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Thread: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

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    United States Avalon Member white wizard's Avatar
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    Default Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    I do not know if anyone has started a thread on this, but I found some resources to get

    of the power grid cheaply. Basically anyone can make there own solar panels by buying

    the supplies themselves.



    another video on you tube.



    video review

    knowledge is key to wisdom as is in keeping an open mind is essential for opening new doors

    you once kept closed .

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    Avalon Member CD7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Thank You very much white wizard!!!
    It simply is Magnanimous

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    I am a couple of months from being able to get completely off grid. When I am done, as promised, I will write it all up.

    I can tell you it is not cheap!

    Even with the cheaper (but nevertheless, quite high quality) solar panels coming out of China.

    Then you still have to get the mounting infrastructure - you can spend as much on the mounting systems as the panels themselves!

    If you are going off grid you need batteries - and they cost a lot; then if you want to run anything from the old world (ie: mains electricity) you will need an inverter and they are not cheap either.

    You also need the control electronics to harvest the power from the panels to charge your batteries.

    Then, you also need the cabling done. Depending on where you live, the cost of building code compliance (wiring regulations etc) can be high.

    I dont want to put anyone off going off grid, and I am very happy to talk to anyone or answer questions; but it is not cheap!

    IMO: Making your own panels may save you 5-10% of the overall bill.
    Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood his ground.

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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Hi Anchor,
    Have you succeeded in your off-grid project ?

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Success is difficult to define. I would say mostly yes because I can now live off the grid and I think I could sever all connections if I wanted to, but I am still "on grid" in a few ways that are optional

    a) I remain connected to the energy grid, this is for when I want to use my old A/C system. A/C is never mandatory but it is a nice to have.

    b) I am connected (using 4G wireless) to the internet. One could argue that if I was totally off grid then I would not have been able to answer the question!

    c) I have an old fashioned telephone "land line"

    d) I still work for money three days a week in the city. I believe I have the capability to produce most of my food and barter for the rest, this has not yet been fully proven.
    Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood his ground.

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    United States Avalon Member dsldog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Hmmm... I seem to be having difficulty getting a avatar pict uploaded.

    No matter. I have a off grid cabin and set it up for solar years ago.
    Not sure about "do it yourself" panels. The prefabs were $4-$5/watt
    last I checked. They have become very inexpensive. I would recommend
    for simplicity you go that route unless you have some electronics skills.

    You will need:

    - Panels, all at the same nominal voltage output. Depending on your
    capacity, at minimum 500 watts total. Most systems go much higher.
    But I'd stay small while you get your feet wet.

    - A charge controller. They are inexpensive.

    - Deep cycle batteries. Generally several 6v golf cart jobs wired
    in series to produce 12v output.

    - A inverter. Dont go cheap here. Get one that will produce as much
    output as your home will need. It needs to be a true sine wave inverter
    and have parasitic losses of around 500ma.

    Before I go any farther there are systems called direct tie inverters. This
    is if you live on grid and want to sell what you produce back to the utility.
    I am assuming you want to be off grid, which is very different.

    FWIW, I am an EE and am pretty sure direct tie systems are a scam. Anyone
    with different knowledge I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to know how you
    get home grown output into a bi-phase system? In detail.

    The system I described above wont run anything much bigger than a microwave.
    But I have a very efficient lighting system that uses a combination of halogen
    and LEDs and Gas and oil lamps. I have a wood burning stove to heat the house.
    There is nothing like air conditioning and both the stove and fridge are propane
    models from the 40s and 50s. I leave a pretty small carbon foot print by design.
    As an aside it's so quiet in the house you can hear a pin drop. Very different than
    21st century living.

    --jc

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    dsldog,

    Your system sounds fine and its a great size for smaller systems and for a way to start exploring and get experience with the system.

    As you scale up you find that 12V is too low on the battery side and you end up needing giant cables to carry the currents for higher loads without too much voltage drop and therefore wasted heat in the cables.

    My system is 24V because that is what I started with many years ago and scaled from there. Currently, with loads that peak at 300A I use 2 x 50mm² cables (2 positive, 2 negative) - If I started from scratch I would use at least 48V and save a lot of money on cables and usually the inverters are a few percent more efficient as well. I would be very tempted to use Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries as they are many times more efficient that Lead Acid and have a longer cycle life - and are therefore cheaper in the long run. I decided to stick with Lead Acid batteries because everyone understands them and if I was not around, Mrs A would be able to find someone to help if there were problems.

    Scale wise obviously I wanted more from mine than you, as I need to run an office with a couple of computers, fridge, freezers and the house was already wired for mains. Our food dehydrator and water UV treatment purifier is mains based and I farm olives, and have oil processing equipment (hammer mill and malaxer) that need electricity.

    To retro fit it into the house I had an electrician install a changeover switch in the distribution board that means I can run the house of a generator (which in this case is a 5kw inverter) in a code compliant fashion - so my insurers are still happy.

    24V battery bank (24000Ah capacity or 40kWh at 100% DOD (which you never ever do, normally you don't want to take more than 20% out the batteries in normal use), and 142VDC on the solar side. I use 3 x MPPT DC to DC converter based battery controllers (Outback FM80) each one controls one of three arrays that are angled differently and have different shading challenges at different times of the day.

    Next year I plan to tell the energy supplier to take his $1.25 daily "poles and wires" charge and file it where the sun doesn't shine; but before I do it I am making sure everything works out first capacity wise.
    Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood his ground.

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    Avalon Member Operator's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Quote Posted by Anchor (here)
    Success is difficult to define. I would say mostly yes because I can now live off the grid and I think I could sever all connections if I wanted to, but I am still "on grid" in a few ways that are optional

    a) I remain connected to the energy grid, this is for when I want to use my old A/C system. A/C is never mandatory but it is a nice to have.

    b) I am connected (using 4G wireless) to the internet. One could argue that if I was totally off grid then I would not have been able to answer the question!

    c) I have an old fashioned telephone "land line"

    d) I still work for money three days a week in the city. I believe I have the capability to produce most of my food and barter for the rest, this has not yet been fully proven.
    Well, you have my respect. That's quite an accomplishment.
    I'm not there yet. If the AC grid goes I'm prepared to provide my own power for 1 .. 2 days. Still haven't got my
    windmill up and running to continuously charge the batteries (but would be able to give prio to this in case of
    major calamity). I eat veggies from my improvised greenhouse every couple of days but not sufficient yet to
    produce all I need. Also still heavily dependent on the water from the grid.

    The latter might be the most difficult. We recently were caught by surprise when there was no water for a good
    couple of hours. Not being able to flush a toilet is very inconvenient !!

    I didn't want to look into solar cells/panels because of the costs for a long time. But I'm considering this option too now.
    Because I realized I need a lot more power to solve the water issue.
    Last edited by Operator; 16th January 2014 at 12:21.

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    United States Avalon Member dsldog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    @anchor, I can only agree with everything you have said. I can only add that if we could get more folks on board with work like yours we could spare a lot of carbon. Kudos to you sir for doing your homework and doing it right. --jc

    >>"Next year I plan to tell the energy supplier to take his $1.25 daily "poles and wires" charge and file it where the sun doesn't shine;" LOL <<
    Last edited by dsldog; 16th January 2014 at 15:00.

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    Avalon Member Mad Hatter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    G'day,

    About to embark down this path and have had the luxury of talking to some electricians who specialise in powering up mega dollar houseboats (thus money is not an issue) that float on the lake just over the hills from my place. Advice is that if I wish to take the farmhouse/boys-shed totally of grid and maintain almost all mod cons I need to be prepared to spend a minimum of $30k (Aus) and my research so far seems to verify what they are telling me. This figure does include a backup generator but they also advise spending the money to get 24 x 2v cells for a total of 48v.

    I am curious to know of others experiences with the golf cart battery approach and what sort of expected lifecycle they would provide.

    Quote you can spend as much on the mounting systems as the panels themselves!
    With regard to mounting I was quite surprised by the fact that an ~ 25% improvement in efficiency is to be had by making the panels track the sun. Having looked at one of the neighbors all singing all dancing mount$ (only good for one panel) I sat and had a bit of think. For those having the luxury of open paddock space it seems to me this might be achieved a lot cheaper. How?

    Think 3 sided pyramid knocked up in tubular steel with the panel mounted on one length of tube (obviously the tilt angle needs to be correct for your long/lat to maximise insolation) then a trip to your local electronics kit retailers (in my case Jaycar) to purchase a kit for a child's toy (beetle that will follow a torch), a couple of switches and a relay and voila you have the basics for a comparatively cheap full tracking system.

    Quote am pretty sure direct tie systems are a scam
    I'm prolly not qualified to argue either way, but ;-) here it requires a dumb...err...make that smart meter and via whatever mechanism the scam ...err... smart grid chooses it claims to measure feedback. So, given that such metering gives an off peak window (adding the fact that power prices continue to rise) it may eventually become viable(necessary?) to run the house in the burbs on batteries/inverter and recharge the bank at off peak rates.

    tuppence worth

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do it yourself solar panels and getting off the grid.

    Problem with a mechanical tracker is moving parts.

    There was a time when it made a lot of sense.

    With the cheaper prices of panels you can do a thing called a virtual tracker. Not everyone agrees with the design, but this guy (an Australian) has built one and tested it and written it up very well. The site is a terrific source of information for Australian's wanting to either grid feed, or get off grid.

    http://forums.energymatters.com.au/s...topic5064.html

    I did some analysis on using off peak to charge batteries, the batteries are too expensive at the moment. I should have kept the spreadsheet for you but I didn't sorry.

    (If you do make a DIY tracker, please make sure it can handle the wind loads for your region - especially if you are in an open paddock without windbreaks)
    Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood his ground.

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