array. So, if an array isn’t producing the expected power, installers will need to individually test each panel for malfunctions. 6)   String inverters are typically warrantied for 10 years and have an expected lifetime of 12 to 15 years, while solar panels typically last 25 years or longer. Thus, the string inverter will need to be replaced at least once. Adding DC Power Optimizers to String Inverters Adding DC power optimizers to a string inverter system can solve most of the above string inverter challenges. Power optimizers are relatively new...

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