Solar Project on the farm (with questions)
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Thread: Solar Project on the farm (with questions)

  1. #1
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    Default Solar Project on the farm (with questions)

    I'm starting my first solar project, without the benefit of my father being around (the guy was like Mr. Wizard on TV many years ago) and I have all these questions that my goats and 6 dogs and my burro Pablo can't help me with... (I bet I'm not the only old guy on GM Volt who wishes his father was still around None of the local "villagers" have any experience-expertise nor interest in solar, and they are mad at me for installing a braying burro sound module on my Volt, in place of the pedestrian tooter. (Villagers, when they see me going to the feed store in my "E-LEK-TRICK car" often holler "Watch out! Here comes that jackass in the Volt."

    None of the aforementioned critters have any engineering and mechanical skills like my brainy father (who didn’t pass along these traits to his idiot son) so I go to YouTube looking for answers to my questions. I come across this 12 year old kid who obviously will enter college and then one day become an electrical engineer. His video is pretty interesting. How could you not like a kid like this one?

    My question… I need a good voltage regulator but I’m not certain where it goes in the mix for my project (which is a quick and dirty Harbor Freight menagerie consisting of 12 each solar panels, yielding 180 watts and somewhere in the neighborhood of a little less than 4 amps. (My Chinese is bad and the instructions are vague…)
    SOLAR 3.jpg

    The Harbor Freight kit comes with a charge controller (looks anemic) and I wish to bypass it. All the panels are fed into a harness/collection box and from here the panels feed several new 12 volt golf cart batteries which output to my inverter that is 5,000 watts continuous and 10,000 watts max surge. Each battery is somewhere around 100 pounds and $175! I went with these at the recommendation from someone who suggested they can handle more abuse than a regular deep-cycle battery. I'll probably have 4 total of these batteries when I finish this project.
    (I know what certain people might say about a cheesy Harbor Freight kit, but this is a learning project for me and I'll do better next project...)

    Where in this mix would the voltage regulator go? The wire harness from Harbor Freight does not offer the ability to interface a voltage regulator into the system upstream of the battery or downstream from the collection box. I suppose I'll have to splice into the stock wires somewhere and install a suitable voltage regulator, and I'm under the impression a company called Outback makes good products?

    The inverter (5,000 watts continuous, 10,000 watts max) is very robust and I’m able to operate every power tool I’ve tested so far.

    The solar panels are mounted on a trailer I built years ago, SOLAR 1.jpg
    that once ran an assortment of propane and gasoline generators. I am able to articulate the panels for optimum “aiming” at the sun and the trailer, as pulled on my Kubota diesel 4x4 RTV900XT (camo, what else works better in the country?) makes it easy to orient the panels towards the sun as it crosses the sky. The solar set-up is grounded to the trailer, which will be grounded to various sources where I have 8 foot copper rods driven into the ground already for an electric fence surrounding the farms.

    I also welded a frame above the seat on the Kubota where I’ve mounted a 45-watt group of solar panels that keep a battery charged for a spray-rig. SOLAR 6.jpgThe Kubota set up can feed into the trailer “array” and supplement the charge going to the 12-volt golf cart batteries (I’m glad I’m not a golfer needing expensive golf cart batteries!)

    Any tips or links to a source that clarifies where a charge regulator might go in this mix is very much appreciated.
    Last edited by Sterling Silver; 08-21-2013 at 09:11 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
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    I would go to the link below, join and post. There are some very educated solar installers/hobbyist there:

    http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum.php?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by doudis2 View Post
    I would go to the link below, join and post. There are some very educated solar installers/hobbyist there:

    http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum.php?
    Thanks very much for the link and in seeing your location in Arizona, I suspect that solar is very useful there.

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  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sterling Silver View Post
    Thanks very much for the link and in seeing your location in Arizona, I suspect that solar is very useful there.
    It will be! I'm planning to build a new house next year at which time I'm going to go 100% grid connected solar. This is unless the utilities don't screw us over by then.

    APS, the largest state electric utility is trying to drastically increase the cost for solar homes to be connected to the grid. This would increase the "break even point" to a degree that it might not be worth it at all as our rates are pretty low here.

    In my case SRP, my electric provider, has not mentioned this yet as far as I know. However, you can be darn sure if APS gets this approved all the other state electricity providers will follow quickly on their heals.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by doudis2 View Post
    It will be! I'm planning to build a new house next year at which time I'm going to go 100% grid connected solar. This is unless the utilities don't screw us over by then.
    This is my plan too as we are about to sell one of our properties having an existing home we built in 1997, and then moving to a smaller tract of land (closer to a larger city) where we are on an electric cooperative at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. Not that I can really justify solar concerning cost-benefit, I just think it is a clean thing to do and I like having a "Plan B" as well as a "Plan C" for those times when weather plays havoc on the distribution grid here. We get tornadoes and very strong winds here.

    I went to the link you provide (thanks again) and it will take me a few weeks to get up-to-speed on the lingo and culture there, so I'll remain as lurker for now.

  7. #6
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    Harbor freight is over priced junk, crappy Asi panels and you need much more than a voltage regulator

    The best forum on the internet for solar is http://www.wind-sun.com/ForumVB/forum.php

    FYI, I was a design engineer for Xantrex and MorningStar in RE for almost 8 years, doing an offgrid system isn't a simple thing, join the forum and ask your questions, it will take some time, but you'll get good answers on the forum. Good luck!
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  8. #7
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    The links are great. You may also want to PM a member here by the name of DCFusor. He has a system like the one you're talking about -- off grid not grid tie -- and I'm sure he'd be willing to help you out and/or point you in the right direction.

    Generally speaking the technical challenge is managing the batteries and figuring out what to do with the extra power if the batteries are fully charged.

  9. #8
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    Personally I like this site better than solar panel talk.

    These guys forgot more about solar than most others even know. It is strictly all business, no politics, religion ..., just solar and wind.

    http://www.wind-sun.com/ForumVB/forum.php

    Be ready with your data about consumption and they can talk you through a pretty good system setup.
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  10. #9
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    Visit www.thefieldlab.org. The fellow there might give you insight into what works and doesn't, as he lives off of the grid.
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  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Henry_FL View Post
    Harbor freight is over priced junk, crappy Asi panels
    No argument from me about Harbor Freight. I just needed something "quick and dirty" I could use in a mobile application on our farms. I need to run some power tools when I'm away from our electrical source and keep a tiny refrigerator running and eventually providing a way to keep newly hatched chicks warm when cold weather sets in. The Harbor Freight kits offered a simple solution and serves as a platform for me to learn more about solar projects.

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